We often hear of people traveling across the world and experiencing profound life-changing epiphanies. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not how it happens.
Sure traveling around the world will change your life, but not exactly in the way you expect it to.
At this time last year, my boyfriend Robin and I were just two travelers visiting East Asian countries like China, Korea, and Singapore. We considered ourselves to be independent, non-conformist souls.
We had all these notions of inner change taking place. Or at least I did.
When we returned to Canada after our four months of travel, I was hit with a simple truth. We weren’t really all that independent after all.
In fact, we were pretty idealistic about the world and society at large. Even if we had seen a lot of it with our own eyes.
Coming Back to Reality
It took me awhile to adjust to being home again. Call it culture shock, call it moving back in with your parents.
After experiencing the freedom of traveling, making our own decisions about where to go and what to do, it felt strange to be back in a familiar place.
The Profound Life Changing Stuff Happens Close to Home
You know how people seem to experience these life changing shifts when they travel abroad for extended periods of time? Well I think that’s a myth. Or at least it’s not how it happened for me or for those I’ve spoken to about it.
Everything changes, that part is true. But all the decisions and shifts take place when you get back home. When you’re integrating back into that routine.
The shifts happen when you make the decisions that change the course of your life. Not when you’re exploring and visiting new parts of the world.
Honestly, my feet were too worn out and my mind overstimulated by all the sights and sounds to make any decisions about my life.
But as soon as I got home, it was time to chart the course my life would take.
Choosing to Work For Myself
Before setting off on our grand adventure abroad, I made the decision to go into business for myself.
I believe I’ve had the entrepreneurial gene my whole life, but this was the first time I would be making a living entirely through an entrepreneurial venture.
While living with my parents for the summer I began to build the business that would grow to support me and help thousands of people in the process.
All while planting the seeds in our backyard that grew to feed and support us and our health.
It was very symbolic, and the parallels did not escape me. As I worked to grow my audience and fine tune my offerings, I worked the earth and tilled the soil to produce great vegetables.
Although it rained a lot that summer, and it took awhile to get my business going, the process was very important to my personal growth.
Forging a Life Together
Meanwhile, Robin had returned to live with his parents for the summer as well. We were doing the long distance relationship dance, one that we had endured before.
This time we both had one goal in common: forging a life together.
While I was busy planting the seeds and nurturing the processes that would support me, Robin was busy applying for and landing a job.
Soon after he started working we devised a plan to move in together. When the fall came we signed a lease on an apartment where we currently live together.
Now our lives are starting to blend into a routine. Yet there is nothing unsatisfactory about that, quite to the contrary.
We appreciate and love each other and our time together all the more. The adventure and the intruige of the other lands was great. But now we have the mental and physical space to grow from within and to do so together.
This is where the true transformation takes place.
Photo by Andy C
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21 thoughts on “Want To Change Your Life? Travel. Or Don’t.”
Thanks so much Peter for having me here, it’s always awesome to be able to share my experiences of change with new people. :)
I had a hard time connecting with your perspective until I realized that you went abroad as a tourist. For people like me that lived abroad, the experience of being in a strange country is a very transforming process. But your conclusion is astute: I was able to appreciate the experiences gleaned from the trips I took only upon returning to my home base – except for instances of missing flights, loosing luggage and encountering what would turn into a 1.5 year relationship. What I’m trying to say is, it’s whether you’re an observer or an actor in any instance, abroad or home, that makes for the transformation.
What a beautiful post Nathalie! I didn’t know about all your travel.
Aww thanks Laura! :) It was definitely a great experience to visit China (where we spent most of our time) and meet Robin’s extended family too!
The shift happens internally and can be prompted by external change I think.
Hi Nelly! It’s interesting that you mention living abroad, because I’ve done that too. Though that was a totally different experience as well, because I was working and it felt a lot more routine than traveling. So definitely there’s a difference in terms of coming back from a trip and coming back from living somewhere else. :)
Hi Richard! You’re right, all of these internal changes can actually be prompted from something on the outside.
Hi Joe, thanks! :)
Hi Nathalie .. what a wonderful time you had, and then be able to come back to sorting your lives out …. and I’m so pleased you’re together and happy and now transforming yourselves from within; it must have been lovely for both sets of parents to be able to get to know their child’s partners fairly well after living with them .. enjoy your lives – sounds as thoughyou are .. and travel as you say opens your eyes to things .. but you shared that particularly journey – lovely – Hilary
Hi Hilary! Thanks so much for your kind words. It is truly eye opening and wonderful to be able to share such experiences together. And with all of you as well. :) Thank you for sharing your view, it’s great to connect on this one.
Completely agree Nathalie.
Traveling opens up your eyes to new cultures, experiences sights and sounds. But, the return home to normality, familiar surroundings and routine is when changes occur.
the first step is to get rid of the day job and be in control of your own life, a step that many are too afraid to take
Hi Nathalie, I agree with you on this post. There are a lot of lifestyle design blogs out that that emphasize on traveling as a transformation. I think visiting new places in the world does transform the way we think in a way because we experience a different culture from our own, but it doesn’t necessarily change the person inside of us. We change by changing the course of action we take on life like you say.
Congrats on being able to start your entrepreneur journey with your boyfriend and thanks for sharing your experiences in Asia. :)
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on travel and change. I wanted to take a few days to think about your article before writing a comment.
I can definitely relate to the trouble you had adjusting to being home again (back to reality!). I remember returning to Perth after a year overseas full of motivation and inspiration. My plan was to be in Perth for only a couple of months, and then Kathryn and I were going to backpack around Australia. However, that plan never did eventuate and I found myself slipping back into old ways, as if I had never spent that year overseas. I’ve seen this happen with other people as well, and it leads me to believe that in the period just after returning home there is a window of opportunity to make big, permanent changes. Some people take advantage of this window, others don’t. From the sounds of it you have, so congrats! I wish you all the best with your business and with Robin.
Travelling is something I really want to do!! The experience would change my life. I’m aiming to travel around Europe this summer – hopefully it’ll all go to plan.
I had a similar kind of experience when traveling to Colorado with my father a few years ago. I started to think – this place sure seems great and I bet life would be better here. But, then my better sense started kicking in and recalling, “Well heck, where I live now has problems and wherever I’ll ever live will have problems. I might as well just figure out how to work with where I am at.” And, that turned out to be a good decision, and the truth. Life is great now, even though it was tough back then. Good post and thanks for your wisdom!
That was a lovely post Natalie. I find that those shifts often happen when we are least expecting them. But it is necessary to always stay open to the possibility of shifting at any moment. Though sometimes scary, it is thrilling to find yourself growing out of your current paradigm and into a new level of thought and living. I’ve never had it happen abroad! I’m usually too busy trying navigate and figure out the exchange rate!!
I think you’re right, in order to see change we must be change. Ie change happens after the event not during. I travelled the USA extensively when I graduated from university. It was only when I came back and talked to others I realised how much I’d changed.
Nice story, made me remember how good it is to travel!
I think it all really depends on how much time is spent in the country & what country you go to. The way your most referring to it is as tourist like Nelly said which is how 99% of us would do it. My whole life i wanted to travel and see the world & as of late i have wanted to do it more to change my self for the better. I was looking for something and didn’t know what.. The 1st place i went is India. I didn’t want to do the normal Europe thing for my 1st. I wanted to experience something profound. I spent about a month in India going from north to south.
You are right as in it wasn’t some crazy life changing experience I was thinking it would be but I wouldn’t have changed anything about it for the world. And it did change the way I looked at things when I got back. I believe you view your own life patterns differently when you get back and see things in a new way. Your still the same person for the most part. A few weeks ago I went to japan for my 2nd place. Same feeling as when I went to India even tho there so different. by the way Indias way cooler ;)
Hi Nellie, great to hear your trip experience. Have you gone to southern part of Africa: South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe???? It is just amazing to travel there to see all the wild life, especially. Anton