To hit the open road, to travel, to wander, to forge your own path… can be extremely difficult, it can be extremely lonely BUT it can be a life changing experience!

Today, many folks hit the road without really thinking about the personal development aspect at all – instead, people head out for beaches, hookups, cheap drugs, and social media content. Whilst this can form a part of a worthwhile travel experience it’s not the kind that’s really going to help you develop confidence and skills (although to be fair, learning to roll a joint is a good skill to have). 

The truth is that the more you get out of your comfort zone whilst travelling, the more you will gain. Today I’m going to dive in to exactly what there is to be gained… because, look, I get it. Travelling tough and rough and on the cheap, it’s hard but it’s so fucking worth it, and I’ll tell you why.

I made a career out of being uncomfortable – I hitchhiked through dozens of countries, camped out hundreds of times, slept rough in train stations across India, and basically just put myself through the ringer.

The world is the best teacher if you’re willing to be the student. Here are the 7 benefits of travelling that I’ve learned on the road.

Will hiking in Peru wearing a black cowboy hat with mountains in the background and a massive smile on his face
Travel will be fun, they said…
Image: @willhatton___

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What’s the Real Purpose of Travelling?

For most of us nomads, our purpose behind travelling all started with a burning desire to see the world around us, immerse into new cultures, and have truly raw, authentic experiences… You know, all that exciting stuff about budget travel that gets us globetrotters all tongue-tied and giddy.

In today’s world of social media and Google Maps, it can be tricky to really get off the beaten path. But the truth is that the more you challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone whilst on the road, the more you will gain.

Being thrown into new environments, stepping outside of our daily routines and diving into the unknown takes us on a journey of self-discovery. And this, my friends, is where the real purpose of travel starts to rear its beautiful but challenging head.

backpacker will sitting on top of a loaded bus while hitchhiking in nepal
Bus surfing in Nepal after doing the Annapurna circuit in 2013. Look how cute I am with copious hair!
Photo: @willhatton___

At the ripe old age of 19, with just $3000 to my name, a few old bits of camping gear and a not-so-fleshed-out dream, I hit the streets of India. The purpose of travel for me, was to find my purpose. And boy oh boy, did I find it. It’s been one hell of a ride.

I was often anxious, cold, hot, and uncomfortable. I managed to travel on a budget of $10 a day, determined not to go back to England after seeing exactly what kind of work I was able to get in my middle-of-nowhere hometown (shit pay, shit hours, no potential for advancement).

From hitchhiking across Iran to driving a psychedelic rickshaw across India, I’ve had some WILD adventures. Along my quest, I’ve been broke, cold and had crushing lows but I’ve also had undeniably magical moments and euphoric highs as I’ve slowly but surely metamorphosed into the Will I was destined to be.

Travelling is exhausting but it is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do and can give you SO MANY tactical advantages in the battle of life.

So, Why Travel? 7 Benefits of Travelling

It’s tough to narrow down just seven benefits of travelling. Hitting the road will throw you around, rough you up, but also provide you with some of the most fantastical moments of your life.

From my decade and a half on the road, I’ve noted down the seven benefits that have made the biggest impact on me. So, let’s dive on in…

1. Travel teaches you to appreciate the little things.

Travel can be a monumentally wild ride, especially if you do it in true Broke Backpacker style. At the peak of my Broke Backpacker lifestyle, I was sleeping in train stations, riding for thirty hours at a time with cows, chickens and masses of humans, I hitchhiked, Couchsurfed and survived on bread and fried bananas.

Gratitude for the small things starts to blossom pretty fast. Things like a hot shower, an air-conditioned room, a seat with some space or a hearty meal can feel like you’re being wrapped up in a warm embrace. You start to really appreciate the small acts of kindness that come your way.

While travelling, I strongly encourage you to note down all the little things you’re grateful for every day (yes, amigos, I’m talking about starting a journal).

Putting pen to paper on the road may be one of the best things you do. Simply pausing and making time to write down what you’re grateful for can be fucking profound. It helps you to realise just how much you have to appreciate in your life, especially when times feel tough.

2. You learn the power of human connection

As you travel, you’ll begin to understand that although we come in all different shapes, sizes and colours… inside we are all the same. We are all just humans trying to connect, feel safe, feel loved and crave to be noticed.

