Transformational Travel: Hilde S Palladino’s Big Idea That Might Change The World
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Know thyself. Dating back to the ancient Greeks, the saying ‘know thyself’ has encouraged people to engage in a search for self-understanding. I once had a client that did excellent work, on a subject she was passionate about, but still found herself burned out, and about to leave her job. It didn’t take us many sessions to understand that her personality type didn’t work in conjunction with the way she worked and that although her field of work was her passion, she had to go about it in a radically new way. Traveling is one of the best ways to confront your values, dig deep into your subconscious and set aside time to reflect on your findings.
As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Hilde S. Palladino.
A connector, inspirator and crime author, Hilde S. Palladino is first and foremost a true explorer. Having lived on three continents, served as a consultant for embassies, NGO’s and travel agencies, she firmly believes that if we all travelled more consciously the world would be a kinder place.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After having founded several businesses, as well as working in corporate for multiple years, I made a clear choice in 2013 to change my everyday life. I wasn’t burned out, just sick of a life where working and working out was all there was. I didn’t want to wait for the weekend to relax, Christmas to have to time to read a book, vacations to be happy. I wanted to be joyful every day, Monday — Sunday. One of my dreams was to write a book, another not having to go in to the office every day unless I wanted to. I also wanted to eat healthier, spend my days in surroundings that gave me energy instead of draining me and do more of the things that was important to me. I decided to quit my corporate job, sell all my belongings and move to Bali. I have moved around thirty times in my life, living on three continents, therefor the moving itself wasn’t the difficult choice. The hardest part was the feeling of starting all over, just a suitcase in hand, and the uncertainty of my choice.
The difficulty was also concerning the fact that I didn’t want to just move my life to a different location. I wanted a new life, one that was radically different from the one I had.
One of the things I did, was to not get a long-term visa for Indonesia, I got one that would require me to leave the country every 60 days. I have to admit I regretted that sometimes, but it forced me to travel, and that was part of what I wanted. Travel, explore, learn about new cultures and myself, that was my mantra.
And here is the clue.
After having travelled extensively for almost two decades, I noticed that all my major life-changing epiphanies came during some kind of journey. There was a pattern there, and it is this. — When we are out of our comfort zones, in a different place, eating different food, talking with different people, spending our days differently than at home, we start to think different thoughts. And when we think different thoughts, we can create massive change in our lives.
We can change our behavior, what we know to be true, and we can solve problems at rapid speed this way. I knew that this knowledge was something I had to share with the world, and thus I made this in to a business.
Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
A woman contacted me a few years back and told me about difficulties at work. Her team wasn’t performing, she felt that communication was part of the problem, but none of the coaches and advisors she had previously consulted was of any help. She needed radical change.
In just one session we mapped out a journey for her. We set her intention, arranged for her to work for an NGO in Indonesia for one week. This was something she had wanted to do, but never gotten around to, mostly because she was worried about the language barriers.
Yes, there was work involved, there was sweating, strange food, miscommunication, but also laughs and lots of time for reflection. What she came home with was not only a clear solution to the issues at work, but a whole new understanding on how to address problems within her team. She saw who needed what, including herself, and with that, a way of thriving through the pandemic when most of her industry crumbled.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
I always reach my goals, and the reason, I believe, is that I always think about the big WHY of the goal. Why is it important? Why should I change my life to obtain it? How will it enrich my life? If the ‘why’ isn’t big enough, or important enough, I don’t do it. I only go after goals that I’m highly motivated to reach.
If I want to start running again just to get slimmer, that isn’t a very inspiring goal to me. If I decide that I want to start running to get in better shape as part of a routine to climb a particular volcano, or to take care of my body to avoid getting cancer again, that is a much more inspirational goal to me, and one that will get me out of bed in the morning.
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
One of the most powerful tools for transformation, traveling is still often overlooked as a means for change. But think about it, — there is not a single adventure without the possibility to experience something new, see the world through new eyes, get new perspectives. Journeys have the power to transform us. If people can use traveling as a way to better their lives, and others, if they could take what they have learned home to their families and friends, I not only think they will have the transformation faster, I believe we could create a better world.
How do you think this will change the world?
We are always impacted by our surroundings, the people we see, meet or live with. But when we travel, what we now bring home are Instagram shots, and the occasional souvenir.
What if we brought a shifted mindset home instead? What if we solved a problem while traveling and brought that home, or to the office? What if we returned with ideas, inspiration, new visions for our lives?
Time and again I have seen that setting an intention for your trip, and looking at traveling as something more than checking a place off your bucket list, has changed lives, and thus the world.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?
In the 90’s I was working in IT and we used to go on these team-building trips that required us to go white-water rafting, throwing ourselves into rough and freezing river waters in order to challenge ourself and thus build better teams. The problem was just that for some people it was way out of their comfort zones, harming them rather than helping them. And it certainly didn’t build better teams. If people think that Transformational Travel is about ‘toughening up’, that they have to climb the highest mountains to achieve success in their lives, they go about it the wrong way.
