Sometimes a change of environment is just the ticket for gaining a fresh perspective, getting out of a funk, or discovering your true passions. That’s why so many people around the world travel to jumpstart self-improvement.
It’s true — traveling can help you find yourself, become a better person, and learn how to appreciate other cultures and ways of life. Like all things, traveling is best done with intention and mindfulness. Here are a few tips to get your trip planning started on the right track:
Know Your Goals
Being realistic about your travel goals is one of the most important parts of any trip. That being said, in order to be realistic about your goals, you’ll need to actually define them.
Brainstorm with friends, family, coworkers, and your peers to generate a list of travel goals or resolutions. Goals could range from “visit a new country” and “spend time outside” to “make new friends” and “eat Vietnamese food.”
Take things a step further by prioritizing your list of goals. Every traveler knows that it’s not uncommon for things to veer off course and not go according to plan. By prioritizing your goals, you can do everything in your power to make sure you do the things that are at the top of your list.
Honing in on your specific goals will help you plan your trip accordingly. There’s nothing worse than being disappointed when you return home and wishing you had done things differently.
Before visiting a new place, it’s important to make sure you’re aware of any cultural norms that are different from what you’re used to. This is especially applicable for international travel.
Hand signals mean different things in different countries, and things like tipping, culture and social cues vary as well. The idea of personal space is very different in China vs. in the United States, for example.
Additionally, it’s often helpful (and respectful) to learn at least a few phrases of the language spoken in the place you’re visiting. Phrases like “where’s the restroom?” and “what time is it?” are good places to start.
Doing a bit of research before you board that train or plane can mean the difference between an embarrassing or unintentionally offensive comment and a positive social interaction.
Multitasking is an important skill for every traveler. Navigating your way to new places while traveling can be challenging, so why not hit a few hot spots in one single area? You might even find that you really enjoy an activity you hadn’t tried before
Maybe there’s a cool museum close to a lunch spot you want to try. Or maybe that awesome urban hike is in close proximity to a famous coffee shop. Doing a little research ahead of time can help you get the most out of your time spent in each destination.
How you define “getting the most out of” is up to you. Maybe you want to sunbathe on the beach while reading a trashy romance novel, or perhaps you’re more interested in visiting five museums in a day and exploring the nightlife of a new city. Either way, your ability to multitask will help you achieve success.
Even if you’re on a business trip and don’t think there will be much time for fun, you might have a bit of downtime to check out a local art exhibit or cultural landmark.
On the flip side of multitasking, build time in your travel itinerary to slow down and not multitask at all. Traveling can be overwhelming to all of the senses. Stillness and reflection are required if you really want to soak in the essence of a place.
Finding a spot in nature to sit and absorb your surroundings is a great way to slow down. In more urban areas, enjoy a cup of coffee outside at a cafe and people-watch. What customs do you observe? How is this place similar to home? How is it different? What do you enjoy? What will you be glad to leave behind? Answering these questions will help you be present and attentive in a new place.
Manage Your Expectations
While traveling is widely lauded as transformative and uplifting, it is by no means a cure-all for all of the problems in your life, including anxiety and depression. Having a holistic approach to self-improvement is ideal — especially when traveling.
“All the problems of traveling will bother people with depression more than usual—the annoyances, the inconveniences, the lack of sleep, the loss of familiar surroundings, the interruption of routines, the happy faces, and the forced socialization,” says Dr. Mary V. Seeman in an article for Healthline.
According to the article, meditating, eating healthy food, and making sure you get adequate exercise are great ways to manage your anxiety and depression while on the road. Being aware of your own personal needs will help ensure that your trip is good for your mental and physical health.
While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the thought of traveling, a little planning goes a long way. You can set yourself up for travel success by reviewing your goals, knowing local customs, taking time to be both busy and still, and checking your expectations. Bon voyage!
About the Author
Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.