Lost and Found Travel Confessions
Do people travel because they want to get lost or because they’re lost souls?
In why people love to travel the third reason I mentioned was that people travel “to find themselves”.
The accompanying photo of me in local Indian garb suggests that, even after a decade of traveling I hadn’t found myself yet. I look a bit lost. Suffering from identity confusion maybe. In that photo and in that Kerala village I’m so far from my upbringing as a middle-class English girl it’s almost not funny.
But spending four months in India and dressing up in the local garb from time to time (I hope I didn’t dress that way every day) also showed a measure of confidence. The confidence to assert that it doesn’t matter where you travel to, what you wear when you get there or how good or bad you look.
You are still you no matter where your travels take you or what tricks your sense of style is playing on you.
I started traveling when I was 18 to get lost, to get away from my roots and parental expectations about how my life would pan out.
I traveled because my parents dissuaded me from following a career in writing but I didn’t know what else to do. The route my parents suggested of secretarial school followed by marrying a well-to-do young man didn’t sound like my cup of tea.
I also wanted to escape because I felt like a bit of a misfit in England.
I wasn’t like most of the other middle-class English girls I was friends with. They were quite happy to stay in the town where they were raised. They had no great desire to see the world, or even to see much outside their local environment, whereas I was driven by an urge to travel wide and far.
That drive and curiosity is a part of my personality that has seen me explore not just the four corners of the earth but also every nook and cranny of the area I’m living in or visiting. If you come for a walk with me I’ll probably try to persuade you to go a bit further:
“Let’s just go round the next corner to see what’s there.”
It’s an endless and fruitless quest because I’ll never travel to or see everywhere but can’t help trying.
Even as a child I knew that I wasn’t destined to live in England permanently and I’ve spent much of my adult life working out where I do want to live. The problem is that there are so many great places to live in that it’s impossible to choose. Why would you anyway if you don’t have to? I’m lucky to have plenty of options open to me so that’s why I’ve been leading a nomadic lifestyle for almost 30 years.
How Travel Took Me From Lost to Found
Travel gives us a chance to reinvent ourselves if we’ve lost our way in life as I had when I was younger. Back then I lacked the confidence to follow my dreams in the face of parental disapproval but these days I know that if I don’t follow my dreams and make myself happy no one else will.
Travel allows us to free ourselves from the bonds of family and friends who may have known us all our lives and have certain preconceived ideas about us we’d like to shake off. It allows us to emerge fresh and new from the plane, train or bus a stranger in a strange land who could be anyone and go anywhere.
Travel empowers us because it shows us we can do anything and go anywhere if we dare to try it. By reaching out for adventure and seeking foreign lands we gain a true sense of ourselves, the sense that we can overcome small set backs and even conquer the world.
Travel teaches us that we don’t have to accept the status quo of the people and place where we happen to have been born. We are free to roam the world and find a status quo that suits us better or even create one that is unique to us.
Many times when I’ve been travelling I’ve literally been lost. I have a horrible sense of direction which doesn’t help.
But in the end, no matter where I’ve been and how hard I’ve tried to lose myself in other languages, cultures and scenery, I’ve always ended up finding out a little bit more about myself through traveling and coming one step closer to knowing that I’m not lost.
I am not a lost soul. Through travel I have finally found myself and gained the confidence to be myself.
But I still want to get lost again from time to time.
Have you ever traveled because you felt a little bit lost? Or traveled because you wanted to find yourself?
Loved this thoughtful and inspiring article :)
Ha! Seems though like we have similar history, Annabel!
I was also dissuaded from writing and travel and encouraged to go to secretarial school, then find a suitable man to marry. I ended up with a fast shorthand speed and a passion for travelling and rock stars. I married a rock star, except he was a geologist and not a musician – his quest for rocks subsequently took us all around the world, and the longest I’ve lived in one place has been 6 years (Cape Town).
Lol re the rock star! I’m sure those secreterials skills come in handy, I wish I could type faster! Hoping to are it to Cape Town one day:)
I love the idea of getting lost to get found. I think it speaks to all of us who have ever tried to run away from our problems or ourselves by moving or leaving a situation — no matter where you go, there you are. :) Exploring the world to explore yourself is the way to go!
Ah yes, it’s like being followed:)
I love this article Annabel. It speaks to me so much. Losing/shedding an old self and emerging new and re-invented is a glorious thing. One can “find” so much from getting lost, taking risks and embracing change.
Love that addition thank you, it’s not just ourselves we find there is so much else to discover :>
A lovely article and wonderful insights. I love the colours in your local South Indian garb! I’d happily trade in my western clothes for Indian attire–it’s much more comfortable to wear. The first time I went to India (in July–the monsoon season), I couldn’t get to the shops fast enough to buy a few lovely, cool, cotton salwar kameez outfits. Once I had my Indian summer wardrobe in place, I didn’t put my western clothes back on until it was time to come home. :-)
Like you, I also have an English background and my open-mindedness and curiosity made me a bit of a misfit among my relatives. Fortunately, I did most of my growing up in Canada, so my relatives didn’t have quite as much influence and I had a lot more opportunities for my life path.
I didn’t do much traveling in my twenties because I opted to spend 9 years at university earning an undergraduate and then a graduate degree. In retrospect, I think my choice to “cloister” myself in academia was partly for the some of the same reasons that other people travel–to find part of myself, to break free of the labels and experiences from high school and reinvent myself, and to gain confidence using my talents and skills in a setting where they would be encouraged and appreciated.
Don’t forget to let me know when you’re going to be in Vancouver, BC!
