How Travel Gives You Insight You Can Actually Use

After decades of traveling several times a year, for both work and fun, I decided to change things up and do what makes me very uncomfortable: stay put for several months before traveling again.

Now that I’m not coming and going from my home base every few weeks, I’ve been taking a cold hard look at how I manage my time, work (I work from home), and life in general when I’m at home.

I’ve also set some really big goals for this year, so I’ve been asking myself questions like:

  • How do I want to feel each day?
  • At the end of each month?
  • At the end of the year?
  • How do I define happy, productive, global and alive?
  • What stands in the way of reaching my goals?
  • How can I do everything I want to do while staying sane and enjoying life?

What I’ve learned about myself though travel has given me useful insight and answers to these questions.

building reflected in water

Here’s an example. It may seem pretty small but it had a big effect on my life. 

One of the things I love about traveling is that I never worry about what I’m going to wear!

I always create a simple capsule wardrobe for each trip, and because everything goes with everything else – and I feel great in every piece I pack – I spend 0% of my time and energy thinking about my clothing.

This makes me super happy and able to focus on other things that are important to me.

Standing in front of my overflowing and unorganized closet this morning I longed for the simplicity of my travel wardrobe.

Then I thought, well, if my travel wardrobe makes me happy when I’m traveling, maybe my travel wardrobe would make me happy at home?

Immediately I felt calm and happy. Problem solved.

Then, I started thinking about other areas of my work and life where I feel like things aren’t going as smoothly as I’d like.

Again, I turned to travel for problem-solving insight.

open road flanked by trees

Here are five more things travel has taught me about myself:

  1. I prefer my work into my life, not the other way around. When I’m traveling I’m much better able to balance work and life because I make living life a priority. When I’m abroad I’m not going to waste any free time I have, I’m going to get out and do something. I’m also more realistic about what I can accomplish each day or week, and because I’d rather be out exploring Paris than staring at my laptop, I’m better at prioritizing and focusing on what needs to be done. At home, work tends to overtake everything else in my life.
  2. I prefer simple and quiet workspaces. When I travel, my office consists of my laptop, a notebook, a handful of pens, sticky notes, and a thin folder of documents I needed in hard copy. I’ll work from the couch in my Paris AirBnB apartment, my London hotel room bed, in the corner of a cozy German cafe, and from my train/plane/bus seat. I’m rarely distracted by my environment and am able to stay organized, focused, and productive because I have what I need and no more. 
  3. I like rough itineraries that provide a roadmap while leaving a lot of room for spontaneity. Too much structure and I’m bored. Not enough and I spin my wheels. 
  4. I like traveling alone and with my husband and/or a couple people I really know and like. I don’t gravitate towards traveling in large groups. I find groups exhausting (I’m a highly sensitive introvert) and when I spend too much time in groups I have little energy left over for my work. I do, however, love chatting with random people I meet throughout the day. Travel has helped me figure out how to manage my energy and balance being with people and being alone. 
  5. I like sweets. Ha! Yes, I have a huge sweet tooth. I’ve always preferred baking to cooking, and I adore seeking out bakeries, creperies, and ice cream shops when I travel. I don’t always remember meals I’ve eaten abroad but I do remember the desserts. Sweets make me so happy that I created an entire website focusing on international desserts

  1. I’m making life a priority. Instead of planning my life around work I’m planning work around life. My work allows me this luxury so why am I not taking advantage of it? I’ve cut way back on evening and weekend meetings, I close my laptop by 8:30pm, and I’ve made certain life things non-negotiable, like having downtime in the evenings to hang out with my husband and keeping Saturdays for seeking out local global adventures.
  2. I’m simplifying my home office. I’ve donated old books, I’ve shredding tons of paper items I no longer need (hello, years of German teaching materials and dissertation data), I’m keeping my desk free of clutter, and simplifying office systems. Basically, if it’s not beautiful or useful it’s no longer in my home office. And soon my office will get a fresh coat of paint and new carpet. Woohoo! 
  3. I’ve created a roadmap for my business and life this year. I know where I’m heading but I’ve left lots of room for ideas, random turns, and spontaneous moments.
  4. I’m keeping big group events to a minimum this year. A big reason why I’m not traveling during the first several months of the year is because my big goals need sustained focus, and while technically do-able on the road, it’s just so much more difficult to give my work that kind of attention when I’m traveling or around a lot of people at conferences and events. 
  5. I’m going to enjoy dessert. Life is short. I’m eating dessert.

Your Turn! What has travel taught you about…

  • What you like/don’t like?
  • What’s important to you?
  • What’s no longer important to you?
  • How you want to live?

How can you use these insights gained from travel to achieve your goals? Grab your journal and start writing! 🙂

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