This post was originally written for and published on Epicure & Culture.
Travel allows us to get in touch with different sides of ourselves that, for better or for worse, may not show themselves as we go about our usual daily routines. As we become immersed in new cultural experiences and have a personal transformation our senses are heightened, intuition becomes clearer and our ability to open up to the abundance of opportunities this world has to offer expands. New adventures appear in the form of speaking a local language, integrating into different cultures, and making friends—all of which push us out of our comfort zones. But most of all, whether intended or not, travel will deepens the relationship we have with ourselves.
Personal Growth Through Challenge
Without a doubt travel provides plenty of challenge, which is one of the many reasons people love it so much. Challenge forces us out of our comfort zone and invites us to become more conscious of ourselves and how we react in certain situations. Trial and error is the norm and there is more of a demand for self-reliance, regardless of whether you are traveling solo or with a group. Being pushed into new situations gives us space to grow and enables us to tackle things we may have thought we weren’t capable of—a definite confidence boost.
Until recently I’d never been away from my hometown for more than a month. Now after nines months of living in Australia I’ve overcome more mental barriers than I even knew I had. My ability to trust my gut instincts has strengthened, I’m mastering the art of budgeting and I overall feel I have more control over how I live.
Pushing Past Fear
Myself, like many others, tend to get stuck in the “what if’s”. What if I get homesick? What if I run out of money? What if I don’t make any new friends? Truthfully the only way to face these fears is to confront them head on.
Pushing past fear and silencing our egos in order to find our place in a new destination, even if only for a few days, is inevitable. You may find yourself conversing with strangers even if you’re shy or eating the local cuisine offered by a hospitable family even if back home you would never think of eating that certain food. These are the experiences that stretch our minds and gain a multidimensional perspective on the world around us.
Away from the everyday routine at home, travel opens up the opportunity to renew ourselves. As if a weight is being lifted from our shoulders it can loosen us up and make us confident and comfortable in our skin. It may be that we are away from the people we subconsciously fear judge us the most — whether at work, family or friends — or the thrill of a new location, but travel has a way of peeling back that protective layer we tend to build and open us up to being more of the person we want to become.
While living abroad this year I finally found the courage to take the plunge and shave my head—something I’d always wanted to do. With a more open schedule I could finally do things like stick to a regular fitness routine and work on the creative writing projects I’d put aside. Even if you don’t make drastic changes while away, travel aides in boosting your creativity so that you return home feeling refreshed and filled inspired.
It may not be noticed immediately, but the small day-to-day challenges like navigating foreign transportation or ordering off a foreign menu help to create an awareness of how we operate out of our element. Our words and actions become magnified because the repercussions, positive or negative, seem to contain more personal responsibility. Though sometimes it can be frustrating, confusing, and even lonely, these uncomfortable feelings allow us to strengthen our internal relationship.
You are also able to face suppressed or personal issues that need to be addressed. This is why I never agree when someone suggests that travel is a form of running away. Your physical destination will change, but any emotional, physical, or spiritual baggage you may have travels along. Thankfully a change of scenery often amplifies this “baggage” so we can face it head on without our usual distractions.
During my travels I’ve spent a good amount of time having fun, exploring and meeting new people; however, I’ve also had the time to slow down and reflect. Through reflection I’ve gotten to take a closer look at certain habits I’ve created throughout my life that I feel have been hindering my growth. By taking a closer look at how I’ve been living I found opportunities to make positive life changes and have started piecing together a more solid idea of the kind of life I would like to create for myself.
As the saying goes, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” Even heading to the next city over from where you live can give the time away and space needed to get in touch with yourself. The experience of travel helps to build a strong foundation of personal power, which will allow us to face the future challenges of life.