Travel: The Ultimate Personal Development Tool

A solo traveler sitting on the edge of a cliff thinking during the sunset
Last Updated: 5/10/23 | May 10th, 2023

With the explosion of websites, podcasts, Youtube channels, and conferences teaching you how to “live your best life” (this one being no exception), it’s clear we all want to become a better version of ourselves. We all want to be the person we imagine we could be if given just the right circumstances.

After all, who doesn’t want to be the hero of their own story?

We want to learn more languages.

We want to eat better.

We want to read more.

We want to work out more.

We want to be less awkward in social situations.

We want to be more independent.

We want to travel more.

The list goes on and on.

But often we go through life without really thinking about where we are heading. One day turns into the next and all those things we desire to do and become get put on hold while we look for that perfect day when “life” won’t get in the way.

Suddenly, a month/year/decade has gone by and we’re no closer to our goal.

In recent years, I’ve had my ups and downs and have been working hard to make changes to my life. It takes a lot of work to change. Even one to change your life requires concentrated effort and persistence. We’re creatures of habit and it’s easy to fall back into our old, bad ones.

And to make multiple changes at once? That is biting off more than you can chew. No one has the mental energy or time to do that.

That’s why most new year’s resolutions fail. We create a long list of things to accomplish but give up as we become overwhelmed.

So when people tell me all the ways they want to improve their lives, my advice to them is to travel for one simple reason:

Travel solves a plethora of self-improvement goals in one fell swoop.

Picture this: You’ve booked a flight to Poland. You don’t speak or read Polish. And, to top it off, you’re going alone.

You land in Warsaw. Now, you have to navigate signs in a different language, ask people who probably don’t speak your language well for directions (maybe pantomime and point at maps indicating where you want to go), get to your hostel, make friends in the dorm (no one wants to be alone), and get around and sightsee the city during your stay.

By the time you go home, you’ve learned how to communicate even when you don’t speak the language, figured out how to navigate an unknown place, learned to turn strangers into friends, learned how to be independent, and solved a slew of problems that came up as you made your way around a foreign country.

In one trip, you got better at communication, problem-solving, languages, social situations, and improved your confidence in trying new things and handling unexpected situations. You learned what it took to succeed

Why? Because you had to. You had no other choice.

And you didn’t even know you were doing it.

It was sink or swim.

People always ask me about the moment I realized travel changed me. While there are moments in your life that ripple through the years, for me, there was no single instance that I can point to that turned me from a shy introvert who never traveled to someone able to plop down in any city, find my way, and turn strangers into friends. It was a process that happened slowly over time.

Before I set out on my first trip around the world, I had never really lived outside my state, hadn’t traveled much, had a small group of friends, and had only been in one relationship.

While the old parts of me are still there (I’ll still gravitate towards my friends at a party rather than talk to someone I don’t know), it’s become a lot easier for me to talk to new people when there’s no one familiar around.

While I still run through all the “what ifs” when I get on a plane to a new destination, when I land I hit the ground running (and wonder why I was ever worried in the first place).

Traveling forced me out of my routine. It helped me become independent, take more risks, be ok with change, get better with people, learn more, and be more versatile.

And it can do the same for you.

Imagine that one trip to Poland multiplied over and over again.

Of course, travel is not a panacea. The baggage you have comes with you on the road. There is no place far enough away to escape your problems.

But what travel does is give you the space to be someone else and improve your life. It allows you to say, “What would the new me do?” and then do it without worrying that someone you know might notice.

Travel forces you out of your comfort zones and helps hit a lot of your personal development goals all at once. It puts you into situations that force you to better yourself.

It won’t instantly solve your problems — only you can do that — but at least, on the road, you have a clean slate to try.

As you create a list of habits to change or resolutions to make, cross them all out, and just write one down: to travel alone more.

It is the ultimate way to become a better, more confident you.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Want to Travel for Free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.

Need Help Finding Activities for Your Trip?
Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace where you can find cool walking tours, fun excursions, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more.

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.