Experiencing Expansion

Last week, I wrote about the value of lightening up, particularly in my travels.  It reminded me of other valuable lessons I’ve learned from traveling. So, in the spirit of the upcoming summer vacation season, I’ve decided to share some of those lessons with you over the next couple of weeks.

First, let me say how excited and renewed I feel just having the ability to plan travel again and physically move around the world.  COVID taught me some big lessons, one of which was just how important having the freedom to travel is to me and how many of my goals are attached to my ability to travel. Okay, maybe it’s not the actual mechanics of travel (like the planes, trains, and rented automobiles) that I love so much. It’s more the personal expansion that I experience once I arrive at my destination. The new places, people, cultures, history, and experiences are what excite me.

I once heard Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, claim that her life motto was, “The more you experience in life, the more you have to offer others.” I completely agree with Sara. On the whole, human beings are explorers, and we have the spirit of exploration inside us. I believe that the more we view new landscapes, try new things, eat new foods, experience new cultures, learn new information, engage in new conversations, meet new people and observe the way they live and view life, the more we expand our thinking and broaden our definition of what is possible. In turn, this gives us a wider platform from which to help others see what’s possible in their own lives and work.

The smartest people I know are the ones who readily admit that there is likely much they don’t know or understand about most subjects. They are genuinely curious and always eager to learn more. Every time I travel somewhere new, I realize more and more that my “right way” is simply “my way.” Perhaps, the greatest benefit derived from travel is this very perspective… that there are a lot of “right ways.”

One of my coaches encouraged me to always have something big and exciting to look forward to on my calendar, even if it was months or years off in the distance. He also encouraged marking off some fun, shorter adventures over a long weekend once a quarter. If you don’t have some interesting travel plans to look forward to on your calendar, then I want to offer five reasons why I think getting them scheduled is not only a good idea for you and your own personal growth but also for all those with whom you work, lead, and live.

  • Learn to love people again: “Travel teaches tolerance.” Benjamin Disraeli

Benjamin Disraeli was the British Prime Minister in the 19th century, and he understood that the best way to develop a broader understanding, deepen empathy, and gain tolerance about other ideas and beliefs is to encounter them firsthand in the course of traveling. If you never venture out of your normal environment, it is harder to understand why other people behave or believe differently than you. Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” So, get out there and broaden your viewpoint!


  • Get a real education: “Experience, travel: These are an education in themselves.”  Euripides

More than 2000 years ago, the ancient Greek playwright, Euripides, knew that travel was the greatest school in the world.  I have learned more by traveling than I have in any classroom because every day you travel, especially abroad, you are learning. Travel has granted me an education unlike anything I could have learned at university. Take these subjects for example:

  • History – Traveling takes experiential learning to the max! I’ve had experiences while traveling that have truly brought history to life such as:
    • Listening to actors practice their lines from Macbeth on the stage at the Globe Theater outside of London where Shakespeare wrote and performed
    • Petting a descendant of Hemmingway’s beloved six-toed cat in his Key West home
    • Feeling the sweat drip down my back in a slave kitchen in Savanah, Georgia
    • Watching the door slam shut from inside Al Capone’s prison cell on Alcatraz
    • Marveling as I stared up at the ceiling of an ancient cathedral in Spain, that was built long before tape measures, engineering degrees, or forklifts

Experiences like these bring history to life in a way no textbook ever could.

  • Social Psychology – Meeting new people and making friends can be challenging anywhere but add in cultural or language differences while traveling, and it’s exponentially more difficult. Yet I have found that what opens opportunities for sharing, conversation, and even lasting friendship is the same everywhere: common interests and desires, proximity, music, and of course, good food and wine. I’ve learned that people from all walks of life have the same basic needs and wants, and we’re all more similar than we are different.
  • Philosophy and Logic: Travel forces you to problem solve, to be creative, flexible, and resourceful, to trust and think for yourself, to stay humble and ask for help, and to rise to the situation at hand. Every day is a new challenge, and on the road you learn quickly that you are the one who must adapt, not the other way around. Traveling has helped me to question my current priorities, my present pace, and my past prejudices, and to ponder how my surroundings, upbringing, and experiences may have shaped me, my outlook, and my behavior. Travel has taught me that I’m smarter, stronger, and more capable and independent than I sometimes think I am when I’m sitting safe at home.


  • Refresh your eyes: “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar that it is taken for granted.” Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is a British author and articulates something that I have felt but never put words to before. I live in the southern California wine country but don’t really notice the wineries as I drive around the community because they have become so familiar. That familiarity causes me to take their beauty for granted.  But when I travel to some place unfamiliar, I notice everything… even the simplest of things. If I’m visiting someone and admire what I’m seeing, they often say, “I’ve never even noticed that before!” Travel will perk up your senses, increase your gratitude, and refresh your tired eyes.


  • Feel alive and find yourself again: “To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” – Danny Kaye

When I travel, after just a day or two, I can sense myself falling into a natural rhythm that I often override back at home when I’m busy with the demands and schedules of home and work. Wandering, exploring, and relaxing is good for the body and the soul. Getting away from your desk and taking a break from your everyday life is renewing and is a good way to get back in touch with who you really are.


  • Make memories: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

On our deathbeds, the most important things we’ll have is the love we’ve nurtured and the memories we’ve made. You don’t have to travel to make memories, but some of my most memorable times with family and friends have been on the road to somewhere, experiencing the breath and wonder of the world together.


“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

– Helen Keller

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