The famous British philosopher and physicist John Locke had an idea that individuals travelling can become different people by meeting and seeing “otherness”. His philosophy was that “the man who returns is not the same man who left”. He further refers to hearing new languages as a benefit of travelling, together with “an improvement in wisdom and prudence”. In our time and understanding, this can be translated to getting a broader and wider perspective of the world.
Well, this is all good, but does that automatically improve understanding of self?
From my first jump out of the safe harbour into the unknown, I landed in New York City
The world is big, the diversity of culture is even bigger. And even though our perception of the size of the world has changed due to social media and people being more connected across the world in just a click, we still choose what part of the world we want to look at. In turn, this supports our own idea of self and our place in the world. From the comfort of our own homes, we only experience a small percentage of the world’s population and cultural diversity.
Having a few family vacations under my belt while growing up, I wanted to get out there alone when I was old enough. I wanted to get different experiences and to explore the world some more. When I started travelling more independently at the age of 19, I had never reflected much about self and identity, but as you enter adulthood this becomes more and more important as you try to find your place in the world.
I did fall in love with the city, but in totally different ways than I was expecting
From my first jump out of the safe harbour into the unknown, I landed in New York City. After seeing Sex & The City with glamorous Carrie Bradshaw and her fabulous city life, I was ready for the “glam life” and to fall in love with the city.
I did fall in love with the city, but in totally different ways than I was expecting. I saw the real world. I saw homeless veterans siting all over town. I saw even more diversity at one place than I ever could imagine. I met new people who were living totally different lives than me. I would never have known the reality of “otherness” if I hadn’t come to experience it, see it and feel it on my body. It was real, and it was raw. It was beautiful, sad, wild, loud and silent all at once. I started to question my place in the world immediately and my reflection process on who I wanted to be in all this had started.
When travelling to new places, you see new things that your brain is not used to taking in
Two months after this I found myself in Goa, India. The contrast from New York was massive and I felt these two worlds both melting and crashing together inside me. I spent several weeks in the beautiful nature of India, and I felt everything on my body. It was again real, raw, beautiful, sad, wild, loud and silent all at once – only in a completely different way.
I certainly got a few chapters ahead and felt a deeper understanding of life
When travelling to new places, you see new things that your brain is not used to taking in. This is an educative process. The famous medieval philosopher St. Augustine once wrote that “the world is like a great book, and those who only stay at home read only a page”.
I felt that on my first two trips out alone in the big world, I certainly got a few chapters ahead and felt a deeper understanding of life, self and my place here, together with a list of new questions that appeared during my trips. And I now realise that to find the answers to my questions, all I need to do is to turn the page and continue reading the book.
Lipski. J. (2018) Travel and Identity: Studies in Literature, Culture and Language, Springer International Publishing, Cham, Switzerland
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