It goes without saying that there are a number of reasons people don’t take trips around the world for extended lengths of time. Most people imagine money as being a big reason and to be sure, that’s one of them (although you don’t need anything like the amount of money that you imagine! Just see our budget section for an idea of costs). But another reason I believe people don’t pursue this goal is that to do so would, in no small way, make them different. And in general, people don’t like to be different.
In general, humans have a preference for fitting in, getting along and not standing out. If you know anything about mirroring then you’ll know just how powerful and subconscious the desire to be similar to your colleagues and friends is. Diverging the course of your “normal” life to, for example, take a trip around the world for a year has a dramatic effect on your psychology. You stop “fitting in” in all sorts of ways.
You don’t have a job so you don’t fit in at any work environment nor do you get the professional reinforcement that comes with those social and financial cues that are you “fitting in”. Promotions are gone. Management titles are washed away.
You also don’t have the same life path as your friends. While they are all off buying a house, having children and going to soccer practice, you’re off in some dorm room hanging out late at night on your birthday with 10 teenagers in Melbourne. You know you don’t “fit in” with the teenagers (they will politely ask exactly how old you are after resisting for hours the awkwardness of the question) and you know you don’t “fit in” with the soccer moms and cooing parents.
Even to yourself, you no longer “fit it”. Your imagination of yourself and the terms you used to describe yourself will start to feel foreign. They’ll ring hollow. Old job titles are no longer accurate. Maybe you picked up a hobby on the road that better defines you now. The image you have of yourself will no longer “fit in” with the reality. It’s scary to wake up one day, look around and see a stranger in the mirror looking back at you.
When you return – if you return - after such a long voyage, the desire to “fit in” again will be overwhelming. Life has a rhythm and a gravity around it and fitting in just feels natural. I’ve experienced this a lot since returning to Toronto. It’s natural.
But as best as I can, I’m resisting. I’m resisting because I think I can be a lot more than I previously was. I’m resisting because I want to take more risks. I’m resisting because the road has altered who I am and I’m not happy to just “fit back in” as it were. I’m taking the opportunity that the space between myself and my former life has given me to take more chances, to challenge myself in new ways. And the biggest challenge I often face is the one of redefining myself to the world and not reaching for the comfortable “fit in” blanket of the past. While I could seek comfort in the “fitting in” of my old shoes, the feet would be new and they’d want to walk some paths that the old shoes weren’t made for.
Fitting in is a powerful mental power. Everyone likes to feel like they have a place and when you leave your old place for a long time, you loose that comfort. I struggle a lot to redefine myself and not laps into retreating back just to “fit in”. Ultimately, I’m not sure just “fitting in” would be worth it after the experiences that I’ve had. I want more and for now, I need to be different and avoid “fitting in”.