I was hiking in the mountains this past weekend when a lady asked me whether I had left home to travel in order to “find myself.” I told her, “no, I just wanted to snowboard” :) That was the truth, but I thought about this a little bit longer and realized that I should have told her that there is no such thing as “finding yourself.” What “finding yourself” really means is understanding the world that you live in and how you relate to your environment.
So you’re not looking for yourself out there, you’re looking for a more realistic interpretation of the way the world works, how your environment affects you, and what you can do about that.
Once you have a clearer understanding of this, it will be much easier to figure out what you want in life, why you want it, and the realistic possibilities of how you can get it. When you finally do what you want (without worrying about how others may judge you), and you are genuinely happy with what you are doing in life (and you know why), then I suppose you can say that you “found yourself.” Maybe a better term would be “finding the world” ;)
How to understand the world? I can’t say that I know all that much about the way the world works, but I certainly learned a lot from leaving home. When you immerse yourself in a new culture and a new environment, you don’t only learn about that new culture and perspective, but you also come back home (or wherever else you go) and re-analyze your own culture and your own way of thinking, using bits and pieces of this new perspective. In other words, traveling could influence you to take an outside look at your own biases (also known as bs).
For example, I have a Jew nose :). We don’t know of any Jews in our family, but my grandfather used to say that “somebody must have screwed a Jew!” Because this particular looking nose pops out in every generation… very strong gene “the Jew nose” (nothing against Jews or Jew noses here :D).
I used to be self-conscious about my nose, and when I backpacked Indonesia this got even worse in the beginning because everybody kept on pointing at my nose, talking about it, and sometimes even grabbing it! But when I spent enough time with the local people in Bajawa, Flores (and they continued to talk about my nose), I realized that they were telling me that they thought my Jew nose was beautiful. They called it “long nose” and compared it to their “ugly” flat/short noses- which I thought were beautiful. They were also obsessed with my white skin color, constantly telling me that I was beautiful because I was white. I tried to tell them that the women from my country spend ridiculous amounts of money and do harmful things to their bodies to make their skin color browner! What the hell is beauty then? Since then, I stopped caring about my nose and how I looked in general; and this is quite a liberating feeling.
If you can’t (or don’t want to) leave home, there are many sources you can use to “find the world”.
Take a look at this book & video: