Is Travel The Ultimate Self Development Tool?

When most people think of taking a holiday in their favourite international locations, I guess you could say that relaxation is the priority. Is it not interesting that for most of us, time away from work means more stress?

In recent months, (and a whole lot of work related travel for my book) I’ve become more and more aware of the urge to check my phone, complete another project and just as a rule of thumb, ‘remain busy’. Being busy does not mean that high quality output is being achieved and for me for that is disastrous.

If you truly want productivity or even success, these weaknesses need to become strengths. In this article, I demonstrate that taking a holiday might just be the most powerful way to begin achieving that.

Urgent vs Important?

Between the periods of 2005 to 2007 I moved 37 times. This ‘holiday’ was appropriated with a working holiday visa to the United Kingdom. I remember the first piece of baggage I bought for my ‘holiday’ and it was a large red duffel bag, which was in retrospect, was one of the worst travel items I’ve ever purchased.

It’s funny to me how impractical some of our ideas about health, wealth, and love can be, especially when we compare them to practical necessities in everyday life. They remind me fondly of my naïveté as I dragged this huge and heavy item around with me on one shoulder. 

For most of us, urgent always comes before important. Such is the case with life.

We are not taught to spend less money than they earn. We are raised to be risk averse, inclined to worry constantly and conversely, to take little action in the face of ambiguity. 

A few years ago I was lucky enough to meet Michael Blevins (Henry Cavill’s Coach for Superman). It left such an impression on me!

Michael teaches an old Gym Jones principle that the mind is primary and that in any scenario in our lives, it’s often our own beliefs, thoughts and emotions which can hold us back from our true potential. In the actual training session, this can be anything from negative self-talk to self-sabotage.

The lesson on this particular day was how to get under the bar during the Clean and Jerk. The bar had to reach a certain height before the lifter could begin the descent to catch the bar. 

The lift itself requires real commitment and the ability to change direction quickly. In today’s world this is a tremendous advantage.

Change can be the linchpin between the management of chronic disease or optimal health. The ability to adapt quickly to changing environments or stress is extremely beneficial.

Sitting in a chair for 40 hours a week is not an acceptable measurement of productivity. The key to a long and happy career is balance.

The Way Out Is Through

Struggling to make progress is exactly when you are moving in the right direction. There is a reason why eating the right food is inconvenient. There is a reason why getting enough sleep is hard. The point is that until we address the real challenges, very little of what we are trying to improve will make a difference if we do not have a strong foundation. This is why starting with the right perspective is so important.

Have you ever noticed that guy or girl who really wants to be in the greatest shape but has never quiet gotten there? He or she might be you, me, or any number of people that feel they have been shortchanged by the ever buzzy term ‘fitness’. I know I’ve felt this way many times.

For years the idea of washboard abs and being ‘lean’ was my ultimate goal. I weighed my foods, took my supplements and did my cardio but I noticed that each time I used a given method, it became harder and harder for me to look my best. I felt stuck and I found myself associating my self-worth with my physique. As I looked deeper, there was more to this whole fitness journey.

The abs, arms and body we enjoy should be a product of the work you can perform, of the movement patterns that you have honed and refined. The ability to resist stress and do what you want with your life is ironically similar.

A simple example is just how many strict chin-up’s you can perform. 

We don’t need to associate our success with our self-esteem. Doing the work is enough.

In modern advertising, we see this narrative all the time. It always emphasises doing more, not less.

If you are fat, you are worthless. If you are depressed, it’s likely you will be like that forever. If you have a mild headache, maybe you have Brain Cancer. What are you going to do about it?

We all know what it’s like to be up late at night asking Google strange questions about illnesses. What if I told you that this paralysis by analysis could be overcome with healthy amounts of change?

Training, travel, these are just simple tools that anybody can use to get out of their overthinking.

We just can’t say, “I cant”, before jumping up to the chin-up bar and seeing what can be achieved. You might need a band to start with, or a coach, maybe a training partner but, if there is one trend stopping you from making progress personally/professionally it is simply be the need for healthy change.

To me, training and exercise was always more than just about ‘being fit’, it was a symbol of the commitment needed to succeed.

I think that training is the perfect way to reset our understanding of effort (especially on holiday) because it forces us to come to terms with our own impatience.

A classic example of was the first time I was introduced to time under tension in my own training. It’s basically the allocation of a pre-determined tempo to a rep. The need to quit pulls harder than the need to stick and that is where half of the problem lies. 

Knowing when to stick and when to quit in our modern world is getting harder and harder to measure.

As it turns out, training is a great way to help us learn more patience. Being patient increases resilience and that means embracing change, not necessarily avoiding it for fear of interrupted productivity.


If we look at the corporate environment, it is very clear that time management is the major factor in stress management. Some people fight the after effects of intense productivity while others learn to thrive.

I think that the critical theme is that if we continue to rush the process, we are essentially shooting ourselves in the foot. Many individuals will find a gimmick or method to say that they got ‘faster’ results but ultimately nothing poses more of a greater threat to our long term wellbeing than stress and paralysis-by-analysis.

Here are a list of tools that I have used to optimize my productivity while travelling.

  • Stress and Time Management are inherently connected. If I control my time and know where it goes I can eliminate unnecessary distractions. I personally use a ToDoist Kanban Board to track my flow of work.
  • I batch home tasks like food preparation on a pre-determined day. Small efforts at the right time can make a huge difference, as an example, I always make my breakfast for the next day at dinner. This can be a huge time saver especially when you need to consume high quality protein for breakfast because this increases the neurotransmitters necessary for optimal focus.
  • Discretionary time is a principle taught in the The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. By learning to say no to unnecessary arrangements we can say yes to the work that matters.
  • Buy a small diary that you can carry with you each day. Begin documenting what is creating so much stress in your life. This can be anything from frustrating work relationships to sitting in traffic. If you can anticipate stress, you are already winning the war on anxiety and fear.
  • Spending time in the outdoors has been shown to decrease feeling of anxiety, shame and depression dramatically. I consider Sunday afternoons to be the perfect time to get out of the house (with or without family), and head out for a hike or bicycle ride. Don’t underestimate the power of simple activities. Having fun is a mandatory stress management tool.
  • If you can’t take a holiday regularly, try to book time off after a long weekend, better yet, try to aim for a ratio of 3 days off for every 40 hours of work that you complete.
  • In a number of studies it has been clinically shown that men with low testosterone are significantly angrier than their counterparts. Excess hormones and micro-nutrient deficiencies (whether in men or women) are a significant indication that your quality of life is being affected by imbalances in your day-to-day life. Common micro-nutrient deficiencies include Vitamin D3, K2, Zinc and Magnesium.
  • The right kinds of training and nutrition strategies have been shown to dramatically alter our ability to tolerate chronic stress. 
  • Training is by and large the easiest way to manage stress. Learn more about Psychoneuroimmunology.

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