Finding yourself through travel

TRAVEL Because you have no idea who you are until you experience yourself through different people and realize how we’re all the SAME.

I found this quote on Instagram recently and wow it really resonated with me. I thought it would be an interesting topic to blog about because travel really does show you who you truly are. Before we embarked on this year I wouldn’t exactly have called myself an avid traveller. Yes, I had visited a handful of cities, but it didn’t in any way prepare me for this year. Peter and I had decided to consciously not do any sort of research on travelling families and the do’s and don’ts of travelling with a child before we started our own adventure. We wanted our journey to be organic and let the people around us steer us in the right direction. Looking back over the past 12 months this is exactly what happened. We planned our stays in places up to three weeks in advance, but other than that we would arrive in a city with no real plan. Most of the time we would take the advice of our air bnb host or even our taxi driver. We would also lean on free walking tours and guides to point us in the right direction.

Aiden making friends with our free walking tour guide in Valparaiso.

In this way we really got to discover some hidden gems and get off the beaten track a bit. It took me a good 4 months to unwind from the stresses back home. Letting go of work stress, study stress and just general life stress was not easy for me. In those 4 months I struggled with a lot of questions such as who I was? Were we doing the right thing by travelling? Was I going to ever use the degree that I studied so hard for? And the age-old question of the meaning of life? The questions went on and on in my head often keeping me from enjoying day to day activities and even keeping me awake at night. In that time, I got sick about twice where my whole body gave in. It took me quite some time to recover from both bouts of serious flu. I think this was my body releasing all the negative toxins from back home. I can’t pinpoint the day or time but there did come a day when I remember waking up and feeling just happy…. for no reason. How many of us can say that they just wake up feeling happy?? I don’t think many of us….

In the beginning of our trip we would get off a long flight or bus ride and be feeling quite exhausted or grouchy. I would dread getting a taxi driver who just wanted to talk the whole time. Isn’t this such a Cape Tonian thing I thought – to be annoyed by people trying to make conversation with you. Once I altered my mind set (through meeting people such as Jude, meditation and just learning the art of relaxation), and opened myself up to others – everything changed for me. It started in our last leg in South America. One day I just decided I wanted to go paragliding, so I did. Whilst up in the air, my instructor started talking about wanting to marry his girlfriend at the time. We had a long conversation about love and marriage…I mean a year ago who would of thought that I would be 100 miles up in the air paragliding over Miraflores, South America and talking to someone about marriage…. Things changed for me then and I also realised something very important about myself. When I open myself up to others they open up in return. This leads me back to my original quote….you have no idea who you are until you experience yourself through different people and realize how we’re all the same…..

Taking in the sights on our long haul bus trips….. starting to open ourselves up.

I have always known that I have had the gift of communicating easily with people, whether young or old. From a young age I would even take myself across to my neighbour’s house, ask for some milk and cookies and just start making small talk. My mom would always be so embarrassed, but I think deep down she was proud, proud that I could talk to other people and feel comfortable enough to do so. I wouldn’t call myself a 100% extrovert type person, as I do have many introvert tendencies too, but I definitely don’t have a problem striking up a conversation with strangers. A lot of my friends would call me socially awkward. Yes, I suppose I am that person who will ask the most inappropriate questions at the most inappropriate times and everyone will cringe (but mostly laugh ? ). Yet, I am that friend that people will lean on, ask help from and confide in. Sometimes I have often felt burdened by this, but looking back now I feel so incredibly proud that my friends and family could find solace in me and my opinions/advice.

After having Aiden and struggling with the postpartum depression, I lost THAT part of myself. The part where I enjoyed talking with people and just entering into conversations naturally. The postpartum changed everything. I feared questions, small talk and got major anxiety in crowds of people. All these things were unknown to me and I hid them for a long time (trying to be brave and get through it alone). Not a good idea in hindsight, as this led me to a major breakdown, where I had to seek professional help. Thank goodness, I got the help I needed and started to rebuild myself. However even though I got the help and things started to go back to normal with life and work and studies, deep down I still didn’t like this person I know was. I remember when Peter came home one day and said let’s pack it all in and travel the world. I just laughed as I thought he had just had a bad day at work and was ranting. When he brought it up again and then again, I realised he was actually being serious.

The mere thought of leaving everything and everyone I know was so anxiety ridden I had to take an extra anxiety pill that day. Once the idea had finally settled in my brain, I started to think of the positives of a year of travel, it could almost be like a reset button for me. I could start over, work on myself more, have more time for Aiden to build a relationship with after the horrors of the postpartum and most importantly just spend more time together as a family unit.

Yes! I thought this year of travel could be the answer to all our problems…. Wrong! No matter where you are in the world your problems will follow you. Travel will not miracly cure you from an illness or mental state. I can say however that travel can transform you in such an extraordinary way that you will only really get to grips with it once you return home. We get home to Cape Town in 3 weeks but because of blogging and pen to paper thoughts I think I can already start to see and feel the extent of what this year of travel has personally done for me. Yes, after an 8-hour flight where you haven’t slept, and you get the chattiest Uber driver ever it might be annoying, but I can laugh at it now. I am beginning to know why I am feeling a certain way but separate it, rationalize it and learn from it. This is where true transformation comes in.

Quality time with family has been priceless.

When I fight with Aiden or Peter, I now know it’s because maybe I am in a bad place that day and not my best self. I can now apologize for it and move on from it. Last year this time, I would make excuses for my irrational behaviour, I would blame everyone and everything else. Now I know that I am personally accountable for my actions and words. No one else but me, and travel alone has taught me this. I have met so many amazing people this year with the exact same struggles as me, some even mimicking exact events that have happened personally to me. I have been able to really open up and share my own difficult personal experiences with these people and I have got so much support and knowledge in return. It has taken me so long to realise that I don’t have to be perfect and that this is OK. I no longer wish to be perfect or feel the hidden need to be. By meeting new people and forging new friendships this year, travel has really shown me who I am and that yes, we’re all the same. No matter who we are, where we were born, nationality, culture, religion etc we are all the same. We share the same problems, we have the same questions and we all just want to be happy at the end of the day.

I am completely OK with who I am now. Yes, I might not perfect, but I’m me, and me is enough!

Until next time…

Stay awesome!

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