Why do you need to travel for personal growth? Though it’s not absolutely necessary, travel repeatedly provides you with situations that push your comfort zones.
We’ve all heard stories similar to Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.” A woman goes traveling and comes back renewed, passionate and whole-hearted. How exactly does that happen though? It’s not the same formula for everyone, but it almost always comes down to changing your thought patterns, leading to changes in word and action.
Combined with some personal reflection, consistent full body and mind engagement with the world expedites the growth rate that you would have had in your routine at home. Travel is great for clearing the slate, giving you time to observe yourself and allowing you to stretch out hidden parts of your personality in new domains.
Here are some first steps to take toward personal growth while traveling. These all overlap as there are no rules to growth other than the fact that it’s ongoing!
1. Relax, Be Healthy, Take a Walk
This is especially great when you first arrive in a town. Beyond being the best way to familiarize yourself with a new location, walking is a healthy physical activity. Here are a few ways you can use a stroll through a new town to help your personal growth:
- Stop in and say hello at a local café! You’ll get to meet the locals much better this way and practice the local language.
- Get lost and use all your senses to observe your space like an innocent child. Your brain will expand when you take the time to wander.
- You will also naturally use your adult brain to understand, compare and contrast your expectations and previous experiences with all that you’re seeing now.
- Truly let go. Getting lost and forgetting about your stress at home and pre-conceived notions of your destination contributes to your mental health as well.
- Take a nap afterwards to improve your sleep! You’re on your own schedule when you’re traveling, there is nothing wrong with catching up on some good solid sleep!
2. Take Educated Risks, Play, Learn
Play is not just for kids. It’s a natural learning tool for adults that positively impacts your brain. When you’re traveling, there’s no one to judge you; when the greatest danger is embarrassment or failure, take the risk and try anyway! The simple act of doing something new builds confidence and pushes you to try more. You could just find a new hobby, food or sport you love.
- Try a new sport or adrenaline-filled activity, there are plenty around the world:
- Take a Muy Thai class in Thailand
- Try Yoga in India
- Ride Death Road in Bolivia
- Bungee Jump in South Africa
- Try new (and old) hobbies:
- Work on your photography
- Learn the local dance or how to make local foods
- Learn the language and speak to strangers!
3. Observing, Reflecting, Dreaming
This is where the hard work comes into the picture. Personal growth really comes from learning and understanding yourself, try keeping a journal with you all the time. Whenever you have a thought, idea, observation that you want to remember write it down in a handy notebook. With the number of new and challenging experiences you face when you travel, you will have plenty of opportunities to observe and learn about yourself. This will become as valuable to you as your passport!
- Observe your own behavior and reactions in tough situations (getting ripped off by taxi drivers, delayed flights, annoying hostel mates) and look for insecurities when you are defensive, jealous or feel other ‘negative’ emotions. Write without judgements, you’re the only person who will read this. Over time you can read over this to look for patterns.
- Deal with the past, it gets in the way. When you travel you will meet people who have better and worse lives than yours and they can put your personal problems into perspective. Use this new viewpoint and take action to resolve your past or forget about it!
- Many people travel to find their passion because you will see and learn about the many ways life can be lived. Perhaps you see a need in a community or you are frustrated with how a group of people are being treated. If you could talk emotionally and deeply for days about an idea or if you lose track of the time when doing so, chances are you have found a passion!
- Travel takes you out of your element and lets you dream big! Do you have an invention idea? Want to pursue a career in photography? Could you solve the water crisis? Why not pursue your dream?
- A journal is also a great spot to write mantras, collect quotes and images that you find during your time on the road. Visualization and changing your thought patterns can change your behavior too.
- Learn your limits, values and beliefs. Asking why you react the way you do can help you understand what you find acceptable and deplorable. How far do you negotiate with the street vendor? Do you get every penny that you can or do you pay a higher but fair price? Do you even negotiate to begin with? Every experience you react to can be filtered down to your inner motivation and belief. The variety of interactions that travel provides allows you to do this constantly!
Even the shortest amount of travel to any new destination can present opportunities to enjoy as well as challenge yourself. You can easily observe and change your negative thoughts and behaviors and understand your guiding principles in life. This intense period of simultaneously relaxing, having new experiences and learning yourself can lead to powerful change, personal growth and personal satisfaction that only travel can so completely provide.