Travel means a lot of things to a lot of people, but ultimately, it’s about broadening your perspectives, immersing yourself in new places and ideas, and learning about how other people and cultures live. Through travel we can become more resourceful, more apt to rise to challenges, and more compassionate about situations others face. If you’ve found yourself sticking to the same few places or types of destinations, you may inadvertently be closing yourself off to many of these amazing life lessons that ultimately can make you a better person.
If you’re stuck in a travel run or if you gravitate toward the same few cities, it may be time for you to get out of your comfort zone and do something different. Try a few of these!
Learn a language.
Do you stick to traveling to English-speaking countries simply because the idea of navigating through a language barrier scares you? There are plenty of people that subscribe to this idea, but it’s not nearly as scary as it may seem. Before traveling to a foreign country, you should always look up key phrases so you can get by. As English speakers, we’re incredibly fortunate that in so many countries around the world, most people you interact with will know at least a little bit of English, which makes much easier.
But, to really up your confidence while traveling to a new place, learn the language! Your fear of being unable to communicate will likely vanish, and you’ll learn a great new skill at the same time. We’ve outlined some great tips on how to learn a new language here, depending on which learning style works best for you. Tip: Duolingo is a fantastic, easy app that you can use as a great starting point if you’re trying to learn a new language.
Take a solo trip.
Say you’ve always wanted to go to x location, but absolutely none of your friends and family really care to go with. Why not go alone? Traveling as a solo traveler, especially as a woman, can be intimidating, but it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. You may have always done family trips, trips with significant others or with friends in the past, and you’ve probably had your fair share of arguments over what to do and where to go as a result.
A solo trip takes all of that off the table. You can travel at your own pace, do exactly what you’d like to, and, most importantly, get to know yourself and your own traveling style. You may find that you really love lazy afternoons reading in cafes versus rushing around to museums, but you may not ever find that out until you travel on your own at your own pace. Remember, solo travel doesn’t mean you don’t get the chance to interact with others. You’ll still have ample opportunity to chat with locals and fellow travelers as long as you remain open to it.
To ease into solo travel, consider taking a day to yourself when you go on trips with others—so you can get a taste of what it’s like.
Talk to the locals (and fellow travelers).
If you’re traveling to a new place and you’re intimidated by all of the new sights, sounds, and strangers, the best way to break the barrier is to start up a conversation. Your waiter, the people beside you at a bar, shop keepers… they’re all fair game! You’ll gain so many insights into the city you’re visiting, and you’ll feel so much more comfortable traveling. Be curious, ask questions (what do most locals like to do for fun? What are some of the best spots that most tourists miss?) and be interested.
Most people travel for short amounts of time and communicating with those around you is one of the best way to make the most of it. Start off by committing to having a conversation with at least one person every day while traveling, and go from there.
Don’t listen to stereotypes.
Stereotypes associated with travel and particular places are almost always incorrect, offensive, and in some cases, just completely ridiculous. There is always going to be a person that says: “Why are you going there? Isn’t it unsafe?” or that tell you a certain population is rude (fact: there is no way an entire country can be rude!), but it’s best to ignore the naysayers. Of course, you should never put yourself in an unsafe situation, but don’t allow stereotypes to hold you back either. Do your own research, and make decisions based on actual knowledge versus false opinions.
Do the thing that scares you.
To really get out of your travel comfort zone, assess what really scares you. Is it the unknown food? The cultural differences? The language barrier? Getting lost? Pinpoint exactly what makes you nervous about getting out of your comfort zone, and commit to doing just that. Chances are, you won’t get sick from trying new foods, people are generally friendly and helpful everywhere you go, and you’ll more than likely return home safe and sound.
Ditch your map.
Or should I say, “Ditch the map app?” Either way, one of the most incredible ways to explore somewhere new is to let yourself wander. These days, it’s unheard of to travel without the aid of apps or guidebooks so it’s a bit scary to set off without one—but try it out for at least a day or two!
Leave your phone at home (or keep it in your bag if you can’t bear to part with it), and see where the day takes you. Allowing yourself to roam the streets and relying on recommendations from the locals you meet will make for an unforgettable travel experience.
Bottom line: Getting out of your comfort zone can be nerve wracking in any situation, but when it comes to travel, it can be especially difficult since you’ll already be in a new place. The benefits? You’ll return home a more open, positive person ready to face new challenges.