Don't travel to find yourself
I Am An Expat, My Expat Life

Why You Shouldn’t Travel To Find Yourself

Don't travel to find yourself

When I wanted to find myself, I didn’t go some place far away and secluded like an ashram in India. The distance was too great and besides, I still considered myself Catholic at that time. So I went for the next best thing.

I chose a little religious and spiritual commune located in Taizé, France. It consists of Catholic and Protestant priests and monks, as well as people who live there either temporarily or permanently. Visitors from over the world come to the commune searching for peace, quiet and a connection to God.

I went there because I was looking for answers to my many questions: “What is the meaning of life?”, “Is there a God?” and above all, “Who am I?”. I hoped that the solitude and isolation would help me find myself. Although I am not an extremely religious person, I did my best to integrate with the other visitors. I stayed there for a week and every day, I attended the prayers and sang the songs together with everyone else. But even though I sat there in the church with all the other people, I felt totally and utterly alone. They were so immersed in their prayers that they seemed to be somewhere far away where I couldn’t join them, no matter how hard I tried.

I came back home even more confused. I didn’t find the answers I was looking for. In fact, I even lost something: I decided, once and for all that religion wasn’t for me. But most important of all, I can’t help but think about all the things that I missed because I was too busy trying to find myself.

Taizé is located in a very beautiful part of France. Nearby is Cluny Abbey, a place I had learned about in history class. There were many more places I could have visited. My father grew up in Lyon and I could have seen his old hometown for example. But I didn’t.

Despite my initial plans to do visit again the next year, I came back home never to return. While staying in the commune wasn’t entirely a bad experience, I knew this place wasn’t for me and looking back, I think I should have done something more fun, like actually seeing France in all its glory.

There are so many great reasons to travel: to learn a new language. To see the world. To make new friends. There are also many reasons not to travel and I think finding yourself is one of them. After all, self-discovery is an inner journey, not an outer one. Was it really necessary for me to go to Taizé? It wasn’t. I would have reached the same conclusion if I had just stayed at home. And we all know that finding yourself is overrated anyway.

Travelling can be life-changing, educational, mind-opening and it can actually lead to self-discovery. In fact, I know that it will definitely lead to self-discovery because that’s what travelling does. But don’t make it the focus of your journey or you will miss out on all the wonders other cultures have to offer. After all, what’s the point of travelling when you’re not going to see anything of the country you’re visiting? This world is so full of awesomeness like great food, music, beautiful arts and gorgeous buildings. I wouldn’t want to swap these things for some elusive, intangible goal of finding myself.

So next time you find yourself thinking about going to some ashram in India or a secluded island in Indonesia, save your money and your time. If you do decide to travel, please do it right. Go out, make friends, visit every place you can imagine. Walk the streets of the city you’re in and inhale its many smells. Discover the various restaurants, festivals or concerts. Try to understand the local culture and learn some words in its language.

Just please don’t travel to find yourself. You’ll be much better off staying at home.

 

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27 Comments

  • Reply Farrah May 22, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I’ve never really understood the whole ‘travel to find yourself’ concept anyhow. I’ve been traveling (mostly by myself) since I was 18. I never traveled to find myself- I traveled to LEARN WHAT ELSE WAS OUT THERE. I wanted to talk to them, see things and gain confidence in traveling alone. These days if I travel alone it’s simply to reconnect with who I am as a person, and that I am more than a wife and mother.
    Farrah recently posted…Between Two FarrahsMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking May 22, 2014 at 10:09 am

      Farrah, “learning what else is there” is the exact reason people should be travelling. Because in the end, what’t the point when you shut yourself down in some monastery??? You’ll get nothing out of your travel! Nothing!

  • Reply Julia May 22, 2014 at 11:00 am

    I like the idea that “finding yourself is overrated”. This is exactly what I thought, but maybe it is not the same for everybody, maybe it depends a lot on their background and the possibilities they had to develop themselves.
    Traveling and even more trying to live in different places of the world opens your mind and contributes to discover your skills, it challenges you to become more tolerant and open to new ideas, it can bring out so much from your personality, things that you were not aware of.

    • Reply Olga Mecking May 22, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Hi Julia thank you for your comment. I just think that if someone’s trying to find themselves, they’re actually missing out on things that could help them understand more about themselves.The same thing is when someone travels in order to be alone- it just doesn’t make sense! And I agree, travelling can lead to self-discovery but it shouldn’t be the focus.

  • Reply Gran Canaria Local May 22, 2014 at 11:55 am

    We’re English, so we’re private people. But moving to Gran Canaria has encouraged us to be more social. Yes, we’ve gone native.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted…Barranco de los CernicalosMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking May 22, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      Great for you, Gran Canaria Local! You have found yourself without even trying!

  • Reply Cate Pane May 22, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    “…self-discovery is an inner journey, not an outer one.” Funny, I was thinking this very thought last night! When I was young, I would travel for this purpose but it was never effective! I was in Italy recently and had many amazing experiences: food, museums, lectures, food, shopping, Churches, food, etc. I also met many lovely Polish people! Meeting people from other cultures while traveling is a life-changing experience. Thank you for your excellent post!
    Cate Pane recently posted…Parenting: The Wild MouseMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking May 22, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      Hi Cate, thanks for the great comment- I agree, it’s never effective, but instead travelling can be used to learn and to explore, and through that, find yourself…but it shoudln’t be the focus but rather a side effect.

