Driven by the search for the self, people hit the road to distant countries. Along the lines of “Eat, Pray, Love”, they leave their everyday life behind and dare to step out of their comfort zone. Unsatisfied with their current life, they make a move to Peru, Namibia or Cambodia and hope to get to know the world and themselves there. The more exotic, it seems, the more intense the confrontation with the self and the more informatory and fulfilling is the departure into the distance.

That wasn’t quite the case for me. Even though I’ve always been fascinated by the exotic of faraway countries and dreamt of round-the-world trips ever since I can remember. In the summer of 2015, I headed off to California. That’s still on the other side of the world but by far more familiar than South America or South East Asia. What is more is that I didn’t plan on doing a self-discovery trip. Due to my studies, I had to complete a stay abroad, which I was looking forward to. Two months in sunny San Diego were waiting for me. For one month, I would attend a language school and during the other one I would do an internship at a still unknown company.  

Except for the fact that I had dreamt of exactly this trip for years, it was yet a strange feeling when my travel plans got serious. The last exam was taken and in only ten days, I would be 9191 km away from overcrowded trains, university routine and too rainy summer in Germany. To keep it short: I would leave my familiar environment behind and plunge in at the deep end.

And suddenly I was there. All alone. Without knowing anyone. I didn’t even know the way to the next supermarket. The first morning, it were these thoughts that kept me busy and caused a queasy feeling in my stomach. And so I decided to discover my new environment to learn where the next supermarket was. And then? Well, then I was so busy with other things that there was no time left to agonize about possible challenges. During the first days, I made so many new experiences and got to know so many new people that I couldn’t really worry about any difficulties that might have come up. And I believe that this was important.

The unfamiliar environment, the people I met and the lifestyle I wasn’t used to made it possible for me to break out of my usual life structures in Germany. And it were these structures that often limited me in what I did. Everyday life in Germany too often felt like bonds.  I didn’t have the opportunity to show my entire self and the sentence “I can’t do that” was way too present in my head. In a totally different part of the world, in San Diego, this suddenly changed. Without realizing I created a new daily routine which allowed me to be more of the person I wanted to be. I was more open, took challenges with ease and just felt more self-confident. And I enjoyed being this version of myself.

The language also seemed to play a decisive role. I once read that we unconciously change our personality whenever we speak a different language. And I’m convinced that the English language helped me to be a different self.  Not least because languages are an important part of our identity. It was the English language that distanced me from my home and simultaneously integrated me into American society.

Now, I’m more then ever convinced that the foreign and unknown has the potential to show us our true self. Whenever we leave our daily life and familiar situations behind we get the opportunity to create a new version of our self. I had never realized the close connection between self and environment before. I’m now happy that this part of myself has remained in my usual life. And I hope to keep it for a long time, at least until I set out to discover new distant places to feel free and just like myself.

Have you ever made such experiences oder experienced a trip that changed you? Tell me about it if you like. 🙂

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