Note: I was pleased and privileged to have this post published on A Life Overseas. In that process, I was able to flesh out my original post, which I now consider a draft. This “draft” appears below but to be honest, I am much happier with the slightly amplified version and I encourage you to read it here: http://www.alifeoverseas.com/travel-delusions/
It cost me USD436 to renew my passport. I was planning to do it for half the price when I get home in September, but I ran out of pages.
That’s right, I ran out of passport pages.
A fact that I was pretty proud about – until it cost me a significant amount of time and money which I did need for other purposes.
And it made me think: spending time overseas is a source of pride, well looked upon, and much boasted about. We talk about how great seeing the world is because of the people you meet, the lessons you learn, the priceless experiences you accumulate. (Also, it’s fun.)
But there is an almost mystical quality attached to travel that is worth reanalysing.
I always said that one of the great and truly valuable things about spending time overseas is you learn more about yourself, who and how you really are. You get perspective.
You learn that you are attractive to the opposite sex.
You learn that you are good at things.
You learn that you’re interesting.
You learn that your privileged childhood has shaped you for better or for worse.
You learn that you are stronger than you believed – or you learn to be strong.
You learn that you can make a difference.
You learn that friendship can be temporary and sweet at the same time.
You learn what home means to you – or that the word “home” doesn’t mean anything anymore.
Well, these are the things I thought I’d learned.
Yet I’m starting to feel I need to unlearn most, if not all, of this. Not because any of it is wrong, per se. But what about those who haven’t travelled – because they can’t afford to, or because they stay home and do cool things there? Are they ignorant? Are we wanderers any wiser, any more informed, any more self-aware than they are?
Being “well-travelled” deludes you into thinking you know yourself (and the world, and people in general) better. Like when you backpacked for six months, when you volunteered for two years, you were somehow attaining a higher level of self-fulfillment.
Am I the best judge of who I am? Do what other people say or think about me determine my identity and self-worth? Both are such relative standards, vulnerable to the highs and lows of life. When things are good, I am on top of the world. When things take a turn for the worse, when I find myself alone – who am I then?
My identity is an evolving concept, a work in progress. Up to a point, travel casts light on different aspects of what I am like and the direction I am taking in my life. But travel in and of itself it doesn’t give value to my existence; nor should I define myself by the fact that I have travelled, or by some idea of “the person I have become” as a result of my travels.
My Maker is the one who gave me value when He created me, and I’ve decided He is the one who defines me.