There is this common narrative in movies and books that when you travel, you find yourself. My time so far in India has got me questioning the idea of ‘finding myself’. I remember when I told my friends that I was going to India; most of them immediately wished me congratulations, to climb elephants and post a lot of pictures. The western idea of traveling largely focuses on sharing your experiences on social media by showing off how much fun you are having. Another idea of traveling to the Orient is to ‘find yourself’. Finding the nature of yourself could be more like finding out how you deal with no WiFi, major FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), three days of diarrhea or migraines in a country you have never been to before. Finding if you like it when people stare amazingly at you or ask for your permissions to take pictures with them. Finding yourself when you travel is more like finding your likes and dislikes, what you want to be more like, finding if you will stay in your comfort zone or explore your surroundings.
I had an interview with one of my fellow students who had lived in Britain for as long as she could walk. However, she identified herself as Kenyan as that was where her parents were from. She spoke about how she found herself in Kenya two years ago when she traveled there all alone. Similarly to her journey in Kenya, my journey in India made me discover parts of myself that I never knew. Discovering characteristics and personal traits that I never knew I had (haggling, apparently is one my areas of expertise). Another part of developing your identity is understanding new cultural norms, ideals and societal codes. How you debunk new/ alien social practices and rules, the similarities and differences you find in every city and corner stores are all part of your identity.
The idea of ‘finding yourself’ is a such a fluid concept, perhaps it should be seen as finding the nature of yourself. When you think you are going to ‘find yourself’ when you travel there are these set of expectations you set for yourself. When these expectation are not met, you start to question if you are at the right place and if you have made the right decisions. There are all these ideas and standards that somehow the self should be changed or ‘enlightened’ after a journey. For some this may be true, for others not so much. Travelling and finding the nature of yourself makes you more aware of who you are, your preferences, your experiences, your memories and relationships. Because you are away from your ‘normal’ settings, you have more time to reflect and evaluate your relationships, your restrictions and your reality. In a sense finding yourself is more like purifying and de-conditioning yourself from your norm. Being more in connection with yourself because the self is fluid, it changes and it grows over time. So if you are traveling to a new continent, be patient. Think carefully how you identify and define other people’s culture and codes of practices.