Leaving the Past Behind: Why You Should Let Go While You Travel

There are dozens of reasons I love to travel: new sites, new sounds, new tastes, new places and faces, the thrill of doing something different and the desire to see every square inch of this beautiful planet we call home. Travel is amazing and they’re all valid points.

That being said, there’s also another reason I travel. It’s probably not something a lot of people have discussed, or even really given a name to, however it’s there all the same. When we travel, we not only leave our homes behind but also our past selves.

Charles Kosman at the Hierapolis Turkey 800
Charles at the ancient Hierapolis, Turkey

One of my favorite reasons to travel is that travel lets me be the person I want to be. The moment I step off a plane or a train, a bus or a boat I’m a new person. I open myself to whatever the world throws at me and without a past that future is wide open. I can be a rock climber, a sailor, a jet setter or a scroungy backpacker and no one in the world can say different.

At home we often live the life we think others want us to live.

Back home, we’re constantly surrounded by our past. Family who have known us since birth and believe they know what’s best for us. Friends we’ve had since youth who frown when we do something dangerous or unbecoming. Acquaintances who we fear will see us walking around town looking grubby or not in the best light. Work buddies who might think less of us because we’re walking around the dollar store with a full basket of dollar goods.

In our regular 9 to 5 lives we live with a past that is constantly interfering with our present. It not only holds us back. but also limits our choices. At times it seems we often live the life we think others want us to live rather than the one that is our own. It’s also hard to step outside the norm and not aspire to the Western sense of achievement. Bigger cars, better houses, higher paying salary, nicer furniture and more toys to brag about are the western ideal. Not a problem if you truly value those things, however, what happens when you don’t?

When we travel we feel richer than we ever have before.

When we travel we often have no vehicle. Most of the time we stay in simpler places with simpler amenities. A lot of the time, the things in our bags are the only material goods we own within a thousand miles. The truth is, when we travel we feel richer than we ever have before.

The smells wafting up from the bakery below are our currency. The gorgeous castle we just walked through is our home. The open-aired double decker bus we just rode on is our ride. The huge park across the street is our yard. The benches outside the local ice cream shop are our furniture. The zipline we just flew down is one of our many toys.

I can walk through sprawling open air markets in ripped shorts and a slightly dirty t-shirt and I don’t care. On the flipside, I can dress to the nines, walk into a high classed restaurant and order with the best of them. If I want to get up at 11 am because I was up late I can. If I want to get up at 5 AM and jump on a hot air balloon I can. If I want to help build a well, teach a class, live in the jungle or go to Disneyland with the kids I can. If I want to climb a mountain, swim a river, sail a boat, ride a camel, go looking for tree kangaroos or swim with stingrays I can because on this trip I am who I want to be.

When you travel, every step forward brings you farther from the person you used to be.

Travel is more than seeing something new, it’s also about leaving behind something that’s old. Whether that be your past, your misconceptions, your comfort level or your anxieties, the next time you head down a new path, realize that there’s no better time to be the new you.

Don’t fear it, embrace it. To me, that’s the best part of a new journey.