You will form connections with people who will play a significant part in your journey. Many will be short-lived and you will learn the tough art of saying goodbyes… (I’m still working on this one). Other connections will be forged over a longer time, these are rare and special – cherish these.

Will in a tent with four local men whilst hitchhiking and camping
Hitchhiking and flying high with new mates in Iran.
Image: @willhatton___

For many of us, this will mean stepping outside of our comfort zone. We don’t all start off as dazzlingly confident humans before we hit the road, and starting up conversations with people doesn’t always come easy. But this is the perfect time to focus on personal development.

When I first hit the road, I was very shy; confidence was not a skill I yet had in my toolbelt. While backpacking in India, I challenged myself to, each day, talk to one more person than I had the day before. As I started to work that socialising muscle more and more my confidence started to flourish.

So, challenge yourself. Connect with others. Learn about their background, their culture, and their region. Every person you meet has something to teach you, so be friendly, be open-minded and keep your earholes peeled.

3. You become more employable

Yes, you read that right. Taking time to travel makes you MORE employable.

A common belief is that quitting your job to travel will negatively impact you when you head back into the job market. I personally believe this is complete and utter bullshit, I’m here to shatter that silly ol’ fallacy and show you why travel can positively impact your job-hunting prospects.

Travelling throws you into new environments that will allow you to develop new skills that will not only benefit YOU but also whoever is lucky enough to employ you in the future.

The confidence, skills and experiences that I gained on the road completely changed me and my perspective and helped me to grow in monumental ways. My social skills improved and my self-belief flourished. I learned to be agile and adapt, to problem solve and to negotiate. These are ALL beneficial to pretty much any role you go into.

a Pakistani man selling to a tourist wearing boots and a backpack over a colourful blanket
You call it haggling, I call it mastering negotiation.
Image: @willhatton___

Ever tried to haggle in Pakistan without speaking a word of the local language? A negotiation in English will seem like an absolute breeze!

While budget-backpacking, you will constantly be learning new skills that equip you to better face challenges in everyday life. However, you’ll also end up learning new skills that make you a more capable person. Whether that’s mastering a new language, taking up a new instrument, learning how to diffuse a tense situation with a silly joke or opening a beer bottle with your foot.

Employers are looking for skilled workers but also people with life experience to fit into their work culture… and guys, travelling is the ultimate way to gain a TON of experience; the good, the bad, the ugly. Experience is experience… and it will get you a better job.

4. You learn to trust your intuition

You know that inner voice, that logic cannot explain, that leads you to make decisions that can completely rewrite the trajectory of your journey? That ability to understand the answer to something without the need for reasoning. You don’t know why you know it, but you just do.

That, dear comrade, is your inner compass, directing you on your quest of life.

will hatton standing on the back of a pickup truck whilst hitchhiking through guatemala
Trust your intuition and see where it takes you… Atitlan, maybe?
Image: @willhatton___

On the road, you’ll be thrown into fight-or-flight situations that will strip you back to your primal instincts, where you’ll have to rely on your intuition to guide you through.

Like a beacon, your body sends you signals to both keep you safe and provoke curiosity to explore the unknown. If you decide to lean in and listen, you’ll find it can take you on quite the adventure.

5. You learn to do things for YOU

In my time, I’ve ranked pretty high in the people-pleasing department. I have previously spent way too much time compromising on my values and wants in the quest to get validation from others (particularly romantic partners).

When you’re budget travelling, being a people pleaser gets tiresome pretty fast. Saying yes to everything that is thrown your way can be extremely draining… I know, FOMO is a bitch but sometimes, as crazy as it sounds, you just have to do things for YOU.

A man on a motorcycle/ motorbike with a large backpack with camping gear attached doing a shaka sign whilst stopping for a break whilst riding through the mountains. In the background is a valley with several mountains, some covered in snow
Say yes to the things that YOU want to do.
Image: @willhatton__

It doesn’t mean you’re going to fit in with everyone all the time. But learning that it is ok to do whatever YOU want during your precious time with whoever you want to spend it with (which may in fact be your own sexy self!) is one of the most valuable lessons travel has taught me.

However, doing things for YOU not only means saying no to shit you don’t want to do. But it also means saying YES more to the shit you do want to do… even if there is no one to join you.

