Want to find yourself? Lose yourself first!

I snapped out of my dream with a quick gasp for air. The space was completely dark and as my breath returned I searched for any clue as to where I was. The heat was intense and it only added to the sweaty delirium that consumed me. Creeping around in the dark the void seemed like a menacing maze that punished my memory for its lapse. The furniture provided no clues and as I navigated the room like a page of brail, I searched for the light switch. The white flash momentarily blinded me and I scanned the room through squinting eyes. My backpack was the first big piece of the puzzle, followed by my lonely planet for Central America and then finally the business card for the hostel in El Tunco, lying on the dresser. Sitting on my bed reeling from one of the most intense feelings of disorientation and confusion I had ever experienced, I realised that this is exactly what I had coming.

I had been travelling for over eight months and visited countless cities, places and attractions. I had traveled with my brother and girlfriend for a significant period of time but I had been on the road by myself for over a month now. Before I had time to fully digest one experience I was off to enjoy another and slowly they were all starting to blur together in a haze of stimulation, memory and nostalgia. My experience that one evening came into perspective a while later after I had a conversation with a fellow traveler. Small talk is something that someone does almost unconsciously on a journey of this scale. Like the commercial tourist attractions that are so trodden that they bear almost no consequence, these conversations string together like a soothing background noise that lets us know that we are not alone and which help us keep a grip on the reality that we think we will return to. “Where are you from? ; What do you do?; Where are you going?”

This person’s question, however, brought me out of my travelling limbo like a hammer breaks down a wall to reveal a hidden treasure. This unknown sage of the lost traveler asked me this question. “How do you think you are changing positively as a result of your journey?” Fully engaged, I felt that the question had challenged me at a very important stage of my travels because for some time, I had been avoiding a convoluted set of emotions and ideas that had been bubbling below the surface.“Well to be perfectly honest, I feel like I am losing myself!

At first she was taken aback about my reply. How could someone view losing themselves as a positive thing? Secondly, how do you go about losing yourself and what purpose does it ultimately serve? I explained that this feeling at first was very scary because I felt like the very glue that was holding my personality, world view and sense of purpose together was falling apart. For seven years I had lived in one place; worked in one industry; had a consistent group of friends; followed a similar routine and pursued a consistent basket of values which I thought represented fulfilment. This was replaced with a whirlwind of new places, experiences and people who had no idea of who I was, what my expectations of life were and more importantly they expected nothing from me. I went from having a crystal clear vision that I religiously translated into monthly and weekly strategies for each area of my life to a blank canvass which for the first time allowed real and unexpected change to come into my life.

The question is why lose yourself? We all think that we like change yet the reality is that it scares us more than we like to admit. It means stepping out of our comfort zone and confronting the unknown. Was I prepared to discover new things about myself and the world that would throw the life plan out of the window and send me back to the drawing board?

Would my family and friends endorse those new changes? They were not around to influence my choices and my once concrete life plan was now a confusing jumble of puzzle pieces opportunities scattered across the ever expanding landscape of my mind. Every person wants to travel to “find themselves” but for me I believe the opposite is what we really need before we ever discover who we really are. We need to lose ourselves first! The formative years of our life are littered with garbage inherited from our parents, peers and society at large. We must let go of the various beliefs, expectations, ideas and mental constructs about who we are, what we want and where we are going? As you feel yourself slipping away into a void where everything feels foreign, scary and you forget who you are then I say you are finally ready to change and discover the real you for the first time!