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How Traveling Can Drastically Improve Your Interpersonal Skills
Inherently, the seasoned traveler doubles as a social butterfly. They can strike up a conversation on a whim and somehow manage to find common ground with individuals from all walks of life.
Traveling on its own can be incredibly eye opening and enriching, but it will also equip us with skills that are necessary to be successful. Communication and interpersonal skills are attributes that can be learned and honed. These skills are applicable in everyday life and can be translated into professional environments.
We are inherently closed off
For my first lone traveling experience, I had just arrived to San Francisco for an externship. There was an issue with our train and we had to switch to a new train at the next platform. A gentleman who had been making polite conversation decided that it was now his mission to help me move my stuff to the next train.
Although well intentioned, I was appalled. I was not accustomed to the kindness of strangers, in fact I thought that he was trying to rob me or worse. Kindness is somewhat regional. And growing up in the tristate area, I had been conditioned to be extremely skeptical. Interaction with strangers seemed incredibly taboo.
It’s shameful to admit, but social skills have fallen by the wayside. We’ve forgotten how to speak to one another. The idea of striking up a conversation with a stranger is borderline terrifying. But more terrifying still, the lack of effective communication will ultimately lead to a lonely life.
Keeping the passion alive
A very wise man once said that before fully committing to someone, take them on a trip. This wise man is Bill Murray- and he speaks the truth. Traveling can be a very vulnerable time for many, often times it can bring out the worst in people.
But if you are able to overcome the inevitable hurdles that will arise during your trip, traveling has been proven to strengthen relationships.1 It gives yourself and your partner an opportunity to share in a common goal.
Just being in a different environment2, free of all of your day to day obligations that tend to get in the way will help to reignite romance and intimacy. It will give you both the chance to revisit some issues that would normally initiate an argument- in a safe, romantic setting.
Couples who regularly travel together have reported having more effective communication with one another than those who don’t. 3
You will never see the world the same
The greatest epiphany one can experience as they submerge themselves into the travel lifestyle is the realization that not everyone thinks the way that you do. Not everyone lives the same way that you do. Different cultures harbor different philosophies and priorities.
Breathe, relax, enjoy
Growing up in a place where results are expected instantaneously, I didn’t take well to the idea of waiting. I mean, what’s the hold up? I placed my order and I want it now. Clearly impatience was smeared all over my face. The server who took my order asked me ever so innocently, “Why do you look upset? You have a few extra moments to just enjoy life before you receive your food.” He was so right. Why was I getting upset? I didn’t have anywhere to be. So I took his advice. I drew in a deep breath, taking in all of the beauty that surrounded me.
Patience is a virtue. And when you’re traveling, you have no choice but to be patient.
Learn to roll with the punches
Not everything works out as planned, things are bound to go wrong. When you are traveling, you are exceptionally vulnerable to these mishaps, with very little security if things happen to not go your way. This can be incredibly unnerving the first few times around. This can even deter some from deciding to continue. But if you can hack it and take the hits as they come, you will ultimately develop the patience of the Saint. Bad things are going to happen; let them. You’ll find another way.
When things don’t work out, not only do you have to be patient, but adaptable as well4. You must be able to recollect and strategize, or at least accept the situation at hand and roll with it.
It’s not the situation- it’s your reaction
In a landslide of positive effects, your increase in patience and adaptability will in turn make you a kinder, less skeptical person. Because at this point, you get it. We’re all human, doing our best to get by. So just stay cool.
Conflicts are going to arise, and how you choose to handle them will determine the outcome.
Alternate forms of communication
Everything that is new and unfamiliar can seem terrifying. Especially when you are traveling abroad, specifically if you are traveling alone.
If you’re anything like me, you relish in the somewhat abrasive blow of culture shock. Everything is so foreign, so unbelievably different.
This can make communication difficult. I literally don’t speak their language. Chances are, I’m not going to become fluent overnight or anywhere in the near future. But I can still ease my struggle by learning a few key phrases in the language of where I am visiting in order to get by in daily life.
More likely than not, I will butcher the pronunciation. The average person will get the gist of what I am trying to say and appreciate the effort-regardless of the poor execution.
Non-verbal communication will become your saving grace. You will develop the ability to convey your meaning without words. Without realizing, you may start to mirror the behavior of those around you to establish a foundation of common ground.
Just in this short time, you are evolving. You’ve picked up new mannerisms that will channel into your existing personality and habits.
This experience literally becomes a part of you, altering how you think and how you behave.
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