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Travel as Transformation: Discover your own Identity

Photo – Cait Miers @caitmiersphotography

For those who need that little bit extra inspiration to travel and those experienced tourists in need of transformation, Gregory Diehl asks the readers a set of questions and gives them simple concepts to contemplate with his book Travel as Transformation: Conquer the Limits of Culture to Discover Your Own Identity.

A tourist carries their old culture to mitigate the jarring influence of new experiences.

When you travel with a truly open mind, however, you forget who you were when you started.

When you travel, you are constantly born anew, and identify with ways of life you did not know could exist.

Here are some questions I want you to think about:

1.What affirms you most?

2. What would it take to destroy you?

3.When you travel to a foreign place, do you experience this new life as your old self? Or do you become a new self?

“Travel” can have different meanings for different people. For some it might be that all-inclusive cruise trip, for others it might be backpacking through South America. It could be a pampered week-long hotel stay, or a multiple month trek across a continent. “To go on a trip or journey” is how Merriam and Webster simply define it.

In this sense, no one is incorrect in his or her definition. However, Gregory Diehl challenges us to rework the definition in a way that transforms the self. He stresses it’s not about what you do when you travel, that it’s about what you discover inside.

You grow in conditions which force you to think differently.

“If you begin the journey knowing that whatever is scary, difficult, and uncomfortable holds the key to progress, you cannot fail. You will get to where you need to be by changing yourself.”

Those of us who travel, assumedly begin for similar reasons.

“Travel satisfies that most basic curiosity to depart from regular life into something new.”

We seek a different world that makes us feel like we’re living more, rather than being a part of the rat race.

Diehl is like all of us who pack our bags to experience something foreign. He’s experienced a vast variety of cultures. He taught in the Middle East, volunteered in Africa and lived in a van in San Diego.

My first experience out of the country was as a volunteer in Tanzania, where I worked for a non-governmental organization that partnered with local NGO’s that specialized in women’s rights and agricultural sustainability. This was necessary in the tiny town due to the harsh differences between the rainy and dry season. The trip was a couple of weeks after my high school graduation, and it was a month long – the longest and furthest I had been away from home and more importantly, my first time out of the country.

“Each trip was full of special moments, and all have held important lessons that I’m not sure I would have learned had I not jumped on those planes. It’s all about a change of perspective; when you open a new door, you discover something, or someone, different.”

Since then I have gone to a yoga teacher training on a small island in the Caribbean sea, I have lived, worked and partied for eight months in Nicaragua and just this past Summer I lived in El Salvador, surfing and interacting with locals in my determined Spanish.

Each trip was full of special moments, and all taught me important lessons that I’m not sure I would have learned had I not jumped on those planes. It’s all about a change of perspective; when you open a new door, you discover something, or someone, different.

“True originality- or true dedication to self – requires the abandonment of all paths previously trodden. No one has lived your life before. No one knows what it means to be you. No one can know all the things you will become when different parts of you are fully realized. Perspective is the mechanism for this change.”

Our lifestyle largely shapes who we are a living, breathing, flawed creatures. When we travel, we have the opportunity to meet opportunities for transformation, in ways not possible back home.

My advice? Get on the plane, keep your eyes and willingness to transform open, and see what happens.

About the Author:

Natalie is a writer, yoga instructor and counselor of teenagers with mental health issues. A true believer that life hands us only lessons, she tries to find the medicine in all situations, poisonous or sweet.

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