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Travel and Personal Growth

Set in the 1960s, the new Pan Am ABC drama series brings to life, the glamour of air travels, beautiful air stewardesses, and the possibilities of adventures and explorations of the big wide world we live in. My husband and I took one of the last flights on Pan Am in September 1991 from JFK Airport to San Francisco before it collapsed and closed on December 4th 1991.

Airlines come and go, Pan Am and Trans World Airlines are long gone…but we are still traveling. Air travel today is so different from yester years. For those who have traveled before 2001…air travel will never be the same.

Today, more than ever, even with the economic downturn, airports are still full of passengers and cruise ships are sold out…we are still traveling…

The U.S. Travel Association has interesting statistics about the tourism industry. Every minute in the U.S., $1.4 million is spent in the travel industry and the top 5 growth markets for visitors in the next few years are from the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and South Korea with the Chinese taking the lead.

1 out of 9 jobs in the U.S. depends on tourism and by 2020, the country plans to create 1.3 million jobs by increasing visitors to the United States. That will be one of the ways to have economic stimulus.

Apart from shopping, dining, city sightseeing, visiting historical sites and amusement/theme parks (those are main reasons why tourists come to the U.S.) – why do we travel?

I think travel experiences contribute to our personal growth. Let’s take a look at it:

According to an article in selfgrowth.com personal growth or self-improvement refers to self-guided improvement-economically, intellectually, or emotionally-most frequently with a substantial psychological or spiritual basis.

Here are 5 different areas of our lives that have changed because of travel experiences:

Travel improves our palette: Other than rice, beans and chicken, travel takes us to eateries that are out of this world. For some non-adventurous eaters, travel will make us move out from our usual staples of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.

There are the crepes in Paris for lunch. My kids had no clue about the different types of crepes…all they knew were the ones they get from the International House of Pancakes. After a trip to Paris, they learned to make savory crepes au jambon et fromage and the sweet version crepes au chocolat with Nutella spread.

It also helps them add a variety to their food adventure and try new things. Most cultures appreciate guests to consume food served. It is a sign of impoliteness to reject food and to not eat it.

Travel helps us respect foods of all cultures.

Travel improves our appreciation of diversity in religion and culture: Before we travel, all information was from books and internet. Travel takes us to places that have different religions. For example, Malaysia is a Muslim country. At about 5 in the morning, every morning, the loudspeaker started broadcasting morning prayers to the neighborhood without fail and 4 more times throughout the day. You see most Muslim women having head coverings and wearing long skirts and long shirts to cover their body.

It helps us accept differences of cultures and religions…there are the Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus all living together in the same neighborhood. Travel helps us appreciate the freedom of worship in the United States.

Travel improves our language skills and helps us learn a new language: According to Biblica.com the bible has been translated to 2,287 languages. There are thousands of languages and dialects worldwide. Imagine what we can learn through traveling. Most Europeans speak more than one language.

Travel experiences in different countries allowed my children to hear English spoken in different accents…but they are all speaking the English language. They are different in Singapore, Australia, England and even Tennessee.

Having written and spoken knowledge of more than one language gives us more advantages in the business world and more job options.

Travel improves our understanding of people around the world: The world is created differently. Some of us live in arid lands with hardly any vegetation, some in the deltas surrounded by rice fields and some are in big metropolis like Sao Paulo or New York City. With diverse lands come diverse economic differences…some live in a modern developed land and some are still using a family motorcycle with 5 family members on it.

Traveling to Managua, Nicaragua, helped my daughter understand the needs outside of her comfort zone. Going to the deep eco resort of Northern Costa Rica helped me appreciate the street lights in the US.

We are creatures of habits…what we are not exposed to, we will not yearn for or feel at a lost. For example, to a Costa Rican living in non-street lights…walking in the dark is normal. They will not feel insecure in the dark. They are used to the environment. But one like me, who is used to street lights, did not feel comfortable walking in the dark.

Travel improves our understanding of our earthly possessions: When we see that many have little to live with, we understand the amount that we possess. Travel has led me to live a non-cluttered lifestyle and appreciate minimal possessions.

