What does traveling or moving to a foreign city/country change? Can it change anything, really? Isn’t it just an escape, a temporary illusion that your problems might resolve themselves there, that you might get to be a better and saner person in another place?
A lot of people were asking me these questions when I started talking about moving to France, just because I feel better here. ”Why do you? I mean – it’s just a change of scenery, how can that change you? You are still the same unstable emotional wreck…” But — wait, no: I’m not. Well, I am in a way, because it’s never possible to truly escape oneself. I still have my downs as well as my ups, I still feel melancholy as f*** most of the time, I still have to fight with my passive aggressiveness, I still feel stupid and silly and weird and well not normal and mostly just out-of-place… But I change. Something in the deep shadowy place at the bottom of my personality shifts. Something hidden before lifts up towards the surface and takes its place under the sun. And something else can maybe take the well deserved break from its everyday working hours.
How can you explain that to someone who has never traveled or doesn’t understand the sense of travel?
I don’t think you can. I feel it is something you have to experience, not with a trip or two out of the city, not by going to an island and lay on a beach all day long. No. Go explore. Go see. Go listen. Go just — all out. Go out of what it is well-known to you. Go out of what you find ordinary. Because when you do that, you can’t act normally anymore, you can’t be the same old you, with the same old habits, routines you’ve perfected in years and years of practice. You are faced with different situations, you communicate in a foreign language, you walk through unknown streets, hell – you sleep in an unfamiliar bed and can eat completely bizarre food. You simply have to change. You have to bring out aspects of who you are you otherwise never would.
And : you meet people. How can that not change you? You realize you can create an incredible bond with someone you just met a minute ago. All of a sudden you’re sitting there, making jokes like old friends, you share meals and buy each other drinks, sometimes in the middle of a night you trust them stories you’ve never told anyone, you spend the whole day together and say goodbye the following morning, not knowing if you will see them again. Believe me – that changes you. It makes you feel grateful for every single person you get to know, even those who bored you like hell sometimes, telling anecdotes you just couldn’t laugh at, and even those who annoyed you at breakfast, before you got to drink the very first sip of coffee. Or sat there beside you on the bench, on your worst day, when you were about to cry, and just didn’t want to stop talking… Because : you learn.
And mostly: because it makes you realize there are people out there who get it. People you don’t have to explain why why why…! You can just say ”because I want to, because I feel like it, because it makes me feel good” and they won’t roll their eyes or look at you in a funny, pitiful way, but smile ”So, you’re like me then, nice.” And if there is a whole community of people out there who get it, of true personalities who follow their wildest desires, then why care about those who don’t? I can try to explain to them how travel teaches you things you can never learn otherwise, but if they cannot appreciate that, why bother?
So, what I’m trying to say is that I think it’s pretty much the same when moving abroad. It’s just an extension of travel, a long-term exploration that faces you with a whole new level of unknown situations. And it does that when you’re on your own, with no background story, attaching you to the place, with no backbone of people, closest to you. It’s just you, building your life from scratch.
Oh yes, you change, oh yes, you go all out. Because once you’re there, you don’t really have a choice anymore.
”It is important in life not to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once. If you want something in life, reach out and grab it.”
― Christopher McCandless