Traveling On The Path To Self-Discovery

Imagine you are thousands of miles from home in a place you have never been before and yet you feel oddly settled, like you have been there many times before.  It’s a feeling so strong that it knocks the wind out of you for a few moments.

This is just what I experienced the first time I went to Paris. It may sound corny, but I always tell people that I had to go to Paris to find myself.  From the time I entered the city on that bus I felt at home.  Like I BELONGED there.  I felt like I could really be the person I was.  If I believed in reincarnation I was certain I lived in Paris in a past life.

I am positive that I am not the only one who has had this awakening.  I decided to dig deep and do what everybody does when they want to learn more.  I Googled it.  What came up was a treasure trove of articles and posts on finding yourself through travel.  Thanks to the success of books like Eat Pray Love this subject has been hashed over thousands of times.

Why did it take me-a 48 year old wife and mom from a small town so darn long to “find myself”? I mean really, I should have been old enough to know who I was!

So the question remains.

How and why does it take traveling to far off places (or even not so far) to discover ourselves?

In my case I just picked the right destination for me.  Paris was my dream come true.  It was everything (good and bad) I imagined.  All the things that I have always been interested in are in Paris.  Fashion, art, literature, the vibrancy of a city, the food, and the beautiful architecture.  Coming from a small town and many of the people in my life at that time never shared my interest in these things.  I always felt like an odd duck.  Never quite fitting in.  I had lots of friends, but never quite finding my tribe.  In turn I had a lack of confidence, never really believing in myself.  Afraid to put myself out there and stand up for myself.

I had never done anything like this before. Ten years before I would never have considered going anywhere without someone to hold my hand.  Finally one day I realized I was not going to live forever and the time was NOW to go and see this city of my dreams.

So I did it.  I went and felt literally set free. Like my friend Barb said “at home in your soul” is exactly how I felt in Paris. Oh how true this was for me.

Travel takes you away from the mundane, the everyday.  We are free from the expectations of others.  We do not need to be anybody but who we are.  Let’s face it, many times we mold ourselves into the shape of how others see us or want us to be. It is a wonderful feeling of being in a place where you can reinvent yourself.  No one knows you, no one will laugh at you if you cry over that painting you see in the Louvre or when you see the Eiffel Tower for the first time (Guilty as charged!!). Our decisions are all our own and the voices in our head are all our own.

You see the world in a whole new way.

What drives me absolutely crazy are the people that said “why would you ever want to go there?” ” The French are so rude” “Paris is so dirty” Are you kidding me?  The French are no more rude than we Americans.  Perhaps a little lesson in French culture is in order! Every culture is different.  That is what makes the world so fascinating and why I love travel so much. Travel opens up the mind to different ideas.  I devour books on French culture.  Contrary to what some Americans believe, there is much to learn from other cultures.  No country or culture is perfect, but an open mind can go a long way towards peace in the world.

The world is full of all different kinds of terrain and I believe there is a place in the world for everybody.  Some of us have “found ourselves” in our own backyard, or out in the woods, in the mountains, or on the beach.  That’s where the beauty lies. The process of discovering oneself is as individual as the places in the world.  Your place may not be my place and vise versa. It’s wherever you no longer feel like an outsider.

Probably the main gift that I was given through travel was the gift of confidence.

The empowerment you feel when you face your fears and conquer them is an incredible confidence boost. You need to be flexible because you WILL be out of your comfort zone. Was I scared to go to Paris not knowing a single soul?  Damn right I was!  Was I scared this last time planning out our trip that it was all going to go okay?  You bet!  I did it and actually survived. I am the perfect example of what can happen when you just take the big leap and do it. Confidence is a game changer.  You are more likely to open yourself up to connect with people who you never thought you would and conquer the world at the same time. I’m not gonna lie, I have a long way to go and have not by far squashed all my fears.  That’s OK, It’s something to work towards.

So what happens when you actually come home to your regular life?

Here is the real question.  How can we bring that “new” person back home with us to fit in with everyday life? Coming home after you’ve been on the road can be a challenge.  You feel the inevitable let down of knowing something you’ve looked forward to and even stressed about is over (at least until the next adventure begins).  When you come home after a journey of self discovery just the opposite can happen. You feel exhilarated, reborn almost. Feeling that boost of confidence you may be ready for all kinds of things.  It made me want to go back, like yesterday! Making connections with new people became easier.

I made French food, and decorated my home with reminders of my “soul home”, and watched Midnight In Paris like 100 times! It was fun to share my experience with my friends and family.  What really changed was how I looked at myself. I felt good in my skin and no longer felt “less than”. I was now ready for the next chapter in my life and excited about the future.  Writing became the passion I wanted to follow.  Being surrounded by friends and family that allowed me to be who I was became one of the most important things to me.

I feel incredibly lucky to have found my place in the world where I became the person I am meant to be. The journey to self-discovery can be a long one.  For me, it happened all in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

Lastly, I found this quote that rang true for me…

“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.  This is the day your life really begins.”  Bob Moawad

Have you traveled somewhere and felt a deep connection to that place? Please share in the comments below.


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  1. Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski | 24th Mar 17

    Paris still on my bucket list and I know I’d love it. Hope it will be soon.

    • Lori Helke | 24th Mar 17

      It is a beautiful city, but I guess I am a little biased 🙂 Keep the faith, you will get there Rebecca!!

  2. Paulette Hausler | 23rd Oct 17

    My trip to New York …not knowing anyone gave me the courage to go on! It does creat a new directions.

    • Lori Helke | 23rd Oct 17

      Yes! Sometimes you have to go far away to find out who you really are. You totally understand!

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