Say Yes! 5 Ways To Make the Most Out Of Travel

The Nomad MBA_Claire Moncla_Blog

Don’t Treat It Like an Escape. It’s a Lifestyle

You did it. You decided to take a trip abroad, slow travel, backpack for a year, become a trendy digital nomad. You have made an incredible decision. This probably means you are willing to challenge yourself and are looking for a shock to the system — a way to get out of the 9-to-5 rut.

But travel can be overwhelming. You are hit with a lot of things at once: new people, new time zones, new food, new cultural norms. With your senses overloaded, sometimes it’s hard to think beyond the “here” and the “now.” Whether your travel time is just an escape or a time of incredible personal growth is up to you. 
Whether you let the waters of change wash over you or you dive into them is your choice. You have that power. You have the power to say yes. So, how do you maximize the experiences you’re having along the way to instil lifelong change? How can you keep the inspiration going after the travel time is over?

Here are 5 ways I learnt to say yes and make the most of my slow travel.

1) Say Yes to Self Care

Since you are outside of your daily rhythms, it can be harder to remember things like taking your vitamins or remembering to eat a balanced diet. But, a break from routine is also the perfect opportunity to jumpstart healthy new personal habits that stick with you. I encourage you to pause during your travels and create time to breathe and think.

Begin asking yourself: How do I want to care for my mind and body?

After I had been traveling through South America and South East Asia for 5 months, I spent a week at a (mostly) silent retreat center in Thailand. We did sunrise yoga, afternoon waterfall meditation and evening gong meditation before going to bed by 9 p.m. This daily rhythm was unlike any other I had experienced. I am NOT a morning person, I am not an especially quiet person, and I had definitely never been silent for that long. I was finally able to take stock and listen to my body. I have a lot of trouble sleeping and this consistent — almost hypnotic — schedule alerted me to how practicing good sleep hygiene can impact my anxiety, focus, and energy.

For me, good sleep habits include playing relaxing music as I prepare to sleep, and then slowly stretching before bed. I encourage you to stop and listen to your own body. What type of self care do you need? It can be committing to daily meditation, moving your body through regular workouts, choosing a day each month to get a massage (TREAT YO’ SELF),or going to the local market each week and making a home cooked meal.

2) Say Yes to Structure 

I hate the term “work-life balance.” It assumes that your life is only happening outside of work, which if that is true, means you don’t have much of a life at all. However, I am also ADD and having no type of structure means I spend my time watching Youtube videos on why dinosaurs went extinct (yep, I love dinos).

There is so much flexibility in travel. Use it. Think outside of the box and test out different structures to find out how you are most productive — without having to fit into the mold of a certain job or timetable

You can use what you learn to help you build habits and choose job environments that are conducive to your work style.

While I was backpacking in Peru, I did a one-month marketing project with a vegan restaurant in Ollantaytambo, a village in the Sacred Valley. I stayed with the owner and worked each day at the restaurant, sitting cross-legged in a sunny upstairs room. Ollantaytambo is surrounded by mountains, and on either end there are Incan ruins built into the hillsides. As I worked, I could see one of these ruins from my upstairs perch, and eventually I began hiking this ruin each day during my lunch hour. This habit provided a great mental break, exercise and alone time. I realized that natural light and daily change of pace and scenery were three ingredients I needed to have a productive work day.

Find out what impacts your productivity. Do you need to be around people? Are you a night owl? Do you need to move locations throughout the day? It doesn’t have to be traditional. Find the structure that works for you.

3) Say Yes to People

When I am traveling, I tend to be a bit more outgoing. I think a part of it is that I am more vulnerable, and so I naturally reach out to others. Also, I am more curious because I am in a new environment. When I was in my daily life with my old routines, I tended to get stuck in the mindset that “I already have a life; I don’t need new friends.”

Use the open, curious attitude that traveling naturally creates

Use it to reach out to the people in the communities you are traveling through and living in instead of only hanging out with other expats. Smile at others, strike up conversations, look for ways to get involved meaningfully in a community by ethically volunteering. Just get out of your comfort zone. My boyfriend taught me this lesson. He is a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in the Philippines, and when I visit him, I am several islands away from any tourist destination. I get to experience first-hand the lifestyle in this agricultural community. I have attended local fiestas, birthday parties and even funerals (and consequently gained a deep appreciation for tubâ, the local palm wine). Here, I learned to say hello by raising my eyebrows, point with my lips, and yell “para, kuya” loud enough to alert the jeepney driver of my upcoming stop. And I learned these things by getting to know my boyfriend’s coworkers and neighbours and participating in daily life with them.

I encourage you to make a habit of considering your social behaviour; open yourself up to others. What comes of it may surprise you

4) Say Yes to Accountability

While practising slow travel, especially if you are alone, it can be very hard to stay focused on both your personal and professional goals. Like I mentioned before: the freedom and flexibility are great, but they also can come with distractions. I recommend accountability to help you stay on track. Whether it’s an app, a list of goals you make for yourself, a friend or mentor you have regular check-ins with, or a co-working space that becomes a community of people that hold you to your goals: be accountable to something outside yourself. I am a huge fan of Evernote, but usually this app is not enough to keep me on track. I learned another great habit when I was staying at a hotel and co-working space in Koh Phangan, Thailand. The coordinator there had a system: in the morning, each member of the group would set three goals they wanted to accomplish that day. Then, at the close of the day, we would each report back to the group what we had achieved. This is a great accountability tactic. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and ownership over your work, and a purposeful beginning and ending to your days.

5) Say Yes to Community

As Martha Cavazos, Strategic Partnerships Director at StartingBloc, writes “deep connection relies on more than just a membership network; it requires real convening in a shared space.” 

Growth is hard to accomplish on your own. This was a particularly difficult lesson for me to learn. I thought that just the act of traveling would inspire personal growth in me. What I learned very quickly was that I am not suddenly going to become a different person because I am in a different place. “I must be doing this wrong”, I thought. “I just need to be more adventurous, write more in my journal, or plan better itineraries”. But the missing ingredient was outside myself. It was community.

This realization is why I began researching work and travel programs, and it led me to the The Nomad MBA. Co-learning or co-working in a community is vital, and you are robbing yourself of important lessons by going it alone. Harnessing group energy helps you take your work seriously, gives you a mirror to examine your own interior life, and is also the launchpad you might need to build a team for the future business you’re planning. There are young professional groups, co-working spaces, entrepreneurial meet-ups, and more to help you get started.

This is your life and your adventure. You get to decide how to make the most of it. Start by “saying yes.”

This post was originally published by Claire Moncla on Medium.