In Search of Home
Travel and the art of losing yourself to find yourself. After 10 years of wandering, the search for home continues.
I started travelling alone when I was 20. It was my second year at university; the summer holidays beckoned and with them the prospect of fun and adventure at a summer camp in the forests of Maryland in the US. Looking back, I realise that that trip marked the beginning of a whole decade of solo travel, which laid the foundations for who I am today and set the course for the rest of my life.
A Vagabond Life
So often when we set off to a country on the other side of the globe, we do so with our internal guidance system firmly in charge and leading the way. But to others we can seem like wanderers, globe-trotting without direction, irresponsibly spending all the money that we worked so hard to save up.
And maybe sometimes it’s true, there is no direction. The gear is put into ‘wandering mode’ and the destination set as ‘the next place I come to that intuitively feels right’.
When we are travelling, our outer world is a reflection of our inner world: our body is travelling and our soul is too.
When we travel, we may go to see the tourist sights, but they are not the sole purpose for us being there. They are merely an excuse for us to be anywhere but home, where everything is too familiar to be of any interest and all too comfortable to present us with any real challenge.
Lost and Found
Those who wander are not lost. More often than not, they are actually the most not-lost people; they are 100% aligned with what they are doing in mind, body and soul. Many other people on the other hand, who seem ‘found’, are indeed lost. Such is the paradoxical nature of life.
Then there are those who see travel through the rose-tinted glasses of a perfect Instagram feed and many think that it is what they would love to do. The mesmerizing sunsets over distant seas and the promise of many romantic encounters with people from far off lands are enough to convince them that travel is for them. They want the impressive pictures for their social media accounts and the exotic souvenirs to convince others of their sophistication.
Yet what the perfect Facebook feeds don’t reveal is that beyond the beautiful moments, the jaw-dropping scenery and delicious new food, is the fact that when you travel, you run the risk of being fundamentally changed forever.
You run the risk of finding out who you really are.
The most wonderful yet dangerous blessing of all.
Why? Because who knows who you will find.
What if you find out that you are not who you thought you were?
What if you find out that the world is not what you thought it was?
What if you go home so completely changed that your friends and family no longer recognise you as one of them?
Now you may be thinking that this is all just a bit on the dramatic side. How could your friends and family not recognise you? Maybe you will come back with a tan and beard, or dreadlocks and a new set of beach clothes, but to return unrecognisable? That’s a bit extreme, isn’t it?
Those are not the kind of changes I am talking about.
An Inside Job
I am talking about the kinds of changes that take place on the inside. The kind that takes root so spontaneously and invisibly that no one else knows what is occurring except you. And even then, maybe you are not even aware of what is taking place deep within you and instead just feel confused by the fact that everyone and everything seems different and you’re not sure why.
Indeed, this is what happened to me once I returned from my year and a half abroad in 2011.
Over the course of my travels seeds were planted by invisible hands unbeknownst to me and when I returned I felt completely disorientated within my own culture, friends and family.
Suddenly, the world seemed different; I was seeing everything differently. I was different.
I realised how upside down this world is and I wondered why everyone else couldn’t seem to see it. Yet, at the same time, I felt alive and everything seemed to have a new quality to it. There was a freshness, newness and aliveness that wasn’t there before.
But as wonderful as this newfound perspective was, it has not been without its challenges.
We are social creatures and are guided by what the herd is doing, thinking and feeling.
But what if you find yourself outside of the herd?
What do you do then? Do you go along with everyone else and pretend that you are also like them? Or do you dare stand out from the crowd and go your own way?
The Courage to be Who You Really Are
This is a choice that should not be underestimated. Not everyone is brave enough to do the latter. For many, they see the fork in the road but bottle it at the last minute, choosing the comfort of the familiar over the excitement and possible danger of the unknown.
Taking the road less travelled is a difficult path, not for the faint-hearted.
Old friends, even family can begin to fall away.
What will you do, turn back? It’s already too late. You are a changed person. The road behind you has already disappeared behind you. There is no going back to who you used to be, no matter how much more comfortable it used to feel. It no longer fits. Like an ill-fitting shirt, it’s time to discard it and get yourself a new one.
The problem is that the process of finding yourself a new shirt isn’t easy and takes time. Or maybe you try on a few different ones for size and perhaps you get lucky and find a new one without any delay.
This hasn’t been the case for me.
Since that first trip to The States in 2007, I have been through many different metamorphoses that have seen me discarding shirt after shirt.
The last seven years in Madrid have been the biggest metamorphosis to date. The seeds were planted slowly but once they started to sprout and bloom, the plant pot of my life began to crack open. Now, not only am I without a shirt again but in fact, I am stark bollock naked!
I find myself in a situation whereby everything about my past has fallen away. Every time I think that I have got to the end of this process, something else drops off, leaving me feeling more naked and vulnerable than ever before.
I can not say that this is an easy or enjoyable process. But I do know that it is a necessary one otherwise it just wouldn’t be happening. I trust the process. I trust life.
Life is generous and gives us what we need. It provides the signs for me to follow, which my soul understands and is consoled by, even when my human self is mourning the loss of what has passed.
We are just like the plants and the trees: sometimes we need a good pruning to help us grow bigger and stronger. It is good for us. It teaches to let go and surrender, to not try to hang on and control what can’t be controlled. We need to let go so we can make space for the new to come in.
Life is movement, change, a constant flow. Being rigidly stuck in any routine, perspective or way of life goes against the natural order of life.
In Search of Home
Home is where we can be fully ourselves without being questioned.
Home is where we are listened to and heard, where our perspective is valued and our presence is welcome unconditionally.
Home is where a place at the table is always set for us.
Is that place here in Madrid? On one hand, yes. This is where my partner lives, where we have made a beautiful place to dwell together, where I have made many wonderful memories.
Yet here in the city, on a street with no trees, within a culture that is not my own and never will be, I have to admit, the answer is no.
Where will I find this place and the people with whom I can sit around the table and feel like all parts of me are welcome; a place where I can be fully myself no questions asked?
To that, I don’t know the answer. But one thing I know for sure is that I am more motivated than ever to find where that place is and who those people are.
Indeed, travel and living abroad are not for the faint-hearted.
Being fully alive and open to life is not for the faint-hearted.
Simply being alive right now during these challenging times is not for the faint-hearted.
But I would rather be living my life in the fullness of who I really am than be living a lie, trapped in a shirt that no longer fits.