For five days on a sailboat with 10 guys, I woke up, brushed my teeth, washed my face and changed my bikini before going out to face a day of suntanning, laughing, swimming and drinking. I didn’t put on makeup, attempt to comb my hair or spend an ounce of energy worrying about my appearance–other than one brilliantly relaxing afternoon where my friend and I shaved our legs and massaged coconut oil in our hair on the top deck in the sunshine.
When we got to shore, the whole group planned a big night out in Cartagena. I slipped back into my regular downplaying routine, saying that I wouldn’t be able to look that good that night–that I didn’t have any makeup, that I only had flipflops. The guys stared at me blankly: “You haven’t worn any makeup all week, you look great, why would we expect anything different now?”
I realized then that they only knew me as a girl who didn’t think twice about rolling out of bed and jumping straight into the ocean. They had never seen me with makeup or in heels; they didn’t know what my last name was, let alone what my Facebook profile looked like. They had gotten used to a side of me that few of my friends have even seen: a girl who has absolutely nothing to lose by being exactly herself.
It made me wonder: who is the real me? The girl I am on vacation–the one who spends all day doing nothing but reading and chatting and laughing, who doesn’t even think about her email, who says “what the hell” and has a beer before noon? Or is it the woman I am at home–the one who swears by to-do lists and routines and punctuality, who can’t even leave her house without her iPhone, who has more quiet nights in than crazy ones out?
In the early stages of relationships, we tend to put our “best self” forward. Perhaps the same thing applies to our vacation selves. When we remove ourselves from the pressures and expectations of our daily life, we often let our best selves shine through: the ones who breathe, laugh, risk without worry or regret. Our best self might simply be who we are when we stop being afraid of what we should be doing, when we instead embrace exactly what we are doing: on the other side of fear is freedom.
Vacation is defined as an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or traveling. To me, it’s exactly that: a chance to recharge, relax, recreate who I want to be. It’s a chance to escape the identity that I’ve created for myself, both in real life and online and simply be myself. It’s an opportunity to get down to remember what’s important to me, but also to let loose and live for the moment.
Am I really that different in real life than I am on vacation? To be honest, I’m not sure. But I’ve also decided that it’s not a bad idea to try to spend a little time every day being more like my “vacation self.”
Do you find yourself becoming a different person while traveling?
Don’t worry: I’ll be writing plenty more about my time exploring Central and South America in the weeks to come!