Several weeks ago, a friend got in touch with me out of the blue. I met Tilly when I was visiting Darwin in Australia and we bonded over
a glass several glasses of wine. Like me, Tilly was on the verge of leaving Australia after two years and was brimming with emotion over this prospective change.
I read her message and the content floored me.
With her permission, I’m sharing what Tilly wrote (so beautifully, I may add) that had me reaching for my laptop to write this post:
Sparks were firing in my brain as I digested her words.
I have felt the desire to fit in and be accepted as many versions of my previous self: on the first day of school, at work, upon visiting a new country.
Each time we present ourselves to a new audience, aren’t we all left wondering what impression we make and how we will be received?
Opportunity For Reinvention
We all change a lot during our lifetimes; from personality to our physical forms (I’m looking at you, metabolism). The most drastic of these changes happen in our childhood and teenage years when we physically grow, dye our hair, pierce various parts of our bodies and revamp our wardrobes to express the adult we are becoming.
Not a lot of people focus on the changes we undergo as adults.
I feel like I reinvented myself significantly in my twenties: from a timid girl studying literature at university to a
somewhat more confident solo female traveller. Now I am in my thirties I know that I am going to feel different at 39 than I do at 31. Factors such as relationships, health, money and career continue to shape who we currently are and who we will become.
What a refreshing concept it is to think about how you can undergo multiple reinventions of self. It’s as if someone is giving you permission to hit the reset switch if you don’t like the current version of yourself, right?
I don’t think the opportunity for reinvention is quite so black and white as that. These adult changes are so finely nuanced that I don’t believe they are evident overnight.
How do you notice yourself changing? I believe they are a result of the challenges, opportunities and experiences presented to us over the course of our daily lives. Each time something pops up in front of us, decisions must be made to manoeuvre around the obstacle.
Sometimes these decisions yield instant results, such as: choosing to take five shots of vodka at the bar will swiftly result in drunkenness, vomiting and an inevitable hangover the next morning. Other decisions are more complex, and gradually result in an outcome, such as: choosing to eat copious amounts of junk food every day for the rest of your life and shunning all physical exercise will result in substantial weight gain and diabetes further along the track.
Why Travel Is The Perfect Opportunity For Reinvention
If you’re still with me at this point, please give yourself a high-five.
My point about reinvention of self during adulthood couldn’t be given more opportunity to thrive than in a travel environment.
From the outset of travel, you have purposefully made a decision to suspend your current life – whether just for a two week holiday or something more long-term – and embark on a journey that takes you away from the familiar routines, faces and places of your daily existence.
Say you book at trip to New Zealand after staring at one too many beautiful photos on Instagram. It’s a stunning country that inspires all kinds of outdoor activities from hiking, kayaking to camping and mountain biking.
In eager anticipation of your trip you find yourself browsing outdoor gear: walking boots, rain jacket, water bottle. All the get-up you will need to embrace your future outdoorsy lifestyle in a country where it all looks so lush, green and enticing.
Upon landing in New Zealand, secretly hoping you’ll not need to wear your brand new rain jacket, you’re suddenly hit with the niggles. Is this new front you are presenting really you? Will people accept you as an avid hiker when you’re little more than an armchair enthusiast? Will this alternative reality suit you or will you stick out as a fraud amongst the khaki clad trampers (New Zealand speak for hiker) that you meet along the track?
Presenting Your (New) Self
The decisions you made before you booked your flight are now catching up with you. Here you are, fizzing with the prospects travel can place at your feet. Suddenly you can’t help but wonder whether these changes are really you.
Is the allure of being able to present yourself again and again in each new place you pitch up driving you to make these changes? Why do you feel like the armchair enthusiast with a penchant for tea and a good book won’t be accepted in New Zealand? (I have it on good authority that they have armchairs in New Zealand, so you should be just fine).
“Hello, my name is…” are words you will utter each time you reach a new destination. In fact, if you wanted to be really out-there, you could create an alternative ‘you’ each time you start over.
I have to say, creating a completely fabricated backstory each time would get exhausting pretty quickly. To a lesser extent, and more realistically, what travel enables you to do is present versions of yourself to each new person in your life.
Are there things in your past you don’t feel comfortable sharing with strangers? Don’t mention them.
Are there flaws or foibles in your personality that you’re working through and see the chance to make a few changes? Choose a different set of words or actions and judge how they are received.
Want to practice your foreign language skills? Want to eat only local foods and listen to music produced locally? Go for it!
Travel is the perfect opportunity for reinvention, after all.
But, there is something crucial to remember here. Each time you present yourself to a stranger, appreciate that they are doing exactly the same as you in those moments: presenting a self to you, keeping some things hidden and revealing others.
Over time these relationships may deepen and you will begin to understand each other on a more intimate level.
For the time being this person in front of you is just a rad Argentinian who enjoys rock climbing and sci-fi fiction.
Transformed Through Travel
However, I’m not just talking about the first impressions you make when travel. As Tilly and I delved a little deeper in a series of messages, she explained to me how she felt worlds away from the person who began travelling a few years ago.
This got an emphatic head nod from me, girl.
Back to my point about gradual changes that happen to us all during the course of adulthood. Aspects of our daily life will of course bring about change, but the opportunity to be confronted by a whole slew of potentially challenging(ly awesome) transport scenarios, people, culture, climates (to name a few) greatly increases as we travel.
It’s little wonder that we may step foot back in our homeland feeling metaphorically miles away from where we started. Or, in some cases, we never make it home at all because we’ve forged a new existence for ourselves somewhere else in the world.
Travel will add layers to your personality and gift you bucket loads of life experience. It will enrich you and broaden your tastes and knowledge.
Finally, if you’re not feeling your current self in its current location, you have the choice to move on to begin all over again.
What’s stopping you?
Over to you! Do you view yourself differently when you travel? Do think travel is the perfect opportunity for reinvention or do you feel the same as you ever did before?
Ever get that fizzy feeling when going somewhere new and rush out to buy a whole new wardrobe? What did you buy?
Share this with someone you think is undergoing their own transformation through travel.
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