I recently heard about two 12-year-old twins who led four camels from Hermannsburg, near Alice Springs, to Bourke in outback New South Wales. They walked 2,500km. The boys were accompanied by a nurse working in their community and they were home schooled on their trip. They raised $2,000 for World Vision. Their story got me thinking about the trips we take, after all, summer is just around the corner and you are probably thinking about your Christmas holidays. Should we holiday just for fun, or is it possible to turn a holiday into a personal ‘growth’ experience? Personally I think we should be looking for holidays that teach us life lessons and help us grow. How do you do that? Here are some ideas.
Get out of your comfort zone
It is so easy to get into a rut and start shuffling through life. It is only when we step into unfamiliar territory that we wake up and start to feel stimulated. Travelling boosts your confidence because you have to cope with the unexpected. Needless to say, the more challenging the environment, the more you will be tested. Also you will be challenged more if you travel alone. If you have never before travelled by yourself, I suggest you start ‘small’. Perhaps go on a trip within your home state or at least stay within the borders of Australia. If you are sure you can manage this, venture overseas.
Travelling to a country where you don’t speak the language can be difficult. I always try to learn a few words of the language before I go. At the very least learn how to say hello and ask, “Do you speak English?”
Visiting a low or middle-income country can also be hard. You will have to do without many of the comforts of home unless you are staying in a flash resort. I don’t recommend this. I say get out there and get amongst it. Live like a local. Learning about other people’s lives is always a growth experience. It helps you develop empathy and insight.
I strongly believe that to understand our present we need to understand our past. Where ever you go, invest some time in learning about the history of the place. That means research online or in libraries and visit landmarks, monuments, museums and galleries. Learning about the history of a place is one of the best things about travel. It will also give you a better understanding of the contemporary culture of the place. This is true of Australia, Europe, Asia and America! Any place! History is an amazing teacher.
Give yourself time to roam and get lost
Take a map, take your mobile phone but on one day of your trip just go for a walk and see where your feet take you and who you meet. Of course, ask before you leave if there are places unsafe to walk. In a way this unplanned approach reflects life, because we are never sure who we will meet or where we will end up. Be curious on your walk. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions or even information about what you see, for example what sort of building is that? How old is that ornament? Who uses this space?
Do ordinary things
Too often on holidays we end up meeting other tourists at tourist sites, but instead, do some ordinary things on your trip. Get a haircut, buy groceries, look in clothes shops, go to sporting events. If you do ordinary, everyday things you have a better chance of running into local people and getting a real insight into the place.
I sometimes use public transport when I visit a new place. You do not really know London until you’ve taken the ‘Tube’. In New York get on the ‘Metro’. Again by using public transport you will be mixing with the locals and really getting amongst it. Don’t get anxious or upset if you lose your way or take the wrong train. Just go with it, stay calm and remember you are holidaying to learn about a new place and yourself! Be confident you will find your way. Be proud that you are doing this all by yourself. Travelling is a great way of developing new talents. A lot of what you acquire may be circumstantial, but it will turn you into a person who can find a way out of every situation. A useful life skill.
Arrange to work as a volunteer
There are lots of organisations that can help you organise a volunteer job on your holiday. You might help construct a building, teach children or clean up the environment. There are so many wonderful opportunities. As a volunteer you will make friends with local people. You will also get a deeper insight into the local culture. You will know you are doing something worthwhile for a community in need.
In addition to this, your volunteer experience might add to your CV. You may have the chance to join a fabulous team and learn new skills from your new team mates. Or you may even have the opportunity to manage a team! If you are considering a volunteer stint on your next holiday, do your homework in advance. Think about where you want to volunteer, what you want to do and why you want to do it. Explore all your options and check out reviews of the company placing you in the volunteer position. You need to choose a highly reputable organisation.
Mix work and pleasure
Have a holiday which challenges you and helps you to grow, but also make sure you have some down time that refreshes and re-charges you. We all need time out, time when we allow our body and mind to rest … and time when we test ourselves. On your next trip, combine personal growth with your travel plans. I bet you’ll have one of the best holidays of your life.
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.