Finding the lost parts of ourselves

I’ve previously written about how, through travel, our wanderlust returns us to places and spaces we have visited before in an attempt to find remnants of a soul we have left behind. By doing so we bring together the old and new, reconciling these two distinct parts of ourselves – the adult and the inner child who was long left behind. Travel nostalgia: the ethos that embodies a sentiment of going full circle, a cycle of healings and new beginnings as well as reclamations – finding the lost parts of ourselves. I’ve been reflecting on this a lot lately.

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”

― Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

Read:

Beauty from Behind

Oh I do like to be beside the Seaside

A pause, a re-set

Like much of humanity, throughout 2020 a raging pandemic and closed borders have meant I haven’t been able to move around much and life has changed in some major ways. 100% remote working is the not-so-new norm. There is no travelling and no connecting face-to-face with friends, family or colleagues. It’s a strange place to be in when you feel like the entire basis of your personality, (travelling and bringing people together) is essentially dismantled overnight.

A premonition

Yet, in some ways I was already prepared for this eventuality. By the time December rolled around last year my body and soul were yearning for some down time. I had an astounding premonition whilst performing my annual close-out ritual. This practice involves the ceremonious burning of Palo Santo, meditating on what I learned and reflections on the energy I want to embody in the new year. I always choose a single word to channel throughout the year which I return to periodically and watch in wonder as this singe word morphs and manifests in a myriad of different ways.

I had a distinct sense that 2020 would be a year of deep reflection, of slowing down, allowing space for some deep healing that simply wasn’t possible at the rate I had previously been moving. Buzzing around, always somewhere to be, a new place to explore, almost no time to stop and smell the roses.

“You won’t travel much this year” was the eerie message I received. I kind of half scoffed as I wrote it down, thinking it was probably a sentiment more than something I would actually do. Little did I know just how real that prediction would become.

Time for contemplation

Needless to say, I have not been able to embrace my ‘connector-traveler’ personality in 2020 and so I have been leaning much more on my quieter, more intuitive, creative side, spending a lot of time alone and in deep contemplation. Of course there was the inevitable mourning period, the sense of loss over my old life, I knew what we were experiencing was never going to be temporary. Yet simultaneously I was (and still am), intensely grateful for my health, to have a job that allows me to work remotely, to have a financial safety net and a comfortable roof over my head. 2020 – what a year of juxtapositions. Learning to hold joy and gratitude alongside the feeling that absolutely everything is completely and utterly bollocks.

Inevitably this has opened up rich possibilities to stay quiet and see what messages arise. The opportunity to explore more of who I am, in the absence of others. Alone but not lonely. It has also been an opportunity to discover (and re-discover) some parts of myself that had long been forgotten.

Local travel opportunities

I have been fortunate enough to take a number of local trips in the past couple of months prior to lockdown 2.0. These trips have not only been utterly enjoyable but I’ve found them to be immensely healing. For when we visit a place we’ve been to before, whether as a child, a teenager, or a previous ‘self’ it provides a frame of reference, a yard stick for us to measure ourselves against. Places hold a memory that can invoke a very real and very visceral response – a somatic and metaphysical embodiment. We are able to ask ourselves, who was I then and who am I now?

An experience that can go either way – positive or negative but in any case an opportunity for healing. You know the way that nostalgia can colour our experiences, glorifying and emboldening them? Peppering them with a quality that makes us look back on something with a bittersweet hopefulness and helplessness. Such a wonderful memory, one never to be repeated but one that is long lost to the past!

Travel nostalgia

Like my trip to the Witterings that I had last visited as a child. A place that I had glorified with memories of a long hot summer day, endless stretches of sand, rock pools, sand dunes finished off with a cheeseburger quaffed down in a matter of seconds. My visit on the last day of summer 25 years later was somewhat sub-par to this experience, grey sky, equally grey and choppy seas and the beach looked distinctly different to the image in my warped memory. Yet I refuse to indulge the inevitable feeling of disappointment. I am now visiting as a grown up with my own story to tell. I have a dog who happily gambols alongside me, not a care in the world for the weather. We saunter among the sand dunes and delight in the opportunity to reclaim this experience and re-write it as our own.

Read: West Wittering

A story of belonging

Or my trip to the Isle of Wight – a place I had only ever visited as a young adult to go to music festivals with a friendship group I am no longer connected to. On the ferry over I experience a painful twinge with the resurfacing of these memories – “you don’t belong, you never belonged” the gremlins tell me. It is an antiquated dialogue I have long since outgrown. This feeling like I was always trying to be a part of something which was never mine. Always on the outside looking in.

A story I have since stepped into and fully embodied. Yes I was always an outsider. I have never and will never be a part of a group. Yes I will always continue to be an outsider looking in observing but never complying. My journey is to uphold my values of individuality and not loose myself to the identity of a group. Yes I don’t belong or at least not to any group. I belong to myself and myself only. I simultaneously belong everywhere and nowhere.

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place– you belong every place- no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” 

Maya Angelou

Reclaiming lost parts of ourselves

But yet as I reflect more deeply on this concept I realize, its not just through travel that we do this. After all isn’t that what we are doing most of the time through our hobbies and everyday interactions? Isn’t that what all of us are doing most of the time without us even realizing it? The unconscious patterns embedded from our early childhood, diving most of us along, completely unaware for most of the day. Like a driverless car, programmed to take the driver to its destination without ever having to be conscious, make a decision or even move a muscle.

I think we can see this reclamation most obviously in people who like to do things like fish and hunt. Indulging the Neanderthal hankerings, the very primitive drives of our hunter-gather ancestors. Perhaps I’m embellishing and its just a hobby people enjoy. Or perhaps these people are following a program that was set in the DNA all those millions of years ago? And engaging in these activities is an attempt to reclaim the lost parts of ourselves, parts we don’t even know that we’ve lost.

Or what about those seemingly innocuous friendships you seek out? You know the ones, where you are just drawn to a particular person, to someone who seems, somewhat familiar and simultaneously magnetic. You later reflect on it and recognize it repeats a dynamic healthy or unhealthily of a familial pattern that you struggle to shift. That friend who reminds you of your domineering sister. That boyfriend who, on reflection, shouts at you in the same way your father shouted at you. The friend who just wont stop leaning on you for moral support, in exactly the same way your annoying cousin does.

Redefining the concept of ‘Travel’

This has all got me reflecting on what it means to ‘travel’. Does it always have to be a literal concept or can it also be metaphorical? Does travel have to involve physical movement or can it be an experience, a meditation, a shift in mindset? Through the realization of travel what we are really doing is visiting a past self, literally or metaphorically to bring forth the reflections or healings that need to take place. An opportunity for growth. Can we use travel as a type of empowerment, a method of re-writing old and outdated stories? Reclaiming the lost parts of ourselves, parts we both know and parts we don’t even know we’ve lost.

The three of us find ourselves momentarily in-between time… where the old has mixed with the new, the past of our simplistic childhood beachside shenanigans is temporarily juxtaposed against our modern foray into gourmet vegetarianism.  It is somehow strange to be at the beach but paying for our own meals and now driving ourselves home. It’s a comforting feeling to know that travel doesn’t have to involve flying to far-flung corners of the globe. To know you’ve been there but you’ve somehow arrived back. Full circle.

– Wunderingfeet Blog Post: Oh I do like to be beside the Seaside

And in case you were wondering, my word for 2020?

Flow

Fitting don’t you think?

Resources

Sharing some of my favorite fiction books that touch on similar themes:

Night Train to Lisbon

The Alchemist

The Little Prince

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: