Travel and Personal Growth: Josephine Remo On Why & How Traveling Can Help Us Become Better Human Beings
An interview with Maria Angelova
Making a habit out of staying in alternative places, and not just your standard hotel or resort, is a great way to turn travel into an opportunity for personal growth. Try to research if some accommodation options in the area sound interesting.
Thankfully, the world is open for travel once again. Traveling can broaden our horizons and make space for people to become more open-minded. How can travel give us the opportunity for personal growth? What are some ways that travel can help us become better human beings? As a part of our series about “How Traveling Can Help Us Become Better Human Beings”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Josephine Remo.
Josephine Remo is a former flight attendant of seven years, whose biggest passion is traveling. For the past ten years, Josephine has dedicated all her spare time to travel and is currently living as a digital nomad. Josephine writes travel guides and travel tips from places she has visited all over the world on her blog, josephineremo.com.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a small town about 40 km north of Copenhagen, Denmark. A small beach town called Snekkersten.
Snekkersten is the kind of place where you know most people living around the residential roads and you can visit your friends walking to each other’s houses or by riding a bike. You have the forest in the back and the beach in the front. As a kid, I couldn’t imagine a better place to grow up.
I am a middle child with two sisters, and as children, we would fight each other but also come up with crazy games. I was a very active child and I had a lot of energy. I was curious about a lot of things, liked to go to school, and wanted to try as many things as possible. In addition, I liked to read a lot of fantasy books and would dream myself away into other realities. Anything that related to different worlds, countries, and other cultures would spike my interest, and I would dream of being away in places far from home. For months I was obsessing over the kid’s version of “The King and I” and couldn’t stop thinking about the golden country of Burma.
At the same time, I was relying on familiar surroundings and would get extremely uncomfortable if I was facing anything new. I would put my clothes out and ready for the next day and do certain actions on a tight weekly schedule that I created for myself. Like cleaning my aquarium every Sunday at exactly 4 pm. I guess you could say that I suffered a bit from children’s anxiety.
When I was 12 years old, my parents told me that we were moving to Australia one year later and I didn’t believe it until the day we were taking off. Moving away from everything I knew from home was terrifying and very sad for me. I was uncomfortable speaking a new language and people at my new school would mock me for my accent. I felt odd and excluded, and I missed home a lot. However, after about a year I was more integrated into the culture, had a lot of friends, and liked my life there. Sometime during those years, I outgrew most of my fears and anxieties.
Two years later, my parents decided to head back home. The last years of high school in Denmark were a weird time for me. I struggled to be back home with my childhood friends where it seemed like time had stopped while I had been away. People had gotten older, but nothing had, other than me, truly changed. I missed my friends in Australia and had another round of feeling like I was missing out on everything. The problem was that neither place felt like home anymore and I constantly felt like the odd one out.
At 16 I started working at restaurants, hotels, and events to save money. I didn’t care much for school and I couldn’t see myself in any specific job or place in the future. I knew I wanted freedom, I hated boundaries, and I would avoid doing anything that didn’t make direct sense to me. I felt lost but also very confident in my abilities.
When I was 18 I graduated high school and immediately moved out from home. I didn’t have a single clue about what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to travel. I had this grand idea that I would save up a bunch of money and disappear into the world. I quickly realized that it is difficult saving a lot of money while working restaurant jobs when you have rent and expenses to cover. That was the time I discovered the job as a flight attendant.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I always dreamt of starting a travel blog where I could share travel advice and inspire people to travel. The first big trip I took was a three-month solo trip to South America at 19 years old. It completely changed me and my perception of the world, and after that, I would encourage everyone to go out and travel more.
While the travel blog seemed like the perfect place to share my views, I was always overwhelmed by how to get started and felt insecure. I was scared of coming off as a clown and worried that people would judge me. Because of this, I spend years thinking about it and building up courage.
When Covid hit in 2020 I was still working for the airline. Since the airline industry was one of the places where Covid hit the hardest, I was fired. This was a huge blow to my plans and sense of identity after seven years of working for the company.
However, while I was working as a flight attendant I completed a university degree in Media Production and Management. Luckily I finished my degree just in time to land a job during Covid. I started working for a production house in Copenhagen on a large Netflix production called “The Chestnut Man”. Though the colleagues were great and the job rewarding, I quickly started feeling restless and like I was in the wrong place. Here I was with a fancy job using my university degree just as expected and planned. I had taken all the steps and actively participated in creating a life that now felt completely wrong.
