Identity & Solo Travel.

Zǎoshang hǎo

早上好 / Good morning!

If you’re anything like me, you may have thought of travel in the same way many Instagram bloggers want you to, in the orange haze of romanticised wild living; nicely composed, autumnal coloured hammocks and huskies. Don’t travel because of this. No-one is forever content, and you won’t be by simply getting on a plane and moving location.

I say simply. Doing so has been the most difficult thing I have had to actively pursue so far in my life and I admire anyone who chooses to do the same. If you don’t like what’s going on in your country, do one of the following things:

A. Accept it and continue with your life the way it is

B. Make a change, stand up and defend your opinion, not just on social media

C. Get up and leave. You are not bound to your borders, and travel, empathy, awareness of the world, is so important.

I got up and left, and after three weeks in Chengdu, this adventure has already been messy, things haven’t gone to plan, and the question of identity has emerged from things I did not expect. It turns out moving across the world will not instantly change you into an independent, thinner, healthier, more capable version of yourself. At least, it didn’t for me. Travel because you would have stretched yourself in new ways staying in the same country, do it because new surroundings make a better backdrop to your progress, not drive it.

Trust me, getting on an 11 hour plane and staying in a sketchier city than the last will not make you read that Stephen Hawking book or do more Sudoku any faster than your own bedroom. New roads will not make you want to run more, and new food and parks and subway lines will not make you immune to sickness or crime, it won’t make your mind clearer, it won’t make you meditate or exercise more. Wherever you are in this world, it is yourself and only what you chose to do that defines who you are.

I think somewhere along the way, the idea of travel has become quite selfish, with the urge to “find yourself” driving a lot of people’s ambition. I can’t say I haven’t let this thought effect my decision to come to China at one point or another. But you shouldn’t just travel for yourself. Travel for the people you will meet, for the stories they will tell, travel because empathy is so lacking in today’s society, travel because the world deserves to know itself. If you do all these things, your knowledge, stories and awareness will follow close behind.

Immerse yourself in the culture. Being here in Chengdu, I am learning the language (admittedly quite slowly), trying new food, making new friends with new experiences. I’d like to keep moving and exploring China, do more of this madness that is so hard to imagine from the comfort of back home. That’s the thing about traveling (not that I’m an expert at all), I think you just need to make that first step with no expectations. I had expectations, and I can see now that all the time I’m denying that tether back to the UK, I’m solidifying it even more.

I’ve had a lot to think about over the last couple of days, criticising motives behind making connections, having conversations outside nightclubs in the early hours of Halloween, grasping at reasoning, resurfacing old thoughts in an attempt to explain myself. In these moments I forget the organising and settling of my convictions and the war going on inside me becomes painfully evident. You can’t rely on self-sabotage, or the actions of others, to induce what you think it right. What defines your identity is the decisions you make, your actions, habits, how you choose to live your life in relation to the words you say.

I want to be defined by what I put into the world, the intentions behind each decision to pursue change. One of the reasons I am out here in this crazy corner of the world, is because they seem to have it right; The balance, the kindness towards others, the prioritised tech movement… On a quick side-note: I get excited every time there is a new development; to me each advancement seems obvious and I wish I could contribute more. (I just got a little rush when I switched my phone music for my computer without missing a beat.) I’d love to tackle the nature to digital balance myself, and push back against American politics and Western attempts to close down borders while the East is aiming towards an open and connected world, but making significant change still seems a bit out of reach and so I am making the small changes in my everyday that I can.

I have chosen to put my power into supporting the organisations, campaigns and systems heading forwards, the ones which are moral, beneficial and essential for human (and otherwise) development. This is what I want to be remembered for, and a big part of why I am traveling. Let me know why you are traveling, I love to hear other people’s stories!




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