I’m in Vancouver on May 26 for one night, would love to meet you:) Iits true, often the local clothes are just so much better suited to the climate and culture. Just had another look at the color scheme and noticed they’re the same color as my logo:) Yiu just can’t beat red and orange!
So Annabel, where is the next country you want to move to? Are you staying in Australia until your children finish school?
I am like you. I never fit in. Other kids were from other countries at my school, so most of my life I mingled with expat kids.
We will be here until the kids leave school and our youngest is only 7:) Although there will be plenty of travel and hopefully the sabbatical in Africa!
I’ve never been to South America so that would be a good place for us to move to next!
Annabel, I grew up with 2 parents who loved science, collecting specimens, and showing us the natural world on all our family vacations. I couldn’t wait for National Geographic to arrive every month, or for the rare treasures to arrive in the mail around Christmas-time from my aunt, the missionary in Papua New Guinea…always beautiful handmade artifacts from a culture so mysterious to me, but fascinating! By being exposed to Mother Earth and being touched by the rituals and art of other cultures, I know all these experiences compelled me to want to travel the world and “leave the nest” of my strictly Protestant upbringing. So now, thanks to your article, I realized my quest started as a spiritual one, and has remained so to this day. Even in moving to Costa Rica, the goal of my heart was to experience less doing, and more Being – more going inward to my organic experience of God. Yes, I took my busy self to Costa Rica, too, and found it hard to slow down even in the tropical rain forest. But I still allowed myself to be transformed by the interesting relationships formed with people from all over the world, and my personal transformation continues up to this moment, because You are Being You!
Wow, what an amazing time you’ve had and you made me remember presents my parents brought back from holidays they took without the kids that really made me want to travel to the places too. The objects made foreign lands tangible, real places that I wanted to see as well!
Hopefully we both have many more adventures and travel exlorations ahead of us!
Perhaps we’re not meant to stay in the one place all our life? Maybe we’re supposed to go out into the world and get (literally and figuratively) lost?
I also ran a mile away from the expectations of marriage, mortgage and children – I knew I’d suffocate and lose myself if I followed that path. So I chose to lose myself on the travelling path, instead.
I don’t think I knew what I was looking for back then, although I seemed to be constantly searching for something. And as you mentioned Annabel, I found bits of myself in different places and learnt a lot about me – and the world. It blurs the edges and takes away our differences because we learn to embrace all cultures, languages and lifestyles.
If we all went out and got lost, we’re bound to find each other somewhere out there.
Great to see you here. Lol, some of us were definitely born to travel:)
It’s true often we don’t know what we’re looking for until we find it and that the more we travel the more we find different and diverse pieces of ourselves.
OK, we must have been twin sisters separated in previous life, or something! When I was a junior in college, I spent a summer in the U.S. as an exchange student. My friend and I were the only ones who were sent inland to Colorado – the rest of the group stayed on the East Coast.
I knew that my parents expected me to come back home after graduating. My mother told me that she had secured a position for me to teach English in my old high school. The next step would be to marry an engineer with a tie. I panicked, projected my desire for freedom into love, and escaped, getting hitched to the most un-husbandly man in America:)
I wish I chose traveling, like you! Instead, I jumped across the ocean and got stuck:)
I love you more and more as I discover all these details about your life:) Did I tell you how happy I am that I found you?
I shared your passion for traveling. I started traveling at 19 and cannot stop ever since. Its only been 6 years but when I come back home in Chicago (Home: where families and friends reside), I am already planning to leave again before I can even unload my luggage. I can’t help but to leave everything- my bills, my car park in the street for free hoping they wont clean the street for a month or I will get towed, my family and friends, even my oh so cute Great Pyrenees dog with my husband. I leave because of the obvious reason: To Discover.
Last year I was in China for 3 months and The Philippines for 2 and Canada and St. Lucia. I love living in China, not able to understand anything and feel like I was just born. I love being confuse and frustrated, like a child. But knowing I am happy deep within and the memory will forever store in my heart. I also enjoyed my stay in The Philippines…though I was born and raised there- I still find myself a foreigner on those islands- except for 2 where my family reside. The Philippines with its 7,107 islands- there is always more to discover. Annabel, I am happy you found yourself out there.
I can totally relate to this. I was brought up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Ever since I was little I would always threaten my parents that I couldn’t wait to leave and somewhere ‘cool’. I would cry when we left the beach behind on holiday vacations. And then the Sydney olympics came on and I was glued to that television everyday. I promised myself I would go to Australia someday. I won a rotary essay contest and had to speak at a conference and there were a bunch of Australians there and we spoke about study abroad options. My parents wouldn’t let me go to University out of state so I chose the one in state that had study abroad options to Australia. Australia was my first flight ever and first time in a new country. Within weeks, I was traveling all over the country and that is when my love affair with living out of a suitcase began. After I returned to the states, I knew even more that the traditional small town lifestyle of school, marriage, buy a house and have lots of kids was not for me. So, I applied for grad school in Australia and have been there ever since. After my return to Australia, I traveled to Bali, New Caledonia with a local, and took my first solo adventure to Malyasia, Thailand, and Vietnam. I just went back to Vietnam this year to spend time with a local ethnic group that I was writing about. My next trip is to Peru. I think what drew me to Australia was that not only did it feel like home but also that everyone embraced travel. It was inspirational to see everyone explore other countries and meet many backpackers daily who also inspired me. I just didn’t get that in small town America, nor was time off and minimum wage ever enough to take time to explore. I love the discovery that travel brings and the amazing conversations that I have with strangers. I love going solo because it is a challenge, it new start and it enables me to learn more about myself that way. During each journey I learn a little more about myself.
I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog!