This is the second part of my short series about how to use travel as a personal development tool. I covered the “why’s” and the benefits of this in the first post, so if you came here directly you may want to read that too.
While started to work on this, I realized that travel as a personal development tool can be split into 2 main categories:
- short rides around the city or at maximum 3-400 km away from home, which usually last less than a day
- long trips, more than 3-4000 km, which last at least one week.
There are some differences between the those trips, at least from a personal development approach, so I will split my post accordingly.
Short Joy Rides
Those trips are fantastic perspective changers. I used to do unexpected rides all the time when I was feeling stressed or under pressure. After several months of doing this on purpose, my general approach toward my business completely changed. I switched from a very tense attitude to a more relaxed one and I was able to spot opportunities much easier.
From my experience, you should use this whenever you have feelings of lack of time or pressure. Sounds very counter-productive and somehow like escapism, but is not. Just start a short ride around the city, drive around or walk if you want. You can even take public transportation like urban trains or trams. Just go there, be with the flow and give your mind a break. Do this for at least 3 or 4 hours. Don’t even dare to think that this time could be better used if you “worked”. You’re still working during those rides, you’re only doing it differently.
The trick here is to do this on purpose and for several weeks / months in a row. Yes, you got it right, you must make a habit out of it. Sounds strange to make a habit out of short trips, but believe me, it works. You don’t have to come to the end of the rope and try it as a last resort, just do it while you’re still able to think it clear. Because you still have the capacity to shift your focus from your problems (what is pressuring you) to your solutions (what could free you).
The other key point is to not plan your itinerary, just go in the car and ride the road you see in front of you. Let yourself caught in the road, stop your mind and enjoy what you see. Extract yourself from your current flow of habits, break your unconscious walls and immerse yourself into the unknown. After 3-4 hours, return home. That’s it. As I said, it’s very important to this for at least several weeks in a row.
Short trips without an established goal worked fantastically well for me. Helped me to achieve a better clarity and sensitivity. My work actually improved, both in terms of performance and volume during that period, so I never feel I lost time during those trips.
The best image I can use is something that comes out of the fog. This is how I felt after several weeks in which I follow the habit of short 3-4 hours trips.
Big Trips And Big Results
Now let’s talk about the “big” trips, those that totally take you out from your comfort zone and put you in a completely new environment. Here’s how I do whenever I consciously plan my trips
Assess The Status
Before I go and after I came back I always try to assess several parts of my personality and current status. I use a variety of tools to do that, but mostly my journaling and blogging. You could use whatever you feel appropriate for you: a photoblog, a diary, whatever. The key is to note very carefully what you experience in that moment.
Don’t make me wrong, I’m not making a full psychological analysis, I just try to see where I am in term of self-respect, energy, creativity or courage. Sometimes after an important trip I come out with incredibly powerful discoveries, like the one that what you know is what you get.
Make Loose Plans
Apart from transportation and sleeping places, I don’t plan much in advance. Sometimes, when I drove in Europe for instance, I didn’t plan even that much, just went with the flow and slept wherever I felt the need. I keep this on the loose side for 2 reasons:
- I like to consciously give some room to unexpected to manifest
- I don’t really like to know in advance what I should do, this makes me really bored
Of course, if you make loose plans you can have unpleasant surprises. But from my experience, those unpleasant surprises makes for the best memories in the end.
Keep An Eye On Your Finances
This is strange, I know, but I pay a lot of attention to my finances when I travel for at least one week. I realized that the patterns I have during a longer trip are a perfect mirror of my overall resource management patterns. Meaning that my spending and saving habits in a trip are just reflections of my general resource management.
By working on those patterns during the trip I can make changes to my general resource management when I return. After my last trips I managed to return with money which makes for a quite careful resource management attitude. And it really showed in my normal spending and saving routine ever since. If you don’t believe it, try it for once: look at your spending and saving habits in a trip and see what’s happening with you when you come home. You’ll be surprised.
Give A Meaning To Your Trip
Whenever I take a long trip I want to give it a special meaning. I don’t travel only out of hedonistic and shallow reasons. I don’t enjoy that much staring at colored scenery and spend my money on cocktails. For instance, my last trip to New Zealand had a very strong connotation: was the trip in which I actually started my relocation there. I really worked on that, although I did my best to enjoy the trip.
Next week I plan to go on a one week trip to Thailand. I was always fascinated by Asia and when I was a student I even learned a little hiragana and katakana. Everything that has a close relation to Asia is very appealing to me, I don’t know why. I won’t move there, but I am surely extremely interested in having a bigger picture. So, I want to know more about Asia, to learn about their culture, habits and lifestyle firsthand. This is my main reason for going there. A part from personal development, of course… Oh, and I know I can use Wikipedia to learn about Thailand, its culture and lifestyle, I guess the right word is “experience” more than “learning”.
Well, that’s just my shared experience about how one can use travel as a personal development tool. I am convinced that I haven’t touched everything that can be said on the subject, so feel free to jump in and comment on this. I know there are some professional travelers out there that could share a lot on this subject.