To go abroad to ”find yourself” is a the sort of idea some people might find laughable, since it sounds rather naive to think that you would find yourself better on a beach in Thailand with a Chang in you hand than you might at your own kitchen table.

But actually the idea of traveling as a way to grow both as a person and in knowledge is not a very strange thought. Of course, you can choose to spend your travels just lying on a beach during the day and drinking beer in the evenings; that might not help you to grow that much. But if you take the opportunity to use time spent traveling in the fullest way, you can get back home again being a smarter, braver and happier person then before you left.

1) Do a course

When you finish work at home in the late afternoon, taking an evening course is usually out of question. You’re too tired and wired already; what you need is a real break so you’re able to get up the next morning and do it all over again. But when you’re out traveling for a longer time your brain is craving stimulation. You’ll receive loads of impressions and information, but often with no opportunity to use this input in a creative way. Learning new things when you feel relaxed is a great way to take in what you’re experiencing and do something useful with it. And there are many courses you can do while you’re abroad: dance, yoga, surfing, cooking, climbing. Some are only for a couple of hours, others are for a few weeks; whatever suits you best.

There are now also many possibilities to study long-distance if you are traveling with a laptop. Take the opportunity the time you have provides to learn something new.

2) Challenge yourself

Nothing makes one feel prouder and braver than managing to do something new that one never thought possible. It can be climbing a mountain, traveling alone, volunteering in Delhi or speaking Spanish for a whole week. It doesn’t matter what it is, but you know that it’s right when you feel a little uncomfortable when deciding/booking it. For every challenge you take, you will grow a little more and dare to do something even more uncomfortable the next time.

3) Interact with people

”You’re never less alone then when you’re traveling alone”. To be out traveling is not only about meeting people from the country you’re visiting. It’s about meeting people from all over the world, and creating a new “family” for each place you go to. This can be really challenging when you’re coming from all the comforts of home, with your close friends and a job with the same familiar old colleagues. But there are so many benefits to meeting new people; conversations, exchanging thoughts and ideas, or just to hanging out. You’ll get braver when it comes to making contact with new people. You can practice your English if it’s not your first language. You will learn not only about the country where you are, but about countries and cultural differences all over the world.

4) Learn about the cultural differences

”Not until you are away from home will you miss what you have”, or something similar, is a common saying. Cliché or not, this is something every traveler will experience. Being aware of cultural differences isn’t just beneficial when learning about the world outside your comfort zone – it’s also a way to appreciate things at home more and to understand what can be improved. Read about your destination. Ask people. Hire a guide. For everything you learn, you will also gain a new perspective on your home country and new countries you will come to visit, and you may also view your own behavior in a new light.

5) Read books instead of your Facebook feed

I received some good advice once: that every time I realize I’m on my smartphone without an intention to do anything special – just scrolling around on social media and letting time run through my fingers –  I should turn it off and pick up a book. Using your time traveling to read more is an easy way to learn without even noticing. But I don’t just mean crime fiction and love stories. Fun as they are, I also always bring a ”teaching” book with me or on my e-reader. It can be about all sorts of things; for example, at the moment I’m reading about how yoga has traveled all over the world. The point with independent learning is that you choose what you are interested in. You have no idea how much you can learn in only a few weeks just by not phone scrolling when you’re bored!

Have you got any tips for “finding yourself” through travel? Share them with us in the comments!