Why do we do this to ourselves ?

“Why do we do this to ourselves”? My friends and I kept asking ourselves that question as the three of us were about to move abroad for an other year, each of us in a different country. We were sitting in a bar together for the first time since we had gotten back from Canada and for what would be the last time in over a year.

My thoughts were so entirely bent upon seeing the world that I should never settle to anything with resolution enough to go through with it – Daniel Defoe

Why do we do this to ourselves? How come we are willing to leave everything and everyone behind for such a long time, to put ourselves out of our comfort zone, again?  to go through with it one more time when it had been so hard settling back home and dealing with reverse culture shock?

Were we trying to prove something to ourselves? Was it out of boredom? Was it in hope we might find something better? There is a simple answer.

For us, things that make our lives worthwhile and interesting are out of our comfort zone.

Deep down we knew it was worth it because we got so much from it the first time.

I got some much out of my first trip abroad. I changed so fast and in so many ways I wouldn’t have believed it if someone told me. I knew I wasn’t there to stay in my comfort zone, I knew I had to do what everyone else was doing: things that scared me.

So my very shy 19 years old self went to talk to strangers in hostels and met great friends – some of which I am still in touch with today-, I had the most interesting conversations with people from all over the world, who had travelled to the most exotic destinations. I had never travelled before and I already realized how small my world was, and how big theirs was.

I wanted mine to be big. That’s when I understood I could never stop travelling.

Personally, I think I do this because I am a very different person when I am abroad. Probably because I get to be exotic. People want to know about where I am from and I get to be proud to tell them where I grew up and how beautiful it is and how we do things there. I don’t really have to talk about myself, no more of these boring conversations about what you study and what jobs you want to get.

When you travel, only your past counts, nobody knows what they want to do, there are already doing it. There is no figuring out the future because nobody knows what they might be doing in 2 days’ time. There is nothing else anyone would rather be doing. We all took the leap, we all left, and we’re happy about it.

You learn so much from travelling. Nothing is the same as it is in your country; buy a bus ticket, buy beer, do the groceries, watch television … everything has a different name and it makes you have another look at what you know and what you have learnt in the past – it puts everything into perspective. Travelling makes you reconsider your own country and your own place in the world, it makes you see that there are different ways of doing every thing, and that nothing is everlasting.

“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” – Bill Bryson – Neither here nor there

We do this to ourselves because while travelling we get to meet a collection of the most interesting people of the world –other travellers, and their stories about the world.

After a while, you even start getting some stories of your own too, and people are happy to hear them, and it makes you feel good about yourself, because you know you deserve these stories, you made them happen, however tough and stressful it can get sometimes; waiting for hours in airports, 18 hours journey on board a bus that’s leaking on your face, almost being denied entry at the border when you have a flight to catch on the other side,…

Other travellers don’t listen to your stories thinking you are bragging; they just know how important they are to you and how happy it makes you to share them. (Unlike most people you meet at home when you get back)

Travelling changes you in so many different ways. In 9 months abroad I have changed more than I had changed in my entire life. Until then, everything about me had remained constant; I listened to the same music, liked the same things, had the same friends, ate the same food and went to the same places.

Now, I always go for things I haven’t tried before, i feel guilty for every minute I don’t spend outside exploring, I feel uncomfortable by how much stuff I own at home – because it simply wouldn’t fit into a backpack-, I try to always keep an open mind, I feel wiser, more mature and more understanding of the world and of the people I encounter, I know how easy it is to stay in my own little comfort zone but I have experienced how much you can get from stepping out of it.

That’s why we do this to ourselves.

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