find a little good, learn

If you’re hungry for more than a cupcake

A Special Olympics gala in NYC
My weekend was completely consumed with feedback that people like, want, or are looking for perspective. I don’t know whether I would say that travel is the number one way to gain perspective or that perspective is the number one result of travel, but perhaps both. I’m a huge advocate of planning a trip when your problems are out of focus, but you don’t have to go far to realign your priorities or readjust to your circumstances. If you’d like to at least go further than the bakery, here are a few suggestions.

Look for a little good. The point of my blog is to show how simple and painless it is to incorporate goodwill into both your travel and your home. Unless you’ve never done a good deed, you know how positive it feels to make a difference in someone else’s life, and my theory is that giving back to someone’s home is as important when you consume it, because the rewards of travel–the best products–are free, typically from the locals where you go. Every little bit of good makes the world a better place, and you can make that difference in small but significant ways. On the road or in your hometown look for benefits, charity events or local causes. You can dress up and go out for a night, complete a walk or run or even do yoga, or simply shop at a particular store for a good cause.

Do something that has nothing to do with yourself. Whether you volunteer, donate to a cause, pick up the tab or help a friend move, you don’t have to leave home to have a life-changing experience. You will be surprised at how this affects you and unlike laying on the couch for a whole Saturday or watching TV for hours on a week night, you won’t feel any sense of having wasted time. Most importantly, when you consider someone else for even 10 minutes, you gain perspective on your own life. Looking for what could help others reveals problems you don’t have or that you didn’t have any idea existed.

Plan a trip that involves more than laying on a beach. Adventure, exotic and volunteer travel are blatantly on the rise amongst travel professionals, but most teachers, families or working 20-somethings I know still opt for Caribbean cruises, Vegas or European backpacking. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but once you’ve done it three times, explore something new. Foreign cultures, customs and lifestyles can rock your world and truly change you. So you don’t have two years to teach English abroad? Squeeze a lesser-known village in between major European cities for an authentic experience. The most amazing travel discoveries can be found where locations least prepare for your visit. Even at the beach, after laying out, go looking…

Travel when you don’t think you can travel. There are dozens of inspirational photos and quotes on social media a day to inspire you for this one, but when you’re dying to get away and your budget, schedule or reservations are holding you back, take a risk. Challenge yourself. Getaway for the weekend or drive too far for one night. Look for community festivals or events, concert tours, state fairs, farms or wineries, or outdoor recreation for ideas. Breaking your norm and embarking on even the smallest of adventures will ultimately give you perspective by relieving the stress, worry, fear or discontentment that’s overwhelming you. When you need to surprise yourself, take a risk. Spontaneity that makes you happy or fulfills you over responsibilities or obligations that don’t is the right choice every once in a while.

A week at an orphanage in Mexico…better than the beach that Spring Break.
Combine all of these on a mission trip. It’s one thing to incorporate giving back into your travel, an amazing thing actually, but what if that was all you did? I have never met anyone who regretted going on a mission trip despite the fundraising, inconvenience or challenges. Whether you distribute food, play with kids, build houses, minister religiously, heal medically or protect environmentally, do this once in your life. Words can’t describe what a lack of running water and electricity will do to your perspective, much less malnourished children, entire towns destroyed by natural disasters, or widespread diseases. Seeing what happiness means to people in these circumstances will forever change you.

For more ideas in particular cities, check any of my destination blogs, or click where to find a little good.

How has travel changed your perspective?

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