Travel As A Personal Development Tool – The How To

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:

  1. I like to consciously give some room to unexpected to manifest
  2. 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.

11 thoughts on “Travel As A Personal Development Tool – The How To”

  1. @Guffin Mopes as I am right now in Thailand I can tell you I understand your feelings 100%. I do enjoy my staying here and I can see myself living here. Somehow. Somewhere. Or, errm, maybe not. Better not :-).

  2. I’ve got a terrible habit of deciding I want to move just about everywhere I visit. It’s always a great time, but I get a bad case of “tourist high.”

  3. @Celes Sorry for the late reply, thanks for the comment and glad we’re on the same vibration 🙂

    @Evelyn Lim Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting here. I am in Thailand for 3 days now and I’m enjoying tremendously. It’s so different than all my previous trips, so colorful, provoking and big. Thank you for your kind welcome, is very much appreciated 🙂

  4. I may not be from Thailand but I come from Singapore, a part of South East Asia. I bid you welcome to this part of the world. Thailand is one of my favorite travel destinations. The culture, land and people are amazing – they are always smiling. Best of all the food is yummy!! Do have a great trip!

  5. Hey Dragos, great part 2 article to an intriguing topic 😀 I find short trips away really take our mind off the things we have become stuck in our daily lives and can’t get a macro-view on. Great way to quickly gain perspective without having to resort to a long trip, plus easy to schedule since it’s relatively short! Thanks for your great article! 😀

  6. Wow, Thailandm that would be awesome and I hope to get there someday as well. Have fun on your trip, hope you get a chance to do everything there you want to. Enjoy it and talk to you again when you are back then Dragos!!

  7. @BunnygotBlog love the expression “mad money…” Must do it myself a little bit often too 🙂

    @Nicole Thank you for your comment 🙂 I was a cyclist too in my teenage years, I used to ride my bicycle all around my native town and it wasn’t a small one. I sometimes miss this 🙂

    @Mike King glad you had fun in Jamaica. I only hope I would do the same in my next trip to Thailand which is only days away 😉

  8. This is really cool and timely here Dragos. I just got back from Jamaica for 2 weeks vacation and while that isn’t that big of trip, much of what you suggest here I was able to experience first hand.
    1. Not making plans and just seeing what works out. We did this by engaging a log with the locals and finding local people to connect with (while we stayed at a resort) and were able to visit there neighborhoods and other workplaces and get inside scoop and taxis to tour us around to lots of great hidden spots that would be missed with planning it through some big tour company ahead of time. We loved that about this trip and will always try to do the same from now on when we travel. It was a blast and a great way to learn a ton of new things and experiences with locals from afar!
    I thoroughly enjoyed your outline here! Thanks!

  9. I know what you mean. I love to travel, and have since I was a child. Short trips are an excellent idea, and yes, travelling does work well as a personal development tool.

    Whenever I used to ride in the car (this was before I traded car for my feet and my bicycle for most traveling) I would ride around looking for new places to visit, or I would flip a coin at each intersection for a while just to see where I would end up. These were my short trips, and always worked to clear my head.

    Now, I take walks or ride my bicycle around, especially whenever I am in a new place.

    Liked the article!

  10. Well I like the idea of taking a ride just to clear your head. It doesn’t happen enough for me. Instead- I jump on the tread mill and run.
    Big trips for me is all about doing something new and exciting. We don’t make plans really.
    No scheduled time frame and the only one that knows when we are coming are family. Hooking up with friends is nice and often they will come to see us since we traveled so far. They are called when we are there.
    Of course staying with family and friends is nice and a great savings.
    I budget the expenses and it is more fun that way. I must confess I do stash a little mad money in my purse :). Credit cards are a most but try NOT to use them.
    I prefer the train to a rental car.
    Very good follow up article.
    I have to drive a bit more – maybe:)


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