On social media, I stumbled across a job offer that immediately spiked my interest. They were searching for a social media manager who could create content for their different platforms. This was to be done at their four different surf camps worldwide and the person hired would spend three months in each location before heading for the next. It sounded downright perfect and with a degree making me an expert and a friend to recommend me for the position, I felt like the perfect candidate. In my head, I was already quitting my job, packing my bags, and on a plane to the first location.
I never heard back from them even though I reached out several times.
Now I went from feeling restless to feeling downright unhappy. I couldn’t sleep at night trying to figure out my next move and what to do with my life and career. All this made me think about what I truly wanted to do and deep dive into what was holding me back. I realized that I didn’t need a surf camp to work and travel. There are thousands of opportunities and ways to create this lifestyle. The travel blog idea came back to mind and I started thinking about how my degree could land me jobs in all types of online fields, and remotely so.
I started obsessing about creating a new life for myself and spend all my time watching YouTube videos on how to build a website. I was self-studying as much as possible and would even eat lunch at work while watching tutorials. Step by step I build my website and launched my travel blog. On the side, I also found a freelance job that I could take with me anywhere I decided to go. When my contract ran out on the Netflix production I declined an extension and also declined a job offer at another Netflix show at a different office.
To sum it up, you can say that what inspired and pushed me was a combination of Covid, being fired, and later being rejected by, what sounded like, the dream job. This forced me to look inwards and finally pursue my goals.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
In all my obsession and stress about creating a new life and pursuing a new career, I spoke to my friends about what was going on. My closest friends are still the people I grew up with and they have been by my side during my years of living abroad, traveling, and realizing what I wanted to do.
When I told them about what I was thinking of doing, they were all encouraging and said that if I couldn’t stop thinking about it, then it was exactly what I should pursue. In addition, they all convinced me that I would be great at sharing useful travel information after all my adventures. In addition, my family was a great support and thought everything sounded exciting. However, I think they have always been a little nervous about my crazy ideas, solo trips, and restlessness.
In my transition from living and working in Copenhagen to full-time traveling and life as a digital nomad, a few YouTubers especially inspired me. The people who I admire and who helped me the most are Sorelle Amore and Lost LeBlanc. Both of them are great at advocating traveling and pursuing your dream lifestyle. They helped me believe that it was achievable for me as well as anyone else.
It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
When I decided to quit everything and head off to travel full-time and work as a digital nomad, I met my current boyfriend. He is from Argentina and wanted to go home to visit his family after four years of being abroad. In that line, we decided to head to Argentina together, buy a van, and do a van conversion. The idea was to create a van that we could live in and travel from Argentina to Mexico.
We made it to Argentina and bought a van. Quickly after that, we spend all our time building the van with our own blood, sweat, and occasional tears. After five months of spending all our time, money, and energy, we were ready to take off.
We started our trip and headed south to Patagonia, a dream destination for both of us. Two months into the trip we were robbed of almost all our electronics while having lunch. Since we both worked online we needed to buy two new computers to work from. In addition, the war in Ukraine made both our job offers drop significantly because of the financial situation in Europe. Lastly, Patagonia is a wonderful travel destination with its endless raw nature. There is just one problem; you won’t find a lot of wifi in Patagonia, which makes it very difficult to work remotely.
After four months of traveling and living in the van, facing an antarctic cold front ending in the earliest winter in ten years, and numerous car troubles, we decided to drive the car back to Buenos Aires and quit the project. After five months of building the van, we traveled four months in it and never even made it out of Argentina.
It all felt like a big failure and a huge embarrassment since I’d blown up the whole trip and van life all over my travel blog and social media channels.
You can’t plan everything, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with changing course if things are not working out. I realized I was sticking to a dream out of principle, stubbornness, and because I was embarrassed to quit. Though it didn’t go as planned I still learned a lot from the whole experience. I learned how to convert a car, I learned that what you see on social media is often very far away from the truth, I learned that it’s best to take one day at a time, and I learned that things do not always go as planned. On top, I got to experience some stunning parts of Argentina.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
My favorite life lesson quote that I go by is “it is expensive to be cheap”.
For this, I have a story.
A few years ago I visited Vietnam and I had an incredible time. I got to experience the culture and visit all the main highlights, including Halong Bay.
Only a short while after my trip a family member was heading to Vietnam with some friends. Obviously, they wanted some travel advice and asked what to visit and what to do in Halong Bay. I explained to them everything that I had done and how most hotels and hostels have partners that will organize a tour. This tour includes transport directly from the hotel and a boat that will take you island hopping for two nights. While it was a little more expensive than other things in Vietnam, you got a lot of value for money and I had a great few days there.
