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How Travel Promotes Personal Development

Robert Louis Stevenson, a famous British author who lived in the late 19th century, was quoted as saying that “to journey optimistically is a greater thing than to arrive.” In his brief life of just 44 years, he traveled far away from his hometown of Edinburgh and visited a significant portion of the globe, searching for love and adventure. But contrary to what Stevenson’s warning adage implies, the new study that I conducted in conjunction with Ahrisue Choi and Kristin Bongcaras demonstrates that the aphorism is inaccurate.

How so? When we asked more than 200 individuals between the ages of 18 and 39 about their most memorable travel experiences, we discovered that close to 82 percent of respondents said that traveling had assisted them in either the process of problem-solving or the formation of decisions. In point of fact, their elaborations indicated a range of psychological advantages that the well-known author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped could not have possibly predicted.

To be fair to Stevenson, he was not the first one to disregard the significance of travel to one’s personal development and overall well-being. Virtually none of the individuals who laid the groundwork for contemporary psychology studied or even made a note of this vital link. You could believe that Abraham Maslow had some valuable insights to share, but it’s possible that the correlation was lost on him since he didn’t do much traveling throughout his own life. This conceptual link wasn’t established until the middle of the 1970s, when Peter Adler argued that the culture shock experienced by “exchange students, international volunteers, military and diplomatic personnel, and others engaged in cross-cultural ‘endeavors’ needn’t be entirely negative.” [Citation needed] Instead, Adler believed that exposure to new views, attitudes, and lifestyles may serve as a catalyst for self-development and even self-actualization.

Since Peter Adler’s groundbreaking formulation, much of the attention paid to study in this field has been directed on tourism rather than business travel. This is likely due to the enormous growth of the tourist industry across the world. For instance, one study that was conducted at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and led by Chris Ryan found that touring backpackers had life-changing experiences that revolved around the concepts of being different and having a one-of-a-kind experience, as well as forming connections with other people and having a sense of accomplishment. In more recent research, Ondrej Mitas and his colleagues at Breda University in the Netherlands revealed a number of pleasant feelings in leisure travel, including pleasure, curiosity, love, and contentment.

In what ways, particularly, may travel and tourism assist in the process of problem-solving and decision-making? According to our research, there are seven unique benefits:

Clearing out clutter and improving one’s ability to think For instance, one of the participants said, “When I travel, I can make my environment as slow as possible for me to think,” but another participant recalled that “It cleaned my head.” It offered me the opportunity to reflect deeply and give careful consideration to the situation.
More serenity and contentment in one’s psyche. To provide an illustration of this, one person claimed that “It helped me alleviate my mind from tension,” while another participant noted that “Travel helped me not to overthink matters, and to relax and have time for my family.”elevated levels of hope and optimism. One participant said that the activity helped them “regain their confidence when they were on the edge of giving up their job-hunting due to frequent rejection.” Another participant stated that the activity helped them “always be thankful for what they had.”
A more comprehensive understanding of human existence and culture. Another participant related their experience, saying, “As a marketing officer, it enabled me to understand more about the culture of other people and to more easily connect to them.” Another person had a similar sentiment, saying that the experience “made me realize how huge the world is and how everyone else’s life simply carry on, regardless of what I was going through.” It let me see things from a different angle.

Through more time spent alone, one might achieve a deeper level of self-discovery. Another participant said, “Being free of day-to-day difficulties encouraged me to concentrate on self-reflection,” while yet another participant poetically reminisced, “It made me recognize the worth of every failure I had in the past and to be more productive in my profession.”a deeper sense of thanksgiving and appreciation. An individual who took part in the activity said that it “made me appreciate the simple things in life and value more time for individuals whom I want to be around.” One person said that it “somehow led me to ponder about all the lovely things in life and enjoy it.” Another person said that.

Self-empowerment is achieved by activities such as encouraging more bravery, self-confidence, and autonomy.For example, one participant said that it inspired them to leave their monotonous employment, which was the source of their unhappiness. It demonstrated to me that the purpose of life is not only to amass wealth; rather, it is to maximize one’s potential within the confines of the life they are given.

Is it possible for adults in their 20s and 30s to get extra psychological advantages from traveling? What about those who are beyond the middle of their lives? In what ways are the growth benefits indicated above impacted by the characteristics, interests, and objectives that are unique to each of us? In addition, how exactly can traveling help us become more aware, more optimistic, and more grateful? More investigation will shed light on this. But in the meanwhile, you shouldn’t wait to start planning your trips; do it right now.


Adler, P.S. (1975). The transitional experience: An alternative view of culture shock. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 15 (4), 13-23.
Mitas, O., Yarnal, C., Adams, R., & Ram, N. (2012). Taking a “peak” at leisure travelers’ positive emotions. Leisure Sciences, 34, 115-135.
Ryan, C., Trauer, B., Kave, J., & Sharma, A. & Sharma, S. (2003). Backpackers—What is the peak experience? Tourism Recreation Research, 28, 93-98.

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