Do you want to change or improve how you think, feel, or react to certain things? Looking back on my life I know I’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of hours working to better myself in one way or another.
I read an article by Mark Manson called The Disease of More recently. A lot of things in the article really resonated with me. It made me reflect on my own pursuit of personal improvement and helped me realize how much full-time travel has really helped me grow as a person without me even realizing it.
Travel helped me face and overcome my deepest fear-
The thing that has caused me the most anxiety throughout my life, my greatest fear I guess you could say was ending up like my Mother. My Mom, an extreme introvert, fears change more than anything and this has made moving forward in life very difficult for her. Her fear still grips her to this day.
Watching my Mom struggle, I began to fear the unknown. Change and unfamiliarity caused me a lot of anxiety throughout my life. More of an extrovert, I always felt at odds with myself. I often thought “I want to make this change”, or ” I know this is the right move for me, but why am I so terrified to do something!!!”
Travel taught me that I wasn’t really afraid of change, but more an inability to act, despite my fear, when I needed to do something to change the course of my life.
Traveling full time, my family is frequently in unfamiliar territory. I need to face and work through the unknown regularly, out of necessity.
Having faced so many new experiences I learned coping strategies to deal with uncertainty. I can face it calmly and effectively and now after so much self-imposed practice, trust myself to act when I need.
It taught ways to let go of grudges and forgive
Being able to forgive and forget is difficult for a lot of people. I have definitely struggled to let go of negative feelings toward people who’ve hurt or wronged me in some way.
Hard feelings can be polarizing. Playing the blame game causes people to focus solely on the wrong that’s been done to them instead of looking at all of the contributing factors that lead to the hurtful situation.
Time flies traveling and continually meeting new people, and trying to understand different cultural norms are a big part of any travel experience. I find myself consciously listening and trying to see things from a different perspective. This comes naturally spending time in cultures that are vastly different than my own.
Full-time travel taught me that reserving judgment, accepting people’s differences, and trying to look at situations from another person’s perspective are all needed to let go of hard feelings, and finally forgive.
Travel helped me figure out happiness-
I used to believe happiness was something I needed to pursue. A state of being that I would need to work toward, that I would achieve it in it’s truest form somewhere down the road.
Business Insider wrote an article about certain behaviors that contribute to happiness (or positive psychology). It cites many things that happen naturally traveling. Some of the behaviors listed in the article specific to travel are:
- Buying fun– According to research, people tend to be happier buying experiences rather than material things. Traveling full time, we buy very few material things because we prefer to travel as light as possible. I would much rather spend money on a tour or activity than anything material. My fondest memories and greatest feelings of joy all come from “doing” something as opposed to “having” something.
- Exercising– Studies prove that physical activity is connected to mental health and increased levels of happiness. People tend to do more walking and physical activity in general when they travel. We definitely exercise more traveling. We always explore new cities on foot and are motivated to get out and see and do things because our time is limited in the places we choose to visit.
- Being present in the moment– Science has shown people who practice mindfulness experience a greater feeling of well-being. Quite possibly the greatest gift travel has given me is the ability to really live in the moment. I am hyper aware my time in a place is fleeting. This has trained my brain to make the most of each moment the places we visit, to seek and find beauty where most wouldn’t.
Full-time travel has helped me achieve a kind of self-actualization. It has broadened my perspective on humanity bringing about countless opportunities to slow down, reflect, and feel things like gratitude regularly.
It taught me, materially, I need a lot less than I thought I did
This is what I thought success was back in 2005.
This is Rob and me four years before Mak was born. We were building what we thought was our dream home. It ended up costing us a lot more than money.
The time between when this photo was taken and Mak’s birth in 2009 was filled with 60 hour work weeks and loads of stress. Rob and I worked steadfastly to fill the house we built. We were so busy buying all the things we thought we needed to be happy. Ultimately, having all that stuff didn’t bring us the joy we thought it would.
Full-time travel helped me learn that excess is a suppressant to abundance. Constantly buying, accumulating, and coveting new stuff was a huge mental and physical drain for me.
Now the house and most of what filled it are long gone. I don’t miss owning any of it one bit.
The bag I travel with hold 58 liters of stuff; 5 tee shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 sundress, a travel towel, 1 headlamp, 1 coat, 2 pairs of socks, 5 pairs of underwear, 2 bathing suits, 2 extra notebooks, a Calgary Flames hockey jersey, 2 pairs of shoes, phrase books (Latin American Spanish, Romanian, and Italian), and a small toiletry bag.
I own a tiny fraction of what I used to and I’ve never been more at peace.
These changes within me didn’t happen because I did some mental exercises, or followed the advice of some life coach. The changes happened because I was driven by something greater than my own desire to improve myself. Traveling, I have no choice but to deal with unfamiliar situations. I have to learn and try to understand about different people and cultures even if it scares me. Travel has helped me overcome fears and grow in ways I didn’t even realize.
Have you experienced any significant benefits of travel? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.