A commonly held belief about travel, particularly extended travel, is that you’re going to see the world and “find yourself” in the process. Somehow, by leaving the life you’ve built up and jetting off to unfamiliar parts of the world, you’ll have epiphanies about who you are and return to regular life as a self-actualized person (thank you Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Business 101.)
I’m reminded of a quote from Season 3 of Mad Men that has stayed in my brain 7 years after the episode aired. Mona, commenting on her daughter’s obsession with a well-traveled friend of hers, put forth this gem: “just because she’s been to India, doesn’t mean she’s not an idiot.”
If you think there are parts of your personality lying dormant deep down inside of you, you’re better off staying at home and working on yourself. Employ the help of a therapist if needs be. For me personally, I made huge strides in my personal development this summer, before I left on my travels. This trip across South America has been my reward.
If you jet off as a broken person, you’ll most likely return as one. Travel won’t help you find yourself, but it will let you escape yourself (which is perfectly fine if that’s what you want.) To quote the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, all you’re doing is “bringing ruins to the ruins.”
So why am I traveling? Because I love it. Not too long ago, I took a Buzzfeed quiz where you find out how many countries of the world you’ve been to. I had been to 9 out of 199, and I was pretty appalled at how low my number was. So I (temporarily) unplugged myself from busy New York City living to explore more of the world at a slow pace. And I’m loving every minute of it.