Travel as Education? How Travel Has Made Me a Better Husband and Leader

For the last four years, my wife and I have been gallivanting around the world as full-time digital nomads. We sold our home and all our belongings, got online jobs, and left the U.S. in 2020. Full-time travel has affected me in ways I never expected. It has reshaped my understanding of the world and developed my skills as a husband and leader. Cross-cultural travel is very eye-opening. It challenges you in every way—from trying to assimilate into different cultures to handling frustrating financial, situational, and social situations. I’m certainly a different man than when I left, and while I haven’t processed it all yet, here are a few things that I’ve noticed.

Travel has made me a better husband…

Traveling full-time has profoundly impacted my relationship with my spouse. When you’re together 24/7—living, working, exercising, and doing everything else TOGETHER, your relationship has to grow, or it will implode!

Communication

I’m not the best at conversation, but travel has made me step out of my comfort zone. When you’re in a foreign country, navigating unfamiliar terrain, and facing language barriers, effective communication becomes crucial. We both have to pull our weight with travel tasks, and misunderstandings can lead to unnecessary stress. We’ve learned to express our thoughts, feelings, and needs more clearly, and to listen to each other attentively.

Tip: Make a conscious effort to practice open and honest communication with your partner. Discuss your plans, expectations, and any concerns openly and concisely. Active listening is key—truly hearing your partner’s perspective can prevent most future conflicts.

Teamwork

From planning itineraries to solving problems on the go, we’ve become a well-coordinated team. This experience has taught us to rely on each other’s strengths and cover each other’s weaknesses. I am more of a go-with-the-flow type, while my wife is more organized, but it takes both to make it work.

Tip: Approach your relationship as a partnership where both of you contribute your unique skills and perspectives for the betterment of the whole. Celebrate each other’s strengths and work together to overcome obstacles. This collaborative spirit is what makes a true power couple.

Shared Experiences and Memories

Travel has provided us with countless shared experiences that we’ll no doubt carry into our geriatric years. From absolutely heartbreaking socio-economic situations to wild culture shock moments and precious new friendships, we’ve lived a lifetime in a few years.

Tip: Prioritize creating shared experiences with your partner. Whether traveling or engaging in new activities at home, these shared moments strengthen your connection and provide a solid foundation for your relationship.

Conflict Resolution

Travel can be stressful! Nothing ever goes as planned. Flights get changed. Buses are overpacked. Hosts forget bookings. Bedbugs. These situations, combined with the stress of being together constantly, often lead to conflict. However, these situations have also provided opportunities to practice effective conflict resolution. We’ve learned to address issues calmly, find mutually beneficial solutions, and move forward without holding grudges.

Tip: Approach disagreements with a calm and open mindset, focusing on finding solutions rather than assigning blame. This approach leads to more constructive and harmonious interactions.

Gratitude and Appreciation

Witnessing so many different ways of life has made us more grateful for what we have, including each other. Travel has taught us to appreciate the small things and express gratitude regularly, which has greatly strengthened our relationship.

Tip: Regularly express gratitude for your partner. Recognize and celebrate the positive aspects of your relationship and the efforts your partner makes. This practice fosters a positive and supportive environment in your marriage.

Full-time travel has made me a better leader too…

As we are gearing up to return to the U.S. and resume our careers, I’m pondering how my life as a teacher and coach will be changed by my travel experiences. As I reminisce on my past career: difficult conversations, stressful moments, etc., I can see that I have grown. I know that the last four years have made me a better leader, and I expect that it will flow over into the classroom and field.

Decision-making on the Fly

One of the most daunting aspects of leadership is making decisions under pressure. Before embarking on our full-time travel adventure, I agonized over every choice, fearing the consequences of making the wrong one (I still do sometimes). However, travel has a way of throwing unexpected challenges my way, forcing me to make split-second decisions without the luxury of overthinking.

Tip: Embrace the uncertainty and practice making quick decisions in your daily life. Trust your instincts, weigh the pros and cons swiftly, and be prepared to adapt if things don’t go as planned. Over time, this will sharpen your decision-making skills and build your confidence in facing uncertainties.

Coping with Stress

Cortisol levels soar when you’re sprinting through the terminal for a flight or chasing a bus. I’ve had to deal with verbal assaults on my wife, stolen wallets, and dishonest merchants. In some cultures, even the most mildly aggressive responses are a violation of the cultural norm. I’ve had to learn how to control my reactions.

Tip: When tempted to blow a gasket, walk away! Take a deep breath and delay your reaction. A quick response, whether with a stranger or your closest family member, will likely lead to a situation you regret. It’s better to take a second to think rather than lose your temper and end up having to apologize later. Explosive responses can usually be prevented by finding healthy outlets for stress: exercise, prayer, or nurturing your sex life.

Learning From Other Cultures

One of the most enriching aspects of travel is encountering diverse cultures and perspectives that differ from my own. Each new destination offers a unique opportunity to expand my worldview and challenge my preconceived notions. I have learned many different ways of completing the same task, and it has opened my eyes to a world of possibilities. It’s common now for my wife and myself to approach a task with a completely different tactic than our parents or siblings would, and it’s because we have so many influences to pull from.

Tip: Approach every interaction with an open mind and a willingness to learn. It’s hard to set aside our ego and take time to learn from others, but it will help you grow. Ask questions! Embrace the values and practices that resonate with you, and incorporate them into your own leadership style. By embracing diversity and inclusivity, you’ll become a more empathetic and culturally competent leader.

I realize full-time travel is a dream that most won’t ever partake in, but if you get the chance to immerse yourself in another culture (even locally), I highly suggest you do it! Travel has been a great teacher, shaping me into a better husband and leader. By embracing the lessons learned on the road and incorporating them into my daily life, I’ve become more flexible, empathetic, and resilient in the face of life’s challenges. I hope some of the lessons this big world has taught me will resonate with you, and you’ll be able to adapt them to your own situation.

About Author
About Author

Ryan is a professional travel and relationship writer, originally out of Arkansas. Educated as a health and physical education teacher, he sold all his possessions, uprooted, and went on sabbatical in 2020 to go exploring! He's spent the last four years traveling the world, living and working in more than forty countries. At his side, is his wife of 19 years and fellow travel writer, Abby. Aside from being a sports fanatic and Jesus lover, he's uncle extraordinaire to 14 of the greatest creations on Earth. His passion is sharing cultural finds and encouraging men to experience a more fulfilling life by loving, serving, and understanding their partners better. Ryan is often published on Adventures From Scratch where he shares his relationship advice and family adventure tips, and on Let's Roam, where he details his travel experiences. You can find more from Ryan on he and his wife's YouTube Channel- LostAmongLocals.

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