Sleepwalking through paradise. That was my life in my mid-twenties, living two blocks from the beach in Southern California, working a fancy job for a fancy boss.
I had been growing dissatisfied with my “perfect on paper” life and my own lackluster attitude for months, maybe years. Being a classic oldest-child rule-follower type, I ignored that nagging feeling in my gut saying, “Is this really the life you’ve dreamed of?”
Long story cut very short, I made some big mindset shifts to create a nomadic lifestyle, saved as much money as possible, quit my soul-sucking job, researched how to travel on a budget, and bought a one-way ticket to Europe.
Faced with a freedom I had never known, I hesitated. What would you do if you had all the freedom in the world? I wasn’t content with this time off being just a short hiatus from my livelihood. It was going to be a reset button on my life.
I was going to treat my travel experience as a self-development workshop—or more accurately, a series of them.
Based on my experience, here are a few tips for how to treat travel as self-development.
Seek out the pros.
Most self-development starts with finding mentors and learning from the best in the industry. Apply this principle to where and how you travel, too.
Want to be a better cook? Visit a place that’s renowned for its food. Want to be a better friend? Go to a country known for its hospitality.
I’ve personally used Worldpackers work and travel experiences to learn from locals firsthand. For instance, I joined a Turkish family as they sailed around the Aegean sea when I wanted to learn how to be a skillful sailor, both literally and in a more philosophical “smooth seas never made a skillful sailor” sense.
Think about what you dream about.
Don’t ignore the things you find yourself daydreaming or obsessing over. If you’re especially interested in a topic, you’ll be more open to the lessons it can teach you. The same goes for destinations.
There are places you read about that connect with your soul, destinations that feel like home, and travel experiences that are permanently stuck in your psyche. Never underestimate the power of passion and unabashed enthusiasm for something.
I found myself roasting in the midsummer sun at the famous Wimbledon tennis tournament for just that reason, learning both the importance of packing sunscreen and the power of a shared experience to bond with others.
As with any self-development journey, it’s hard to see progress when you’re in the thick of it. The easiest way to see progress is to get a result, even if it’s a small one.
When you’re traveling, especially traveling long term, it can feel like you’re just floating from one destination to the other. Give your life and your travel experience purpose by setting a goal for yourself.
That can be as simple as, “find a handcrafted postcard in each destination and talk to the maker” or as difficult as, “walk the Camino de Santiago for 500 miles across Spain.” I opted for the latter. Over a year later, it’s still my proudest accomplishment and the travel experience that I think about most.
Give yourself time to reflect.
Change takes time. It’s one of the hardest lessons to learn, and one this impatient Aries still struggles with. The lessons you learn while traveling take time to sink in, too. Reflection, whether through journaling, editing your travel photos, or simply reminiscing, is a powerful tool for self-development.
The problem? It’s tempting to want to travel fast, see as much as possible, and not “waste” any time while traveling. My solution? Use Worldpackers to find a budget-friendly destination so that you can slow down and reflect without feeling guilty for spending too much to do less.
Read the full story of my Worldpackers travel experience to learn more about collaborative travel and what it’s really like to work and travel around the world.
Want to dive deep into self-development? Explore transformational travel through the NuMundo network. Check out all our upcoming experiences here.