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Written by Jenny McWhirter on 25 / 02 / 2016

Gap Year Advice

It might sound a bit cheesy but, by choosing to do some gap year travel, you're embarking on a life-changing adventure that will enable you to develop as an individual. What does this mean? It means that travelling does all sorts of wonderful things that make you an equally wonderful person, basically.

I know how scary it can be to set off into the big wide world on your own, believe me – I’ve done it myself a few times now, and still get butterflies every time. But with each trip my confidence has grown immensely, and that’s just one way in which travelling has helped me.

How Can Travelling Help You?

Are you going away on your own for the first time? Don’t be afraid, grab it by the horns and be sure to savour every minute! There are virtually endless benefits to travelling, be it in a group or independently, and many ways in which it teaches you to grow. Here are a few examples…

It Pushes You Out of Your Comfort Zone

In a good way, of course. Going beyond your comfort zone will benefit you not only whilst travelling, but will help you enormously once you’re back as well.

As Chilean psychologist Daniel Vera said in his 2012 TED talk, if you allow it to happen then 'the act of travelling can provide more lessons than you would ever expect'. Check out the full talk and a ton of other useful insights, below.

When abroad, you’ll have to get used to talking to people in other languages, eating all sorts of unusual things and living without home comforts. This will open your mind and better prepare you when exposed to such things in your home country.

Travelling Gives You Confidence

As I mentioned before, travelling makes you far more confident as it forces you to cope with a series of challenging situations, giving you the assurance that you ARE capable of doing things that you perhaps previously thought you weren’t.

These situations can come in all forms – meeting new people, getting lost, having your possessions stolen – but the feeling of overcoming each one will always be the same and equally rewarding.

Not confident about going abroad for more than a month? Take a look at the latest addition to our gap year programs, 4 Weeks in Madagascar: Forest Conservation + Island Hopping + Teaching, where you can spend 4 weeks in the beautiful surroundings of Madagascar. It's still packed full of amazing experiences, and all within a single month...

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It Makes You More Interesting

People say that being interested makes you interesting, therefore simply having a desire to see the world makes you a more interesting person.

On top of that, think of all the weird and wonderful stories you’ll come back with – it’s unique experiences like these that make travellers such fascinating people.

Humans Need Change

Nobody wants to live a dull, monotonous life. But sadly, many of us end up getting sucked in by our daily routine. Change is essential - variety makes us feel alive and engaged and is one of the six fundamental human needs per life coach extraordinaire Tony Robbins. It helps us grow and learn new things, enabling us to discover more about ourselves and our lives.

The changes that we experience travelling make it easier for us to adapt to new situations back home, meaning that we don’t panic when something unexpectedly shifts. By the way, if you're intrigued by Tony Robbins and his theories on human needs, make sure you watch his famous lecture (below) by way of an introduction.

It Enables the Development of Interpersonal Skills

The skills I’m referring to here are ones that can’t be taught in a classroom; they can only be learned through experience. Travel helps you to mature and become more independent and self-reliant.

It also enables you to develop skills such as communication, time keeping, perseverance and leadership, all of which are invaluable.

Thinking ahead, this article from the Guardian looks at how the development of these skills may be important to boost your CV, and impress a potential future employer.

Travelling Leads to Mindfulness

What’s mindfulness? According to mindfulnessinschools.org, it involves learning to direct your attention to an experience as it unfolds. Or, as Dr Jutta Tobias describes it below: 'Paying attention with a particular intention'.

It’s about approaching a situation with curiosity and an open mind, rather than worrying about the outcome, and responding well to that situation. Travelling leads to mindfulness, as this is the approach we learn to take when on the road.

You Learn More About Yourself

Sounds like a cliché, doesn’t it? However, there’s no denying that by taking ourselves out of our usual environment, we learn more about ourselves – it can be difficult to accept at first, but we realise just how small and insignificant we are in this great big world.

Travelling alone in particular gives us time to really reflect on what we like and dislike, what’s important to us, and what simply doesn’t matter as much as we thought.

I would suggest that by writing a blog, or keeping a journal, you will always be able to look back on what you learnt while travelling. A well-kept travel journal is a wonderful memoir, per Lyn Hughes on wanderlust.co.uk and if you fancy starting a blog, have a read of this article.

You Learn Not to Take Things for Granted

It’s easy to forget just how lucky we are when we live in a wealthy country surrounded by people equally as fortunate as ourselves. Travel to a developing country and you’ll soon discover just how much you have in comparison to some people in this world.

For example, recently I travelled to Venezuela and it was an eye-opener. This beautiful country isn't as dangerous as people think it is, and how to stay safe whilst travelling in a developing country.

These experiences put things in perspective and we start to appreciate many aspects of our life that we originally took for granted.

You Never Stop Travelling

Once a traveller, always a traveller – even when back home, you’ll continue to adopt the mentality you had whilst on the road, which can only be a good thing. You’ll find you see your own country in a different light too, as you’ll start taking advantage of all the things on offer to visitors and discover that there’s much more to see and do than you realised.

Want to explore a country you probably haven't considered before? How about Namibia, where you can spend 6 weeks exploring the exquisitely unspoiled landscape. It's packed full of amazing experiences and opportunities to boost your personal development...

I'm Interested, Tell Me More!

Still Unsure About Beginning Your Journey?

Like I said before, it’s understandable to have doubts, but I’m hoping you’re feeling a little more confident about travelling now than you were before reading this post.

If you’re still feeling unsure, you might want to watch this video portraying a tired bus driver breaking away from his usual bus route – a metaphor for moving towards living life the way you want and not letting discomfort, fear or anxiety get in your way.

Your Turn

Have you been travelling? What experiences did you gain from it? We’d love you to tell us about them and inspire our readers to take their first steps on foreign soil, so go ahead and share your stories in the comments box below!

Check out our gap year programs

We have award winning 'planet saving' programs across Africa, Asia, South and Central America.

Reducing plastic in our oceans, protecting turtles and saving the rhino is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

All experiences include a mix of projects and adventures, travelling with a team and, of course, are risk assessed.

Gap year programs

Need inspiration and direction?

Get in contact with the gap year travel specialists.

Here at The Leap we can help both team traveller through our programmes and/or the backpacker.

Jot a message below or call us on +44 1672 519 9222

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