Your bags are packed, your ticket is booked, your hotel reservation is confirmed and your boarding pass is printed. You’re on your way to somewhere exciting, and most of the major decisions have been made. But there’s one more thing left to determine, and it can affect your entire trip.
For some people, it’s not a conscious choice. It just happens. You step off a plane (or out of a car), and you’re overwhelmed. The air smells different, the buildings look different and even the sunlight gives colors a sharpness you never noticed back home.
You start to walk differently, with a swing in your step and your head bouncing. You feel confident, impatient to explore this new place (or, on the flip side, you’re paralyzed by uncertainty and the unfamiliar, and it takes every ounce of willpower you have not to run and hide in your hotel room).
You walk down the street and know that you will not run into that ex-boyfriend, or that annoying coworker or that woman from across the hall who always hogs the washing machines in the laundry room. You’re in a new place, surrounded by strangers, and you become someone else, too. Some seize the opportunity immediately, while others slowly morph into another version of themselves, almost unaware of the effect this new place is having on them.
One of the best things about traveling is embracing and exploring different parts of your personality. Maybe a trip to Vegas has you wearing platform heels and liquid eyeliner. Or a camping trip brings to light your hitherto undiscovered love of flannel shirts and trail mix. Trips can reveal parts of ourselves (and likes/dislikes) we never knew existed. In addition to revealing traits like an utter inability to read a map, you might also find that you love experimenting with exotic foods (something you never would’ve tried if it was an ordinary Saturday night at home).
I know I’ve been surprised a few times with the things I’ve found out about myself while traveling. For instance, I discovered (actually, it was more like confirming) my fear of heights on the side of an Alp in Germany. At a hostel in Brighton (on a chilly spring weekend), I realized that it’s better to spend some extra dough for a blanket rather than cranking up the heat in the room (yes, you can take thriftiness too far). I’ve also found that, while I could technically survive on a box of protein bars and hostel-provided continental breakfasts, I actually have a much better time when I’m eating a semi-normal diet.
It’s fun to be someone else for a while, to dance all night on a pub crawl in Rome, to fearlessly approach other tourists and ask them to take my picture, to strike up a conversation on a train to Paris. But it doesn’t only have to be about trying new activities; it can also be as simple as trying on new clothes.
I’m usually a jeans-and-sweater (or tee-shirt, depending on the season) type of girl, but it’s fun to experiment with oversized movie star sunglasses, colorful scarves or flirty sundresses.
It’s fun to alternate between playing the part of sophisticated world traveler and budget-conscious backpacker. What you choose to wear is just another way to signal that this is something special; travel is an occasion that calls for leaving behind the ordinary, in every facet of your life.
So whether you climb a mountain, tie a neon pink sweater over your shoulders or party with the locals (or all three, preferably in the same day), sometimes losing yourself is the best way to find a new perspective.
Image via Shutterstock