I've been lucky enough to travel the world. I've seen some incredible places, some scary places, some shocking places. As I sit here writing this I'm in San Francisco having just spent a week exploring Tahoe, a vastly different place to my first international trip in India. I still remember landing in Delhi and racing through the crowded streets in the back of this rundown taxi where no gutter was off limits. My mind exploded, as did all my pre-conceptions about life and the world.
I saw right then how travel and exploration can shape an individual and transform their life. But maybe I got the exploring part a little mixed up. Mark Twain said "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” but that all depends on what you're actually travelling. Marcel Proust said, “The true voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” and all true exploration should encompass this - if you don't leave the place seeing it, and more importantly yourself, a little differently then did you really explore?
We can get lost and instead of feeling scared and uncomfortable we pull out our iPhones and look up Google maps. Before we can even feel our fear, our discomfort, we turn to something else for help. It is easy to build a façade around you and avoid the things that are unpleasant and don't feel nice just like you do at home, whether it’s falling back on a friend, or turning to alcohol, your phone or sex when you are lonely or bored.
We travel the world but much of the time we are stuck in the same old habits, but just in another country. Sometimes the travel is a mere replication of what we do back home, it is the same cycle, just painted differently and these habits prevent us from truly discovering a connection with our true self.
I had managed to travel to over 60 countries without ever really getting to know myself. Seen some beautiful sights and met some incredible people, but I always failed to meet myself, openly and boldly. I mistook movement for action and stamps on a passport for discovery. But exploration doesn't always have to involve moving and doing, we can explore ourselves every single day and learn countless new lessons.
I have travelled the world but the grandest adventure I have ever been on was 3 months living in a rundown hut, with no electricity, no friends, no comforts, in the forests of a Monastery. I had explored the outer world but maybe I failed to explore what really matters. We tend to think of exploring in an external sense and think travel is all the exploration we need. Travel is great but in this day and age even this beautiful tool of self-discovery and emancipation is becoming more superficial and limiting in what it can do for us. Whilst eating new foods, meeting new people, seeing new places and trying new things is grand, the more important aspect is always what it does to us internally. True external travel should always encompass this.
We need to examine and explore everything outside and inside of us, with an emphasis on the “inside.” This is where we tend to get it so wrong. We have made exploration and travel purely an external thing, but the greatest explorers conquered themselves first. This is why it is critical in many ways that exploration is a solo adventure to start, you can pick up your passengers along the way but you have to be the captain - everything starts, and ends, with you.
The greatest adventure I have been on and the greatest thing I have ever explored isn’t a place - it is myself. It’s a continual adventure, one that you go on every minute of every day and one you take with you everywhere you go. This type of travel, of adventure, of deep exploration should be the cornerstone of our individual lives.
Real travel and exploration can’t be rushed; it isn’t stamps on your passport, or 25 countries on a Contiki tour, its solitude, peace of mind and happiness. This is when you discover, discover yourself, and discover the world.
By Evan Sutter