Thoughts on Travel

How travelling ‘didn’t’ change me…

You see a lot of people talking about how travelling and backpacking for a prolonged period of time changes them. I’d like to talk about how I think travelling did the exact opposite. I didn’t change. In fact, travelling prevented me from changing…

Just think about it. When we are younger, generally speaking, we have a different attitude to life. We take more risks, we are more carefree, we like to socialise more, act silly and our brains are more adept to learning new skills and adapting. As we age, things change. As our lives take on more and more responsibilities; we get a job, a house, kids, suddenly we instinctively take fewer risks, focus on our careers and money, socialise less and get set in our habits and routines.

For many people who go backpacking for a long period of time, they do so in the junction between childhood and adulthood – perhaps after finishing education, but before any of the adult responsibilities like career, mortgage and kids come along. Before any changes to our personality occur.

For me, I was the same. I went travelling after a long stint in education. I was 25 and had no life responsibilities. I set off on a one-way ticket to South East Asia full of excitement and anticipation. I socialised, talked to strangers, learned about different cultures, tried new foods, took risks, pushed myself physically and emotionally. I lived an entirely independent life for 8 months, with no routine, no pressure, no stress and no responsibilities.

It opened my eyes to a world where things are different from the norm. A life that is free from pressure and stress. I wanted to keep that and not to change.

Now, I’m not saying that responsibilities like a mortgage or kids are bad. I have my fair share of responsibilities now, but I do believe that you can look at these things differently and free your mind from the constraints that we believe we must have in our lives.

Yes, I have responsibilities, but there’s no harm in continuing to take risks, to push yourself, to keep your mind open to the world, to other people’s opinions and to learn something new every day. To be free in the choices and decisions you make, try new foods, learn new skills, meet friends regularly, talk to strangers, have no routine…

That’s what I mean when I say I didn’t change. These things were already inside me and I’ve had to work to keep them with me as I get older and remind myself, I don’t need to change.

And perhaps those who go travelling later in life, in their 40s, 50s, 60s and above, don’t really change either. They just find the person within themselves who was always there just waiting to be set free again. Perhaps this is why people call it “finding themselves”…

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