6. You learn about your own set of guiding principles

In many parts of the world, you’ll find religion is still a monumental part of communities and provides people with clear principles and values. Whether or not these values are followed remains another story but at least these folks KNOW what they should and shouldn’t be doing. For many of us in the Western World, religion is not for us.

What this means though is that perhaps we don’t have clearly defined values. Ultimately, everybody can benefit from taking the time to really ponder what does and doesn’t matter to them.

We can often feel lost as our moral compass gets warped based on the world around us. We start to place value on things that, at our core, don’t truly matter to us.

While on the road, you have the gift of space and time away from your normal routines. You get to experience different cultures, religions and people. These lessons from the world open your mind.

Will stood with four of the maestras in traditional Amazonian clothing
These incredible women taught me a lot which I incorporated into my personal manifesto.

Travelling encourages you to look inward and to figure out what really matters to you. Being on the road, thinking about who you want to be, and where you want to be in five years time, is the perfect time to write your own manifesto (which I strongly encourage everyone to do). Plan for the life you want to live and outline the skills you need to cultivate to get there.  

Once you’ve written your manifesto, check in with it regularly. Re-affirm that you’re doing things that align with the YOU that you want to be. It’s a powerful tool that can fill you with a sense of purpose and help catapult you toward a more awesome future.

So, grab a pen and paper, my friend and get scribbling. Your manifesto can be your guiding light in our wild-west of a world. Check the link above for a useful breakdown on how to get started.

7. You learn to trust in the path laid out in front of you, even if you don’t know where it’ll take you.

Sometimes the idea of what will happen next can be scary and exciting all at the same time. It can stir feelings of anxiousness and leave your mind distracted from enjoying the present movement.

Audy and Will at Hobbiton in New Zealand
In the wise words of Bilbo Baggins, “The road goes ever on and on…”
Photo: @willhatton__

The road has taught me that everything usually works out in the end and that catastrophizing and ‘protecting myself’ by planning for the worst is a colossal waste of energy. Even if you have planned everything in your mind, it often never happens as you’d expect anyway. Things pull you here and there and in the end, it’s often more weird and wild than you’d have ever imagined. So relax, and go with the flow.

This benefit really rang true for me when I attempted my journey to travel overland to Papua New Guinea. I was so focused on the destination to motivate me, it was something tangible to look forward to. But along the way, I had an epiphany. So much happened and I realised it was the journey within where the magic was really happening, it had nothing to do with the end goal.

Be present in what’s happening now, the rest will follow. In the words of Mark Twain, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened”.

Now, for the Benefits of Travelling Alone

You know everything I just talked about above? Those seven incredible benefits of travel? Well, when you travel alone the benefits hit you 10-fold. It can be challenging, in fact, it could be one of the most difficult things you ever do.

But solo travel can also be the most rewarding.

photo of a tour group led by will having dinner in lahore pakistan
“Solo travel”
Photo: @willhatton___

We talked about human connection earlier, and one thing I learned while solo travelling is that you never end up really being alone. You end up meeting so many incredible human beings whether that’s a roommate in a hostel or a friendly local in a cafe, it’s not often you’re truly alone when solo travelling.

I’ve done it all – travel with partners, friends, family, dogs and of course, alone. I loved every single trip for different reasons. But the travel I reaped the most benefit from was when I was solo – it catapulted me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to find out who I am in some pretty wild situations.

FAQs About the Benefits of Travelling

Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Travelling

Travelling on this earth is one of the most beneficial things you could do for yourself and your personal development. You know that comfort zone thing that everyone talks about? Travel will pick you up and throw you over the edge of it. There will be no tip-toeing along it… you’ll be tossed into the deep end. Which isn’t always easy but man, do you find out a lot about yourself.

Not only will you grow superpowers in terms of confidence and redefine what is important to YOU. But you will also see some of the most beautiful landscapes that Mother Nature has created, meet some wonderful humans and eat some of the weirdest and most delicious foods in the world.

If you have the ability and the means to explore this enchanting planet we have been given, I urge you to lap up every moment. Take every opportunity that comes your way, grab it by the balls and see where it takes ya.

Travelling can transform your mind, values and life (if you let it). It’s time to forge your path into the unknown and bask in the benefits of travel for yourself. The magic of our wonderful world awaits you.

Will enjoying the golden sand beaches in New Zealand
See you out there, my friend.
Photo: @willhatton__

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