Way back in 1919, a German philosopher named Hermann von Keyserling wrote, "The shortest path to oneself leads around the world." He had written this statement as an epitaph to his book, "The Travel Diary of a Philosopher." The reality of his statement and the primary point to this article is that spending significant time overseas living abroad has been linked to a variety of positive outcomes, one of which is greater self-clarity.
While you probably know author Michael Crichton for writing Jurassic Park, one of his books was a travel memoir full of details from his adventures to places like the Mayan pyramids and Kilimanjaro. While he travels to many exotic fronts and experiences many exciting moments, one of his greatest benefits to these global experiences was the knowledge that he gained regarding who he really was. Research has shown that we benefit from increased clarity of who we are as a result of living abroad. This is the basis for Crichton's comment:
"Often I feel I go to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am. There is no mystery about why this should be so. Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of your food, your closet full of your clothes -- with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That's not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating.”
"In a world where living-abroad experiences are increasingly common and technological advances make cross-cultural travel and communication ever easier, it is critical that research keeps pace with these developments and seeks to understand how they affect people," the authors wrote. "Our studies demonstrate that living abroad affects the fundamental structure of the self-concept by enhancing its clarity."