A Journey Inward: 5 Tips for Introspective Travel

Zion National Park

At it’s best, travel is a journey inward. When we feel like something is out of alignment in our lives or have simply lost our way, traveling can provide the needed distance from our everyday experience to see clearly.

John Muir once wrote, “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” Of course, he was referring to the mountains and their powerful pull to introspection. I too find it easier to reflect in nature, where my life and worries seem small against the grandeur of a wild forest or granite peak.

When done thoughtfully, traveling to another country can have a similar impact. Many of my major life decisions have happened on a trip, away from the people, places, and things that take up real estate in my mind.

A few days ago, I was listening to a former Navy SEAL talk about meditation and how his practice gave him the self-awareness and clarity to be his most authentic self. He said, “the absence of thought is when the answers came to me.” Similarly, travel can create that mental quiet and space.

I was on a work trip in the Galapagos Islands feeling good for the first time in a long while when I realized I was no longer happy in my relationship. I was traveling in Portugal where everything reminded me of California when I realized it was time for me to move back home. I was on a solo camping trip in Utah having the best time (alone!) when it hit me that I wanted to share my love for travel with people.

If you seek growth or clarity from your travel experiences (in addition to fun!), try these 5 tips on your next adventure.

#1 Go alone or with no more than one other person

When you travel alone, you are more likely to try new things and meet new people. Novelty interrupts the habits and patterns that keep you trapped in recurring thoughts that are no longer helpful.

#2 Talk to strangers

It takes just one interesting and unexpected conversation to stir things up and make the light-bulb go off in your head. Talk to cab drivers, waiters, and fellow travelers. You might make lifelong friends along the way.

#3 Let go

Let go of all expectations, good or bad, and surrender to the journey. In Travels with Charley: In Search of America, one of my favorite books, John Steinbeck wrote, “We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” Allow yourself to be humbled, blessed, and blown away.

#4 Try everything at least once

Be open to new places, people, and experiences. Try everything at least once. If you don’t like it, you’ll never have to try it again. If you do like it, you learned something about yourself. I maintain exceptions for cockroaches, spiders and rats. Sorry, not sorry.

#5 Step outside of your comfort zone

See tips 1, 2, 3 and 4 above. If it’s intimidating, uncomfortable, or challenging, that’s a good sign that you should go for it. They payoff will be extraordinary.

Happy introspecting!