The group was not too keen on the setup, however, and they were sure that they could get cheaper and better by organizing everything themselves. I explained to them that I would expect it to be difficult and a lot of hassle as the road there is complex and the harbor in Halong Bay is a bit of a mess. Again, they insisted that they would find better and cheaper on their own.
When they headed off towards the bay they spend several hours figuring out busses and traveling. When they arrived they were hungry, tired, stressed, and sweaty. They started walking down the harbor to find an office or a person that would take them on a one-day tour into the famous bay. After a little while they found a guy sitting inside a small office who even spoke decent English. They smoothly arranged a full-day tour for the next day that would include lunch and drinks. The price was probably about half of what other places were charging.
The day after they arrived and were taken down to a dock where there was a small boat waiting for them. They headed off into the bay as planned and after about an hour they started returning. The boatman didn’t speak any English and ignored their protests. There was no lunch or drinks, the tour took less than two hours, and the boat never made it out into the actual Halong Bay with the magnificent views. When they returned, the guy at the office no longer spoke English, refused to refund them any money, and kicked them out of the office. Needless to say, they did not have a very good time.
While I am all for authentic travel experiences and I do not do a lot of luxury traveling, I have had similar experiences a few times and learned the lesson. Sometimes it makes sense to spend a little more to have a better, easier, and more enjoyable experience. That applies to every situation for me and not just when traveling.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
My travel blog is an ever-growing community of travelers where I share travel advice and link up with people. It makes me incredibly happy when someone comments on my posts saying they got a lot of benefits from what I wrote. That is why I started the whole project. I write a weekly newsletter to my email subscribers where I share travel advice and try to inspire my audience. On my blog, I also offer help in terms of travel planning to make it manageable for people to visit their dream destinations.
In addition, I have a future e-book in mind where I plan to share my insights and tips for people traveling by plane. After seven years of flying, I have witnessed all kinds of travelers and seen the main pains of many people traveling by air.
Lastly, I have been working on launching my YouTube channel for a while. Unfortunately, a lot of my work and material got stolen when we had the robbery in the van in Argentina. However, it is coming soon. My goal is to make my YouTube channel a fun and light place where people can get travel inspiration and head out on their own adventures.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss travel and personal growth. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or personal experience, why do you think travel can lead to personal growth? Can you share a story?
I strongly believe that traveling can lead to personal growth because it broadens your view and puts your life into perspective.
Me being from Denmark I come from a part of the world where the standard living conditions are way above the average. With my family, I would always go on, what I would like to call, vacation but we never really traveled. By that, I mean deep diving into new cultures and learning from a new place. We would go several times a year to our house in Italy where we would be isolated on a mountain. Whenever we did go anywhere we would always try to avoid other people and be as solitary as possible. If we ever talked about going to places around Asia or South America those places were always referred to as dangerous, dirty, or full of people. Probably that is what made me even more curious to experience it for myself.
When I did finally go and visit all those places I could see some truth in what I had been told. However, it wasn’t my truth.
I was amazed to see how other people lived, experience their cultures, and witness all the kindness in the chaos. That was the biggest eye-opener and realization for me that made me grow and still amazes me. People will be happy and make the most of everything, with way less than the average person has back home.
A recent survey from Psychology Today showed that over 80% of participants found that travel helped them with problem solving or decision making. Why do you think this is true for so many people?
I believe that humans are creatures of habit and when at home, we go on autopilot. Most of our activities we do not put much thought into throughout the day. This can be making our breakfast, heading the same way to work, or visiting the same bar on the weekends.
When traveling people are forced into uncommon and, sometimes, uncomfortable situations. This, compared to your life back home, requires your full attention. There is no autopilot for a new place. Because of this, I believe that traveling teaches us to think outside of the norm and make quicker decisions because we are constantly accessing our surroundings.
Do you think travel enhances our mindfulness, optimism, or sense of gratitude? How? Can you please explain with an example or story?
I did a silent meditation retreat in Myanmar once and it opened up my eyes in terms of how our brains work and how to be more mindful. It is the greatest gift I have ever given to myself and I plan to do more meditation and yoga retreats in the future. I don’t think that enhanced mindfulness is a given just by traveling, but I do believe that we can learn a lot about it by visiting places where it is practiced and by wanting to learn.
For me, our optimism and gratitude are strongly enhanced by traveling. When we visit a new place it puts our life into perspective back home and I believe it is very healthy to have a better understanding of how other people live. This is also why I strongly promote traveling to places where things aren’t necessarily as easy or polished as back home.
