“Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.” ~Neil Gaiman
When I had the chance to relocate to Vancouver some years ago, the opportunity also came with the distinct need to try something new and leave my comfort zone. To be quite honest, I had also become frustrated with many things in my life at the time: work, friendships, relationships including family, and the general “noise” that I felt I couldn’t avoid.
I was beginning to lose my temper more easily. I found excuses to shorten visits with family and friends or to avoid visiting in the first place. Work seemed to have little meaning or fulfilment, regardless of the time that I committed to it. I felt that a new environment would be a great chance to grow, to try something new, and to enjoy being “anonymous” in a new place.
Sometimes we crave that idea, to wipe the slate clean and start over. And my new home 3,000km away was great. It felt fresh and fed my curiosity.
Being on the opposite side of the country gave me a tangible sense of distance from the things that were challenging to me. And being in an environment that offered me quick access to the ocean and mountains was quite healing.
Returning to my old home wasn’t something I seriously considered at all. Even with my visits back home for holidays and family celebrations in the first couple of years, I really looked forward to coming back to my new home.
Over time, though, I started to get the itch again. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but certain things about my new home were starting to chafe.
Some of the same behaviors started to surface again. I was beginning to lose interest in my work. Friendships were starting to fade, and I began to enjoy my solitude more and more. I would feel resentful at those around me who seemingly didn’t have the same concerns and seemed to “float along” through their existence instead of flailing against the current.
My visits back home were always enjoyable, but it became more difficult each time to leave. I began to really miss the family and friends who I had left behind. I was watching nieces and nephews grow up from a distance. The story that I had told myself over the years, that I was more of a solitary individual and didn’t need connections, was starting to feel more untrue every day. Eventually I made the decision to return home. Thankfully, it was an easy transition with my job.
When people asked me why I came back, I answered honestly that it was because I missed my family and friends, and the things that I had disliked about my home city when I initially left didn’t seem so bad anymore.
Being back home now for more than ten years, I have a different appreciation for my experiences. Travel allows me to explore and experience new things. I like revisiting places to see what I may have missed the first time around or to dive deeper into an experience that I really enjoyed. But I now understand that there’s a difference between traveling or moving for passion and doing either to escape myself.
When I chose to leave home I originally attributed my decision to external things that I found annoying, draining, or uncomfortable. But I now understand that it wasn’t things that were external to me that were causing conflict within me; it was my beliefs.
I’ve come to learn how things that trigger me are areas of my own beliefs and behaviors that need some reflection and healing. The lack of meaning in my work at the time, the seeming superficiality in everyday interactions with people, the frustration at getting distracted by the “noise” around me—these were all things I needed to look at inside myself honestly, to better understand what I could learn from them.
I realized that I only believed I was happier in my solitude because I feared opening myself up to other people. And I discounted other people’s efforts and achievements because I envied their drive and determination, and believed I wasn’t actually worthy of the attention or accolades because I felt like an impostor in my professional life.
Through acceptance, knowing that I am enough, forgiving myself, and truly appreciating the amazing people and experiences in my life, I have been able to change my outlook and approach to my life.
Finding the teaching in all those situations was huge for me. It made me realize that my attempt to change myself by changing my environment was well-intentioned but not the most effective way for me to grow.
Sometimes, changing your environment can give you that perspective you need to look at things from a different angle.
Sure, moving across the country pushed some buttons for me and made me very resourceful. It also pushed me out of my comfort zone and gave me a sense of bravery through anonymity. I see now how that perceived bravery was more of a desire to not be judged. It’s amazing how open you become to risk when you believe that no one “knows” you, that they have no history with you. You feel that they are seeing you for the first time.
The things that were my triggers merely traveled with me across the country. Even after moving, I still watched others around me building their lives while I felt stuck, and I still felt that I was not enough in friendships and relationships. As a result, I worked extra hard to fill those voids but didn’t feel worthy of the attention they drew to me.
For a while, I was able to avoid this truth because I distracted myself with the newness of my surroundings. I don’t discount the experiences that I had in my new home, but it’s clear to me now that my triggers would eventually resurface until I understood them better.
I now know that the better I understand, accept, and forgive myself, and stay curious, the more I can enjoy being wherever I am. Travel represents many things for me now: enjoyment, relaxation, learning, connections, and new experiences. But it is no longer the escape I once believed I needed to fix the challenges I was encountering. The better I know myself and the more authentic I am, the more I can enjoy being wherever I may roam.
I thank you for the time you’ve taken to read this, and I ask you to reflect on your own choices for travel and relocating and hope that you open yourself to the world inside yourself as well.