After all, we either choose to buy more stuff or choose to have the money to travel. The choices in life. For us, we chose travel experience as part of our personal growth and education for our children.

Mark Twain wrote a travel book in the 1860s called Innocents Abroad, an account of his trip to Europe and the Holy Land. He quoted, Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts….(you have to read the rest of the quote in Twain’s book).

Travel for Personal Growth

I remember sitting in English class at High School listening to Mr White discussing personal growth. The topic became a theme that resulted in several essays and long classroom discussions. Personal growth certainly seemed important to me at the time, but as the years have gone by personal growth is becoming even more important to me. The quality of life is impacted by our outlook on life and daily attitude. I tend to be very hard on myself and notice the deficiencies in myself and the world around me. Attending school or work becomes a grey experience seemingly dominated with opportunities for misfortune. Over the years I have been able to realise how silly this attitude is and how it limits opportunities for enjoyment and growth.

It can sometimes take an enforced period of reflection to expand my field of view and gain perspective. Travel wrenches me from the everyday experience and gives me time to reflect on how I am approaching life and whether my actions are making me happy. This timeout helps me to reset and focus on the people and activities that are important to me. The other amazing benefit of travel is that you witness for yourself just how positive, creative and peaceful most people are. If you watch the news or read newspapers, even with a critical mind, it is very difficult not be depressed by the state of humanity. The facts of the world are filtered through information providers that have a political position and a need to generate profits. The result over time is that the exposure to sensationalist content distorts our view of reality. Being a witness to the silent majority is a wonderful antidote.

The Pathway to Personal Growth

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

The pathway to personal growth follows the course of uncharted lands. In is when we get out of our familiar surroundings that we expand and grow. Learning may prepare us for growth but experiencing is the catalyst essential to personal expansion and self-actualization.

Learning prepares the soil and plants the seed but it is through active implication that the germination and growth takes place. A person may read volumes on public speaking but the growth will only occur when that person actually stands in front of a crowd and speaks.

Personal growth is mostly an interactive process. We grow by responding to unfamiliar situations or new conditions. Actual experiencing is essential to meaningful growth.

Most of the time, the rate of growth is directly proportional to the distance that separates us from our comfort zone. Some growth might be experienced by traveling through a foreign land as an ordinary tourist but much more growth would be acquired by traveling over that same land as a backpacking explorer.

Personal growth is a matter of finding, stimulating and developing unsuspected personal resources or extending the scope of already known resources. That can best be done by challenging the mind in ways that it has never been challenged before.

The brain is like a muscle. It gets stronger, more flexible and more polyvalent by submitting it to different exercises and by forcing it to overcome new challenges or meet new experiences.

We grow by pushing our limits, by going farther than we’ve never been before. We grow by acting as if we already had skills and knowledge that we don’t already possess. A good analogy for that is found in a person who is learning to swim. The person tries to act as if he knew how to swim and the first thing he knows… he’s actually swimming.

Our rate of personal growth is also very much influenced by the company that we keep. It is an accepted fact that we tend to become like those that we hang with. If we surround ourselves with people who value self-improvement, chances are that the group dynamic will have a positive influence on the way that we evolve and grow.

In some cases, the influence of a role model, teacher or guru can perform miracles. Positive guidance is priceless. That guidance can be found in the works of one of those Masters as it can be found by attending lectures or seminars.

Personal growth is also a question of trial and error. All that needs to be done to acquire a new skill or develop one of our talents is to succeed one more time than we failed. That’s how we learned to walk, to ride a bicycle or drive a car. It also how we get to climb the ladder of effectiveness, versatility and overall mastery.

Scientists have found that man’s sameness accounts for ninety nine point five percent regardless of race, creed or color while what separates us account for roughly one half of a percent. What this actually means is the fact that if someone can do something that we can’t, it simply means that that person has had experiences that we have not had.

The journey toward personal growth starts with an intense desire to continually improve ourselves and a thirst to become all that we can be. Once the desire is firmly established the path becomes fully illuminated and easy to find. To quote the Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”