5 Ways to Develop Yourself While Traveling

TravelSome of you may remember that I mentioned I was heading on vacation this past week.  You’re actually reading this on my first day back from a week in Iceland with my wife (which was awesome, thanks for asking).

Travel can be one of the best activities you can do for personal development purposes.

  • Travel can bring self-reliance when you have none
  • Travel forces you to be out of your comfort zone
  • Travel helps you realize that not everyone thinks like you do, and provides opportunities to learn from different viewpoints
Traveling can also be one of the most stressful things you ever do.  It can very easily cause you to lose sight of your personal development plan.  Because all of the positives listed above can also become negatives.  It’s quite a fine line to tread.  If you want your next trip to help you become a better person, follow these tips:
  1. Travel alone. I don’t want to sound condescending here, but this is especially for younger people who’ve never spent much time away from home.  Traveling by yourself is a definite character builder.  You set your own schedule, you decide what you want to do, you call all the shots.  You are forced to make decisions that may otherwise be made for you (by parents, friends, or other people in authority).  In a manner of speaking, you develop goals for yourself through your travels and achieving them is solely dependent on your effort.
  2. If you don’t travel alone, at least try to travel with people you don’t know. Traveling with friends can be fun, no question about it.  You’re comfortable, you know each other’s quirks, and you generally get along well together.  While enjoyable, this won’t develop much self-reliance or independence.  If you join a tour group, however, you’ve often thrown together with people you don’t know, who come from different walks of life, and who have different reasons for traveling.  It’s possible that no one has any more noble motive for the trip than it just sounded like fun.  However, you may uncover stories that influence you or lead you to find a passion that you never knew you had.
  3. Make an effort to know the natives. Make an effort to engage folks who live where you are, no matter how rudimentary that effort may be, due to language issues.  Use sign language and gestures to get your point across.   Buy a phrase book or two-way dictionary and try to speak a little bit of their language.  Some folks may laugh; that’s not necessarily because you said something incorrectly.  They may just be shocked that you even tried!  If you go out of your way to be pleasent to people, they’ll most likely be pleasent back.  This can lead to plenty of serendipities.
  4. Be fluid.  Because sometimes “being flexible” is just too rigid. We’ve all heard that traveling develops patience, right?  There will be times when your patience is tried, and then there will be times when it seems like the whole world is conspiring against you.  You need to decide before you’re in the heat of the moment how you’ll react.  Take some time before you leave to make a detailed plan of what you want to accomplish.  Make it as detailed as you can stand (some of you may want to plan down to the hour).  Once you’ve done that, take a good look at that plan and determine the absolute worst thing that could occur to derail those plans.  This is the situation you REALLY need to plan for.  Once you’ve done that, and it doesn’t occur, you can just smile at anything else that happens.  If it does happen, well, then you’ll be happy you planned for it, won’t you? 🙂
  5. Take time to reflect while you’re on the road. Don’t spend all your time thinking about what’s coming next.  Try to spend some time thinking about what you just did in the past hour or day.  This is a particularly good time to begin a journal if you don’t have one.  If you do, try to do it consistenly on the trip.  Record what you did and any reactions you have to it, interesting things that occurred while you were doing it, or lessons learned from it.
The goal you should be shooting for is two-fold.  Firstly, you want to have an enjoyable trip that creates memories you have for the rest of your life.  Secondly, you want to create an environment where you’re intentionally trying to develop your character and continue on your personal development journey.  Any and every situation you find yourself in can bring about growth, but when so much is brand new, the chance to grow is just that much greater.
What are some of your best travel experiences?  What are some of the worst?  We learn from both ends of the spectrum; what did you learn?  Let us know in the comments…

2 thoughts on “5 Ways to Develop Yourself While Traveling”

  1. This post is SO true. I traveled through Costa Rica alone for five weeks earlier this year and being alone really made me do #3 and #5 on this list. I made it a point to get to know at least a few locals wherever I went, even if it was just the people who owned wherever it was I was staying that night. It was good, though, because talking to and learning from people with sometimes radically different life experiences from me was a great way to learn some things about myself. And I totally agree with #1 on this list — traveling alone is a great character (and confidence) builder.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Henry. Costa Rica was actually the location that got beat out by Iceland for this trip, but only because we got a killer deal on the plane tickets. We'll definitely be heading down that direction soon.

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