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3 Life Altering Ways I’ve Found that Travel Promotes Self-Development

Yes, travel can lead to personal growth.

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Are you someone committed to self-development and personal growth?

As someone who’s proudly spent her life identifying as a “lifelong learner,” I’ve definitely benefitted from books and programs focused on self-development, not to mention working with multiple coaches. But without a doubt my favorite way to learn and grow is something else:

Travel.

Multiple scientific studies have demonstrated the ways travel can improve one’s health. The benefits can be physical, mental, and emotional. When travel is purposefully pursued, it can be a powerful catalyst for transformational change and self-development.

Here are three ways I have found that travel has helped my personal growth:

1.) A More Nuanced Perspective

Humans are complex beings in a complex universe. It’s impossible for one person to know everything. However, we humans often have a tendency to (over)simplify our lives, falling into routines and surrounding ourselves with others who share our perspectives and biases. Travel can be a compelling way to viscerally connect with the world in all its strangeness.

The key, I have found, is to purposefully seek out the unfamiliar an uphold nuance as a value.

This has been one of the greatest benefits I have personally experienced from travel. Growing up in a small suburban town in the U.S., there was so much I unquestioningly regarded as “normal” – from my meal options and daily schedule to what would be acceptable political and spiritual beliefs – it was travel that allowed me to surround myself with others who held a different conception of “normal” and practice a new kind of lifestyle and routine.

I’ve learned that, especially when it comes to life’s big questions, there are frequently seeds of truth to be found in both sides of what are often considered “opposing” or “opposite” views. Travel helps me continually appreciate the nuances of our complex world.

2.) Understanding Other People on Their Own Terms

As a lifelong learner, I strive to continuously discover more about the universe, about myself, and about other people. I have found travel to be invaluable as a way of “bringing to life” and making real the experiences of others. Travel has made me a more compassionate and empathetic person.

For me, travel has been a window into how other human beings have thought, felt, and lived. I have experienced this both through interacting with current cultures that are foreign to my upbringing, and also from interacting with history. Visiting historically significant sites both in the U.S. and abroad has brought me literally up close and personal in a tangible, hands-on sense with what the experience of life has been for others.

I’ve learned how important it is to try to understand other people on their own terms. While it is perhaps necessary at a beginner stage to “translate” the past into what’s currently relevant / valuable – for example, rendering Shakespeare’s poetry into modern rap music – I’ve learned that identification is best when it goes both ways, when you not only try to try to bring the past into the narrow sphere of what you currently value, but where you also attempt to enlarge your own sphere of values and understanding by exploring someone else’s unfamiliar-to-you worldview.

For example, Shakespeare lived through a time of warring conflict between Catholics and Protestants that is beyond anything I’ve experienced in my life. But my life has become richer and fuller through the exercise of empathically engaging with his life story, which I got to experience on a trip to London.

3.) Inspiration to Create & Build

Travel encourages us to live in the moment, to stop and absorb what we’re seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and thinking as we’re surrounded by the new and unfamiliar.

But some of the greatest long-term benefits of travel occur once the trip is over, when we take the inspiration that we’ve gained from travel to build and create in new directions.

For example, research by Adam Galinsky, a Columbia Business School professor, investigates how international travel supports and promotes creativity. Results of his studies show “how and why leaders’ foreign professional experiences can be a critical catalyst for creativity and innovation in their organizations.”

In the 21st century, when creativity and innovation have been analyzed and promoted as essential skills for success, travel can be a prime method for encouraging their development. For me, travel has inspired me to pursue work as an entrepreneur and now also as a travel coach.

Has travel helped you to transform your life? I’d love to hear more about it!

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