Travelling has many noted benefits that range from expanding your mind and experiences to creating exciting new opportunities in your life. People often speak of how they were changed by travel but rarely do people consider how travel can benefit your self-esteem and your mindset.
There are so many ways that travel can influence you as a person. It can drastically shift long-held judgements or preconceived notions you may have harboured about people, about a lifestyle or a place. It can ignite your sense of activity and agency and make you feel freer to accomplish things.
You can choose to completely give up a traditional life to travel and live outside the expected version of life presented to so many people (a great 9-5 job and a sense of security).
There are so many ways that travelling can potentially change you, but one that I certainly did not expect was for it to completely obliterate my self-esteem issues and drastically boost my self-confidence. Stopping, stepping back and moving outside of the life I knew at home allowed me to re-interpret how I viewed the world but more importantly how I viewed myself.
I began to realise how capable I was of forging new relationships and tackling situations completely outside of my control and on my own (even in a totally foreign country with no money and not being fluent in the local language). And of course, there have been uncertain and lonely moments but I came out the other end relatively unscathed and with a renewed belief that has long stood by me;
The belief that: “I can do this!”
And along with all of this emerged an unexpected perk; I was more confident and felt more able than ever. Here are 6 ways that travel can help to improve your own vision of yourself and your life.
1. Meeting new people
It is so often that we go through life and rarely meet new people.
Unless you work in a people-facing job or regularly go out of your way to meet new friends, you will find as adults that we tend to stick around the same people over and over again.
But don’t get me wrong, the people you surround yourself with in life tend to be great but it is so wonderful to meet new people who continue to challenge and re-shape the perceptions of the world you have developed. Travelling not only opens the door for meeting floods of new companions from locals to the country you are visiting other travellers, but you also get to meet people of so many different ethnicities, backgrounds, and upbringings.
This is truly eye-opening and inspiring. The best part is that you begin to realise that you can talk to everyone and be able to understand their point of view and way of life with a decreasing amount of judgment.
Being able to rack up friends from all different walks of life from around the world is a great confidence booster that should remind you that you are capable of forging relationships no matter where you are in the world. And nothing is more comforting than that.
2. Experiencing New Places
There are few things more mind-opening than visiting and trying to become immersed in a different culture. There is something so humbling about being able to step outside your comfort zone and visit local communities and new surroundings.
There is also something truly satisfying about spending time in a new place and really getting to know it. Whenever I have a bit of time in a city or destination, I love taking the time to figure out my favourite parts of the city; my preference of cafes and bars and the perfect little plazas and parks to sit on a nice day with a good book.
And when you do feel you know the way of a new place, there is a calming sense of assurance that comes with the knowledge that you can set up shop and survive anywhere. Even if you know absolutely no one or don’t even speak the language which has certainly been the case for me, it is a great feeling to know that you can make it in the world anywhere and all by yourself.
3. Achieving And Learning New Things
When I began my travel adventures, I could literally not speak even a word of Spanish. And while my current levels of Espanol are not particularly wonderful, I am able to order in restaurants, buy bus tickets, ask questions and hold basic conversations.
This reminder of my ability to achieve and accomplish is a great confidence boost as sometimes we don’t feel that when we work in the same job every day. I have realised that I can indeed climb mountains up to 5,000 feet and I can endure 20-hour bus journeys when dying of a stomach virus. I am brave enough to go paragliding with a total stranger and dive to the depths of the ocean.
Perhaps the thing that truly inspires me to be more confident, is that I learned from long-term travel that while I am so grateful for the people in my life, I can operate perfectly fine on my own. In fact, I like my own company. (And trust me, if you can say that you like your own company, then others will too!).
Long-term travelling by myself has given me the confidence to say that I can do this all alone but I also have the capability to continue to learn and grow as a person. The only way is up!
4. Getting from A to B
When you are travelling by yourself, the simple tasks of getting on the correct bus or making it to a tour on time are achievements in themselves. You find yourself saying: “Look at me. I am more than capable of doing all these things than I ever knew.”
Boarding flights, taking buses, packing my bags, and not forgetting anything suddenly become less the mundane activities of everyday life but instead things that I am capable of and have achieved.
A couple of years back, I would have been completely intimidated to go anywhere alone but I personally now love nothing more than going to a coffee shop for a quiet reading session or going on a trip completely solo. In fact, I get more of a personal sense of fulfilment and achievement when I do things by myself.
