7 Ways to Learn While on Vacation

The late afternoon sun hasn’t dried the condensation left on my palm from the now empty Bin Tang bottle. I place the bottle on the table solidly, hoping my friends recognize the hollow thud. It’s the sound a beer bottle makes before the holder creates a reason to leave. “I gotta go watch the sun set.” I say excusing myself.

On vacations I force myself to find time for personal reflection (even if it means leaving a table of friends). It would waste my money and time to fly around the world and not learn while on vacation. Watching the sun set is when I reflect on the learning opportunities I’ve had each day of my vacation.

  1. I’ve seen how quickly travel friends are made. Vacation time is short and instead of trying to change people I accept them, flaws and all. If I can continue to embrace people’s unique traits (like I do on vacation) I’d be rich with lifelong friends.
  1. I’ve observed myself being present. At home I allow distractions because my routine has no definitive end. But I know the date, and even the time, my vacation will end. When vacation limits my time I savour every moment and ignore escapes (Facebook, emails, iPod). I should always live in the now because even at home time is limited.
  1. I’ve witnessed those with nothing sharing everything. I look out for my family and myself. That’s why seeing someone from a developing nation (who has nothing compared to me) share their resources evokes my emotion. Seeing their generosity makes me want to be a better person.
  1. I’ve listened to people. The people I meet on vacation seem more interesting than the people from home. They have stories I don’t know and experiences I envy. Why can I listen to them more easy than the tweed suit guy from work? Ol’ tweedy may be more inclined to help me out if I give him my complete attention.
  1. I’ve taken the time to appreciate compassion. Simple acts of help, like assisting me with directions, make the locals less like a backdrop and more real. I must not forget the kindness of these strangers because I can learn sympathy from them. The inaction of good people is shameful.
  1. I’ve decided that it’s okay to forgive myself. Dissimilar cultures order food, greet people, and apply personal hygiene differently. When I travel, I make cultural mistakes (lots of them) and I get over it. Understanding it’s okay for me to make mistakes will teach me leniency when judging others.
  1. I’ve reflected, before and after vacation. Before vacation I check-in with myself: am I mentally burnt out, feeling listless, or exhausted? Of course I am, that is why I’m taking vacation. When vacation is over I check-in again. When there is a positive change I figure out why and try to incorporate it into my regular life. That’s how I learn to be happy.

Tim Hirtle is a travel addict bent on clear communication and enjoys the challenge of explaining personal growth in a simple, easy to follow, manner. He is a co-founder of The Travel Type and believes that anyone who takes responsibility for their own life can achieve their dreams. In 2014 Tim left his engineering career to travel full-time and pursue self-development.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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