Walking into a new hostel, hotel, or city, or getting on a tour without anyone knowing you can be liberating. There’s no baggage or preconceived notions that follow you. There’s just you and who you are at the moment right there and then. Everyone there is a blank slate.
In fact, you can fill in your own blank slate with whatever story you want and be whoever you want: an astronaut, a pilot, a fireman, a princess. Most people just choose to be themselves though. But sometimes you wonder if they really are. Is the story they told you really true? Did they embellish parts just to seem “cooler”? After all, you don’t have any reason not to believe them unless they are telling you they are Bill Gates’ son. We trust people we meet.
I’ve never given much thought to whether or not people lie until recently. Some travelers and I got on this subject while I was in Amsterdam because I was giving wise-ass remarks to the question “what do you do?” I hate the question because I hate talking about “work.” It’s always the same response (about “how awesome the job is”) and I’d really just like to talk about something else.
My friend Leyla, a nice and wild Irish girl, remarked “You know, you could really tell people any story. They wouldn’t know. I think I’m going to tell people I’m a princess and I have a helicopter. How would they know I was lying?” She then declared to the hostel, “I’m a princess!”
And she’s right (not about the princess thing though). We can tell people whatever story we like. I can be Bob, a 25-year-old scientist from Texas. And maybe I actually am, and all this Nomadic Matt stuff is fake. (It’s not, though I’d like to be 25 again.)
But sometimes the process of traveling is about leaving your old self behind. Travel gives us a chance to be someone new, unencumbered by the baggage of home and the past. We can reinvent ourselves. Sometimes that’s a good thing. You can be the person you have always wanted to be. Travel can be that push that forces us to change the parts of us we have always wanted to change but have always found an excuse not to.
And as I thought about this question over the last few days, I have been wondering about your thoughts on the subject.
Have you ever lied or caught someone lying about who they are while traveling? Have you ever changed a part (big or small) of your story? Do you think this happens frequently on the road?