Taking Self-Discovery on the Road: Transforming Your Life with Travel

Consider a solo road trip as a vehicle of self-discovery, a way to uncover or rekindle your interests, while tuning into your needs and desires.
Road trip to self discovery, a person sitting in a van in nature

What are your interests? What are your hobbies? Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite food?

We often encounter these seemingly innocuous “Who are you?” inquiries when meeting new people. Sometimes in conversations, I find myself automatically repeating canned responses without considering what activities genuinely make me happy, what skills and traits I would like to share with others, and what truly defines me and my unique experience. 

In a society and culture that values productivity and outward success, I find that stories about personal growth and self discovery are often not shared openly, especially between acquaintances, because we often worry about how our stories will be received. Will our story be seen as overly ambitious, self-indulgent, or just downright silly? Will we be judged or will we be met with additional expectations? And, what if my preferences change, will I still be me? 

Expanding Our Capacity through Self-Discovery

On a daily basis, we are exposed to a variety of influences and decision-making opportunities, and it can be quite easy to lose sight of individual passions and interests, particularly when we do not prioritize what we value or we minimize the worth of our experiences.. And, when we feel that we are not supported in prioritizing the things that fill up our cups, we can become disengaged and struggle with motivation in other areas of our lives. On the flip side, outside influences can also coax us out of our comfort zones, introducing us to new experiences and helping us discern our preferences. For instance, I doubt I would have explored sport climbing in Oman and Montenegro, if not for a former partner. 

Amidst a juggling act of competing priorities—work, family, community engagements, and the perpetual task of keeping little ones alive—introspection and self-discovery often fall by the wayside. However, just as airline safety protocols remind us to secure our oxygen masks before assisting others, it’s crucial to routinely check in with ourselves, and tune into our interests, priorities, and goals for our own wellbeing. Because when we are well, we are able to not only care for others but we expand our ability and capacity to have healthy, reciprocal, and meaningful relationships. 

Take Self-Discovery & Reflection on the Road

Kacie and Piper at Finley Farms in Missouri 

One of my favorite ways to connect with myself is to do a SOLO ROAD TRIP! For me, nothing sparks self-reflection quite like this type of travel. There’s something liberating about embarking on a choose your own adventure road trip—a journey that by default lends itself to introspection and self-discovery by providing an ideal backdrop for personal growth. A solo road trip allows plenty of space and time to reconnect with oneself, and can present many opportunities to build confidence and connection with others, with the land, and through the many experiences you are bound to have. 

Whether you are seeking to unearth hidden talents, passions, or interests, or are simply craving a moment to yourself, a solo road trip can work wonders. If you haven’t tried this mode of travel yet, you might be surprised by how this kind of experience can help you to practice self discovery and find out what truly resonates with you.

How to Make the Most of a Self-Discovery Road Trip

Embarking on a solo road trip is my route to self-discovery. Here’s how you can make the most out of a solo road trip experience, if you feel inclined to plan one for yourself: 

Allocate Time: This may sound obvious, but dedicating a period of time for yourself is one of the most important pieces to planning self discovery experience. Allocating that time is making a commitment to yourself to fully understand your needs and desires. Talk out your needs and desires with friends, family, and your employers so they can have a sense of how to best support you during this time. While it may be challenging to commit to a couple of weeks or a week, even a weekend or a day trip can be transformative. 

Set Priorities: Determine what you need and want from the journey. Our priorities can be as unique as we are. While some of us might prefer having a cozy bed to sleep in every night, others might want to experience the thrill of sleeping under the stars for the first time in their life. 

Clarify your preferences before you set out and have a clear understanding of when and where you are willing to be flexible. For example, personal safety might be a top priority for you, but you are worried about how that might change or shape your overall experience or inhibit you from doing or trying new things. Consider how you might adjust your mindset in situations where you know your safety needs are being met. Also, consider how you might plan ahead time, so that you feel confident and present amidst the experience. Let your curiosity guide you and see where it brings you!

Breakfast with Becky Timbers, founder of Two Wheeled Wanderer 

Ask Questions: Delve into the where’s, how’s, and especially, the why’s. Where do you wish to go, and why? Are there new skills or experiences you seek? Are there habits or behaviors you want to work on? How might you need to prepare in advance for your solo road trip experience? 

Reflect on activities that enrich your life beyond the normal routine and context. What might you try experiencing beyond the family vacation? What motivations might push you to explore what is beyond your comfort zone? 

Seek Recommendations: Tap into local insights. People are often happy to offer suggestions based on your interests that will be helpful to you. By engaging with locals, you might be led to those hidden gems and authentic experiences that really resonate with you. 

Also, solicit recommendations from those already in your circle. Sometimes just by sharing your plans and ambitions with others, can spark deeper conversation and  connections, and can even inspire others to follow their own calling to adventure and self discovery. 

Reflect: Take stock of your journey. Notice the recurring themes and connections you encounter. Sometimes, chance encounters reveal shared passions and parallel paths, offering profound insights into your identity. 

On a recent solo road trip, sitting in my car near Eureka Springs, a woman approached me intrigued by my Vermont license plates. We soon realized we shared a connection – we were both St. Lawrence University alumni and despite never formally meeting, I had briefly dated her older brother. Our conversations unveiled similarities in our interests and life paths: graduate studies in nutrition, a penchant for nomadic living, and careers in wellness. Our introduction at a lake with hiking and mountain biking trails all around us (she runs a mountain bike blog), while still a bit random, seemed a little less like a coincidence upon reflecting on our shared interests and life choices. 

Be Flexible: You will have the freedom to adapt, embrace that gift. Allow spontaneity and your gut to shape your experience, and don’t hesitate to pivot when opportunities arise. 

Self-Care: Listen to your body and mind. 

What do you need to feel good? Sleep? What happens if you don’t set an alarm? Exercise? What type of foods do you want? Do you like eating dinner for breakfast? What kind of restaurants are you interested in when it is just you? Are you comfortable dining alone? If so, why? If not, why not? 

When you tune into your intuition it reveals a lot about who you are, through your needs and desires. 

Embrace Solitude: Use solitude as a tool for growth. While solo travel may initially seem daunting, it fosters self-reliance and self discovery and opens doors to unexpected connections. 

Although you set out on a solo trip, this does need to equate to loneliness. In my experience, a day never goes by where I don’t converse with others, unless I am not up for engaging. During a recent trip in Missouri, a simple chat with a woman waiting for food led to an invitation to her Fiber group. The next day, I joined a women’s coffee gathering and received valuable local recommendations. Plus, she treated me and my dog to a boat outing and a smoked catfish dinner! 

Challenge Yourself: Try some things that may be a bit outside of your comfort zone– taking a solo trip may very much be a big challenge in itself. Trust your instincts, embrace uncertainty, and honor your decisions. 

Self discovery is a journey, not a destination. Step into the role of the protagonist. Embrace the twists and turns of the road, as they lead to profound insights and newfound strength. By embarking on a solo road trip, you are embracing a practice that transcends miles and lasts a lifetime. 

Create Joy is here to support you on your personal journey of self-discovery, Schedule a chat today

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