Anyone can love a rose but it takes a lot to love the leaf.
My travels around the states have been a journey both physically, mentally and aesthetically. I started my trip, little did I know it at the time and if I’m being brutally honest with myself, probably slightly self-obsessed, shallow-minded and dare I say it, vain? (Like a lot of us). The millennial generation or the ‘selfie’ generation should we say?
I used to be just as much of an offender as the rest of us, a full face of makeup every single day to work when to be honest, I just didn’t need it. Several beauty procedures including: tattooing eyebrows, eyelash extensions, dermabrasion facials amongst many others. This is fine if it makes you happy (I think makeup can be both transformative and a true art if used properly) but not if you are using it as something to hide behind (I only now realise I wasn’t happy at all). Was I even doing it for me or was it just solely for other people? The thing is; we set our own expectations for the way other people perceive us. If we consistently present ourselves flawless wearing a face full of makeup every day, that is what people will always expect of us and worse, think we actually look like that. Every makeup lover has had that one day she overslept and didn’t have time to wear makeup to work and been told ‘you look ill’, ‘did you sleep last night, you look exhausted?’ or ‘are you ok, have you been crying?’. Recurring answers to all of the above stand firmly at ‘no, this is just my face without makeup’, however with wearing makeup every day, that becomes people’s expectation of what you look like.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand the importance of being natural. In fact I resented a lot of my natural (what I now understand to be) beauty. So who am I naturally? Im a 5 ft 8 natural mousy/dark blonde that has changed a lot about herself for the past 6 years. All girls have phases with their hair but I’ve dyed mine consistently a range of brown-black-mahogany shades since I was 18. That’s 6 years of paying hundreds of pounds to look more striking, make my hazel green eyes pop out more and my face look more defined (all qualities I’ve witnessed dark hair can do for you). A couple of years ago I desperately wanted to go back to my natural hair colour but was steered away from it by people in my life encouraging that blonde hair wouldn’t suit me. (How could my own natural hair colour not suit me and who were these people to tell me so?) My previously obsessive need for approval means I listened to these people over my wants, so I could look the way they wanted me to. With the benefit of hindsight I look back and think this is both ridiculous and idiotic of me, but I guess that’s why they say the benefit of hindsight is a beautiful thing.
Why has travelling for almost 5 months now made me go back to basics?
The best lesson I have learnt on my entire trip, is that when you are stripped of everything as a traveller, all class systems, all superficial hierarchies, all shallowness or snobbery out the window, it honestly just doesn’t matter what you look like. In fact the last thing people care about when you are sat around a table in the common room of a hostel conversing with people from all different walks of life, and better yet different worlds, is your looks. They care about your stories, your lessons learned, your expeditions, your travels, your beliefs, your mind and your adventures. I didn’t realise how egotistical we have all become in our day to day lives and our fancy weekends of going out until I started to share my life with people that taught me what is actaully important, and better yet what I actually bring to the table.
People ive met on my travels are not interested in being my friend so we can take a well engineered and filtered selfie. They are here for the exact same reason I am, to enrich their life by meeting real people that are in search of their passions and a better, happier quality of life. Their eyes are not lit up by striking dark hair accompanied by a glamourous outfit and face contouring. They get lost in deep conversations about what it means to live in different countries, to talk about love, loss, fulfillment, the moon and the stars and the beauty of different cultures and sight-seeing in the world.
So who am I now? Well I stripped all the dark away about a month ago, due to the amount of product that had been on my hair for years I was also forced to cut it short in order for it to continue to grow. I’ll be honest I’ve had long hair my entire life and I prefer it that way but I’m happy that I’ve started the process to going back to a more natural me (hair always grows). I don’t wear any makeup anymore on a day-day basis apart from occasionally if I’m going on a night out and often wear a cap now (who’d have thought it? I never thought I’d be a cap kind of girl – see photo of me at the Grand Canyon above for proof).
However, the biggest transformation has been inside of me, now that I no longer hide behind the way I look or think that has any value in a friendship, I’ve been forced to get to know so much more about myself. If anything I’ve come out of my shell even more (it’s crazy what happens when you stop caring so much about what other people think), I know exactly who I am, what I bring to the table and my confidence is sky high, because I’m just being me. I’m not hiding behind anything anymore, what you see is what you get. I’m the person that wakes up with more energy than is acceptable in the morning, annoyingly hyper, always the first person to start a conversation and quite literally always up for fun. I love learning, I love the outdoors and adventures, I hate staying in and I love meeting new people. Deep conversations are also a speciality of mine with my super over-active brain that spirals off at the speed of light. So now I know what I have to offer I guess?
Truth is, the connections I’ve made since my metamorphis have been greater than most connections I’ve generated back home, because I’m the real me. There are some people back home, the best kind (you all know who you are and I adore you), who got to know the real me underneath the glam, but the truth is I had friendships for years that I didn’t even bother showing who I was because of the overarching superficialness that unfortunately was the basis of those friendships. Isn’t it sad that I’d subject myself to hiding who I was to hang out with people probably just to take some good photos?
Well, never again. The funny thing about the new friends I’ve made is that since connecting with several of them on different forms of social media, each and every one will come to me separately and say ‘so I was stalking you on ******* and saw what you used to look like and didn’t even recognise you, you look so different’ (I’ve honestly had this exact interaction about 8/9 times in the past two weeks). Social media stalking is a real every day thing now. What often follows is ‘you look amazing with brown hair don’t get me wrong, but it’s doesn’t look like it would suit your personality’ to which the first time someone said this I asked how could brown hair possibly not suit my personality? and I was corrected;
“Not just the brown hair, but the whole look, the makeup, the glam clothes, the heels, the poses make you look like someone that is unapproachable and gives attention to all of the things that just don’t matter in life, yet here you are and the you in front of me is so bubbly, down to earth and you seem to know what’s important now, you seem like two completely different people.
My favourite addition to this was a guy actually telling me he doesn’t know if he’d have ever approached me in the hostel if I looked the way I used to, through sheer intimidation. Me, intimidating? (Anyone that knows me will know how ridiculous this is).
So there’s my favourite lesson learnt and this time it came from within, not only have I realised for my own benefit that being natural is good for the soul, it’s enriched both my making of friendships and the quality of the friendships I’ve made too. A beautiful face will age and a beautiful body will change, but a beautiful soul will always be a beautiful soul. Always be yourself, it doesn’t matter if a different version of you looks better, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been 🙂
My word of the day for today’s lesson is this;