Who am I, or Can I Discover my True Self while Travelling?

As I am about to leave for a new adventure in Africa, I take some time to reason upon questions that I have been dwelling on for quite some time now during my travels: how can I find my true self?

I haven’t been writing in a while, since I am home almost nothing. Home, what an estranged word it has become. I should say birthplace, it suits it better. When I am here, at this small seven thousand people strong fort in the middle of the Po Valley, I kind of get stuck. I slowly lose focus, I soften my will, I fall back into cultural habits I fought hard against, which are defined by boredom, lack of curiosity, and fear.

Sure, I have been wandering the countrysides in search of photography opportunities. The foggy canals and muddy forests around here do have their charm. That was fun. I took advantage of this time to read a couple of books, listen to some podcasts, and train almost every day, which I hadn’t done in a long time. I also enjoyed spending some time with my family, especially my nephews, and big brother.

For the rest, throughout the few weeks I spent parked here like a car, craving to hit the road, I was plunged in all kind of silences, while a tremendous noise populated my mind. I have been wondering what that noise was, and perhaps now that I am about to go towards a new unknown, I understand it. It’s the final realization that there’s nothing for me here, that I’ll never live here again, I’d never return here if it wasn’t to visit my family, and I’ll never die here. Especially the latter. Talk about feeling estranged.

People often ask me why I travel, why I gave up a good job, good friends and a good city, Brussels, to have a somewhat uncertain life, no career, no home, and all that. I normally reply that it’s just for the experience, it’s to have an adventure while I still have the energy for it, it’s the curiosity to discover the world, to see places, to meet people, to do things and live. And that’s all true. But it’s not all.

I am also looking for something, inside of me. I am looking for a sparkle, for a glitter of truth and courage hidden in a dark place, for a higher understanding of myself. Who am I really? What is my nature? What do I want to be, or become? What is it that I want to do in the short time I have been given? Yep, because the clock is ticking, and I can feel the weight of its infinite echo swinging above my head, just like the proverbial sword of Damocles.

Since I left Brussels, almost two years ago, I have been asking myself these questions. Right, because sometimes it’s not the will or the capacity to achieve that we miss, but the goal itself. Quite the problem, which I have tackled by going travelling, and see new things, make new experiences and so on. After 18 countries and one year and a half on the road, the answer still eludes me. I enjoyed every second of it, but that feeling of estrangement, the same feeling I have where I am staying at my birthplace, persists.

Or I could put it in another way and say that there are too many answers. So many things I could be, I could do, I could become. Does this mean that the problem is choice? Do we get to chose what our nature is, or it is a mystery hidden within ourselves that we need to unravel?

I have been working all my life towards overcoming cultural barriers, towards increasing my knowledge and experience, towards freeing my consciousness, if that’s possible at all. All in order to be whatever I want to be. And now that I can be whatever I want to be, I don’t know what that is. Funny, huh? Unexpected.

In a very amateur way, I am a kind of philosophy enthusiast. Meaning I read some books and listen to some podcast, without any real academic direction. I obviously ask myself existential questions, and I am indeed attracted by existential thinkers. I am sure there’s a little bit of Sartre in what I said above, and I could add a little Albert Camus and say that after all, perhaps, we should just find meaning in the small, apparently meaningless actions of everyday life, in an act of rebellion against the gods. Incidentally, learning how to be focused on our present, is a precept of many Eastern philosophies too, starting with Buddhism.

I like that, I even agree with it, and I believe I have worked in that direction too. Yet, it doesn’t solve my problem, it doesn’t provide with the much-awaited epiphany I never got. Even in the present, even free to be anything, what is my deepest nature? That feeling of estrangement is always on my side. It isn’t just jobs, people and places, nor just a matter of experiencing life alone. It has to do with myself, my identity, my place in the world.

Your real self lies not deep within you but high above you”. This is a quote from Fredrick Nietzsche who believed that we all ought to strive towards a better self, towards creativity, towards discovering and following our passions. He believed that we all know what our real self is, we just don’t have the courage to open that box. I find truth in this, but not clarity. It’s also a scary thought just thinking that I might be too afraid of life to be who I am meant to be.

But it’s something to keep in mind. Perhaps the answer lies in the attempt to always overcome our limits, whatever it is the things we do. But I don’t think that would help to conquer that feeling of estrangement that persecutes me.

In a few hours, I’ll be in Africa, in Uganda, volunteering for an NGO for a while, and then travelling around, checking out wildlife, taking lots of photos and writing stories on this blog, and on social media. All great, and I do am looking forward to it. I know I’ll enjoy every minute of it, I know I’ll learn a lot, and in many ways, hopefully, even elevate myself. I know I will not think about all of this, well, not all the time at least. I’ll be busy. 

Travelling is the action I chose to undertake while I look for my answers, and I am proud of this decision, it’s such an enriching experience in so many different ways. However, I don’t think this new adventure will ultimately help to solve the case, my quest for a goal, for meaning, or to put it in other words, my quest of reconciliation with myself.

Who knows though, everything is possible. Everything changes, everything is on a Constant Revolution, that is undeniable, and I am starting to think that after so many wanderings, in all directions, inside and outside my body, my history, and my culture, after tearing apart everything and refilling it with life, and experience, and knowledge, after all this, perhaps the right way to start over, and find my true self is to begin with the simplest of ideas: find a place that I can call home.

Haha, the world is my boundary.

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