The importance of travel as a tool for self-development

New year, new you right? Eat vegetables, get fit, be kind, go for that promotion and… travel more! But why is travel synonymous with self-development? 

While sometimes taken for granted, the benefits you reap when traveling are irreplaceable. From learning how to budget (in a different currency no less) to improving your communication skills, traveling offers you opportunities and challenges you won’t find in a classroom workshop or yoga class. 

The digital nomad phenomenon

Standard methods of travel continue to change. Once limited to the lucky few with time and money to spare for a flight via Pan Am to one of five popular tourist destinations, an increasing number of digital nomads are taking the world by storm. 

Travel blogger in Bali

Having the capability to work while traveling this new breed of explorer can reach rural villages in mountainous Nepal, navigate the bustling city streets of Beijing, and bunk down at the most remote hostel in the jungles of South America. Along the way, these adventurers pick up language skills, cultural competence, adaptability and an open mind. 

Living the nomadic lifestyle will transform you into an independent go-getter, someone tied not to belongings but to experiences and connections with local communities and fellow travelers.

How to develop a sense of self through travel

You don’t have to commit to life on the road to benefit from travel experiences. Even a short stint in a new place, foreign or domestic, can help you develop a sense of self.

Work-exchange, volunteer, or adventure programs abroad offer opportunity to explore new passions. Have you ever wanted to try teaching? What about social media management? Photography? Conservation? Animal care? There are programs for literally any skill type and level. 

You’ll discover your strengths, work on what you’d like to improve, and potentially propel yourself in a new direction, perhaps a career path you may not have thought of before! 

Direct vs. indirect results of globetrotting

Hold on aspiring globetrotter! Reading the above may have you dashing off into the sunset, but preparation for a trip is one of the key ways self-development happens through travel. 

Checking off a packing list, reading travel guides, and hearing from other travelers prepares you for the culture you will find yourself in, the types of people you may meet, the languages you’ll be exposed to, and even spots you won’t want to miss (or perhaps spots you can live without seeing – like the popular Blarney Stone in Ireland – to each their own I guess!). Taking advice from “those who have gone before” is a great life lesson, one to keep in mind in your journey of self-discovery and development.

Even having a plan, however, won’t fully prepare you for everything you’ll encounter – and that’s part of the fun! It also means growing your flexibility and problem-solving skills. Critical thinking and creative problem solving are much coveted skills in today’s job market. 

Other results as they relate to self-development that you’ll see during preparation for your trip, on your adventure, and after you’ve settled into a travel-wizened state include greater independence, the ability to see the world from more than one perspective, a better sense of who you are as related to those around you, and a knowledge of what you value and appreciate most in yourself and other people. 

The ripple-effect of traveling with a purpose

You may make connections abroad that open doors for you upon your return home. One of the fascinating things about today’s world is how interconnected we are. 

A friend you make in Brisbane, Australia may open doors for you in New York City! A volunteer project you support abroad may turn into a full-time gig. A work exchange in Southeast Asia may turn into a permanent living situation (many who visit Chiang Mai never return, finding a community they love and expatriate company)!

Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai, Thailand

When you start traveling more avidly, it’s hard to say if your experience ever truly ends.

The voyage to freedom

So, how do you get started on this sojourn to a better, more developed you? Travel sites like Bookaway and Worldpackers are perfect places to start. You’ll do the preparation, of pivotal importance as mentioned above, and find the right travel experience for you. 

The dot on the map you choose to explore isn’t as important as the type of program you choose. Ask yourself, what do you want out of the experience? Regardless of where you go, you’ll be creating lasting memories and meaningful relationships, but it’s important to consider what you want to gain from your trip, even if it’s checking Pho in Vietnam off your bucket list! 

Hopefully for each bucket list item you cross off, you’ll add one more. New year, new goals, new friends, new opportunities, new you!

Julie Ball

Julie Ball

Seeker of adventure, avid runner, and solo traveler. You’ll find Julie reading a book regardless of location; a bus in Vietnam, a quaint French café, or most likely, a New York City subway. Currently living the dream in the city that never sleeps!
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