You appreciate your warm shower, clean drinking water, and functioning toilets much more when you have seen that many people don’t have that. What I find most inspiring is to see how giving, kind, and happy people still are, without the comforts that many people take for granted. Because truthfully, being in a position where we have the time and money to leave our hometown, is a privilege that most people don’t have. Experiencing all this makes us more optimistic and grateful for our lives and less worried about whatever problems we might be dealing with.
Surely not everyone who travels automatically becomes an exemplar of human decency. What are a few reasons why some people completely miss out on the growth opportunities that travel can offer?
I once met a group of Danish girls in Mexico. While I was there to try new things and see what Mexico has to offer, they were there to party during the American spring break. They were spending their two weeks following the party crowds, hanging out with Americans, staying in enclosed resorts, and refusing to eat anywhere that didn’t serve western food. On top, they thought that Mexicans were disgusting and would criticize all the locals passing by.
While this group was a little extreme their goal of hanging out with westerners and not wanting to try local food, is something that I’ve seen many travelers mistakenly do. In addition, I believe that anyone who judges the culture and the locals immediately isolates themselves from all the lessons they could learn from the destination.
This is an obvious reason and mentality that ensures that people miss out on the growth opportunities that traveling otherwise provides.
Thank you for that. Now for our main question; What are your “5 Habits You Should Develop In Order Make Travel Into An Opportunity For Personal Growth?”
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/pKfYkyGOVeE
There are several habits that you can develop to incorporate personal growth when traveling and these are my favorites.
1. Travel alone or, at least, explore alone when traveling.
Though it might sound uncomfortable or unappealing to some people to travel alone, it is the number one habit that will enhance personal growth when traveling.
When I took my first solo trip I was terrified and I never meant to travel alone. However, after a friend canceled our travel plans, I decided to give solo traveling a try. In the days leading up to my departure, I was getting more and more nervous. I was scared of getting lost, being lonely, or not having a good time. Very quickly I discovered that none of that was true and the problem ended up being more about finding time for myself.
The great thing about traveling alone is that you get to know yourself and your abilities. In addition, you are much more open to experiencing new things and meeting new people since you don’t have someone from home to lean on. Traveling alone is a very empowering feeling because you can overcome a lot of fears and boundaries that you might have made for yourself.
If taking a solo trip seems overwhelming then try incorporating doing things alone while traveling with others. This can be anything from visiting a local market alone, going to a museum, eating a meal alone, or taking off for a day or two to do something different.
To practice this, the first step is to break the habit of feeling uncomfortable with being alone. A few ways to do so is to imagine yourself in a set-up you want to be in, doing something just for you. This can be something simple like visiting a museum you find interesting or watching the sunset on a specific beach. This will mentally help you think about doing something without it depending on others. In addition, try to create situations where you feel comfortable doing things alone. For instance, when I first started traveling solo, I would always bring a book with me when I ate by myself and listen to music while walking around alone. This made me feel more comfortable at that moment and later I started doing the same things without those remedies without even thinking about it.
2. Go to places you haven’t been.
A lot of times we travel to recharge our batteries and visiting a new place can seem overwhelming because it requires more energy. Going to the same destination, staying in the same place, and hanging out with the same people can seem like the obvious and most comfortable choice. However, I would advise anyone to go explore new places as often as possible because it teaches us much more.
When I was studying at university I had the option to go on a six-month exchange. My dream destination was Japan, but when that wasn’t an option I chose South Korea. Honestly, other destinations sounded more appealing to me but South Korea was the only place I hadn’t been to out of my options.
I knew that there was a good chance that I would struggle living in Seoul. As a massive metropolis, it is nothing like home with a culture very different from mine. On top, it is extremely populated, polluted, and busy. Exactly like I expected I had a difficult time adapting to my new surroundings for the first few months and I didn’t like being there. By the end, I had a lot of fun but was also looking forward to going home where smog is not blocking out the daylight and rain doesn’t turn into acid rain because of pollution.
Though I could have chosen a place that I had already been to and loved, like New Zealand, Australia, or California, I knew I wouldn’t learn anything from that. Looking back at my six months in Seoul now, I only remember the good parts and the crazy quirky things I experienced. I learned so much from being in a place so different about myself and another culture. I’m not planning on moving to Seoul again anytime soon, but I had a very rewarding exchange and a different experience.