In order to transform your life, you will have to go outside your comfort zone, but there is a fine line were pushing yourself further isn’t beneficial anymore. That’s why I work with people to determine the best trip for each person, in regards to what you want the outcome to be.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
Absolutely. I was diving in Indonesia a few years back, and although I have hundreds of dives under my belt, I have always been afraid of night-dives. One night though, I decided to face my fears in order to see a nocturnal animal, a Spanish dancer.
Only me and the dive-guide was in the water that night. I told him about my fears, and as we dropped in to the pitch-black sea, he assured me that everything would be alright. Well, it wasn’t. A few minutes into the dive, I panicked, started to cry, and had to surface.
Once back on the boat, the guide came over, telling me that I didn’t have to tell the others that I got scared. -Just say that we didn’t see the creature, he told me. It dawned on me then that we are all afraid of something, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. I obviously knew this mentally, but now the emotional realization was firmly established in me as well. It has guided me ever since. Whenever I have felt hesitant, whether I started a new business, publishing my first novel, my first time speaking on stage, I can always tell myself this, and recall the feeling I had. With that the fearfulness eases.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
This is two-fold. Firstly, we all need to take solid look at the way we travel. The tourism can be a strain on the planet, we hear that all the time. Travelers are looked upon as culture-vultures, selfish consumers, rushing around without understanding what we’re looking at, or what our purpose for being there is. The industry itself can help changing this, by making us more aware of our actions and choices. And we as travelers need to take conscious decisions on what kind of people we want to be.
Secondly, on a deeper level the industry can also help the traveler see how they can make the journey be about something more than just the trip. By seeking to be partners in real change, the industry can guide and support travelers in setting intentions and defining desired outcomes for their travel experience.
I need to work with leaders within the travel industry. I need to partner up with the big players to get my message out there. As the industry start to see how they can create added value to their clients, and guests start to talk about their experiences, we can create real change in the world.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
- Start with why.
We hear this all the time, but how often do we actually do it? In regards to traveling we often pick a destination we would like to visit and then search Google for what to see there. Let’s flip that on its head and think about something you want to change in your life. When we are clear on this, we can map out the journey that would be most beneficial for you.
When I started traveling solo, it was purely to challenge myself to be more street-wise, get more confident, and practice traveling alone to destinations that none of my friends wanted to visit. I chose island-hopping in Thailand as my first solo trip. It was a safe travel, but also one that required me to figure out things by myself. I actually had some nasty episodes there that I had to deal with, and grew immensely on that trip. At the end, I returned home with a much stronger confidence than when I left. Now I travel solo most of the time.
- Get out of your comfort zone.
There is a disruption that happens when we decide to change our lives, businesses or relationships, but I don’t know a single successful person that hasn’t gone through uncomfortable pain to get through to their wildest dreams. Our greatest insights usually comes when we enter the spaces we are afraid to go to, and tackle the challenges that occur. Accepting discomfort is a way to elevate to something bigger, and when you take time to reflect upon what it means to you, magic evidently will happen.
- Learn what drives you.
Get curious, get passionate and find your purpose. As Steven Kotler says, these are the feelings that drive behavior. When we are doing the things we are curious about, it doesn’t feel like hard work. Although it can require effort, when we get curious or passionate, the work feels more like play. I frequently hear people say they don’t have a purpose in life, that they are not interested in anything particular. I certainly don’t think that everyone needs to have world-changing purposes, but most of the ones stating the above have never dug deep enough. They have often never asked the right questions. As I said to a young woman the other day — passion and purpose doesn’t necessarily drop into your head one day, just as often we need to get curious, involve our brain in what Steven Kotler calls pattern recognition or incubation. When we ask ourselves the right question, better answers will come.
- Know thyself .
Dating back to the ancient Greeks, the saying ‘know thyself’ has encouraged people to engage in a search for self-understanding. I once had a client that did excellent work, on a subject she was passionate about, but still found herself burned out, and about to leave her job. It didn’t take us many sessions to understand that her personality type didn’t work in conjunction with the way she worked and that although her field of work was her passion, she had to go about it in a radically new way. Traveling is one of the best ways to confront your values, dig deep into your subconscious and set aside time to reflect on your findings.
- Use journeys as a problem-solving mechanism.
I had always wanted to write a book, but finding my creativity in my everyday life was less than fruitful. It wasn’t until I moved abroad with a clear intention to do more of what I loved that my writing practice started to produce results. In our everyday lives, 97% of what we do is unconscious, and as much as 70 % of our unconscious thoughts were put there by someone else. A majority of our thoughts and actions are the same as the ones we had yesterday. Going on a journey lets us start disrupting that repeat pattern and create transformation in your life.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
- Learn to thrive on change.
This is my most important one. When I was working in the IT-industry in the 90’s, I saw how painful the new technology was for some of the older leaders. Some of them just retired early, some had their secretary do the work, but the most successful was that ones that had learned to thrive on change. The ever-changing technology of today is something that many of us master well, but recession, lock-down, change in management or anything that interjects with previous work or home routines can be just as daunting.
Challenges come in all shapes and forms. They can be physical, psychological, mental. They can come in solitude, or in relationships with others. To seek out change, and learn to love it, will put you miles ahead of the crowd.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.