Ever felt like slipping into a brand new pair of shoes? Not just the stylish Italian leather ones you bought for your European escapade, but a new identity? That is gist of a travel alter ego. It’s that version of you that emerges when you leave your hometown bubble.
Like me, camping in the open jungle, but afraid of a mouse back at home.
Unfamiliar settings provide a backdrop where we can both escape the “us” that lives back home, but also to experiment with a version of ourselves that might come to be. Anything from challenges to classes to simply just getting lost can conjure up a new side of your personality. Hopefully good. New places help you shed the weight of expectations while trying on a different version of yourself.
Find Your Fearless Alter Ego
One of the greatest things about a travel alter ego is the, well–travel. You can go almost anywhere to explore different sides of yourself–even the next city on the highway. But, if you really want to dig deep, here are a few places I’ve found some success.
Confidence: Finding Your Inner Strength
Many performers and athletes create alter egos to perform in a state of confidence, courage, or creativity that they may not consistently feel in their everyday identity. Beyoncé’s “Sasha Fierce” or David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” are classic examples.
While I love fun as much as the next person, adventure-based vacations have put me in a few scenarios that I had no other choice but to persevere.
For example, the Jungle Treehouse at Rainforest Hideaway, in the fittingly named, Cape Tribulation, Australia. Tucked about 100 yards into the rainforest from the main compound of huts? A treehouse exposed on all four sides with a hammock in the middle and some wooden furniture. (That was 2012, now the space appears to be better sealed, and I fear to ask why.) I opened the door to a tarantula crawling under a floor board and once the sun set, anything slithering around the trees, like pythons, could have entered the treehouse. (See what I mean?)
Luckily, nothing ever did. But exploring this part of the Daintree Rainforest, which juts up against the Great Barrier Reef, presented more harrowing moments than I would ever want in the real world. As a self-identifying awkward person, uncomfortable situations come up daily, and the “me” that made it through the night in that treehouse is who I go to for advice to get through it.
Enhanced Performance: When You Can’t Turn Back
That trip was aggressive. Major still, but a little less Indiana Jones is the Huayhuash Trek in Cordillera Blanca range of the Peruvian Andes. The nearest major city is Huaraz, which serves as the primary base, and is where I holed up trying to gather 7 other people to help pay for a guide through Quechuandes.
Along the 8-12 day trek crosses several high-altitude passes, with the highest being Punta Cuyoc at around 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) and endless panoramic views of the surrounding peaks. I was guided, but I stepped through my boot on day 3 and had to hike in a loaner pair of joggers that were a few sizes too small, or in socks. That is, until we passed through a village where I bartered for tape to fix the boot, which worked for a day or two. All while at high altitudes and on a diet of spaghetti and tuna.
It was devastatingly beautiful, but it was a challenge where I had to shed just about all of my creature comforts. And I’ve been seeking that hike again all my life, albeit, with much better boots.
Coping: Dealing with Scarce Resources
The Zion Traverse, a 4-5-day, 46-mile trek in Zion National Park, was a great DIY trail that forced me to cope with sparse resources and my fear of heights. Also known as the Trans-Zion Trek, it spans much of the Park (not inclusive of The Narrows) from deep canyons to high plateaus.
The bravest stop at Angels Landing, a narrow, steep, and very crowded trail to the best lookout in the park. My alter ego only made it about half way (heights is my worst fear), but my hiking buddy’s got to the end. To complete the full trek, we needed to locate water within the park, which put a heightened sense of urgency to rationing our supplies, and meeting our daily mileage goals. One time, we found too much water, and nearly died in a flash flood, but my decisive alter ego jumped onto a ledge and saved my life.
Self-Exploration: Conversations with Yourself
On a different note, an alter ego might do some things you wouldn’t necessarily do on the regular. And following it might just lead you to your medicine. Combining psychedelic exploration with travel opens the door to self discovery a lot wider. I found this out when I followed a recipe and made me some San Pedro Cactus – mescaline – and ended up hiking and bussing all around mountains, jungles, and ocean side cliffs for a few months. I’ve never seen distance the same again, but I’m still trying to find myself.
Ayahuasca has made headlines for its ability to enhance soul searching. It is a much stronger shamanic experience and is better done with supervision, and you can find retreats in places like Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia. While federally illegal, places like Oakland and Santa Cruz in California have decriminalized the possession and use of psychedelics. Oregon has even developed a regulated medical model for the therapeutic use of psilocybin.
Personal Growth: Shedding Your Old Skin
Adopting an alter ego can provide a safe space to uncover understand hidden desires, confront fears, or even address trauma. It’s a means to introspect, analyze, and grow.
As a writer, I’ve found dancing to be a new way of embodying my point of view in a way words simply can’t. I’ve always loved to dance, but it was always, you know–at the club. Never studied. First, it was a few flamenco classes for tourists in Seville, Spain. But then it became Salsa nights in Cartagena, tango in Argentina, and now, well, jam skating at home.
Volunteering is another way get in touch with your travel alter ego. And, many destinations have volunteer opportunities. When I joined Pisco Sin Fronteras in 2010 to help rebuild Pisco, Peru after a devastating earthquake, I never imagined I’d be the key to giving a baby girl new life, and her family a new home. Nor that year’s later, I’d still be fundraising for the people of this town. It may not sound as fun as going on a sightseeing tour, but if you’re looking for personal growth, it’ll do you much better than any Instagram post.
Embrace the Journey Within and Without
New scenery isn’t just for those photos, it’s for a new you. The travel alter ego is so powerful because these different places have the ability to free us from the familiar. These are the places that worked for me, but it can be any place you want. You just have to go.
So, when you book your next flight or plan your next road trip, remember it’s not always just about the same old destination, traveling with friends and family, or your love – all of which are worthy reasons to travel. But sometimes, just it’s about losing your self and seeing who else shows up.
More Travelbinger stories:
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please do! I’m a one-man team for this website, so any help is sincerely appreciated.