How traveling can get you "unstuck" in life

I’ve hesitated to write this post for over a year.

Through expressing ideas and sharing my own experiences, it’s always my goal to help you—the reader—grow and improve, in whatever capacity works for you. However, I sometimes hold back my beliefs because I want to make sure my advice is applicable to 100% of my readers.

Personally, I know no greater vehicle to change my perspective than travel. Whenever I’ve experienced lack of fulfillment, confusion, boredom, pain, or anxiety, for at least a month, travel has always been the strongest, surest way to break the cycle.

ENVIRONMENT

 CONDITIONING

 BELIEFS/ VALUES/ KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD/ VALUES/ SKILLS

 THOUGHTS/ FEELINGS

BEHAVIOR

 RESULTS/OUTCOMES

 DESTINY

 

I’ve shared this diagram before, and it explains why travel is such a strong force for breaking a bad habit or negative cycle. Our physical environment dictates almost everything in our lives, influencing the thoughts we think, the beliefs we hold, and the actions we take.

Through travel, you are exposed to a new physical location, and likely as a result, different cultures, customs, people, and ways of life.

Your brain receives this change in environment differently, because you are now processing new stimuli.

Your brain is dissecting and experiencing “new territory,” and therefore, you are going to generate different thoughts, which will lead you to take different actions than you might usually take.

Humans are habitual creatures. When we fall into a slump, or feel “stuck,” what’s really happened is that we’ve repeated negative thought patterns long enough to the point where we’ve now developed specific beliefs, which influence our actions. When we repeat something consistently, our brains create a neural pathway—a.k.a, creating a habit.

You’ve probably developed a negative habit at some point in your life, or fell into some sort of slump, and found it difficult to break.

The difficulty lies not necessarily in forming a habit, but in breaking a negative one. Once we’ve developed a negative habit, it becomes our version of “normal.” For example, you might have experienced a time when you’ve said, “ I am stuck,” or “I am depressed,” or “I am unworthy.”

 

Yet, you were none of those things—you just chose to identify with those feelings/states.

As habitual creatures, once we fall into these states and give ourselves these degrading labels, we choose to continue experiencing this negativity. Oddly, many people’s fear of the unknown (breaking this habit) is greater than the fear of continually suffering and feeling “stuck,” “depressed,” or “unworthy.”

In order to break free, you must do something that confuses your brain. This is where travel comes in.

The change in almost every sensory detail that travel entails almost “shocks” the brain with drastically different stimuli.

Travel can lead to a shift in your self-awareness, which can help you separate from the negativity you’ve grown accustomed to, and realize that the negativity is not you. You are not your thoughts—you are the thinker of your thoughts. This realization and proper attention will bring you back to your true essence.

 

My Personal Experience

I recently returned from a trip to Mexico and noticed a drastic shift. Prior to leaving, I felt partially “stuck.”

After spending 15 months writing my book, I had shut off the open, spontaneous, adventurous side of myself that brings joy and connection into my life. I grasped the opportunity to go with a group to build a school, travel, and explore in Mexico.

Photo by Perry Grone

I knew deep down that I needed to break my routine. I needed to experience different stimuli. I needed a new environment. I needed to meet different people.

The trip provided me with a sense of awakening, adding a set of experiences to my repertoire that has reshaped the lens of how I see the world. While I don’t have a specific metric for gaging my willingness to be open/spontaneous/adventurous, I know a shift has occurred.

The day after I returned home, I delivered the best speech of my life to a high school. I’ve said “yes” to numerous, new opportunities that have come my way. I feel confident, grounded, connected, and full of energy.

Even just walking across the border from San Diego to Tijuana, I could feel the change happening. Excitement, anticipation, nerves, and curiosity stirred in my chest. The change in language, people, and customs held an element of the unknown, which enlivened me with feelings I hadn’t experienced since returning from my travels in Central America.

 

Traveling and site seeing

            Travel provides a sense of freedom that is difficult to grasp. It provides a contrast to your “normal” life. It breaks off society’s shackles and conditioning of “who you think you should be.” It gives you permission to express yourself and think with a set of fresh eyes.

 

While there are many different vehicles to break a habit and experience “resets,” I’ve found travel to be the most powerful. What do you think?

 

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