Why Travel Feels Like Home
Your Authentic Self As Travel Companion
Years before the email was invented and COVID-19 later brought remote working to the mainstream, I used to sit and dream of a work-from-anywhere lifestyle. In fact, as there was no concept of working from anywhere at that time, I thought of it as a travel lifestyle.
I didn’t know anyone who actually lived that way except for a few travel writers whose lives were so different from mine, they may as well have been road-tripping on the moon.
People told me that I was being unrealistic, that only rich people can live a “vacation” lifestyle. The rest of us best settle down and submit to the 9–5 job, the school calendar, living for the weekend, and PTO (paid time off).
But deep down I knew I wasn’t the only one with a bad case of wanderlust, and it turns out I was right.
One 2017 study shows that Americans fantasize about vacations an average of 44 minutes weekly. 63% say daydreaming about vacation helps put their mind “more at ease.”
Beyond the Margarita-Soaked Vacay
Now, dreaming of a tropical cruise or the next road trip may sound escapist, and I’m sure there is an element of that for many people. However, the following research may surprise you; I know it surprised me.
Most people don’t want to lay on the beach and never leave the resort. In another survey, a whopping 79% of respondents agreed with the statement that “It’s good to get outside of your comfort zone and try new things”.
Dr. Adam Galinsky at Columbia Business School and the author of many travel and creativity studies, says that travel makes us more resilient and creates more cognitive flexibility. One example is when our brain lights up with insights and connections between experiences that we might not otherwise notice.
It happens to me all the time when I’m on the road; in fact, I keep Google Notes on my phone to jot down notes because I get so many juicy insights when I travel.
Cognitive flexibility is also a precursor for Flow State, but first, let's talk about Stuck State.
How We (Might) Spend (Too Much of) Our Time
When we are working through life transitions, our ego interprets the call to change as an existential threat. It can be easy to fall into cramped ways of thinking as a reflexive response to change.
You may be familiar with the fight, flight, or freeze responses. For some of us, our fear brain message is to stay down and hide; for others, it's RUN FAST NOW. For a third group, the impulse is to grab a club and come out swinging.
Quick question for you. How often do you slip into the following?
LIST # 1
- Denying and hiding your true feelings
- Feeling like a victim of life’s circumstance
- Trapped in endless mind chatter, mostly negative
- Feelings of anxiety and worry
- Doubting your decisions
- Rigid thinking
- Desire to impress others
- Doing things you regret
- Maintaining low expectations of yourself and your life
In the book The Art of Smart Thinking, Dr. James Hardt, founder of the Biocybernaut Institute, says those are examples of mental states that signal the ego-mind is in charge. I call it the State of Stuckedness, or Stuck State, and Stuck State sucks.
I should know. Years ago I was living out a protracted midlife crisis that seemed to last 15 years, spending a lot of my time in Stuck State.
Now, check out what Dr. Hardt says are ways of being that show you are working with your authentic self, rather than letting the ego call the shots.
- Feeling generally optimistic
- A feeling of trust in the world
- Not projecting feelings or blaming others
- Ability to accept and receive
- Knowing how to ask for help
- Going with the flow and open to change
- Self-acceptance without judgment
- Acknowledging responsibility for actions and decisions
When I first saw that list a few months ago, I had a real AHA moment.
List #2 is how I naturally feel when I travel. I finally have an explanation for why I was so restless and addicted to travel for most of my life!
Travel was where my authentic self showed up, without me even trying.
I was spending a lot of time in Stuck State, where ego calls the shots, although I didn’t have the self-awareness to see that. All I knew was I could get on a plane and by the time I landed, I felt better, I felt like ME, the me that I was having a hard time manifesting in my “real” life.
And that led to a disorienting sense of feeling more settled — meaning, comfortable with myself — during travel than when I was actually “at home”.
If you like to travel, I bet you can relate to List #2, too, because it’s an accurate list of the mindset required to enjoy travel. Not everyone is going to check off each item, of course, but that’s the point. Travel helps us grow into what’s missing.
List #2 is also a good description of something called “Flow State”. Curious about Flow State? You can check out this article to learn about the powerful connection between travel, brain chemistry and peak performance and creativity.