There is a lot of societal pressure to have huge circles of friends and a partner to do all your activities with but the truth is if you are comfortable with yourself then you can do these things alone. The reality of growing up is that there will of course times that you are single and that your friends are busy with their own families, careers, and commitments.
The thing to realise is that you don’t need to have people with you to enjoy doing the things you love. While it may seem a bit sad to go somewhere alone, once you do you may be surprised by the sense of fulfilment you have and of course, the ego boost that naturally comes with it.
5. Less emphasis on how you look
The travelling community and in particular the backpacking community just do not care about things like clothes, gadgets, hair or make-up. These things are simply not as important as making new friends and gaining new experiences.
If you are working in a job at home or going out pretty much anywhere, there is a certain level of expectation to dress up nice, make a good impression and have the latest smartphone or handbag.
This does not exist when travelling long-term. In fact, you have to solely rely on your charms and personalities to make it in the backpacking game. No one is looking at the label on your jeans or how well-coiffed your hair is, they just want to know about you. Why are you there and what you hope to see and experience.
And nothing is more satisfying than realising you can make a whole new group of friends who genuinely like you for you, and not because of how you look or what you are wearing.
6. Things that were once important become trivial
Back home, I felt I needed to have a make-up bag of important products, my nails done, and go to the gym four times a week to be an accepted adult. With travelling, all I needed was a bag of basics on my back and my wits and charm.
In general, in hostels and hostel dorms there is a serious lack of mirrors and full-length mirrors. At home, I would spend a few minutes every day standing in front of a mirror picking out what I thought were all of my imperfections and trying to mask them with clothes or make-up.
Now, the world is lucky if I even bother to brush my hair in the morning let alone take the time to stare at myself in a mirror. Not that any of the hostels I regularly stay in have enough private mirrors to do so!
I am grateful for this change in the routine because it reminds me that my worth is not based on how I look but rather on how I choose to conduct myself in the world and how I choose to treat the people and places around me.
7. Learning to hustle
Living and working at home gives most people a safe sense of stability. You always know that you will have some sort of roof over your head be it with a family member or friend. You more than likely also feel a sense of security in your job and by extension a certain amount of assurance that you can live the life you want to live based on your finances.
Travelling long-term makes all of those things uncertain. You usually have no idea where you will be staying in a few day’s time and you will loom dangerously close to an empty bank account on numerous occasions.
And this uncertain place will lead you to realise the art of hustling. Every person you meet and everywhere that you stay or visit will become a potential source of money or an opportunity to save money. This is a gift because the very act of travelling, of moving from one place to another, is a natural way to absolutely hemorrhage money.
And so as you watch your bank account dwindles but you still contain the uncontrollable desire to explore, you soon learn every money-making and saving hack in the book. These can come in all forms from the super simple to the hard graft.
You can simply decide to only stay in hostels with kitchens and cook all your meals. You can decide to stop every month and volunteer in a hostel for freeboard. You might try to work in a local cafe or restaurant. Or you might extend your language skills to teach people your native tongue. Or maybe you enjoy a more digital life and will decide to join a freelancing site. Maybe you are a stunning photographer who can sell stock imagery online. Maybe you just take some online surveys for money. Or perhaps you are trying to make money through a brand, business venture, or blog or maybe you just do some travel writing for extra cash.
Either way, when you travel you tend to learn the art of truly hustling and making things happen for yourself. Because after all, if you didn’t, you would not be able to continue your travel adventure. Learning the art of hustling is such an amazing way to keep your travels going and knowing that you did that all by yourself with leave you with such an amazing inner glow. Yes, you are literally capable of anything.
8. Realising your potential
Travelling puts you in positions you never would have imagined before you left home. If someone had asked me if I was able to hike up a mountain for four hours in the freezing wilderness of Peru, I would have laughed at them. But it turns out that I am more than capable.
Constantly being able to achieve new things means that I am slowly realising that I am able to accomplish so much more in life than I ever actually allowed to dream for myself. And that extends to my travels but also my life when I chose to travel less and settle down more. I can literally be and do whoever I want to be and whatever I want to do. I know this because I managed to survive a year of travelling and it’s a powerful feeling.
And whenever I start to disbelieve that, I just think of that four-hour upward mountain hike in Peru, one of the hardest things I have probably ever done. I will also sit down and remain grateful to have been able to travel and thankful that that experience showed me my inner confidence and potential for greatness.