with new and challenging situations, and to achieve goals. Self efficacy is about having a ‘can do’ attitude about the effects of our own behaviour to manage situations in life.
Foreign travel certainly provides opportunities for building self-efficacy; we are almost always dealing with different situations, languages and cultures as we navigate around the world. Importantly, self-efficacy can be important for our ability to tackle challenges and our resilience. In one recent study, it was shown that those who travelled more actually performed better at work, and one of the reasons for this was increased self-efficacy (Miyakawa et al., 2019). This was a small study and the area requires more research but it gives us an initial indication that travel can have important benefits for our personal growth and development.
Gaining Perspective – we are part of a bigger world
Travel can also help us to put life’s challenges into perspective. I’m going to share a client example here as it is the best way I can think of to illustrate my point. I once worked with a gentleman who had post trauma symptoms following a terrible accident and injury. As part of therapy for these kinds of difficulties I teach grounding techniques to deal with flashbacks. This involves putting yourself in the ‘here and now’ when a difficult memory from the past may be trying to take hold. My client had explained that one thing that had helped him was to focus on the old oak trees in the park nearby, and to remind himself that they were there before he was born and would be there for many years after he was gone. Not only did this help him to reconnect with the here and now, it helped him to appreciate that the world/nature/life is much bigger than him and will continue on, and that provided a helpful sense of perspective.
It’s a similar phenomenon to how I feel when I’m in a small village in Greece or Spain; I know that life there will continue when I’ve left, and that provides a sense of comfort and perspective somehow. Having this perspective can help us to deal with challenges more successfully and can also increase our resilience.
Gaining Perspective – appreciating different viewpoints
It is well known and appreciated that interacting with other people that are different to us can help us to appreciate different perspectives. Travel, and especially longer trips where we immerse ourselves in another culture are great ways to really understand different cultural perspectives and ways of viewing the world.
In terms of thinking about how this may be helpful in terms of our personal growth, we know that being able to take the perspective of others can make us more effective in lots of ways. This article gives a really good overview of this area, and explains how increasing our ability to appreciate the perspective of others can lead to better problem solving, interpersonal interactions and the ability to work collaboratively with others. These abilities are crucial to any situations that involve interacting with others from our family and social lives, to work interactions.
In fact as a Clinical Psychologist I would also suggest that being able to take different perspectives is also helpful for the way we interact with ourselves. A key skill in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT; one of the best evidenced psychological therapies) is the ability to step back from difficult or unhelpful thoughts and to look at the situation from a different perspective. This can stop us from getting hooked in to unhelpful thoughts that can effect our emotions and behaviour. So taking the perspective of others is helpful for our own well-being, as well as our ability to interact successfully with others.
So here are three important ways in which travel can be a way in which we can grow personally and even professionally. We’ve also looked at how travel might improve our wellbeing and resilience. I think there is lots more that could be written on this topic, so stay tuned for the next installment!
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review, 84(2), 191.
Johnson, D.W. (2019) The Importance of Taking the Perspective of Others | Psychology Today
Kim, J. (2018) Why Travel Is Good for Your Mental Health | Psychology Today
Miyakawa, E., Kawakubo, A., & Oguchi, T. (2019). Do people who travel more perform better at work?. International Journal of Tourism Research, 21(4), 427-436.