Leaving Home to Find Ourselves

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Most of us stumble into adulthood a little battered and bruised, which means we must attend to our wounds before leaping into the lives we were meant to lead. Maybe we have patterns of behavior that involve abandoning ourselves in times of stress. Perhaps our responses to love are still subject to the family programming we received as children. Or maybe our lives have been adversely impacted by a materialistic society steeped in straight, white, cis male supremacy. Whatever the case, nobody is beyond the power of redemption or outside the reach of kindness.   

We can only heal what we love. If we’re going to be consistently healthy, happy, and whole, we’ve got to learn to delight in our self-worth, and then allow that radiance to permeate our lives. But in order for this to happen, we must first create space for grace. One of the most important ways we can do this is by removing obstacles to connection, through the continuous examination of our unconscious biases, those culturally constituted, preconceived notions foisted on us by the mass media and the intergenerational trauma of loved ones. And there is no better way to do this than through travel.

In this way, we leave home to find ourselves.

Leaving Home to Find Ourselves

If we are fortunate enough to step outside our daily lives through travel, we have the pleasure of fresh perspective. But it can be shocking to realize that the first thing we packed was our sack of rocks. We all carry on our backs a bag of distorted thinking, pain, and anguish. No matter where we might venture, we bring our issues along. Or as the old saying goes, “Wherever we go, there we are.” But the beauty of travel is that it changes us. It’s not that we require alteration, but that travel transmutes heartache into hope. It interrupts our mental and behavioral patterns, and cracks our hearts open in wonder.   

Hanging with the sea lions on San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands. From Leaving Home to Find Ourselves, by Britt East
Hanging with the sea lions on San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands

If our travel involves direct, authentic engagement with people from other cultures, we are presented with both challenge and opportunity. When we stop being nice and start getting real, our mutual prejudices are inevitably exposed. We meet ourselves in their eyes, and sometimes we might not like what we see. Maybe we realize we inadvertently carry chauvinistic stories about the roles of women in society. Perhaps we are unaccustomed to interacting with people of different races or cultures. Maybe we prefer to live in our comfort zones, and navigating a foreign country leaves us feeling overexposed. Whatever the case, seeing each other as we truly are is messy and painful.

As a married gay man, I wrestle with the ways my identity evokes outrage and disgust in others. My mere existence can be an irritant and my dignity a threat. I rarely understand the ins and outs of the local politics in any country I visit. It’s tough to know how much of myself to share and how much to censor. Will my openness put me in danger, or inadvertently place locals at risk? Or will dimming my light prevent those I encounter from the chance to witness healthy self-expression? How do I honor my ideas about queer political and cultural persecution in some countries while traveling there? 

Britt relaxing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Leaving Home to Find Ourselves, by Britt East
Britt relaxing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Conflict is inevitable, but it also represents an opportunity to meet a new side of ourselves. Our response is then up to us. We can choose to allow our experiences to soften and shape us. We can experiment with new ways of being, thinking, and behaving. We get to create personal programs of replenishment to nourish our minds, bodies, and souls. Maybe we consciously cultivate a newfound sense of curiosity. Perhaps we decide to undergo a fearless moral inventory. Or maybe we practice painting the world in gentleness. But whatever the case, we can create the moment in which we want to live, and then extend that moment for a lifetime. We only break when we are brittle. And our new, supple approach to life strengthens us. If we lean into our discomfort and loneliness, and truly experience our feelings, we are more likely to release them, and find resilience in their place. 

Hiking through the rice paddies outside Hoi An, Vietnam. Leaving Home to Find Ourselves, by Britt East
Hiking through the rice paddies outside Hoi An, Vietnam

I wrote A Gay Man’s Guide to Life to help readers come home to themselves, as they get real, stand tall, and take their rightful place in the world. I want to show everyone that there is a range of pragmatic practices we can put in place immediately to nurture joy. This book is chocked full of timeless, kitchen table wisdom, designed to help us understand the world we inherited and the freedom we crave. It lays out a path to unleash our power, passion, and purpose, and use our gifts to spread love throughout the world. Because I believe we’re all in this together, that if each of us took a little less we would all have so much more, and that there is no greater wisdom than kindness.

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We can only heal what we love. Britt East at a temple in Chennai, India


Britt East is an author and speaker who uses his experience, strength, and hope to challenge and inspire change-oriented gay men to get down to the business of improving their lives. With over two decades of personal growth and development experience in a variety of modalities, such as the 12 Steps, Nonviolent Communication, yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and the Hoffman Process, Britt is committed to building a personal practice of self-discovery that he can then share with gay men everywhere. He lives in Seattle with his husband and their crazy dog.  Britt is the author of the award-winning, best-selling book, A Gay Man’s Guide to Life. 

Cover of Britt East's book, A Gay Man’s Guide to Life

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All photos courtesy and copyright of Britt East, and used with permission.