In a world where everything happens so fast, where there are so many voices shouting in my ears, there is nothing more important than developing the muscle needed to listen to the still, small voice within. The art of self-discovery is a muscle; the more you work it, the better it gets. That is why once every year, I allow myself to get uncharacteristically lost in a place I have never been before.
It was how this Wander Woman series came to be, actually. Little did I know, getting lost was the beginning of an incredible journey of finding myself.
I have travelled solo several times now and upon returning, I learned no one actually wants to see your souvenirs – they want to hear your stories. Especially the ones where everything went horrifically wrong (that time in Macao when I flagged a taxi, mistakenly gave the glowering driver the wrong address in my barely-there Cantonese, and almost missed the last ferry back to Hong Kong), somewhat dangerous (when I carelessly slipped, hit my chest against the bath tub, and proceeded to go rock climbing and zip lining the very next day in Yogyakarta), or hilariously gross (like seeing an elephant live-poop in Chiang Mai, whilst I was waist-deep in the same river).
Stories that matter are rarely perfect, neatly wrapped with a symmetrical, coiffed bow. They are usually a little bit messy and rough around the edges; the hallmark of a fully lived life (which, as we well know, is full of bumps and bobs, tosses and turns).
Three years ago, I learned to say Yes to things which challenged and (sometimes) scared me. Since then, I have found that introducing a shuffle in my surroundings every so often – like waking up in a new city and eavesdropping on conversations in a language I can barely comprehend – renews my will.
The constant challenge of simply being in a new place injected brio back to my busy and structured life. I revelled in the charm of the unfamiliar, like a toddler discovering the world around her for the first time.
Here’s the thing – the very discomfort we work so diligently to shield ourselves from when we are at home will ultimately become the experiences that transform our thinking, if we only choose to lean in and embrace the discomfort.
Pilar Guzmán puts it brilliantly,
“Consciously or not, what we travellers are seeking nearly every time we board a plane is the feeling of foreignness. We travel for the thrilling (and sometimes uncomfortable) disorientation of losing ourselves in a new culture where things look, taste, and sound different, and to understand ourselves freed from all of our familiar constructs.”
In a different country, on a different continent, surrounded by people who spoke and interacted differently than I did, I realised I was still just me and it was not a necessarily bad thing. I was still the girl who stayed up too late and laughed too loud at cheesy jokes, funny memes, and bad puns. I was still the girl who tried too hard and cared too much. I was still the girl who got too gleeful about unicorns, travel tales, and food-ventures.
While sitting on a park bench during a particularly wintry evening in Budapest, I learned I still thought, valued, and believed all I had before. But now I knew, for certain, those principles are completely my own. I was not a product of my environment, although it had enabled me to know more of who I was.
Never would I have imagined that on my journey of bringing my childhood dreams to life, I would discover more of who I am.
T.S. Eliot wrote,
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
I had to go halfway around the world (5712 miles, to be exact) to get lost and find myself, and here I was – the same girl I was back home, only a little wiser, probably from having ventured so far beyond my comfort zone. As it turns out, I like that girl more than I thought I would.
Adventure is equal parts beautiful and terrifying, and you will know yourself better when you brave it. So, go out there. Get lost. And, find yourself. I promise, it is worth it.