As part of the research for my next book about how to make a dream come true I've been watching Oprah's Master Class, and in an episode where Alicia Keys shares some of her life lessons, I was struck that of of all the incredible things she has experienced. It was a trip to Egypt that was one of the most significant experiences of her life (years later she and her husband named their first son Egypt.)
In the video, she explains how she felt during the initial swirl of her success as an artist and how it was "so fast ahead" that there were "bits of me in the back." She felt like she was losing herself, and decided to take three weeks off to tour Egypt, alone.
While she was away from the media, the attention, the fast pace, she "sang at the top of the pyramids" for an audience of one and explored this new place. The exploration was so much more than just "fun" to her though:
I was just reinvigorated. That was big. It was the first time I really went anywhere by myself, and just kinda went and was by myself, to experience myself -- and my self in an environment as opposed to so many things or people.
I thought of this quote immediately when I was watching a video today about travel in preparation to interview Patrick Dowd, CEO and Founder of The Millennial Trains Project, for my book. In the video, Patrick (who is also editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler magazine) says,"What's great about moving off and traveling and being willing to be alone with yourself is you suddenly see yourself as distinct from the context in which you've been operating."
As Alicia's story illustrated, travel can help you see yourself as separate from an environment, freeing you from having to feel wholly consumed or identified by one.
We've long heard about how when you travel to a new environment your senses are heightened and you're more aware of your surroundings -- that's usually a very exciting feeling, and probably one of the reasons most of us love and long to travel.
But there is also this new benefit I'm discovering from people like Patrick and Alicia, one that occurs when you separate yourself from the familiar: Travel can provide the opportunity to think about who you really are, apart from what you're already doing or comfortable with, and provide new air in which to think more clearly about what you really want to pursue.
For some of us that might mean we realize we're exactly where we're supposed to be. For others it might be about getting some necessary quiet and clarity -- to listen. And some of us might just find travel to be an opportunity to slough off the weight of definitions bestowed on us in our previous place -- whether by where we were born, wrongful stereotypes, income status, or any myriad of definitions that we ever felt had hindered our dreams and potential -- and feel, for a moment, that we can transcend. That we can become something new.
Going and "finding" yourself in some "place" is a cliche I'm sure most of us are pretty over by now, and I don't think anything is that easy. I don't think your "self" is waiting for you in some new place. I think, as Patrick and Alicia put it, it's not so much about the place itself as about you changing your surroundings in a way that might help you discover things about yourself that you might be too distracted to see where you are now.
I think having the courage to put ourselves in a new context, whether through big travel or small travel or even just a new experience, can help us see things a little more clearly. My dreams really do often become most clear and feel most possible when I'm somewhere new, even if that means just walking an unexplored trail in my hometown.
For me (someone who saw travel itself as something only "rich" people did and didn't get on an airplane until her third year of college), travel has also always served as a strong reminder that I that I can take up space, that I can choose which spaces I take up, and that I can move. That I can act. That my surroundings do not define me, and that maybe, just maybe, I can use what I learn and the power I have to move to make things better for someone else, somewhere.
As far as I can tell in my research so far, travel is good for dreams.
Travel to a place where your dreams live. Travel to the place where your dream could come true. Or travel to a place you've always dreamed about. Take time when you're there to write and reflect; remind yourself of the moment when you decided to take that trip and how you got yourself to that place. You made that happen! Let that sit with you for a moment. If you could do that, think about what else you could do.
And if you're dreaming of a project that you think would benefit from a train ride across America with other dreamers and a chance to work on your dream five to six hours a day and learn from mentors who can help move your project forward, you should definitely apply to be on the next Millennial Trains Project journey! I just finished interviewing the founder today for my book and am so excited about and really believe in this process. Apply here and then go!