There are times when, while in the middle of my daily commute to work, I’ll ask myself what I’m really doing here. I’ll scrutinize my decisions and actions, thinking, why do I do this to myself? I dreamt of traveling from the time I could form independent thoughts; the world was my oyster, the place I knew I would feel at home at. I felt so trapped in my hometown – which is actually the capital of the country, and thus not even a small town – that it nearly consumed me. I couldn’t really understand what was wrong with me, nor could my parents. There was something missing from my being, and the second I got my first taste for true, beyond-the-realms-of-comfort travel, I knew it was one thing: freedom to roam.
Like many people now in their 20s, I didn’t let this need to travel be forgotten. When I was younger, however, it was much easier to dream of riding camels or driving through desert. Time was on my side, and it never seemed to go by quick enough. At 15, I felt 25, as though a couple years of my existence had been more like 10. I took this for granted, of course, and never let myself really find out who I was. All I knew was that the world would give me that answer, and by the time high school graduation rolled around and my admittance to my hometown university was official, I had realized that I was merely putting off the inevitable. I knew that I would never really know that much more about myself until I finally pushed myself into the world, on my own.
9 months ago, I took the leap of faith into the unknown. As dramatic as it may sound, it really was as though I was being pushed into something I had no idea about. I grew up reading about the places I’d come to visit, imagined them in my own way, and figured I would react to my surroundings in a very specific way. What I didn’t expect was to find that things were not what they seemed; these places weren’t all glamorous, some not even that much more exciting than where I grew up, and that I might do things I never thought I’d do (and not necessarily in a good way).
That’s the thing about travel – it pushes you in ways that very few things can. Struggle, and how you overcome struggle, defines you on the road. Whether you learn how to fight back, truly assimilate, and stay true to your beliefs all show you who you really are. In this case, it can also show you if you were lost, at least in some sense. The truth is – with me – there was definitely some confusion as to what I wanted out of life, and traveling more opened my eyes to the possibilities and truths I had never seen before.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of quotes about travel that are promoted by travelers all around the world. One of the most common to be seen, at least from my generation, is the following: “not all those who wander are lost” (you can guess where that came from). As someone who was a strong supporter of the notion in the past, I do believe that not all travelers are lost in themselves. I don’t even think I was lost before I moved away by myself, but certain aspects of me were found on those train rides, connecting flights, and moments of torment. I started to realize that there were things I previously brushed aside that were now things I truly cared about. I saw myself caring about things I let myself stop caring about a few years ago, and was happy to care about them again. I realized the wisdom of my parents’ encouragement to stay away from certain things, to push me in the right direction, and why all of that was needed. I’ve seen struggle, and this has all been in “first world” European countries. I’ve seen what can happen to people when their loved ones just don’t care, or if they themselves don’t care enough about what happens to them. I’ve met fellow travelers – many of which are around my age – who were troubled, and then I’ve met the ones who weren’t. I’ve come to know something: some people do travel to escape themselves and their reality. This doesn’t mean we all do – although I definitely have enjoyed setting my own rules for “growing up” for a while – but the life of a traveler isn’t all perfect.
Despite all of this, my heart still belongs to the world. From being from a diverse family to being born and raised in different countries, I’ve rarely ever felt fully at home anywhere. I’ve come to realize that, a lot of times, I feel most at home while I’m on the road – on the way to some new place. It’s not because I’m a lost soul, but because I love to learn – about new places, people, and things. I have, however, come to learn that I still have much to learn, especially about myself. While I will continue to travel beyond my days here in Spain, I know I’ll have to work harder to staying true to myself as I keep up this mission to expand my horizons. In exactly one week, I’ll get my first true test of this as I leave my home in Madrid and pack it up to London. What I’ll find this time, I don’t know.