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October 14, 2020

How Wanderlust Catalyzes our Growth.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ Andre Gide

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The spiritual quest is about finding the self, revealing the self, knowing the self.

But to access our inner truths, we may have to gather many experiences and go through the unknown in order to discover what resonates most—or what we are made of. Sometimes, we need to leave our comfort zone and original landmarks to get to know ourselves deeper.

I can recall that leaving France was one of the most significant experiences of my life. I had to be in a completely new environment to see some of my traits uncovered: I could become who I was at heart—free of my entourage’s opinions, comments, or fears.

~

Toby and I are both wanderers at heart, and it’s travelling that catalyzed our journey of personal development.

Below, we draw on our experiences as female travellers.

Our answers to key questions anyone should ask themselves about the wanderer’s path:

When did you start desiring the traveller’s life, and why?

Toby:
I think I always had wanderlust. My favorite book genre as a kid was historical fiction. I would travel to different places—and different eras—through stories. I was also fortunate to grow up in a family of travelers. My first trips to Italy and India (two of my life-long travel loves) were with my family, for instance. As a teenager, I would watch adventure movies, read travel stories, or see those old world maps, the ones with dragons filling in the blank spaces, and I would feel a twist in my gut—this feeling of urgently needing to go everywhere and do everything all at once.

I don’t get that feeling as often anymore. I’ve been blessed to visit many of the places on my bucket list—though far from everywhere! Still, that lust for action, discovery, and growth continues to drive my life.

Sophie:
I have always dreamed of travelling. I was drawn to the faraway, the unknown, the different, the extraordinary. It was like a dream brewing in my heart—until I actually took the leap. I started to travel on my own in my early 20s, for a couple of weeks to a few months. But I still had commitments in France, and always journeyed with a return ticket. This wasn’t enough to fulfill my adventurer’s spirit.

So I left France for a much longer period of time and went to Cambodia to volunteer for an NGO. I stayed there for six months. When I came back, which I did, I actually never returned home as I was before; I was forever transformed by adapting to a new culture, its people, and by the inner strength this outer journey awakened within. It’s the inner journey that travelling allows that I became addicted to, as well as, of course, seeing all the images, sceneries, and beauties that the world is made of!

What is the biggest fear you had to overcome to keep going?

Sophie:
My biggest fear was to lose the people and communities I was part of back in France. The relationships too. This happened, obviously. I learned that one can’t be elsewhere, away, and still be close to the groups of their former life’s chapter. I learned that one has to make choices—which is always an invitation to let go and release something else.

It’s of course difficult to keep everything “as before” and under control for one who desires to embrace the travelling life, which is made of changes, movement, and ruptures. Paradoxically, it’s by losing what I perhaps was the most attached to that I learned that even the biggest fears can be overcome. I found my closest friends, actually, by following my own path of inspiration and joy.

Toby:
I am naturally shy and somewhat introverted. Being a solo traveler is a constant process of expansion and learning—endlessly meeting new people, stepping alone into the unfamiliar, and overcoming natural reticence to connect with new communities over and over again. I think, at this point, I have more or less taught myself to be extroverted. Even so, once in a while, I’ll feel that old touch of shyness or introversion as I prepare for a trip, a party, or even a phone call!

Over my years of travel (and movement arts), I’ve also repeatedly faced my fears of heights, falling, missing flights, and heartbreak. Fear is a wonderful teacher. Every time it rears its head, I perceive the places where I still need to grow or heal. I suspect that I will be finding (and overcoming) new fears for the rest of my life.

How do you think travel can support spiritual growth?

Toby:
If spiritual growth is about getting closer to the truth of who we are (and for me it is), then travel is a powerful tool in the pursuit of that truth. Every place, every culture, every person brings into relief a different facet of my personality—of my Self. Different destinations, situations, and challenges present opportunities to explore different archetypes within me.

In the jungles of Costa Rica, I am the Witch. On the streets of Rome, I am the Lover. In the mountains of Nepal, I am the Explorer. You get the idea. And the more archetypes I explore, or the more facets of my personality I express, the closer I get to my spiritual essence, which is some combination—or transcendence—of all those versions of Self.

Sophie:
I believe that travelling massively helps individuals grow, and I think there are two reasons for that. Firstly, if one feels called to travel and adventure, then they will. So taking the leap shows that one’s being was ready to actually follow their heart and soul, and most likely their own path of empowerment. I believe the initial decision to travel is in itself an act of self-development, of freedom, and sometimes of rebellion.

Secondly, travelling is a fantastic way to learn and become comfortable with the unknown. Almost everything is unknown as one travels—who they will meet, how places will look like, what they will eat, where they will sleep—if they will have enough funds to provide for themselves, even. As we become familiar with the unknown, we become more present and discover that we are always safe, and that most often the scenario of our biggest fears doesn’t happen. Often, I saw that things tend to turn out favourably!

What was one of the most powerful experiences you’ve had while traveling?

Sophie:
My most significant travel memories are the people I met along the way. There is something magical and synchronistic about the people we meet when travelling. As we are far away from home, they truly show up as gifts—because we could have lived without ever crossing paths.

When I left for Cambodia, I met another traveller who had journeyed for a long while already. I figured something now obvious to me: sometimes, one needs to travel far away from home to meet like-minded people and deep connections. I had many friends and acquaintances in France, but I found the closest ones, or my “heart tribe,” away.

This is because, by travelling, we were all following our individual truth and therefore embracing the right path—I mean, for ourselves. I understood that to meet the highest types of external realities, one needs to embrace their own calling entirely.

Toby:
I have gone on two “vision fasts” (three or four-day solo fasts in the wilderness) over the course of my travels, and they remain some of the most challenging, transformative experiences I’ve had. There are few things scarier than being utterly alone, with no food, shelter, or distractions. These quests have taught me more about peace and santosha (contentedness) than any number of books or classes.

Do you know what causes more terror than any real danger? My mind! It has conjured midnight hikers, monsters, and hungry beasts from the shadows beyond my base. There is a lesson in that, for me, about fear: there are plenty of real dangers in the world, and it is reasonable to feel afraid of them. But reason has little to no bearing on most of my anxieties. Nowhere is safe from the stories I tell myself, so I might as well make peace with her.

Any advice for travelers wanting to go deeper?

Toby:
Get curious. Ask questions—about everything. Question your assumptions about other people or places: Where do those beliefs come from? What stereotypes or “isms” might they belie? Examine your reactions: What traumas or thought patterns cause you to react with stress, violence, or fear? Is it possible to sit with those feelings before reacting?

Get really curious about your “why”: What called you to this path? What themes run through your journey? How has a hidden (or overt) purpose set you on this traveler’s path? The spiritual path—and the traveler’s path—should both be full of questions. Those must be walked, and lived.

Sophie:
I would recommend to keep going, to keep experiencing. Travelling offers so many deep and sometimes life-changing experiences in short amounts of time. One of the biggest rewards of this path is to see that most of our fears were irrelevant—and this comes through experiences.

Also, I would suggest staying for a few months at least in places you love. This allows us to really get to know a culture and its people, and what it means to be human there. This also allows discovering that, eventually, we can feel at home just about anywhere.

~

Check out Toby’s author page here and Sophie’s author page here

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Toby Israel & Sophie Gregoire

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