Looking at a new travel destination with a mindset of learning or experiencing something different, is a great habit to embrace if you wish to incorporate personal growth. Try to practice thinking about what you find specifically different or interesting about a new place. This will also make you seek out these parts of the destination when you are there.
3. Seek out new experiences and activities.
For my first time traveling, I chose to go to South America because I wanted to hike to Machu Picchu. I had never been anywhere that resembled it before and never tried hiking, but it sounded fun. Turned out that I loved the hiking part more than the end destination and now I go hiking whenever I’m in a location that allows it.
I realized during that first trip that there were a lot of activities that I enjoy and had never tried before. Since then I have taken many trips in dedication to trying something new. These include road-tripping and camping in New Zealand, meditating in Myanmar, and diving in Mexico.
Traveling should be used to have fun and play around. A good habit is to push yourself a little out of your comfort zone and discover what you do and don’t like. A way to incorporate this is to plan a trip around a specific activity or to research your travel destination. If there is something available that sounds interesting to you, then plan to give it a try.
4. Grab every opportunity to travel and grow.
The reason why I think this is an important habit to include in the list is that I hear so many people missing out on travel opportunities and later regretting it.
All my friends and classmates who were interested in doing an exchange student program and didn’t go ended up regretting it. The same applies to people who had the chance to work abroad for a while. While the situations are all different the excuses are almost always the same. “I didn’t know what to do with my apartment”, “the university wasn’t helping out enough”, “I missed the application deadline because I have been busy”, and “it turned out to be expensive”, just to name some.
Though they are all fair excuses, those excuses are all examples of people letting their fears get the best of them. Because travel planning is overwhelming and a trip can end up being expensive, but if it is something you truly want to do, then it’s worth doing. If you have the opportunity and desire to go then put in the work and effort. Because you won’t regret going but you will regret missing out.
Make it a habit to see opportunities instead of focusing on the hard work and obstacles related to traveling. Be aware if you have developed a habit of making excuses when you face something new or feel insecure. Practice overcoming this so you don’t miss out on what could have been a good experience.
5. Stay in alternative places.
Making a habit out of staying in alternative places, and not just your standard hotel or resort, is a great way to turn travel into an opportunity for personal growth. Try to research if some accommodation options in the area sound interesting.
The reason for this is, that hotels and resorts are great for relaxing but you won’t learn much about yourself, the culture, or the country you are visiting from there. The chances for that are much bigger at a place like a local farm or a homestay, and amongst your new surroundings.
The best example I have of this is when my sister and I were traveling in the Philippines, visiting the Banaue rice terraces. While there were several options to stay at a hotel, we chose to stay at a homestay and farm in the actual rice fields. We were dropped off at the top of a hill by our tuk-tuk and told we would have to walk the rest of the way.
With our heavy backpacks, we walked 30 minutes downhill, into the rice fields, and up again to the place we were staying. When we got there we were welcomed by a nice Vietnamese family and taken to our rooms. Later that evening they prepared dinner for us and we all sat down by the fire outside and began to talk. The husband, who knew a bit of English, explained to us all about their daily lives at the farm and their small rice production. He explained to us how they, during harvesting, would do the same walk we just did carrying rice up and down the hills for weeks.
I know that it was probably all uncomfortable, but I do not remember how we slept that night, the shared bathrooms, the mosquitos, or the heat. I do, however, clearly remember the view, the walk, and the moment shared with that family.
From your experience, does travel have a negative impact on personal growth too? Is there a downside to travel?
I believe that traveling can have a negative impact on personal growth and have a negative outcome in two cases.
The first is if you go traveling to escape from your life back home. Because by this, returning home can make you even more unhappy. It’s important not to use traveling to compensate for something you are dissatisfied with and run away from existing issues. Traveling does not automatically fix all problems and you need to have your home base in order.
The second case where I see traveling harming personal growth is when people use traveling to self-promote. By this, they go to places that look good on social media or even go to places that are outside their budget because it sounds better. This is to me a very unhealthy way of traveling that has a negative impact on a person. Traveling should be for you and not for what anyone else will think.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)
A person that I admire and follow is the American author and blogger Mark Manson. I agree with many of his beliefs and admire how he successfully delivers a message about a mindful and spiritual mindset in an edible way. To me, he has a lot of valuable life lessons and views to share that can help people be happier and filter out unnecessary noise. He is a person I would love to link with.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Anyone can follow me on my travel blog and by signing up for my weekly newsletter. There I share travel stories and information and hope to inspire my audience to go out and explore. In addition, I share what I do on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and soon YouTube.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at email@example.com. To schedule a free consultation, click here.