Road Trip: Gaining Perspective
I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel extensively – on typical vacations, road trips, and business trips – and one thing I found consistently is that every trip has yielded insights into myself, my relationships (both with my travel partners and those left behind at home), my career choices, and even my hobbies.
Relationships stand out because almost every road trip or vacation I’ve taken has permanently altered how I felt about at least one person. I’ve returned from many trips and ended relationships with friends and boyfriends. It was only when I got far enough away from that person – literally – that I could see our relationship clearly.
A college boyfriend was particularly surprised by this. I left for a two-week vacation in Thailand filled of passion for him - only to return and promptly break up with him. It was only when I was there in Thailand, wandering cities and exploring temples with my mother on this trip, that I could see his cruelty and his controlling nature. I was out from under his "spell".
If you’re in a tangled relationship with someone, I seriously recommend you go on a vacation without that person. You’ll be amazed at how clear everything becomes.
Hankering to move somewhere new? Traveling there or anywhere can help.
On one hand, traveling to the place where you want to move can be great as you’ll be able to compare your fantasies with the reality of the place. Just remember, living somewhere is much different than vacationing there. If you really want to get a feel for it, pick a neighborhood you might want to live in and go to all the stores in that neighborhood, walk around the downtown area, and talk to people that live there. Go there at a different time of day/week, like at night or on the weekend.
I’ll never forget an apartment a boyfriend and I had just after college when we moved to Maryland. We visited there on a weekday during the daytime. It seemed very nice and the neighborhood was quiet. Little did we know the place turned into a ghetto at night!
There were drug dealers hanging around all night and their customers constantly cruised the parking lot. Every weekend there was a group of men who worked on their cars in the parking lot, leaving the lot littered with parts and stained with oil. Had we just returned in the evening and on the weekend, we would have known and skipped signing that lease.
I mention that traveling anywhere can help you decide if you want to move. I traveled to a friend’s wedding in Michigan a couple of years ago when I was thinking about moving away from Connecticut/NYC area.
I had a great time at the wedding, but otherwise I was by myself, and let me tell you – hanging out at a bar in Michigan is not the same thing as hanging out in a bar in Manhattan! I was so happy to see that familiar skyline on my return flight, I nearly cried. The places I’d been considering for relocation had all been quieter places, a lot like Michigan, and that trip changed my plans completely.
Discovering things about yourself you never considered before is another benefit of travel. I find that some of this comes from being far away from your day-to-day life – once again, gaining perspective - and some of it comes from interacting with your traveling companions on your road trip.
On several road trips my sister-in-law has pointed out something that I never saw in myself: that I can be impatient and bossy at times. It really made me examine myself – and though it hurt, it was worthwhile. It’s hard to look critically at yourself, easier to shrug off people’s criticisms, but ask yourself this: don’t you want to be the best person you can be? Don’t you want to grow in every aspect of your life?
Unpleasant personal qualities hurt you more than anyone else. They hurt your chances at success in your career, your relationships, and your daily happiness. A road trip puts you in close proximity with friends and family and brings a lot to the surface. It’s extremely valuable to see your trip as an opportunity for growth and a chance to build closer relationships with the people you care about.
So, do you have to take every criticism as the word of God? No – you just have to check one thing: your feelings. If your feelings get hurt when someone criticizes you, it’s probably something you know on some level but are in denial about.
For example, if someone told me that I interrupt too often, I will readily admit I do and my feelings wouldn’t be hurt. It’s a terrible habit and I’ve made a lot of improvement over the years, but I’m not at 100% yet. But if my feelings are hurt by someone’s criticism, I know it’s time to start examining myself regarding that problem.
Alternately, someone can criticize me about something I which I know to be incorrect and I feel no reaction other than "that is wrong". In that case, I know it’s okay to dismiss it – my gut reaction says it all.
If you’re at a crossroads of any kind, be it career choices or other life choices; take a vacation – but not to escape your problems! Instead, see it as an opportunity to clear your eyes and head of the things that get in the way – that everyday stuff that clutters and clouds until you can’t see straight. See your vacation as both a fun and relaxing experience and a chance to grow personally. Re-create with your recreation: you’ll reap so much from your road trip that your whole life will be transformed for the better.
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