Oh, the life of an introverted soul.

Misunderstood by many, your true self hides from most. Often you’re branded ‘shy’ or ‘quiet’, at worst they’ll think you’re an dull, oddball loner. You growl internally as people say ridiculous things like ‘smile’ or ‘cheer up’, suggesting you need to come out of your shell. The big bad world wasn’t meant for you to explore. You’d be much safer at home, hiding in your room, curtains closed, book open.

To hell with that!

While I love reading, the stories you get from travel are on a whole other planet (um, metaphorically speaking!) and more to the point, the adventures are there waiting for anyone who is ready to take the chance. Yes, everyone should take the chance of living, of chasing ambitions and learning not just more about the world but about them selves along the way.

A snowy mountain at twilight on a cold winter evening in New Zealand.

Because travel will make you grow and develop in many ways.

It will lift you into the clouds and beat you into the ground, forcing you to think and act for yourself like never before, pushing you to your limits and beyond. Here are just seven of the incredible changes that will happen when you travel:

1. You overcome fears

Fear, like a dark shadow, looms over many an introvert, keeping them caged within their own mind. Many people are afraid of planes so the challenges can start early. Travel throws hurdles up all the time.

Furthermore, it presents you with opportunities to do things you would never do at home. Maybe you’ll be afraid, maybe you’ll be nervous, maybe you won’t have a damn clue what you’re doing.

But one thing that is for sure is this. Do it and you’ll have the best fugging time ever.  Afterwards, you’ll want to do more. Whitewater rafting, skydiving, train Muay Thai, bungee jumping, shark-diving, name it, you’re game!

Suddenly, fear isn’t something you shy away from, it’s something you chase after.

2. You become more flexible

While overcoming fears is a big part of personal growth, another is the ability to simply become more flexible. Things you avoided before suddenly seem more doable.

Your mind becomes open to trying new foods, new accommodation styles, new styles of living. All that you passed on before is suddenly intriguing and you’re willing to dive in and experiment at every turn. You become more patient and understanding, willing to learn another way…even if you still think your way rocks!

3. You learn not to care what other people think of you

Fear of taking action is one type that stops many people from growing.

Another one that stops them people coming out of their shell is the fear of being judged for taking action. Social pressures to conform to what is the accepted norm, whether it comes from family, friends or even random people, can keep people bound. It can be crippling to their inner ambitions, trapping them in an unhappy existence.

Many of us give too much credence to the opinions of others, to the point our lives become directed and dictated by the concerns and thoughts of other people.

How messed up is that? We get one life and we’re afraid to live it to the full because of other people’s opinions. You can’t take that job as a snowboarding coach in New Zealand because Big Steve and all the tough lads in that pub you never really go to might say you’re totally not cool?

After you travel long enough, you will see how ridiculous this mindset is. You become more self-aware and with that, you become more confident in who you are and how you want to live.

When it comes to the choices you make about your own life, there’s only one opinion that matters.

 

Man jumping from boat into clear blue ocean water.
Taking a leap of faith into uncharted territory will spark personal growth.

4. Travel sparks creativity

Books stir imagination and breathe adventure into the mind. When you travel and get to have adventures of your own, or mix with people who make you insanely jealous and inspired with incredible tales of their journey, you find your brain in overdrive with ideas for plans, possibilities and just downright fantasy.

Creativity is within everyone and when you have fascinating fuel flowing to your mind all the time, a fire ignites. Suddenly, you want to make things happen. No longer are the ideas a figment of your imagination, they’re living, breathing things, like big golden carrots dangling in front of your eager little paws.

You’re writing for the world to read. Or maybe you’re busking on the streets, singing your heart out for those locals who can’t understand a word you say. People are in awe as you mesmerize with your quirky fashion. Others are envious of your adventurous van life brimming with dream-weavers, shells and stories.

Or maybe they’re just plain stunned as you shove them out of the way to get your perfect artsy Instagram snap of that bridge as the sun drops to the perfect height. Who cares if they grumble? You waited an hour for that sunset before they plonked their butt right in front of your shot!

Artist at work here!


5. Travel makes you better at communication

When you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and your phone kicks the bucket, you might panic without things like GPS and translation apps to dig you out.

But if there’s one thing travel teaches anybody, it’s that as humans we all share a universal language.

Sure, the actual language barrier can be frustrating. But fear not!
Between charades, stick-man drawings, comical acting and caveman-esque attempts at the few words of local lingo that your brain has retained, you manage to muddle through almost any situation.

After a while, it’s natural and you think little of speaking to anybody. Opening your mouth to a stranger isn’t so daunting now.

Speaking with people from other countries allows you to mold and adapt these forms of communication for different levels, depending on the shared English level between you. In any case, your clear and crisp speech and Level 10 charades game rarely fails to get your point across.

It only gets embarrassing when you go home to your family and they ask why you are speaking to them like a robot with ADHD doing an interpretive dance.

Clear blue skies above a mountain road in New Zealand
It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey!


6. You can deal with adversity

Once you’ve been on the road for a while, you’re going to hit some nasty roadblocks.

Sooner or later an unfortunate, unavoidable, swirling shit storm will cut across your path and chase that happy vacation vibe off to the hills. It’s inevitable. You’ve been warned!

While you may be tempted to go running after it, the reality of being alone in an alien environment, without your support network from home around soon shakes you into action.

Life is kicking your ass and moping in an hostel dorm isn’t going to solve the problem.
Travel forces you to grow into the confident, assertive son o’ bitch that can get out that door and get shiz done.

It may mean becoming more resourceful with what little you have to work with, developing a new approach or even standing up to someone who has wronged you. Even if your voice croaks and your hands are shaking, you’ll get it done.


7. You learn to lead

Realistically, travel is something anybody can do. If there’s a will, there’s a way. It doesn’t take any particular skill or talent. Therefore, it’s not like you’re truly achieving or accomplishing anything incredible or noteworthy by jumping on a few planes and taking some photos while you hide behind your sunglasses.

However, when you’ve lived abroad, worked in new jobs, escaped tricky encounters in foreign lands, navigated many an adventure on alien territory and got ridiculously lost without money, GPS or basic language skills, yet still found your way home again, every single time, then something inside definitely changes.

Without realizing, you’ve come out of your shell and grown into the stronger person you were destined to be. Introverted does not always equate to quiet and shy. Your true self is emerging.

These mini-accomplishments on their own add up and without realizing it, you’ve become adept at navigating troubled waters.  After you’ve been through a few scrapes, you can assess things better going forward, putting that introspection to good use to ensure you never get fooled twice.

Before you know it, people are asking you for advice, they’re asking you how things should be done. They want to know your opinion on the best way forward.

Holy smokes, do they think you’re some kind of leader now? Run quick before they ask another question!

How has travel helped you to grow? Do you have a story when you had to come out of your shell on the road? Step up and make your mark in the comments below!

Western backpacker man standing in front of rice paddies in Asia.
Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself.