This feels different, and it feels right.
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin
It wasn’t until I was in my 22nd year that I first travelled solo. Despite having lived away from home for many years by then, I was reserved, conservative and with only one goal in mind – to ensure that I maintained the scholarship I received to study law in Australia. I was reminded not to gallivant around having fun and being distracted.
You see, I was one of the blessed ones to have had the opportunity to visit many places – locally and abroad – despite growing up in a lower middle income family. My parents decided they were to expose their children to the world beyond theirs, so my brother and I could be inspired. We were taken on short and long trips, intrepid and luxurious holidays. They were always rewards for hard work and effort, probably for the parents as well as the children. This I am sure instilled in me the desire to experience the world beyond mine, to be curious of how others live. Even now.
Something however screamed within me at 22 to be brave, to step out of the stereotypical life of the Asian student (yes, you got the image in your mind, don’t you? 🙂 and the answer is ‘yes’). So I plucked up my courage and told my family I would not be returning home that summer and that I would be spending my time backpacking round Australia. And that I did. At its conclusion, I had grown emotionally and psychologically, certainly more streetwise, less naïve and more self-assured about many aspects of me.
The crux however was that I had travelled to seek another life, to attempt to experience it even if for a little while. And in the short time, I had found ‘another’ soul within me, from which I still hear its call now and then. It was escapism.
“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David Thoreau
It wasn’t till some 20 years later that I took the opportunity to travel solo again. I was impatient and tired of waiting, for what I knew not then except that I was not waiting any longer. In a bid to reclaim, perhaps to prove to myself I was still brave (despite all the things I had done in the intervening years) I took myself to France, picked up a car and drove for nearly a month. Not nearly long enough but enough for me to find my wings again. To learn one can always start again.
The motivation for the sojourn then was still escapism, still seeking another life, another soul. I made a vow then to do this on regular intervals, to remind myself should I forget that I am indeed brave.
“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves, and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again—to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” – Pico Iyer
So on that vow, I am now in the South of USA. Being brave. It is different though, this time it feels right. I had seized opportunities and said ‘yes’ on many occasions to be here.
Most importantly I did not come in order to escape. Quite the contrary, I am here because it felt like an arrival to my future. I do not yet know what will become of the work I am doing, the places and people I will meet. I do know I am meeting them all from a place assured that no matter what, it is unfolding as it should because I am privileged to be able to indulge in my passions. So I will greet the outcomes, the consequences with gratitude and grace.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
Dare I suggest the cycle is complete…? That in my wanderings I am finally home? For some reason, I suspect life is not so simple or so easy. I only know that I am more myself than I ever was when I began this journey. I also know there is no better self-discovery than the one I make when I am a solo traveller. It is enough. I am prepared for and attentive to the discovery and lessons I will take away with me.
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
So, I exhort you to go out and explore. Step beyond the comfort zone. You may not know what you will find, but then that’s at least half the fun! 🙂
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