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Ahhh, traveling to find yourself. It’s a controversial topic mentioned in lots of travel forums and subreddits! It’s undeniably true that so many people want to embark on a solo trip, not just for museums, cultural experiences, and food, but rather to truly discover who and what they are. And this objective? Makes sense.
A big (and often unanswerable question) is trying to figure out why exactly we’re here. What’re our goals? What qualities are important for us to uphold? What’s our purpose in life? Why do we even exist at all?
They’re heavy hitting questions, for sure. In my own case, I don’t have precise answers to, uh, any of these big queries, and although travel is one of my life purposes, I’d like to think I’m here on this rock for many reasons. Still trying to figure them all out, though, haha.
So, even though it’s difficult to know who we are, a journey of self-discovery to new cities, countries, and continents is a fulfilling idea and a “dream come true” for many travelers. But is it possible to find ourselves traveling the world?
Finding Yourself Through Travel is Possible.
I absolutely think you can make progress finding yourself through travel, especially if you’re taking a trip alone.
Now I promise I’m not knocking group travel or exploring the world with a friend or partner. Those trips create plenty of beautiful memories and help deepen your relationships with other people. And I won’t argue against the importance of interpersonal relationships. They’re important.
However, by making the conscious decision to do solo travel instead, you’re giving yourself time to enjoy company with the most important person in your life: you.
Think about it for a second. Our daily lives have so much noise, which more or less block out our own wants and needs because we’re so darn distracted by everything. Not to mention, we have many people who rely on us for emotional support. I’m not saying that prioritizing others is a bad thing and turning into a selfish buffoon is the way to go. But, even so, it’s so easy to forget ourselves in this messy chaotic maze that we call “life.”
We don’t sleep enough. We drop our hobbies. We fall off track to please everyone else.
Solo travel eliminates distractions and returns attention and love back onto ourselves. Being alone is the best way to travel to find yourself. 100%.
Read More: The Complete Guide to Solo Travel
However, Travel Isn’t the Only Way to Discover Yourself.
Solo travel is great, but I don’t want this post to be a fluffy “one-sided” pile of nothingness. So I’m going to be honest.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking travel is the only path to true self-discovery. Travel blogs glorify “the journey” to an insane degree, leading you to believe it’s impossible to figure out your purpose without a plane ticket and passport in your possession.
This is untrue. Otherwise, you’d only experience personal development on the road, which isn’t sustainable to meaningful growth.
We should always nurture our dreams. We should always carefully consider what we want in life. We should always embrace our purpose and do whatever it takes to find our purpose if we’re unsure of it. We limit ourselves by only caring about self-growth on the road and ignoring ourselves at home. It’s unfair.
So, yes, travel to find yourself, but make your purpose a priority all the time.
Finding Yourself Lasts an Entire Lifetime.
Full disclosure. I feel as if I’ve undergone massive personal growth after a very challenging year. But I’m nowhere close to “finishing” my self-development. I’m a work-in-progress, without a doubt, and still have so much I need to do.
Honestly, I don’t think there’s a specific moment when you magically “know” who you are and what you need to feel fulfilled. We’re complex beings, always changing and transforming with our circumstances. For instance, your purpose now might be very different than your purpose from ten years ago. Which is fine!
Furthermore, one trip won’t suddenly switch on the “aha!” light bulb. You need to check in with yourself all the time to ensure you’re reaching your goals and nourishing your priorities. Take action every single day to be the best version of you.
Finding yourself takes a lifetime.
Read More: Travel and Healing: Places that Positively Impacted Me
Travel WILL NOT Cure Your Mental Health.
I think this point, regarding travel and mental health, is especially important to discuss in this post. Too many misconceptions flying left right and center.
So you have this self-discovery journey planned, which is great, but if you’re hoping your trip to Rome will stop your depression or zap your anxiety, then I implore you to reconsider your travel goals and think about what you actually need to do to take care of your mental health.
Travel won’t heal mental health.
Sure, in some ways, traveling has helped my anxiety, but it hasn’t cured my struggles either. Not even close. I’m speaking out about this, because, man oh man, there’s a lot of scary advice on the internet. Lousy advice claiming that a “trip of a lifetime” fixes mental health struggles and thus, wanderlust has the ~magical~ power to make you 100% happy again.
It’s dangerous to proclaim travel will cure your anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. Reach out to support groups or seek therapy instead. Trust me.
Continue to Find Yourself at Home.
As travelers, we’re always thinking about our next big adventure to a new destination. This is great. Despite your passion for new places, though, avoid associating negativity with your home. It took me a very long time to learn this lesson.
And remember adventures are even possible in your own backyard! For example, take a walk to a park close to your apartment, or drive to a new nearby town and try a new place to eat. Your home may hide wonderful possibilities, waiting for you to stumble upon them, and it’s up to you to put on your boots and go.
You can also find yourself at home by making self-development crucial to your daily life. Read plenty of books. Listen to podcasts. Take up a new hobby. Join a class at the gym. Learn a language. The possibilities are endless.
