Kayla Doris

Why do we leave home to ‘find’ ourselves?

Kayla Doris
Why do we leave home to ‘find’ ourselves?

This month on the Reset Instagram and website, I’m exploring the theme of home, how it shapes us and what that means for our travel experiences. Follow along on Instagram and get involved in the conversation - I’m always keen to hear others experiences on these subjects!

In the last journal post, I wrote about how much our homes form the people that we become. The realisation of just how much it shapes us caused some contradictions for me, the main one being if travel could ever truly transform us when the places we grow up play such a huge part of our identity. The other question that arose was if home really does make us everything we are, then why do we feel the need to travel to ‘find’ ourselves? Why do we search for our identities in cultures that are the complete opposite to ours?

I didn’t realise that part of the answer was actually in the question I had asked. ‘If home makes us everything we are, then why do we travel to find ourselves?’ Sometimes we don’t want to be everything that we are - we want to be different people or discover different sides of ourselves. Just because home makes us who we are, that doesn’t mean that we can’t be more than that - the problem is that by staying at home we make it harder for ourselves to be more. The phrase ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ applies: if you grow up in somewhere where everyone follows the same life path, chances are that you’ll follow a similar path to them and have similar beliefs and values because you haven’t seen a different option. Leaving home presents us with different ways of living and new opportunities to be ‘someone else.’

It’s interesting that for many of us when we fantasise about leaving home, we imagine ourselves as different people. When I was younger I would imagine who I would become once I left home and went to uni. I’m sure before I travelled to India I probably imagined my new ‘enlightened’ self. Even now when I think of travelling next year, I picture a more creative, confident version of myself exploring the unknown. The fact that we literally imagine ourselves as new people when we’re in new environments shows just how closely we tie our sense of selves with home.

When we talk about home, we don’t just mean our physical surroundings, but the people around us and social norms and behaviours - all external factors that our sense of selves are tied to. We know who we are in relation to these things. A really common example of this is when people go through an identity crises following a breakup. They don’t know who they are without their ‘other half’ because the sense of self they had was in relation to their relationship. A mother might experience the same when her children grow up and leave home for the first time (fun fact - I just learned this is a thing and is called Empty Nest Syndrome.) Her identity ties with her relationship with her children - once they grow up and leave, her ‘role’ as the caregiver has changed and this challenges her sense of self. Our job roles are another good example of something that we tie our identities too. It’s no wonder that we imagine we’ll be different people when we leave home, because the anchors that keep us rooted to who we believe ourselves to be are taken away once we leave.

So in answer to my question, ‘why do we travel to find ourselves,’ I think we travel to find out who we are without the ties of home. We remove ourselves from the familiar in the hope of finding unfamiliar parts of ourselves. Yes home does play an enormous part in our identity, but that doesn’t have to contradict with our search for new selves in new environments.