Ways To Invest In Yourself:
7 Ways Travel Makes You Better
By Jake Muniak, Thailand GIVE Guide
We’ve all heard, “Invest in yourself, it pays the best interest”, and a college education seems to be the most efficient and effective self-investment in this regard. Unfortunately, these ways to invest in yourself generally entails reading big books, waking up late for class and sitting in a large, boring lecture hall as the professor and Instagram fight for our attention.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Education happens on top of Mount Kilimanjaro and at the base of Everest. It happens on waterfall hikes through the jungle and floating in the electric blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The world is filled with opportunities to learn and to be inspired, challenged and tested.
I spent 4 years guiding for a sustainable tourism organization called GIVE Volunteers, and I saw hundreds of university students and adults alike educate themselves about the world, other cultures and themselves. Here are the top 7 ways I’ve seen travel change people for the better.
1. You’ll Grow An
Understanding Of Yourself
So many people today don’t actually know who they are. I mean yes, they know what foods they like, who their friends are and what they do in their spare time. But many don’t understand if they made all of these decisions for themselves, or if these decisions were made for them by the momentum of life.
I’ve heard people say countless times, “wow, people back home don’t think I’m this funny”, or “I would never try this back home”. And yet here they are, being funny and trying new things. Because travelers are no longer surrounded by all the familiar things in life that force them and expect them to act a certain way, they’re free to be who they really are, without any societal constraints or expectations on them.
This is why travel is one of the best ways to invest in yourself; you get to strip the familiar away and decide for yourself who you want to be. In doing this, you develop a greater self-understanding, and that impacts literally every life decision you’ll make moving forward. This means those good decisions that you make with better self-understanding will compound and create even more good decisions.
2. You’ll Improve Your Communication Skills
Traveling improves your understanding of human nature and how to communicate interpersonally. The world is full of 7 billion people, most of who don’t live in the town you grew up in and who don’t speak your language. And yet when you travel, you find ways to communicate with others that have nothing to do with language or cultural similarities. You find commonalities in the human experience and use the most fundamental forms of communication: your eyes, your smile and your actions to communicate.
This fundamental understanding of human communication, which goes deeper than even language or culture, is something every human on earth understands and uses to communicate. Travel is one of the best ways to invest in yourself out there, because it forces you to improve your communication skills which translates to interactions in the business world, customer service world, teaching world and just about everything in between.
3. You’ll Improve Your Relationships
I’ve seen young people dramatically improve their ability to connect and form new relationships with those around them by traveling. It’s almost something innate to human nature; when you’re in a new place surrounded by new people, forming new relationships is how our brains adapt to that new environment. Most of the time it’s effortless.
But travel’s effect on your relationships is bigger than simply those around you; you begin to understand the importance of carving out time to communicate with your friends and family back home. Travel teaches people that relationships take real work and planning. The earlier you learn this, the more you can proactively maintain relationships throughout your life, which is one of the most effective self-investments out there.
4. You’ll Learn What To Value In Life
One of the things that commonly comes up in conversation toward the end of a trip is the idea of how this experience is incompatible with the idea of money. An experience is something that has value and that is real. Money on the other hand, has value but is not real (but you use it to buy real things).
Traveling makes you realize life experience holds so much more value than things like nice cars or big houses. Why? You can’t take these cars or houses with you. But experiences become a part of your DNA, and the love you share with people on these experiences goes everywhere you go. By traveling and investing in yourself instead of things, you’ll see exponentially greater returns.
5. You’ll Expand Your Comfort Zone
When people first arrive abroad, I talk to them and tell them about the things we’ll do. They often say things like, “well I won’t be doing that” or, “I can’t do that!”. This is one of the biggest problems young people face today; a concrete belief in the imaginary expectations they set for themselves.
Travel is one of the most effective ways to invest in yourself because it forces you to expand your comfort zone, often times when you’re not even aware of it. By redefining your comfort zone you redefine your limits. You continually push those limits and continually grow what you’re capable of doing.
6. You’ll Appreciate The Present Moment
We’ve created a world where our minds are always everywhere but our present location and instead focused on things happening in the future. This is not how humans were designed to live, and it’s certainly not doing us any favors in the field of “happiness”.
One of the best ways you can invest in yourself is learning an appreciation for the present moment and learning how to be where your feet are. People can sense when your mind is elsewhere, and the ability to be present in your interactions with others will amplify your relationships and interactions moving forward in your career and life.
Traveling forces you to appreciate the present moment. Why? You are so often disconnected from the technology and bills and classes and exams worries that instantly pull us to other parts of the globe that you’re left just with…well, just the people you’re around. And maybe a good book.
7. You’ll Be More Independent
One of the greatest ways to invest in yourself is to become more of an independent person. This is not to say that you can’t form and appreciate relationships with others; this is crucial to your happiness. But a sense of independence will help guide not only every decision you make in your life, but it will also significantly contribute to your overall happiness and confidence.
I find that many university students today have never had the opportunity to develop a sense of independence because they’ve been guided down a clear path for their whole lives.
This is why travel is so critical in your early-20s. You have to establish your independence early on in life. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself following others instead of your passions.
I’ve seen travel inspire independence in more people than I can count. What does this look like? It looks like people who were uncomfortable with being alone at the beginning of the trip excited to walk off by themselves and to be with their thoughts. It looks like quiet people finding their self-confidence and speaking up during group conversations. It looks like people taking a sense of ownership over their actions and their futures, understanding that they are responsible for having the impact they want to have in life.
So, all this talk of travel probably has you thinking, “How do I start?”
I cannot recommend enough the idea of seeing the world while simultaneously positively impacting the people and those places with GIVE Volunteers. You’ll reap all the benefits of self-investment that travel brings, and you’ll get to do so in a positive and sustainable way.
Often people find reasons not to travel because of company reputation, flights and funds. Luckily, these are very easy to take care of when traveling with GIVE;
- Check out GIVE on Tourradar and Go Overseas and see for yourself what past volunteers have to say!
- Apply to volunteer abroad with GIVE!
- GIVE partners with the flight consolidator Corporate Traveler, meaning we work to get you the best deals on your flights. Just so you have an idea on costs, you can get a no-obligation quote on flights here!
- GIVE hooks you up with a whole suite of resources to help you to fundraise for volunteering abroad.
- If you’re concerned about academic credit, GIVE partners with Central Washington University where college students volunteer abroad for college credit!
Take my word for it, sustainable tourism is an epic opportunity to invest in yourself. Good luck friends, and travel well!