Never stop learning in your spare time. Knowledge makes you richer – inside and out.
Read More: Reasons to Travel Solo in Your 30s
What are the Best Places to Find Yourself?
So you want to use solo travel to help you find yourself? Awesome! Exciting places exist around every corner, but we all know the world is a huge place. Narrowing down the possibilities is a challenging, but part of the fun, too. I love the travel planning process. Just check out all the half-finished itineraries on my laptop, haha.
So try to have an abundance mindset if you’re not sure where to go to find yourself. The world is your oyster! My advice is to choose a place with personal significance to you. For example, maybe you want to plan a spiritual journey through your ancestral country. Such trips are unique. I can’t give personal recommendations.
If we’re just pulling from my past trips, then I think these are the best places to find yourself, and I hope they give you a strong “jumping off” point.
1. Scotland, UK.
I have the biggest crush on Scotland, oh my goodness. If Scotland was a person, I’d marry it tomorrow and not think twice about my impulsive decision.
I’m a living and breathing example of someone who went to Scotland to find herself, and man oh man, did I learn a lot about me, myself, and I! Scotland’s Highlands will take your breath away. Literally. They provide the perfect setting for reflecting about your life and what you hope to accomplish for yourself.
Plus the locals are absolute dolls. They’re so friendly and warm! Traveling to find yourself is made easy in Scotland.
Read More: Guide to 1 Week in Scotland
2. The Canadian Rockies, Canada.
Need some beautiful nature on your journey to self-discovery? Then you need to pack your bags and camp in Banff National Park. You’ll think the cerulean-colored glacier lakes are photoshopped. The water is that pristine.
Camping in Banff will close you off from the outside world. My cell service dropped off multiple times, and to be honest, it was refreshing for people not to have the ability to blow up my phone. The Canadian Rockies will give you peace and quiet, which is perfect for your self-discovery goals.
Plus you can partake in adventure tourism if you want to push yourself. Ever been white water rafting? Now is the perfect time to try! Have fun!
Read More: Packing for Banff National Park
3. San Francisco, USA.
Who doesn’t madly love San Francisco? This city is one that has always embraced rebels and their counterculture ideals. So, if you’re looking to travel to find yourself, then book a ticket out to California.
I felt like I could truly be myself in San Francisco. The atmosphere screamed “judgement free zone.” Explore the different neighborhoods, such as Haight-Ashbury and the Mission, on your journey to self-discovery.
Not to mention, you can spoil yourself with wonderful nature in the San Francisco metro area! Muir Woods is a simple day trip away. Walking underneath the mind blowing redwood trees offers the perfect atmosphere for introspection.
Read More: Solo Travel Guide to San Francisco
4. Budapest, Hungary.
Another one of my favorite cities for self-discovery is Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Budapest is known for its famous cafes, such as New York Palace Cafe, and these are great spots to read a book or do a bit of journaling.
In addition, Budapest’s strength clearly comes from its resilient people. Go to the House of Terror to learn about Budapest under the fascist and communist regimes. Although sad, I found the quiet resistance of the Hungarians somberly inspiring and a reminder that people can still accomplish greatness even in a horrible situation.
Personally, I think Budapest is a wonderful option for finding yourself if you’re taking a winter trip. The snow adds a delightful glow to the entire city. Take a walk and reflect.
Read More: Solo Travel Guide to Budapest
5. Paris, France.
Ahhhh, of course I can’t write a post about traveling to find yourself without mentioning Paris.
All of your fellow literature nerds know about the writers of The Lost Generation. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gertrude Stein. Ernest Hemingway. Ezra Pound. Paris was the home for all these expatriate writers. It makes sense to go here if you want to think about life’s purpose.
Paris is a total dream come true if you’re introverted and need some think for self-reflecting. The French, in general, are more reserved than their American counterparts, and therefore, won’t badger you with silly questions about why you’re traveling by yourself. Win/win!
Read More: 10 Tips for Your First Trip to Paris
6. New York City, USA.
Finally I gotta talk about New York. The Big Apple. My favorite place in the world (or one of them, anyway).
There’s no place like New York City. I know I’ve said it fifteen million times on this blog, but I’m so lucky to live close to incredible, vibrant, multi-cultural, fashionable New York.
New York is a fantastic option if you’re traveling to find yourself. So many people come here with the idea of “making it.” The energetic vibe of the city will inspire you too. You’ll see all the independently owned stores and restaurants as you roam through the different neighborhoods and feel like you can also “make it” in this competitive world.
If you need a little space from the intensity of New York, then make sure you take some time to explore Central Park. On a sunny day, there’s no better place to go in the city. You can spend hours roaming Central Park. I’m not even kidding. I’ve done it, haha.
Read More: Guide to Solo Travel in NYC
Have you ever gone traveling to find yourself? Where do you recommend going on a journey of self-discovery? Share your thoughts about this topic in the comments.