How to Be a More Joyful Traveler

August 29, 2016

In my personal and professional experience as a life coach, joy is found wherever you get completely enveloped in an experience, when you’ve really lost yourself: your worries, your ego, your past, and your future. Travel is the perfect time for this reboot. It’s also an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, explore new approaches to life, and form new habits.

Below are some insights into how you push your limits to really lose yourself in the travel experience, and cultivate more joy in the process. Then take the ethos behind these joy-inducing activities back to your daily life at home.

Lose Yourself in the Music

In Fiji last summer, I donned a sulu—a sarong-type garment both men and women wear—and danced the nights away in the village where I was staying on the southern tip of Taveuni, known as the Garden Island of Fiji. Never underestimate the power of dance.

I was sweaty and a little uncomfortable, but I made friends shaking it with what seemed like absolutely everyone in the community. I danced with old women and men, too. I moved my hips enough that I had to constantly retie my sulu until a local helped me to tie it properly. Certainly I looked funny at times. My ego told me to stop. What’s really special is when you can push through any discomfort or self-consciousness to truly lose yourself in the moment.

Coaching Takeaway: Whether you are traveling or in your own environs, see where you can re-create this experience and take advantage of the smile-inducing, heart-rate rising, feel-good activity of dancing with abandon.

Connect Deeply With Others

Create real, true, deep connections. Introduce yourself to an elderly person. Make a new best friend. Get so connected with someone you will feel like their home is your home and vice versa. Learn as much as you can about who they are, and be willing to share yourself, too.

When language barriers get in your way, there’s always a possibility of communicating with a translator or simply communicating deeply through other means—it doesn’t have to be spoken language. Don’t miss these kinds of opportunities; they can lead to doors opening that offer you something entirely unique, like when I attended a traditional wedding in the heart of South Africa’s Zululand at the invitation of a friend of a friend of the security guard at my residence.

Coaching Takeaway: Creating meaningful connections with people while traveling will help you deepen and expand your capacity to empathize with people in your world. This, in turn, will help you create more authentic, connected relationships in your family, your romantic life, and even in your workplace.

Help a Brother Out

On the coast of Mozambique, while my travel mates went out diving with whale sharks, my forgetfulness bit me in the butt. I had not packed my diver certification card, so I was left land-bound. With nothing else to do, I drove into town and, on the way, picked up some locals walking in from their villages. I decided to spend the day helping one run his errands.

My rental car was a boon for him. We shopped for vegetables at the local market, made a visit to the clinic, negotiated on his wages with his boss at his job, and visited his young son. Using my day to explore the local scene and help this man sort out his problems helped me remove myself from my own. Whether it is a formal volunteer opportunity or something more spontaneous, help out others whenever possible to access a deeper level of joy within yourself. It gives us access to our highest selves.

Coaching Takeaway: You already provide service to your family or in the workplace while at home. See where you can go further and push your comfort zone of helping others. Look for opportunities while traveling to get this habit started.

Step Blindly Off a Cliff

Don’t do this literally. Figuratively, I am speaking about stepping out into the unknown. This must be practiced. Our natural inclination as humans is toward survival and comfort. We avoid the unknown. Find an experience on your trip that truly feels like stepping out into the unknown. This might be showing up somewhere with no itinerary or staying in a local’s home, if lucky enough to get invited. Or step off the side of a plane (parachute attached). It is going to look different for everyone.

What is comfortable for one person is wildly uncomfortable to another. Personally, having no plans tends to make me a bit anxious. I have to practice being with the unknown and the unplanned. Doing so helps me expand my repertoire of how to deal with situations out of my control, quash the anxiety, and create more space for joy.

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