How Traveling Builds Self-Esteem Part Four

*This is part four of a multi-part series on self-esteem and travel using the framework from Nathaniel Branden’s Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. Here are parts one, two, and three.

We’ve covered a lot of ground so far. From what self-esteem is, to the first four pillars of self-esteem and the ways that travel promotes those pillars.

The fifth pillar of self-esteem is the practice of living purposefully.

In the Six Pillars, Branden defines it as,

identifying our short-term and long-term goals or purposes and the actions needed to attain them (formulating an action-plan); organizing behavior in the service of those goals; monitoring action to be sure we stay on track; and paying attention to outcome so as to recognize if and when we need to go back to the drawing-board.”

Pretty simple.

Living purposefully doesn’t mean finding a single life task. Instead, it is the practice of setting out plans or goals for yourself and taking action to achieve them. It is having a vision for your future and taking action to get there.

Some people throw a lot of criticism at travelers for being purposeless. Not many people use the term purpose, but travel doesn’t make sense to a lot of people who are taking a conventional career and life path. To them, it seems like you are spending your savings to go off and run away from your problems or current responsibilities.

But in a roundabout way travel is very conducive to learning how to living purposefully.

When you are early in your career, working a job you might not like, it is easy to be distracted. You are busy with work stuff all day. After work, your mind is still on unanswered emails as you go out and socialize with friends. Free time is devoted to passive entertainment. Weeks and weeks go by without much thinking at all about what you truly want out of life. You have responsibilities and tasks, but your life can be missing a crucial sense of purpose.

This is the position I was in from 2012 to 2014. I had a job that more than met my basic needs. I was busy with work, but I couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that there had to be more to life than this. I wasn’t engaged in my life, and the work I was doing didn’t make me feel alive, but my life was so cluttered with tasks, events, and responsibilities that I could easily avoid the bigger questions about what I actually wanted to be doing.

Going traveling removes the noise from your life. You are left alone with your thoughts for a lot of the time you travel, and that requires you to face some of the bigger questions about your life, who you are, and who you want to be.

While you are free of responsibilities traveling, you begin to encounter a feeling of meaninglessness because there is no greater purpose that you are working towards. You begin to differentiate between momentary pleasure and the deeper sense of fulfillment that comes from living with a purpose. While you travel, you learn how important living purposefully is to your enjoyment of life. You learn what it feels like to be living a self-directed life and truly feeling alive.

When you return to travel, your priorities have changed. We hear this over and over again from friends who travel. They return and decide that they aren’t going back to the way they were living before. They are moving to a new city; they are going to pursue careers doing something that they enjoy.

By taking time to travel and enjoy the short-term, you set yourself up to enjoy the long-term. By living without purpose, you learn the importance of purpose. In this way, travel improves your ability to live purposefully and your overall self-esteem.

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