Self-Talk Makes Me a Better Traveler
Everyday during summers spent with my dad, we'd get up with him as he headed off to work. When my sister and I got into the car, he'd lead us through a series of affirmations. "I am as good as the best, and better than the rest!" was one of our favorites. Starting our summer camp days like this sent my twin sister and I through the day with a positive start. I recite affirmations to this very day, from the time I get in the shower, to the moments I spend in front of the mirror getting dressed, and along my walk to the metro. I have to mentally change the direction of my thoughts; from dreading the journey into the office, to confidently confronting my daily responsibilities. I also take this practice into my travel.
I practice intentional travel which is all about understanding why I travel, what I seek to gain from it, and building an itinerary which brings me closer to those goals. With a clear understanding of my intention, I can create a vision of how I would like my travel experiences to unfold. Throughout each trip: from the moment I get into the snaking check-in line at the airport, to the moment I arrive to my new and strange accommodations after a long flight, I remind myself of that vision. This constant reiteration of my intention, this verbal affirmation of my vision, this self-talk, makes me a better traveler.
I use self-talk and visioning to focus on the plans that I have for creating a great travel experience. Because of this focus and constant mental coaching, I don't get overwhelmed with being in unfamiliar places or confronting uncontrollable situations. Self-talk can be like a love letter to yourself, read line-by-line during your toughest moments.
Many folks do not travel alone because they fear not having someone that they trust and rely on in the event that things go wrong. I often have that same fear while on the road, especially when my plans get interrupted or I have to make on-the-fly decisions in reactions to uncontrollable factors that might affect my travel. At the moment that I feel I am losing control over my itinerary or I am confronted with a precarious situation (especially regarding personal safety), a little voice of fear enters my mind. It starts small. It nags at the insecurity in me that hints that maybe I didn't plan well enough. It nibbles away at my confidence to handle an unexpected situation. And it grows louder. The difference between us folks that enjoy solo travel and feel comfortable navigating independently, and those that don't travel solo because of those same fears, is that we kill that voice before it gets too big and cripples our ability to function and think clearly in situations where we are at fate's mercy. When I hear the voice of fear, I immediately start talking to myself. I directly counter the negative voice with a positive voice that is deliberate, clear, assuring, and strong.
For instance, I had a scare with Mother Nature during a week long trip to Colombia last year. On a whim, I decided to take a speedboat from Buanaventura, Colombia to a remote fishing village along the Pacific coast. The fear factor was big: I had no hotel reservations (or knowledge of any accommodations at the destination), I was minutes away from missing the last boat leaving the dock, and it was high tide--which meant choppy conditions with rough waves. Our little 15 foot long speedboat was tossed and flung around on the ocean during the entire hour and a half trip. As passengers, our laughs and nervous exclamations at the jolts and seaspray soon turned serious and grew silent as the ride became more violent. The sky was ominously dark, and the saltwater drenched all of the passengers and our luggage. I was very afraid that the boat would capsize as we fought the current and crashed head-on into giant waves. I was only slightly comforted to see that there was a yellow coastguard boat that had us in sight. Even the captain of our boat seemed concerned when the motor died because it got choked with debris that was floating in our path. I was shivering and gripipng the wooden bench against which I was slammed every time we hit a big wave. I was afraid.
My self-talked kicked in. I imagined smoother waters and a safe arrival. I told myself that hundreds of people take these boats every day without incident. I told myself that I would survive this challenging experience with a great story to tell. I kept reminding myself that the kind of travel that I sought sometimes involved discomfort, and that the reward would be worth it. My self-talk nearly turned into meditation as I sought to slow my exasperated breathing and relax even as my body was being tossed around relentlessly.
Soon, the water because smoother. Our engine started back up. The coastline appeared. And the sun broke through the clouds. I was wet, but safe; and ready to continue on my journey. I still had uncertainty about where I'd be staying the night, but I coached myself through that too. This trip that had a scary start ended up inspiring me to start this very blog, and bring to fruition my intention for visiting Colombia.
Self-talk has the power to undo doubt, and coax us through uncertainty while traveling. It can stop the adrenaline fueled mental reactions that our natural biology would use to signal that we fight or flight. Therefore, it is our responsibility to regain control of our minds so that we can successfully manage a stressful situation with full awareness and confidence; ultimately continuing on our journey and creating great travel experiences.
It's almost as if the Universe has its ears tuned in to that self-talk, whether there are words said aloud or privately in your head. It's almost as if the Universe will conspire in your favor when it knows that you understand that which you desire.