There are as many definitions of personal development as there are gurus. I want to make it clear right away that I’m no personal development guru – far from it. For me, personal development simply means having a heightened sense of self-awareness that enables you to make conscious life choices. Is travel the best personal development hack? I can’t answer that question for you. It depends. There are many ways to get where you want to be. It just turned out that travel played a significant part in my journey (no pun intended).
I started travelling when I was 17 years old. Now, that I’m older, I look back on my life and know that travelling changed me like nothing else could have. Travelling teaches you things that you would never learn in a classroom. As Mark Twain said “… broad, wholesome, charitable views of men, cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth, all one’s lifetime“.
It opened up my mind to the limitless possibilities that exist when you weave knowledge and experiences from other cultures into your own narrative. As my life story and worldview changed and expanded, I lost my sense of identity in the best way possible. No longer tied to a culture, a religion or a place, my sense of self, became a floating, ever-changing concept. Not only did I become comfortable being an outsider, I embraced the freedom it gave me, to do my own thing and become whoever I wanted to be. Learning on the go to make conscious choices is the gift of travel
I had the kind of childhood that is best described as happy. Parents who were loving, kind and supportive. Tons of books (I was a bit of a bookworm and often preferred reading to company). Extended family, whom I adored, including a Grandma who doted on me and cousins, uncles and aunts ever willing to entertain me. Naturally, when I first left Sri Lanka at age 17, I missed my friends and family and pined for them.
But, very soon as I started meeting new people with very different values and lifestyle choices my old life and way of thinking started taking a backseat. I also started exploring my spirituality. My Buddhist upbringing; observing rituals & inconsistencies between practice and faith made me question the value of limiting oneself to a particular religion at a very young age. I became immersed in another life, one that was far more exciting, challenging and fulfilling than my safe and predictable existence playing monopoly on rainy days with my cousins in Kandy, a little town in Sri Lanka.
As they say “we travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”. My new existence constantly challenged my belief system and my old way of life. I picked up quickly that there was no one way of doing anything. Even the concept of “culture” seemed too simplistic. Individuals varied so much within one culture that I was starting to question the validity of so-called cultural stereotypes.
Travelling transformed me from a shy bookworm into an adult with a purpose. I started thinking of myself as a World Citizen. Bit by bit, I was starting to get the answers to those pesky questions we all seem to ask ourselves at some point; “who am I?” and “what do I want to do?”.
I meditated, read books and had experiences that seemed to be guided by universal synchronicity designed to help me become more of who I was meant to be. It was the start of my personal development. As I traveled around Asia and Europe, I was absorbing knowledge and experiences both consciously and unconsciously. The more I traveled, the more I learned to navigate my way through different cultures, knowingly intuitively what to take on and what to discard from my ever changing sense of self. Reading Eckhart Tolle‘s book, A New Earth took everything to a whole new level.
I am still learning and growing through travel. I find it enormously relaxing and rejuvenating. What better way to spend time than exploring different corners of the earth, trying out new food and meeting amazing people?
The recent 10-day Vipassana retreat I did in Blackheath, made my life purpose even clearer. While I try to bring more presence into my own life and travels, I feel that part of my purpose is to also positively impact the travel industry so that it is conscious of communities, animals and the planet.
In this impermanent experience that we call life, it is worthwhile to step out of your comfort zone and take a journey into the unknown. I think Neale Donald Walsch captured that sentiment succinctly in his famous quote; “life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.
Awaken. Go Places.
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