Three Things Travel Taught Me About Success

How do you define success? Have you ever considered that, by trying to define success, you are actually limiting how successful you can be?

Unlike most young adults, I knew exactly where I wanted to be in life and how I was going to get there. I was so set in my ideas and preconceptions that I never stopped to consider anything else, and in the end, I actually limited myself. Studying abroad and going through some major culture shock forced me to re-evaluate my definition of success as well as how I looked at other people.

Here are three things travel taught me about success

#1: Don't Define Success

Growing up, I did everything people said I needed to do in order to be successful. I got fantastic grades in high school and scored high on standardized tests to get scholarships for college. I did several internships during my college career and graduated with a resume far stronger than most of my peers. I was on track to get a salary that rivaled my mom's straight out of college.

I was on track to reach "the top." If nothing else, I was certainly performing better than my peers. This meant I was successful, right?

While studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan in college, I lived with a "Why not?" mentality. I wanted to do anything and everything I possibly could, even if it was a little outside my comfort zone, because I knew that there was a very real possibility that I would never get these opportunities again.

After returning home from studying abroad, I began to realize I had been living my life exactly opposite to the "Why not?" mentality I'd had in Japan. Up until I studied abroad, I had been immediately dismissing any opportunities that didn't perfectly align with my goals and what I thought it meant to be successful. I missed some fantastic opportunities to try something new, step outside my comfort zone, and grow as a person.

Read more about how travel was my wake up call.



#2: Misconceptions About Races and Cultures Can Be Detrimental

Earlier, Raquel Eatmon wrote an article about race and the role it played in being a woman in America. I faced similar challenges in Japan. I was consistently frustrated by the assumptions people would make about me simply because I was a foreigner. Imagine my surprise when I found out that I was a hypocrite.

I made assumptions about other people the same way other people made assumptions about me.

As an American, when I think of “Iraq” the first words that come to mind are “violence, terrorism, death.” Why? Because the only things I have ever heard about Iraq have all been related to the war. Did you know?

  • Iraq is considered the cradle of civilization
  • According to archaeologist Leonard Woolley, the fear of black cats and the idea of splitting the day into AM and PM originated in Iraq
  • Iraq is one of the top producing country of dates, which are used in essential minerals such as calcium, zinc, and more.

What comes to mind when you think of China? Mexico?

The words that come to mind when you think of that country, do you find yourself applying those same words to the people who originate from that country?

We’re all human. However, I found that once I started paying attention to these kind of thoughts, I was able to overcome them and build better relationships with people I may have previously felt uncomfortable with.

Read more about how I was treated as a foreigner in Japan and the dangers of bad first impressions.


#3: I Am My Own Biggest Obstacle

What do the first two lessons have in common? Me. What limited my growth and relationships? Me. What’s my biggest obstacle to success? Me.

What’s underneath that? Fear. Fear of failure. Fear of heartbreak. Fear of pain. Fear of betrayal.

The first step to overcoming it? Being self-aware. You have to be able to recognize that you are afraid, that fear is controlling your current thought process. Once you can recognize it, you can accept it and overcome it. You can take that step out of your comfort zone and towards success.

My challenge to you: pay closer attention to those small random thoughts going through your head. Are they holding you back?

Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments below!