  • Reply Phoebe @ Lou Messugo May 23, 2014 at 9:10 am

    I LOVE this! My feelings exactly. “Finding yourself is overrated anyway” brilliant!
    Phoebe @ Lou Messugo recently posted…Notes from the Monaco Historic Grand PrixMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking May 23, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Thank you, Phoebe! Yes finding yourself is overrated anyway but if you have to do it, please don’t waste your travels on it!

  • Reply Cordelia May 23, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Truer words! Please tell me your painful journey through a particular book acted as a catalyst for this post.

    Loved reading this. Such wonderful advice Olga.
    Cordelia recently posted…My First Coup d’Etat: How It Hasn’t Changed Anything For Me -So FAR!My Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking May 23, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      Welcome Coco, how wonderful to see you here. Oh yes that book, hahaha. The journey wasn’t painful, it wasn’t my time I was wasting away in some Indian ashram- or not anymore. I have learned my lesson. Has she?

  • Reply SJ @ Chasing the Donkey May 25, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    I’v never been one to ‘find myself’ doing anything. I think that finding yourself in general is an idea that is a crock. Just enjoy life, soak up experiences and as you say make friends. Great piece Olga, thanks for linking it up with us for #SundayTraveler.
    SJ @ Chasing the Donkey recently posted…Where the mountain greets the sea: Starigrad PaklenicaMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking May 26, 2014 at 8:03 am

      Hi, SJ! Thankyou for letting me link up. I love your philosophy- sounds not only like a ogod way to travel, but also as a good way to live.

  • Reply Patricia Storbeck May 25, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    I agree, traveling to find yourself is over-rated. BUT you can travel to CREATE yourself. Traveling changed how I view the world and the people in it. I ran away to the ocean after really bad stuff that happened in my life. There I learned stuff about myself. Resilience and determination among others. Good and not so good things too.
    Going to an ashram to find answers. No. Life is much too short. I love discovering new places, love to see what’s around the next corner or over the mountain or the sea.
    Visiting from Sunday Traveler.
    Ciao, Patricia
    Patricia Storbeck recently posted…Will you keep this place a secret, SundayTraveler.My Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking May 26, 2014 at 8:06 am

      Hi Patricia, welcome! I agree, travelling to find yourself is overrated (finding yourself is overrated as well). I love the ocean as well, and somettimes travelling can help you to relax and find a new perspective on things (I went to study in Hamburg after a rather unpleasant experience). And I agree life is too short to go to some ashram for answers!

  • Reply Mandie @ RamblingMandie May 26, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    I think you can definitely learn about yourself through travel, but why go halfway around the world just to spend the whole time looking inwards? For me, travel isn’t about finding myself; it’s about getting outside myself. Experiencing as many new things as I can and meeting people whose lives are totally different than my own. I think visiting an ashram would be a neat experience just to say you’d done it, but if you’re looking for all the answers to life’s big questions, you’ll inevitably be disappointed! 🙂
    Mandie @ RamblingMandie recently posted…I Got Liebster-ed!My Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking May 26, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      Hi Mandie, how great of you to visit. I agree, travelling spend gazing inwards is travel wasted- but travel can still be educational. And I agree, ashram or monastery or any of these “scared” places work only if you believe in them- and defintely some go there to tell others they’ve done it.. or write a book about it.

  • Reply Adelina | PackMeTo May 27, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    I’ve never traveled to find myself, but I’ve definitely traveled to run away from problems (usually relationships for me) which only temporarily works. You always need to face them whenever you go home, but I find the time I’m away from my problems allows me time to distance myself from them, find clarity and be able to resolve them. Travel is always an opportunity for growth, for learning and for seeing and trying something new. I don’t travel to find myself. I travel to find out about others and in the process you might learn a little about yourself. Great post and thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!
    Adelina | PackMeTo recently posted…Predjama Castle – Not Your Typical CastleMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking June 2, 2014 at 9:18 am

      Hi Adelina, thanks for commenting. Yes it works for a while because it allows you to organize your throughts a little because you gain some distance. I love your comment, “I travel to find out about others”- not everything should be about yourself!

  • Reply frankaboutcroatia May 29, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Finding yourself is overrated anyway … love that one! I really travel to have fun, meet new people, experience new places, and learn about different cultures. OK, and many times just to eat local food. Never even thought about traveling to find myself. I do think however that we need to slow down sometimes, and take time to reflect.
    frankaboutcroatia recently posted…Travel Croatia Budget TipsMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking June 2, 2014 at 9:17 am

      Hi Frank, thanks for commenting! I think the reasons yo mentioned are great reasons to travel. Slowing down and reflecting are important obviously, but if you travel somewhere remote and secluded to “find yourself” you basically wasted some great travel opportunities.

  • Reply Eileen Cotter May 30, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Beautiful story. I like the idea of Ashrams but was happy to hear you try out a different kind of enclave for some guidance (even though it wasn’t your cup of tea!) I still think that’s very interesting, having grown up Catholic. Thanks so much for this insight on travels and mindfulness outside of ‘finding yourself’ – it’s all so true.
    Eileen Cotter recently posted…Through Stormy Weather and Clouded SkiesMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking June 2, 2014 at 9:15 am

      Thank you, Eileen for your kind comment. When I went to Taize, I hadn’t heard of Ashrams, I was doing yoga every day but because of the exercize not because of the philosophy. No, definitely Taize wasn’t my cup of tea either.

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