Travel As A Personal Development Tool

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.

Perspective Changer

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.

Positive Reinforcement

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.

25 thoughts on “Travel As A Personal Development Tool”

  1. Thank you for this post. I agree that travel is a tool for personal development. I work in e-learning and while almost everything can be found online, there is nothing like the feeling of actually being in a new place for the first time.

  2. Ahh I couldn’t agree more with this article, especially the section of fresh perspectives. I think travel and personal development go hand in hand, it’s nearly impossible to travel without growing and learning from it! I took a 40 day trip through Thailand and now I’m living for at least a year in China and it has taught me a bunch. One night on a beach in Thailand I had an interesting revelation about how to live a more fulfilling life by connecting with people during your travels. You might be interested in it!
    .-= Devin ´s last blog ..Why You Shouldn’t be a Normal Person =-.

  3. Pingback: 100 Ways To Live A Better Life
  4. @Celes Thanks for commenting. I’m going to Thailand in a couple of days but I have to tell you that Singapore was so close on my list. In fact, I still hesitate between Japan and Singapore for my next trip. Keep in touch 🙂

  5. Hey Dragos, I totally agree that travel is a great tool for personal development – in fact, in my own goals list, I’ve listed down being exposed to unknown contexts and situations as the key ways I target to achieve growth, and under that is travelling. This is why I seek to travel to U.S and UK on my top to-travel list, because these are the big places I haven’t been to yet. Thanks for the great post and stumbled/reviewed! 😀

  6. @BunnygotBlog thank you for taking the time to comment here. You got quite a travel plan there, wish you to have inspiring experiences :).

    So, you will have Romanian relatives? That’s fantastic, Romania is a beautiful country, I really hope you will enjoy your staying here. Keep your energies up, have another fantastic week 🙂

  7. @Audrey Welcome and thank you for sharing your thoughts. If you you are in a round-the-world trip right now, I wish all the best to you and your husband, hope you’ll have many discoveries ahead.

    I especially liked the empathy part in your comment, never crossed my mind before but you are actually right: each time I heard something about a place where I’ve been, that place and its surroundings become “mine”. 🙂

  8. When my husband and I started our round-the-world trip we told people that it was a journey learn and explore, personally and professionally. We wouldn’t be spending our time drinking cocktails on the beach, but using the opportunity to push ourselves to learn more about the world and about ourselves. I feel there is a strong connection between travel and personal growth, but I haven’t found too much written about this yet. I was happy to find your post on this today (thanks goes to TravelRants-he posted this article on Twitter).

    I think one of the most important things, like you wrote, is to get out of your comfort zone. I think this is important even at home, but when you travel you are forced to get out of your comfort zone repeatedly. Sure, this can be uncomfortable, the end result usually ends in some sort of discovery or accomplishment…and usually your best memories too. Additionally, travel provides perspective and empathy – you’re more likely to pay attention to the news when it’s about a place you’ve been to and can put faces to it.

    Thanks for sharing and I hope you write more on this!

  9. @Demetrios nice life credo you got there 🙂

    @Toma Bonciu thanks for commenting and for your insights. Don’t get too blue because of this recession, things will get better sooner than we expect. Enjoy your life even when it’s difficult 🙂

  10. Hi Dragos ,

    I was in 20 when I first visited Europe. I have to say once I got off the plane I felt a refreshing change in myself. I felt history had come to personally welcome me.

    You are so correct about the impact of a change of atmosphere.

    I think traveling is the best education you can get. You have the opportunity to learn the cultures as well as making friends. Valuable contacts sometimes when it applies to business. The friendships have remained strong.

    Europe is so different from the States. I have been to a total of four different countries there. I have also been to Ireland and a brief time in London.

    Future plans this year- Bermuda then back to the States before heading to Germany – hopefully to Romania since that is the where my future mommy- in-law is from. A road trip to the Bodensee maybe , friends have a hotel their. Then Paris and we want to visit his Godparents in Manchester, Eng.

    So this is what I work for me besides designing our house 🙂

    It excites me daily and presses me to work harder and be thankful I can experience this. Diving into the work pool has been more invigorating for me because I have so much to look forward to.

    Great article as usual.


  11. Hi,

    This is true. Last year I’ve made a 2 week trip with my car into Italy. My wife had a realestate agency and the business was good. That trip gave me so many beautiful memories, photos and thoughts. I’ve returned with an appetite to work.

    This year this economic crisis is driving us slowly but steady to bankruptcy and already the idea that we might not take a vacation at all is becoming a stress and sometimes a cause for fighting.

    I totally agree that we need to travel and see different places. It helps us restart the engines and clear our head. I think if you take a vacation and stay in the same town you work you won’t be able to unplug yourself from the stress, simply because there are to many familiar things that remind you of your daily routine.


  12. @Ryan Kazinec Thanks for your comment and I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. It really seems that you have a lot of traveling ahead and being in US it’s quite an advantage if you ask me. You can fly over Atlantic to Europe, or over Pacific to Asia. It’s like flipping a coin 🙂 .

  13. I’ve never stopped and drawn a connection to vacations and personal development but I can’t argue with your suggestions. The wife and I love to travel, we love experiencing new things. I’ve only left the United States twice, once to Canada and once to Mexico. So it’s obvious that the wife and I have a lot of traveling left to do. Thank you for the wonderful article and may you have plenty more enlightening vacations.


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