I always find it interesting when people use the language of lost and found to describe their travel experiences. The idea seems to be that a person has gotten too involved in a job, a relationship, financial or familial obligations that he or she has lost touch with who they think they are and who they want to be. The elusive self has disappeared into a life that no longer reflects the person living it and so, to find the self, one must change the life. Rather than turn to a trusted therapist or old friends to help with a bad breakup or a career change, these travellers venture out into the world to meet and live with strangers. The hope is that an abrupt cultural change, a complete disruption of the mundane, will shock the self out of hiding so that a person may realize what is wanting in his or her life and begin to take the steps to satisfy that need.
(Backpacking friends, how am I doing so far? Does this sound about right?)
The first time I ever went travelling alone, I didn’t intend to. I was living with my boyfriend at the time and invited him to backpack through Europe with me. When he refused, I realized that the relationship was over: I was going to resent him if I delayed travelling to stay with him and he was going to resent me if I made him uproot a life that made him happy to follow me around the world (plus, we were both terrible at long distance). We broke up and I took the first tentative steps to spontaneity. I backpacked around Europe alone, with only a rough sketch of the countries I wanted to visit and zero expectation of the effect the trip would have on me. This first adventure followed the stereotypical backpacker pattern. I was confused about my future so I put it on pause. I broke away from my life in the hope that I would come back to build a stronger one. I ran from the familiar to discover the unusual. I learned things about myself. I grew. I changed. I came back to Canada knowing only that I needed to get back out into the world again as soon as possible.
This next set of travels has not been about finding myself or suddenly stumbling upon a career. I have great friends and a wonderful family back home, I had an interesting job, I know who I am and I’m generally happy. Travelling now is centred on two simple feelings: an insatiable curiosity and fascination with people coupled with a hunger for adventure. I want to do the things that scare me. I want to be spontaneous and free. I want to make mistakes. I want to learn from them. I want to meet the people society tells me are strange. I want to try as much as possible. I want to learn about the world and give back to it as much as I take. I want to stop saying I want and to instead start saying we will. To have friends all over the world in places I would never have expected, to be a truly global citizen, to believe in the potential of humanity, regardless of nationality, race, religion, ethnicity, sociocultural background, interests or economics, to, even briefly, be part of something so much bigger than myself, that is why I travel.