Have you ever come home from a vacation that seemed larger than life? While unpacking your suitcase and recalling all of the sunsets you saw and the adventures you took, a strange feeling can settle in. Have you felt this before? Now that you’re back home, you feel like yourself but you also feel...like someone else entirely?
Having a high IQ is one way to determine your level of “smarts,” but these days, the newest indicator in the manner of truly measuring intelligence and an individual’s possibility of success is Emotional Intelligence (EI, and also referred to as EQ).
Emotional Intelligence is all about the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of yourself, of others, and of a group. Even if you start off with a score that is lower than you’d like, you can work towards improvement. Your score is never set in stone. Emotional Intelligence is like a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it will be. Traveling is a great way to get an Emotional Intelligence work out in.
When you travel, you’re constantly in the state of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and practicing social skills. For those reading this who already experience wanderlust on the regular, what you may be craving about traveling might be that sensation of becoming more of yourself. That’s your own inner Emotional Intelligence coming to light.
No matter what city you travel to and explore, self-awareness will always be key. Traveling can also teach you things about yourself that you might not have ever known before. New experiences, coming into contact with people other than yourself, and even considering new belief systems can cause you to turn your focus inwards. Connecting to your emotions, your feelings, and your beliefs not only hones your own personality but also helps you become more aware of the world.
Self-regulation is related to effectively managing our own negative emotions. Negative feelings can gain a powerful stronghold over our lives if we’re not careful, and self-regulation helps counteract the strength of that negativity. When it comes to traveling, nothing can be worse than being travel buddies with a Negative Nancy! In order to change how we feel about a certain situation, like a late train or a hostel reservation that never got booked, we have to change the way we feel about a situation.
Travel offers so very many opportunities to change the scenario around. And you’ve got to get good at it! When you’re new to traveling, if the restaurant you were hoping to visit is closed, chances are you feel completely crushed. Two weeks into traveling, if one restaurant is closed, you simply find another! Traveling teaches you flexibility and flexibility helps your brain remain nimble. One restaurant closure isn’t anything to take personally! Over time, this “going with the flow” becomes like second nature.
During your next jet-setting travel trip around the world, I can almost guarantee you something will go awry. Your plane will land in Milan and when you are ready to power your cell phone back on, you will forget your pin number. You’ll have left your phone charger at home. When you’re headed back to your hotel, you might lose your map. When you eat the local fish dish in Koh Lanta, you might get a stomach ache that tears you to pieces.
Planning and also learning how to let go and simply go with the flow are aspects of traveling that the “control-happy” will have to become familiar with.
Traveling encourages you to embrace every aspect of yourself. Are you someone who likes to plan? Are you someone who hates it? Either way, when you make plans to travel, you will have to make arrangements that include travel tickets, destinations, hotel accommodations, and plan those daily activities.
For those who hate planning, they may learn to love it. For those who prefer an element of control, while traveling, they may learn to love sitting at a small cafe in the morning sipping an espresso and simply watching all of the different kinds of people stroll by in the morning light.
Staying proactive instead of reactive in the face of a difficult situation or a difficult person when you’re traveling will also help increase your EQ. When traveling and you find yourself in a difficult situation, take a deep breath and slowly count to ten. If there are ways to make adjustments or amendments to the situation, do so (i.e. if you’re seated on the bus next to the sneezy passenger who will not cover their nose and mouth, try moving to another seat or choose to disembark at the next bus stop for some fresh air and a spirited walk).
In other situations, when you can’t rid yourself of a difficult person or circumstance, traveling can help you come face to face with your own best options. What can you do? Figure out better ways to communicate with the individual or choose to spend some time on your own. Trying a form of empathy and putting yourself in another person’s shoes is an exercise that will help you control your own emotions and stretch yourself to imagine theirs.
Boosting your EQ is also possible when you are in the throes of learning a new language. Why? Because the act of learning words and actually speaking them aloud in an imperfect way takes a certain kind of courage. Powering through thoughts of failure strengthens EQ. After all, we’re all just humans. When you’re still mastering the correct way to say “Where’s the bathroom?” or “How do I find the nearest flower market?” you will be more forgiving for those same individuals asking you that once you return back home.
The beauty of jet-setting around the world is coming face to face with cultures that are entirely different than your own. Diverse foods. Distinct smells. New ideas. What seems foreign to you is actually someone’s everyday world. Meanwhile, in your own home country, what’s familiar to you can seem completely peculiar to someone else.
What are other ways to boost your EQ? Socialize when you travel. Learn to listen more and interrupt less. Don’t forget that the art of conversation can reinforce your own skills of persuasion once you return back home. And once you arrive back home, enjoy that experience of feeling a bit like someone new. Because, honestly, now you are.