Travel like a Stoic and all your journeys will be smooth. Stoicism is a practical philosophy to improve your life. And it can also help you travel well. By applying different ideas we can learn to be more appreciative of the experiences we get to have. Besides that, we will learn to deal with setbacks or plans that fall through a lot better. A missed excursion or closed attraction will now be just that. Nothing more and nothing less. The peace within us will tell us to be grateful for what we can do and not get caught in the disappointment of what was not. We will break this topic down into a few Stoic ideas to guide you on your next trip.

Before we head out, we need to ask ourselves why we travel. I covered this question in a post you can read here. It is important to be completely clear about our motives. It doesn’t matter what they are, as long as they are true to who you are and you accept them. You can be escaping from your day-to-day life, if so, then escape. But don’t expect your problems to be solved when you come back.

Travel with an open mind

If you want to explore other cultures, then make sure you have an open mind to take it all in. Some travel to find themselves, but be careful you don’t get lost wandering around. And then, in the day and age of social media, we can see many around us chasing images to share. As if there is a global checklist of things we need to show. Sitting with yourself to answer some of these questions will give you some excellent insights into who you are.

Now that we know why we travel, let’s make sure it’s a trip that we will remember. And you can apply many of these techniques to your life as well. As we go on our way, we need to remind ourselves what is out of our control. In a new country, we will face many situations which will be foreign to us. The language can be different, the use of money will require some adjustments, and moving around can look daunting. In those moments it’s important to stay calm and take some time to assess any new situation. But also tell yourself that not everything will go the way you have in mind. Your expectations can lead you to false judgments of what is going on.

You control your judgments

Our judgments fall under our control. And as long as we have them in line with what is happening, then we will be able to deal with any situation. Imagine you have a day at the beach planned, but you wake up and it rains. A false judgment would look at the rain as a bad thing. But we’ve dealt with rain before in our lives. Yet, now it seems to be the worst thing in the world. If we take it for what it is, then we can find ways to do something else. We can make plans and on our travels, we often need to make reservations in advance. Yet, we should remember that life might have something else in store for us. The better we are at adapting to life, the easier it will get.

A technique we can use to help us deal with plans falling through is called negative visualization. This is often seen by many as disaster thinking and calling for bad things to happen. But it is a way of preparing oneself for eventualities. It can help you see things for what they are. You can picture losing your wallet during the trip. This has happened to people before and can also happen to you.

How bad is it really?

Now that you’ve put yourself in this situation, think about the consequences and how bad they are. You’ve lost money and several cards. What do you need to do next? Cancel the cards, and make sure you know how to do this. Request new cards and see if that is possible for them to send them to you. You can spread some of the contents of the wallet out and not keep it all in the same place. Another good piece of advice is to create digital copies of your important documents. Keep them stored in a digital space you can access from any device. This kind of preparation can take some of the stress away in case something like this were to happen. Good preparation will help you be more at ease, knowing you are ready to deal with things happening.

Learning to be more present at the moment during a holiday is a good practice to appreciate the trip more. Stoicism teaches us that the present is all we have. The past is gone and the future is unsure. Therefore we need to learn to let go of all the distractions and take in that beautiful place we have been waiting to see. Or participate in the activity that was stored in our bucket.

Never free from work

A man stressed at his wok, staring at his laptop.
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

We can feel that we can’t be missed at our work and that we should always keep checking our emails. To stay focused on your travels, remind yourself that this is not your concern at the moment. Your work can wait and these emails will get answered or not. Your duty is now towards this long-awaited and well-deserved holiday. Find a way to remind yourself when you feel the urge to look at your messages. A simple phrase like; “This is not your business now, your mind belongs here.” Try it during the weekends leading up to your trip, and find the right phrase that works for you.

Another way that can take you out of your peace during your travels is dealing with other people. We can now try to foreshadow the people we might encounter. I’ve written about this in these two posts here and here. When we leave the house, our bags are packed, and we can remind ourselves that we can encounter people that will try to scam us. We can pick a restaurant that isn’t good, or people who are supposed to help us can’t seem to do so. But we want to travel and remain peaceful. Therefore we can learn to prepare ourselves for these moments and when they arrive, a smile could even appear on our face in recognition of this encounter.

Some good travel advice

A former colleague of mine once told me that when he and his wife went on a holiday, they expected at least one meal to be bad. And when that meal appeared they would laugh at it and acknowledge that this was it. This way of looking at it changed their entire perception. And there are people who can’t remember anything but these bad experiences from their trip. That’s what they dwell on.

This increases the chances of the holiday turning into a failure a lot faster. If it all depends on one bad moment to ruin your trip, then it’s far too fragile. We should be able to leave those experiences in the past and learn from them. On one of my trips, I fell for a shoe polisher’s scam on the streets of Istanbul. When he dropped his brush by ‘accident’ and I told him about it. He was so grateful that he would clean my shoes, which they were in dire need of, to be honest.

He charged me too much

After a nice little chat, he still charged me and it was more than a normal shoe shine. I gave him the money and he got greedy and said it was only for one shoe. That’s where my generosity halted and I told him. He had to try, I guess, that’s what his facial expression conveyed. I figured I had helped someone with some money and it was my last day anyway, and I didn’t need the change. So I thought.

Later, when I had to get on the bus to the airport they only accepted cash. I was a few Lira short, which was a problem. But a friendly passenger heard the situation and asked how much I was missing. He then kindly offered to pay the difference. I told him I would pay it back to him at the airport, but he didn’t want to hear about it.

Learn to let it go

An incident with a street vendor can leave us bitter and give us a bad impression of a place. But if we learn to let it go and face it cheerfully, then we will keep our minds open to the good people who are there as well. The fact that I paid too much was reduced to a minor incident, compared to the selfless act of kindness of my fellow passenger. It’s a mindset that we must adopt. How do we deal with the things that we see as bad and how do we appreciate the things that appear to be in our favor?

Traveling is a good source of expanding your knowledge. It teaches us about our fellow human beings and the world. Although we live most of our lives in our own heads, we are a part of the great whole. To increase our respect and understanding for all that surrounds us, we must seek it out. But for the right reasons and with the appropriate tools to guide us to get the right results. As we have seen, there are ways to travel well. And learn to be satisfied with what comes our way. During a trip, we get to put a lot of the Stoic teachings into practice. Use them and see how they can benefit you. My advice is to travel. Go out and see the world. And start with your neighborhood or country. Seek the unknown, expand your universe. Because as Seneca said it:

“We should live with the conviction: ‘I wasn’t born for one particular corner: The whole world’s my home country.’”

Seneca, Letter from a Stoic, Letter XXVIII
How to Travel using Stoicism
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4 thoughts on “How to Travel using Stoicism

  • 20 March 2023 at 00:49

    You are so right, its human nature to focus on the 1 bad than the 5 good that my have happened on vacation. This is a great reminder to let go of the bad experiences and leave them behind us so that we can focus on the good ones and have a positive experience.

    • 5 June 2023 at 09:04

      Thank you, Kevin, for your commment. I like what you took from my writing because that has been so important to me as well.

  • 19 April 2023 at 11:47

    Brilliant post, and a wonderful way to prepare for a holiday or a travelling experience. I love the story with the shoe-shiner, and how by not letting it affect you or create anger or shame, you left the door open for help later on. Wonderful! I’m reminded of a quote by Charlie Chaplin, who was not a stoic but still a beautiful mind – I’m a patriot to humanity as a whole. I’m a citizen of the world.

    • 5 June 2023 at 09:08

      Thank you, Zac, I also feel like a citizen of the world and I love how you added Charlie Chaplin to my writing. That was amazing to see.


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