I was recently interviewed by the Australian Natural Health Magazine for an article on the benefits of travel on self-development, and wanted to share these answers with you too, because, if you’re anything like me, you might not get a chance to read the magazine.
Please introduce yourself.
I am a lifestyle coach who helps creative professionals create a semi-nomadic, unconventional life that is both soulfully and financially fulfilling.
1) Can you briefly describe your professional background?
I have a background in psychology matched with an intense curiosity on how we create our lives through the beliefs we have, and therefore also the limitations we create for ourselves. I then started travelling around the world, and had first-hand experience in how transformational travel can be, in not only expanding your horizons, but also getting to know yourself, and your life purpose in the process.
2) And your travelling background? Where have you been? What have you seen? What inspired you to travel the first time? What inspires you to travel now?
I have essentially travelled for most of my life. I was born in Austria, my father is Italian, I lived in both those countries as well as Portugal and the Canary Islands as a small child. Then, when my mum married and immigrated to Australia, I was travelling between my parents in Europe and Australia. So to continue travelling as an adult was somewhat a natural progression. I originally went travelling on my own to discover the differences between people and cultures, but what I actually learnt, was about what truly unites us as a species. Its such a beautiful thing. Now, I travel to keep being reminded and inspired by the beauty of the world, and to fulfil my natural tendency to live a semi-nomadic lifestyle.
3) Is travelling beneficial and why (would be great to have a psychology-skewed answer here)?
The most powerful benefit of travel is that it helps open up your interpretation and understanding of the world, giving you a wider range of choices and pleasures in life. The experience of other cultures helps loosen the chains of cognition, making it easier to see things in a new light. Whether it’s your own life, or other experiences, we stop be so judgemental of ourselves or others and recognise that there is an unlimited wealth of possibilities and opportunities in each and every experience.
Because of this, we are able to organise our lives and what we want to do with them, with much more clarity and optimism. So essentially, travel is a really good way to get to know yourself and learn about how you do, and how you want to, show up in all areas of your life. You finally get to see what’s truly important because the constricted thought processes are gone. There is something intellectually liberating about travel.
4) Do you know of any studies that back this up?
There are quite a few, but the one that comes to mind is Lile Jia at Indiana University. He randomly divided a few dozen under-grads into two groups, both of which were asked to list as many different modes of transportation as possible.
Jia found a striking difference between the two groups: when students were told that the task was imported from Greece, they came up with significantly more transportation possibilities. They didn’t just list buses, trains, and planes; they cited horses, triremes, spaceships, bicycles, and even Segway scooters. Because the source of the problem was far away, the subjects felt less constrained by their local transport options; they didn’t just think about getting around in Indiana, they thought about getting around all over the world, and even in deep space.
In a second study, Jia found that people were much better at solving a series of insight puzzles when told that the puzzlescame all the way from California, and not from down the hall. These subjects considered a far wider range of alternatives, whichmade them more likely to solve the challenging brain teasers. There is something intellectually liberating about distance.
5) Would you recommend travelling alone, with a partner, as a group or do all of these travelling arrangements have different benefits?
I personally would recommend travelling on your own to really have that experience of self-discovery. Certainly, all travel arrangements have different benefits, but if you want to grow as an individual, you have to get comfortable with being by yourself. Learning to like yourself and even love yourself by spending time alone is invaluable. You see the world through your own personal filters without being influenced by others and get to see who and how you really are. It’s a truly beautiful life journey.
6) Travelling to a non-English country can be tough. Do you have any tips? What can one learn from such an experience?
I know that people say that travelling in non-English speaking countries can be challenging, but its really about being resourceful. In the end we all have the same needs, and communication is only 40% verbal. You’d be surprised at just how much you can communicate through body language, sign language and generally just smiling and connecting with one another. Human beings are naturally driven to help each other and share their world with one another, making being a traveller in a foreign, exotic place such a heart-warming, inspiring and fulfilling experience.
As long as you are willing to be friendly, open and curious, other cultures will welcome you with open arms and share a special kind of hospitality that is rare to encounter in your own town or city.
7) Is there anything we can do to approach travel as self-discovery or is simply travelling enough?
From my experience, and working with clients, the inclination to travel usually happens at an exquisite juncture of one’s life. Be it a break-up, a death or changing career, the impulse to travel often comes at a time when there’s already tremendous change. Because of this, the introspective self-discovery elements that occur with travel generally happen quite naturally. However, simply by setting an intention for one’s journey is enough. We always attract what we focus on, so if you have decided that you would like to travel to explore yourself, that’s exactly what you’re going to get.
8) Do you recommend people incorporate travel into their lifestyle for learning purposes? How can people make this a reality?
I think that learning is a naturally occurring side effect to travel. Unless of course, you lock yourself up in a private resort and don’t interact with the local culture! All it takes is a little bit of curiosity and willingness to be inspired and learn new things about the world. Human beings are predisposed to want to learn and understand about the world around them so it just becomes a part of travel.
9) What are your top cities to visit for a self-discovery experience and why?
1. Hampi in Karnataka, India: This city is purely magical! It’s the original capital of India 500 years ago, which now lies in ruins. It’s one of the most magical, resonant places I’ve ever been to. This place just does things to a person!
2. Prague in the Ceck Republick: A visual fairy-land, Prague is the perfect place for self-discovery and introspection. Doing all the spectacular walks, while rediscovering yourself is such a powerful soul journey. I particularly recommend going there in Autumn when all the leaves are turning golden. It’s a visual feast, and so enriching for every part of your being.
3. Tulum in Mexico: This part of the world is essentially setup for the self-discovering traveller. Yoga retreats, shamanic ceremonies and detoxes on every corner, plus the beauty of the Caribbean beach-side, its such a wonderful time for reflection, learning, healing and growing.
Having said that, your experience of every place is also dependant of where you’re at in that moment. Whatever you’re feeling, travel tends to amplify.
10) What are some of the lessons one might learn while travelling (acceptance of other cultures, religions etc)
Travel is like a truth serum. It is the best cure for being self-centred and close-minded. Through travel we step beyond those limitations created by living in your own bubble and experience the wealth of possibilities in the world. Our approach moves away from being culturally defined to being universal. It’s an opening of the heart. Non-travellers are more susceptible to being stuck in their monotonous patterns. Travelling jolts us awake. So we learn to see ourselves and others in such a different light, and thereby expand out mindsets and the possibilities available to us in life.
11) Do you remember a key experience that you had while travelling that you learnt something valuable from. Can you please tell me about it?
Having spent some time in Muslim cultures in both Morocco and Turkey, I always had the impression that a woman travelling on her own would be quite dangerous. Yet’ I was so beautifully surprised that many men would feel protective of you, and take you under their wing as a sister, because of their culture rather than in spite of it. I felt very safe and taken care which completely opposed the perception I had of Muslim culture up to that point. In that time I learnt that many of the views we are fed through the media are entirely untrue, and never to believe these stories. Have you own experiences, make up your own mind. The world will surprise you.
12) Anything else you want to add, particularly pulling from your psychology knowledge?
Travel not only invites us to see the world anew, it gives us a fresh look at ourselves. The greatest benefit of travelling is the unique view it give us of who we are a human being in this world. By placing us outside of ourselves, travel provides us an objective view of what we have been habitually doing, as well as the anonymity to risk new ways of being in the world.
We cannot travel to get away from ourselves. As the adage goes “Wherever you go, there you are.” Travel fails as an escape but it succeeds as confrontation. Confrontation with ourselves that is. Which challenges us to rise up and become someone far more in alignment with ones dreams and values.