Travel can transform the mind, body and soul, but only if we let it. Many of us are so fortunate to have the means to travel, yet sometimes we squander it. We travel to beautiful places, have a lot of fun, eat wonderful food, take some nice pictures, meet a few people and come home, usually with a tan, feeling the short-lived vacation afterglow effects.
There’s nothing wrong with these types of vacations; we all need to relax, unwind and just have a good time now and then. But, these types of trips don’t make us richer; it isn’t during times of comfort that we grow, expand and nourish our souls. Growth happens outside the comfort zone. But how do we take that step away from comfort and into the unknown?
There’s no formula. I can’t give you a step-by-step checklist to do it, because life doesn’t work that way. I can share some ideas, though, and I’d love to hear yours in the comments below.
Take a back road.
Realize that, when traveling, we are free to be whoever we are, without the expectations our friends and family may have for us. We don’t have to plan our entire day. In fact, don’t, because playing it by ear will allow us to start listening to that innate voice that knows what’s best for us and what we want. We can leave the café whenever we want, and if we miss a tour, who cares? We can’t do everything; such is life. We might as well stop trying to pack everything into our schedules and fully enjoy the things we can do.
If you are not a minority, travel to a place where you will be.
We can’t control who we are, what we look like and where we’re from. We can, however, control where we go. One of the most eye- and heart-opening experiences of my life happened on my first day in Singapore, walking around my exchange university’s campus as the only white person in sight. In the U.S., I am privileged. I don’t feel starkly aware of my differences. People in the U.S. don’t ask if they can touch my hair, or a hundred other questions that place me in a box of “white people” stereotypes. I could go on.
It is one thing to intellectually understand that privilege. It is another to set foot into a world where that privilege no longer exists. It is important, and everyone should do it, for the sole reason that part of being a human in this world is to step into other humans’ shoes and attempt to understand and empathize with the different angles from which people live.
And travel with them! Travel is all about those sweet moments when we connect with someone we will likely never see again, or when we join up and head to a new city with new friends. This not only gives us the chance to form beautiful friendships, but it teaches us to let go: to be ok with saying hello, enjoying each other’s company, and saying goodbye. Because, again, such is life.
Stay in hostels. Or Camp. Or Couch Surf.
Anywhere but a nice hotel. Anywhere we can meet people or connect with nature. Anywhere that isn’t what we’re used to.
Rent a bike. Learn to surf. Go dancing on your own.
Those of us who are lucky enough to get to travel have the opportunity of a lifetime. If we take it and run with it, escape our comfort zones and give ourselves the freedom to grow, we give ourselves an incredible gift that can never be taken away.
Have a travel story about escaping your comfort zone? Share it below!