At the time of writing, I’ve lived in 3 countries (England, Russia, the US) and this year I spent a month in Italy (which doesn’t really count as ‘living’). And I found that living in another place is a transformative experience.
It can change your life, but most importantly — it can teach you who you are.
How you might wonder? That’s what I’ll be discussing in this article.
You Learn a Lot About Yourself and Life
Born in Russia, my family and I moved to the U.S. (California) when I was just 10 years old. After a few years, we moved back to Russia. For college, I moved to the U.S. once more, this time to Boston.
And even though I dropped out after 7 months, living in the U.S. by myself at 18 taught me a great deal about life.
It was the little things — like having my luggage delayed for a month and being forced to figure out what to do about it. And it was the big things — like realizing that I don’t really want to study business and I actually love media, content, and marketing.
You learn a lot about life, and you learn a lot about yourself when you travel.
You Think Clearer
Moscow is my comfort zone. It’s a big city, but to me, it feels like a small suburban town. I know everything, I know everyone, life is easy for me there. I feel it every time I come there.
It’s also where growth stops. You can’t grow when you’re comfortable.
You’ve got your parents, you’ve friends, you’ve got a society — and you’ve got expectations and a persona built around you. You are the product of your environment. As a result, you can’t really think clearly about your goals, ambitions and feel the real you.
When I live in the U.S. or London — I can think much clearer. Everything is different for me, and everyone is too. I can be myself (in fact, when you come to a new place, you can be anybody) — and that’s where ideas come.
We all pretend to be somebody around people we love. When you put yourself in an environment that has 0 expectations of you (because nobody knows you), the real you starts to come out.
You are a different person.
Many writers out there will relate with me on this one.
When I write, I use different ‘voices’ on different platforms. I currently have 3 blogs — it’s Medium, and 2 blogs in Russian on Telegram that I was doing for quite a while. And on each one, I am a completely different person.
I speak differently, I use different words, I even joke differently. And the hardest thing for any writer is to switch between these ‘voices’. It’s exhausting.
When I speak different languages (I currently know 2.1: English, Russian and 0.1 of Espanol), I am also a different person. I think differently, I have different values, and I feel differently.
There is no really one fixed identity of who you are. You are a bunch of different things. People should ask not, ‘Who are you?’, but ‘What are the different yous’, since we all have at least 2–3 of them.
It’s in the languages we speak, the ‘voices’ we write in, and the different jobs we take and the hats we wear.
I bet if you read my Russian blog, you would be very surprised to see how differently I talk there. (Please, don’t try, just stick around here! :) )
You expand your world.
But the best thing about living in other places is that it allows you to expand your understanding of how the world works. Living and visiting — are completely different things.
When you’re a tourist, you miss the details and the nuances — and it’s in these nuances that everything really is.
Where to buy groceries. How to talk to people. What’s polite and what’s not. Where to get the best coffee in town. What kind of public transportation to use. So on, and so forth.
As a result, you feel not as a citizen of some 1 country — isolated from the world — but rather a citizen of the Earth. A cosmopolitan.
And as a result of your outer world expanding, your inner world expands too. You have more stories to tell (or to write), and you become an interesting person as a whole.
I’ve read somewhere that in order to be interesting, you’ve got to be interested. Traveling (and living places) — is one of the ways to do that.
You learn an important lesson.
That we are all, essentially, the same species. We are all humans.
And we all have the same problems, the same desires, and the same internal wiring, even though it may seem otherwise at times.
And when you learn that we are all people, you learn another important thing about travel. You learn that it’s overrated.
Young folks like to travel or dream about ‘traveling the world’. But more often than not, it’s a way to escape from problems at home.
The old adage says, wherever you go, there you are.
You always take yourself with you. And you learn that there is nothing ‘there’.
All the answers you’re looking for, are actually inside.
Thanks for reading.