Travel is the greatest education I’ve ever had. It has taught me more about myself than any school or course or book. It has opened my mind to new worlds, new customs, new landscapes and new ways of being.
But a lifestyle based on travel also comes with hidden dangers…
And it’s easy to miss them when you’re blinded by the excitement of the new. I’m only starting to realize some of these things now.
Travel can also be a way of running away. Of never having to make more than superficial, temporary connections with other people.
It can also be a way of cutting yourself off.
I can see how this has been true for me. Travel has been a physical and geographical extension of my subconscious drive to create a life of extreme self sufficiency.
Just as working from home — in solitude, in a distant time zone — limits my interactions to email and the occasional skype call, travel and expat life limits most of my interactions to the superficial and brief.
It’s the perfect way to avoid close contact with anyone at all.
The word “community” has always made me scowl. I avoid groups. And I’ve never been a “joiner”. I always assumed this was just because of my introvert nature. And I created a “recluse cool” around that.
But when I shine the harsh light of honesty into my darker areas, I’m forced to admit that this is not completely true. And it’s time to dig deeper.
So here goes…
I hate “needing” anyone. I hate being dependent. I hate asking for help. I even hate picking up the phone to call for something. That’s one of the hardest things for me. Reaching out and asking for support.
It makes me feel weak. I feel strong when I think that I can do everything on my own. And so I created a lifestyle where I tried to do everything myself.
I guess I hate asking for help because if I need someone or if I let myself depend on someone else, then I’m putting myself in a position where they can pull the rug out from under me. Depending on someone else means I give up control. And I don’t like that feeling.
Looking back, I can see how much of my childhood was framed by this pattern. I never asked anyone for anything. When I reached a certain age I just started keeping everything to myself.
I can remember going out and getting a paper route in the 5th grade because I wanted a stereo. It never occurred to me to just ask my parents for one. I thought, “How can I get that? How much money do I need?” I heard another kid was giving up his paper route, so I went around with him for a week and learned the route and the job. And I only told my parents about it when I needed their signature on a form for the newspaper company.
Even when I was a little kid, I hid my needs and desires, and I either looked for direct ways that I could reach them myself, without asking anyone else for help or relying on anyone else. Or I used indirect roundabout ways where I could meet my needs without simply stepping up and asking.
I never knew why until now. Because part of me was scared that unless I did it all myself, someone could just take it all away from me.
I think that underneath we all feel this way. Unworthy. Less than. Incomplete and striving.
But do you know where that leads?
We become skeptical of the world. And of good things too.
Maybe that’s why I never sit with anything I’ve accomplished. Why I always brush it aside or never put much weight on it. Because I feel like it could be taken away at any time, and so I don’t want to attach to it.
Instead, I focus on all the stuff I haven’t done. All the stuff I’m not good at. It’s easier to keep driving myself towards something than it is to look at what I have. The stuff I have scares me, because it can be taken away. And that of course triggers old feelings of abandonment and lack of self worth.
I’ve only recently come to realize that we all have deeper wounds. Patterns that we keep playing out unconsciously. For example, I was adopted at birth, and I can see now how a lot of my patterns were formed as a result of that — from abandonment, building walls, taking a path of extreme self sufficiency.
I hated to look at that or admit it, because I hate the idea that something I didn’t choose could have an influence on my life. That feels like a victim mentality to me. Something I despise.
But I’m starting to understand that real weakness is in not being willing to look at that stuff. Or not being willing to face those patterns and let them go.
I haven’t figured out how to address these things yet in the context of travel, but I’m working on it.
I don’t think it means giving up a life on the road. Or settling down in one place and embracing the opposite. That, in my opinion, would be a mistake.
Travel also gives me so many positive things. It sparks new ideas for my writing. It inspires me with landscape and beauty and culture. Interacting with other cultures teaches me so much about my own. And I simply enjoy walking through the scenes and stage sets where history has played out.
The world is one vast and fascinating menu, and I like to sample from different flavours depending on how I feel at that moment.
But if you want to grow and evolve, it’s important to question these things. To see these deep emotional patterns for what they are, and understand where they came from. And to release the patterns that are no longer serving you. So you can be more fully yourself.
So you can be free.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in this sort of close self-examination over the past few months. And while the insights are often difficult, they set the stage for enormous personal growth — if you’re willing to go there.
What are your deepest, most unhelpful patterns? Where are unprocessed wounds from your past limiting your present life? What’s holding you back from being truly free? Be still, and look inside. That’s where you’ll find your answers.