Is that how it should be?
I've been thinking lately about this idea of traveling to find yourself. As I looked through other travelers' blogs whose blogs had also been pulled as features (fun fact, Traveler's Point apparently liked my blog so it is one of the website's features) it seemed to be a common trend. People taking trips around the world or immersing themselves in new cultures as a way to try to ˝find themselves˝ in the craziness of life.
Now, like most people, I always liked that idea. The idea that through travel you take yourself completely out of your comfort zone and learn a whole bunch of nifty new stuff, like that you can survive off of street food for a semester, that going without doing laundry for say three weeks is not the end of the world, or that you actually love to write (yes boys, I know it was my assigned super power but I never really bought into it). Oh and I guess you learn some stuff about yourself too, like what you really value in life, what privileges you take for granted, and how to just spend time getting to know yourself. But all kidding aside I believe those are really important things to learn and if you find them while traveling, I think that's awesome! I definitely believe that I learned more about me while in China then probably any other time in my life. But as I've thought about it more, I've realized that I'm becoming less and less of a fan of the idea of traveling to find yourself. Now just hear me out as to why before people start saying I'm wrong for disagreeing with like 99% of other travelers.
I think that you should travel as a way to lose yourself. Traveling should be hard, it should challenge you, frustrate you, make you ask yourself at least once why you ever decided to go on this stupid (or a stronger word works too) trip, and force you to be uncomfortable. Travel should also be rewarding. There should be moments that take your breath away, that you feel in your very soul, that make you ask yourself how did you ever get so lucky, and that restore your faith in the goodness of humanity. If you want something easy or predictable, take a vacation, don't go traveling. In my opinion, there's a colossal difference.
I can hear you thinking, ˝Yeah Rach, that's all well and good, but aren't the moments you’re describing the moments that people say help them find themselves?˝And you're right, they totally can be. But I think they should do more than that too. Those should be the moments where everything you thought you knew gets thrown out the window. The moments where you are forced to take a step back and realize that you don't have all the answers, that you don't know what comes next, and you don't necessarily know if you're okay with all of that.
Placing yourself in another culture should make you question things. It should make you question if everything your own culture has imparted on you is correct, if your perceptions of the outside world are accurate, and if at the end of the day you can really say you know as much as you thought you did when you woke up that morning. It should tear down your mental bubble about what's possible in the world, in some cases it should remind you of the horrors mankind is capable of (Bosnia has an eerie way of doing that to you), and in some cases remind you how resilient and powerful the individual can be (Bosnia is pretty good at this one too). You should return home (or at least to your ˝passport country˝ as one Buzzfeed list referred to it as) with more questions than when you left. If you come home with everything figured out and perfectly compartmentalized in your brain, I challenge you to dig a little deeper the next time you go somewhere, open your eyes a bit more, and ask a few more questions. I have a feeling it will be worth it.
So if you go abroad (or just travel in general, I think the same things can hold true if you go 10 miles or 10,000 miles away) and you ˝find yourself˝ that's wonderful and I hope you can take what you learned with you for the rest of your life. But I also hope that's not all you got out of the experience. I hope you lost stereotypes, you let go of preconceived perceptions, and you realized that there's a whole lot of you that you're still working on figuring out. I hope you lost yourself.