Authored by Michael Wigge
I remember a quote I read many years ago from Sir Richard Burton.
“The greatest moment in a man’s life is when he sets out for an unknown land.”
I had no idea who Sir Richard was, but the quote stuck in my head. Traveling could really cause the most extraordinary moments? I was excited about the possibilities, and this quote motivated me to make traveling my profession.
For years, I worked as a travel writer and traveled across all seven continents. And the quote turned out to be correct. Different places, people, cultures, natural wonders, mega cities, unknown customs and outstanding places, from the mountain ranges of the Rocky Mountains to the beaches of Thailand, had definitely filled my life.
When I look back on my travels in over 90 countries over the last two decades, I discovered that the mysterious Sir Richard Burton was formerly a British Africa researcher, though in his above quote he had underestimated the outcome of the journey.
I found out that travel does much more: it also boosts your self-esteem, and greatly improves self confidence.
Why Travel Boosts Your Self-Confidence
Traveling Makes You Leave Your Comfort Zone
Different cultures have different rules, and work quite differently. This makes it difficult for people to interact with an unfamiliar culture, as they have to go through a necessary learning curve about what is appropriate and what is not.
It may sound like work to really understand and fit into a particular culture, but this exercise of leaving the comfort zone will allow you to expand your thinking and understand that there is not only one way of doing things.
We often tend to see aspects of our culture as the right way to go, because we are used to this way of thinking and acting. But traveling opens your mind to the concept that your own culture is only one option – it’s one perspective among many.
In order to open up to these differences, you have to leave your comfort zone. Try to speak a different language, open up to other values, behaviors and customs, and take the unbeaten path.
The more we act outside of our comfort zone, the stronger our self-confidence becomes, because we constantly have to learn. And learning is often the key to strengthening our self-confidence.
Facing Your Fears
Traveling has a way of confronting you with your fears. When I faced my travel challenge “How to Travel the World for Free”, I was confronted with existential fears of finding food, security and shelter. But this adventure also confronted me with the fear of loneliness, the fear of rejection and the fear of failure.
Well, the journey was not as bad as it sounds when you put so many fears together. In fact, it was a great personality-building adventure.
After I returned home, I realized that I was much better off being alone without experiencing the feeling of loneliness.
The fear of rejection used to be my sensitive spot; a feeling that could easily make me very nervous. But getting food on my world trip without money was mostly achieved by the barter system. I often exchanged a joke for a sandwich, a meal to clean someone’s car, or a sandwich, coffee and banana for a three-second handstand in a Las Vegas café.
After approaching up to 50 people on a daily basis for my barter deal ideas, I had approached around 1,500 strangers within five months. About 1,000 of the 1,500 rejected me for lack of interest, trust or time. Though this was the best way to overcome the fear of rejection!
If you want to overcome the fear of failure or loneliness, fail and be lonely as much as you can! And the more you face these fears, the stronger your self-confidence will become.
For more about overcoming fear, you can watch my US TEDx talk and other keynotes – for German speaking readers, the translated motivational work on confronting fear is right here. Or, just get out and go on your next travel adventure!
I would call traveling by yourself the elite form of traveling, because being on your own means you can’t use your travel companions as an excuse to hide within your comfort zone.
Traveling alone means being completely exposed to the cultures, the people, the adventures, the fears and the itchy place outside your comfort zone: the learning zone!
Somewhere alone in a country, or somewhere alone in the world is the best learning experience I have had personally. It is an opportunity for personal development, and to be honest, even a great coach probably couldn’t offer better.
Whenever I tend to sneak back into my comfort zone, away from the learning zone, and get dragged back to my TV couch, I remember this great quote from author Richie Norton:
“If you want to overcome your fears, go through them and not around!”
This will always boost your self-confidence and give you the best adventure experience ever. My biggest gift from my free world trip was not only the adventure, but the improvement of self-motivation, the acceptance of changes, the overcoming of fears, the strengthening of resilience and simply the fact that I became more self-confident.
My next travel challenge will be trail running the 500 miles long Colorado trail from Denver to Durango. What’s your next adventure?