This post was contributed by Sophie Jacoba den Hartog.
I’ve just hit 20 and to be honest… I’m losing my sh*t a little bit. Every day I find myself pondering my future (or maybe panicking is a better word for it…) and reflecting back on my life so far. All the places I’ve been, all the milestones I’ve hit. Pondering my future, I see travel. Reflecting on my past, I see travel. I’ve been thinking a lot how in twenty years I’ve lived in seven countries, and how this has shaped me to be the girl…? lady…? (what are you supposed to call yourself when you’re 20?!)… the person I am now. So, let me tell you what it’s like to be raised worldwide as a part of the LGBT+ community and how I got to where I am now.
Especially when I was younger, I couldn’t fully appreciate this crazy lifestyle I had, moving every four years. I knew it was a dream for many (including my current self), but at the time, I struggled with it for years. Until I came to the realization that I am a traveller, and no one place will ever truly be home to me.
Why did I love travel so much?
Because moving to new places, or even just visiting, gives you the perfect opportunity to not just be who you are but also to explore who you want to be, which is something I had always struggled with.
As I don’t really enjoy too much attention, I never did the big dramatic “coming-out” thing. I mean, if you want a “Love, Simon” style dance-along to “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” in your most colourful clothes to let everyone know you’re hella gay, by all means, go for it!!!
That’s just not my style. Instead, I used my travel to slowly explore and come out of my shell.
The first time I “came out” was at a party when I was visiting a mate in Melbourne. Someone asked me what I was into, I told her I fancy girls, and my mate for some reason (that reason probably being tequila), decided to drunkenly yell it out loud. So loud in fact, that the entire room of stranger heard and stopped to look at us. But guess what? No one cared! Little moments similar to this kept on happening as I travelled and moved around. Slowly, I realized I didn’t have to make a big deal about coming out. People would just find out when they found out.
All these little moments away from home and surrounded by strangers gave me the chance I so desperately needed to just be me and explore what that actually means. I collected these moments, treasured them and eventually, took them home with me. I found myself becoming confident in myself and stopped feeling like I owed anyone any explanations.
When the time came for me to start university I decided to make the move from Australia to the U.K. This move allowed me to turn a new leaf and live my life as fearless and open as I wanted to. The major thing that happened here was my “coming out”. Or better yet, how I didn’t “come out”. I didn’t have to dramatically tell groups of childhood friends that I wasn’t straight. I didn’t have people who had known me my whole life learn this new thing about me and suddenly see me in a completely new light. Instead, as I was meeting people and making friends, it would casually come up. No one cared about my sexuality. No one had their entire view or opinion of me changed in an instant because frankly, they didn’t have any opinions of me yet. I was just a stranger, a future friend, who just happened to like girls… so be it.
I was out there living my best uni life. A guy buys me a drink? No one blinks an eye. They just cheer me on and ask for the tea. A girl approaches me on the dance floor? Again… no one blinks an eye, as long as I spill the tea.
So, what I’m trying to say really is, whether you move somewhere new or are travelling, take that opportunity to be yourself.
If people like your vibe: Great! If they don’t: Great, you’ll never have to see them again anyways!
Also (and this is so important!), you choose when, where, how and to whom you come out. People may not understand your decisions because they’ve never been in your shoes, but it is 100% your choice how you go about it all. It doesn’t have to be a big family meeting the second you figure yourself out. If you want to come out to strangers first, come out to strangers. If you want to tell everyone when you travel but keep it a secret from those at home, do that! Use travel to give yourself the freedom to figure your sh*t out.
Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.
Meet Sophie: Just a caffeine-fuelled travel fanatic trying to see as many places as possible, for as little money as possible. Travel pet-peeve: Being convinced I’ll never learn to understand a word of aeroplane announcements, no matter how hard I try. Keep up with her on IG. Also, check out her new travel publication – Navigate Travel.
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