Looking at my 2009 goal list I found a few things there related to travel. Precisely, I want to have at least 3 long term vacations this year, and that my friends, is a specific goal, not relaxation. Here comes a post about how you can use traveling as a personal development tool. Apart from having lots of fun, of course.
Personal Traveling History
I did my first travel outside my country after I hit my thirties. Yes, you can laugh now. I know, it’s fun. Ok, you can laugh even more. But that’s the truth and I will not hide it. At that time I was still involved 16 hours a day in my own business and considered travel is just a waste of precious time. Maybe, and only maybe if I could mix travel with business, then I can embark on some small trips outside my country.
And this is how I actually had my first trip to Switzerland: it was a big automotive event in Geneva and since I had the biggest car portal in Romania, I said I could give it a try. I drove 25 hours from Bucharest to Geneva, with only 3 hours of sleep in Hungary. Next year I was in Frankfurt and next year in Paris. Automotive events are quite popular, you know…
And I started to like it. In fact, I started to like it a lot. So much that last year I made one trip longer than any other I had before. In fact much longer than the sum of all my travels to the moment: to New Zealand. One may say that I somehow balanced the score with that one, but in fact, I felt that this was only the beginning. I somehow developed a travel addiction, the same way I developed my GTD addiction over time.
And then I realized that not only entrepreneurship can be a personal development tool. You can also use traveling to enhance yourself consciously. I will outline just a few of the “why’s” in this post, and in the next one I’ll try to share some specific advice about the “how’s”. For now, let’s just start with the reasons.
A travel is a fantastic perspective changer. You know that most of the time you solve problems not because the problem become easier, but become you changed your perspective. They’re saying “thinking out of the box” for a reason, you know… Traveling is a natural perspective changer, and I’m not talking only about long trips in exotic places.
In the first two years after Bianca’s birth we spent a lot of time in the car. When she was a little baby, she seemed to enjoy a lot her car-seat and she slept “like a baby”. We actually drove hundreds of kilometers each day under the premises that she would sleep better. And we chose our destinations with a lot of spontaneity. It wasn’t uncommon to just go on a “short joy ride” and find ourselves several hours later at the other end of the country.
Those short trips, apart from taking care of Bianca’s sleep, had a huge impact on me. At that time I was still busy managing my online publishing business and I had to cope with a lot of stress. But after we started to change the context, and move a lot around the country, I started to have a feeling of de-glueing from my daily routine. I started to see problems in other light and to find solutions faster.
Even today most of my blog post ideas are finding me in the car. And of course, I just use my iPhone to capture them.
A travel is always a strong reinforcement of your current status. This is why it’s good to be proactive and start your travels consciously, whenever you feel the need. That way, the travel will become a natural reinforcement of that initial thrill and positive attitude.
Travels are perceived as rewards and there is a reason for that. Changing your surroundings, changing your daily routine, exposing yourself to new and – most of the time – beautiful scenery will act like an endorphin switch. Not only you will enjoy the trip, but you will create a much more subtle trigger that will always act as a positive anchor for your current status.
It’s ok to use a daily journal in which to assess your success and new challenges. It’s a common personal development practice used for positive reinforcement, and it works. But if you add to this a short but unexpected travel, your brain will surely dig it and start to rewire itself to boost your self-esteem. Just try it, it’s not that difficult.
Exposing Yourself To The Unexpected
Each travel has its share of unknown, of mystery and unexpected. Believe it or not, you can’t live without the unknown, without mystery and without the unexpected. You need this in order to be and feel alive. Boredom, dullness, monotony, flatness are your enemies. And being too much in your comfort zone can summon those enemies pretty fast.
Embarking on a new travel puts you out of the comfort zone. And I’m not talking about your hotel and transportation, you can chose whatever you like here, from 5 stars hotels to bed and breakfast. It’s not the technical comfort that matter, but the actual escape from your familiar set of activities.
I remember that during the trip to the automotive event in Frankfurt, we had to drove through Switzerland, Austria and then Germany. I don’t know how, we lost the highway somewhere at the border of Switzerland and Austria and had to drive around 100 kilometers using the map on tiny roads on top of the Alpes. It added at least 4 hours of delay (not to speak about the fact that we’re almost out of gas) but it’s still my best memory from that trip. The unexpected forces you to act, to react and to find better solutions. Praise for the unexpected to come intro your travels.
A Beautiful Adventure
One might say that adventure is similar to exposing yourself to unexpected. But I’m saying the unexpected is only a subset of the adventure. And adventure is much more, is a much deeper challenge, it’s a trigger for your inner reward mechanism and a fantastic mobilizer. At the end of an adventure you find yourself richer, much happier and feel younger. I’ve always been fascinated by adventures, and I’m always ready to immerse myself – mentally or even physically – in a new adventure.
There is this reward concept in the adventure that is so appealing to us humans. There is this unexpected flow of actions that can lead you to unknown places. There is this unbearable curiosity that strikes you all of a sudden. Without getting too philosophical here I dare say that our entire existence is an adventure. Or at least it should be.
Each travel is an adventure. Each travel expose you to so much more and forces you to do things in so many new ways. It would be so sad if you couldn’t just start a new adventure whenever you want. Pick a random location on the map and go there. No questions asked, no pondering, no evaluations, just go there. You never know what you may find.
Might be that you could even find yourself.