For those interested in getting the most out of their travels—on having exceptional, life-changing experiences—one of the most important skills to develop is adaptability.
Being adaptable means to quickly and easily respond to and handle changes. It helps you to adjust to new customs and cultures, to survive unforeseen adversity, and to make the most of unexpected opportunities.
When you’re adaptable, you say 'sure' when invited to a home-cooked meal by your diving instructor in Malta. When you're adaptable, you respond proactively when your flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg is cancelled, recruiting a few fellow passengers and hiring a driver. When you're adaptable, you can exist comfortably with both the aboriginals and the city-dwellers of Australia.
Adaptability is one of the most important components of the Travelers’ Mindset—a unique way of viewing at yourself and the world that has been shown again and again to improve the quality of experiences for all travelers—regardless of health, luck, or weather.
A World Of Change (& How You Are Adapted to Thrive In It)
It may seem like things in our lives are the same—especially if we feel bored in our daily lives—but the world is really always changing.
Technology develops at a rapid rate. Half the things you use on a daily basis weren’t around ten years ago (smart phones, snapchat).
Society changes quickly too. Just 50 years ago there was still segregation in some places and gay marriage wasn’t even on anyone’s radar.
In fact, the only constant in life is change. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps foot in the same river twice.”
If you don’t learn to adapt to these changes, you will struggle in your personal and profession lives. When you base your happiness on things staying the same—those that yearn for the past rather than embracing the future—are forever be disappointed.
The good news is you don’t need to feel hopeless and helpless in the face of change. We’re designed to be incredibly adaptable. If this wasn’t the case, humans would have died out long ago.
When we travel high in the mountains from sea level our bodies learn to handle the lower oxygen levels in the blood by producing more read blood cells. When we regularly lift heavy objects, we form new muscles that allow us to move increasingly heavier things. When we spend time in the sun, our skin products more melanin which protects us from the suns rays.
Similarly, our brains can change as well. In fact, you mind constantly rewires itself thanks to a concept known as neuroplasticity.
When we do or think something, our brain creates a new neural pathway. The more often we engage in an activity, the stronger this pathway becomes. In this way, over time, through repeated exposure or practice, we change the default modes of our mind.
This is how you learn to play a new instrument, speak a foreign language, or handle stage fright. Do something enough and you don’t even think about it. It becomes second nature.
Why You Should Embrace Adaptability When Traveling
When you choose to use your neuroplasticity—to allow for new habits to form with exposure and repetition—you allow your body to do what it does best—be adaptable. In particular, there are two benefits that are particularly beneficial to travelers:
1.) You’ll be happier.
When you cling to sameness and routine you go against nature…and you pay the price for it. When you base your well being on keeping things as they are, or even worse trying to return things to the way they once were, you’ll forever be fighting an uphill battle. You’ll feel stress with the inevitable new technological innovation is released, anxiety when cultural norms shift, and disappointment when you’re no longer able to do the things you once enjoyed.
In contrast, when you embrace change you turn an everyday occurrence into a reason to celebrate. Progress and innovation will bring you a consistent stream of excitement and joy. Even when thing seem tough, you’ll always have the knowledge that at any moment the climate could change for the better to help buoy you up.
2.) You’ll be more resilient.
People who are adaptable more quickly respond to the adversity of unexpected or undesired change.
As the old Chinese proverb goes, “The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.”
The sooner you can overcome the system shock of change, the quicker you’ll be able to find a solution and move forward.
How to Become More Adaptable
As you can see, being adaptable is incredible beneficial, especially when traveling. Here are a 7 of scientifically-proven ways that you can start to become more adaptable today.
1.) Stop seeing change as an automatic negative.
Pay attention to your instinctual reaction to changes. A lot of people instantly respond to new conditions with fear, anger, or hostility. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Changes are just facts, and facts by themselves are neutral. It’s up to us to determine whether we view a change as good, bad, or neutral. So if we have the power to fill our days with positivity or negatively, why would we voluntarily choose to do the latter?
At first you’ll have to consciously force yourself to see changes in a natural or positive light, but eventually this will become second nature (thanks to our brains’ neuroplasticity).
2.) Embrace the energy of the new.
Once you start to see change as something to be celebrated, you’ll begin to feel a certain energy. Embrace this energy and use it to your advantage.
Traveling to a faraway place filled with new and exotic ideas can seem overwhelming at first, but if you allow yourself to absorb the excitement that flows from novel experiences, you'll find sources of energy you never imagined you had.
3.) Stick to a few routines.
When you’re exposed to lots of change, it can be helpful to have a few things that you hold onto.
For instance, when traveling I always follow the same morning routine [read more about how my routine helps me to avoid feeling overwhelmed].
It helps to set the tone for the rest of the day and makes me feel in control by ensuring I’m starting the day in as close to the same mental and physical state as possible.
Alternatively, you can bring an object—like a stone, keychain, or a photo of a loved one—that you look at and touch when feeling anxious. This will help to bring you back to a state of comfort.
4.) Observe your surroundings.
To make adapting easier, look at your surroundings for clues for when things will change.
All-time great RB Marshall Faulk would watch game of upcoming opponents to see their body language before plays to determine how they acted before blitzes and whatnot. This helped him to adapt to game changes a slit-second before he otherwise would.
You can do the same when traveling. Carefully observing your surroundings helps you to anticipate potential threats and potential opportunities, making it easier to adapt when necessary.
5.) Create plans of action.
It’s easy to adapt when you already have a plan of action. Before traveling, spend some time brainstorming potential obstacles and opportunities you might face. Try to imagine the worst-case scenarios.
To help jumpstart your imagination, get some input from people who’ve previously traveled to your destination. Read the one-star reviews of the places you’re going. Check the news for horror stories from other visitors.
Now that you have an idea as to what can go wrong, you can create a plan for how you would respond. What could you do in the unlikely chance that the worst case scenario happens? How can you adapt so that you’re not only surviving but actually thriving?
Before leaving home, practice visualizing your plan of action, step by step, absorbing whatever come into your body as you do so. What do you smell? What do you feel? What thoughts race into your mind? The more you do this, the better.
6.) See things as they really are.
Knowing that is actually happening allows you to respond appropriately. Don’t let misconceptions, fear, etc. keep you from knowing what is really going on.
It’s easier to adapt to daily calls to prayer in Muslim countries if you know what they are (a signal for people to take a break to reflect and focus on the spiritual) and are not.
7.) Look at the big picture.
Is the thing you’re getting hung up on really important? Or is it just something that you’ve gotten used to?
Often our frustration and reluctance to change comes about because of long-standing habits rather than importance. By looking at the big picture and putting things in perspective adapting becomes much easier.
For travelers who want to get the most out of their next trip, learning to become adaptable is a must.
Adaptability will help you to overcome obstacles. Adaptability will help you to discover exciting opportunities. Adaptability will help you to learn and grow.
Simply put, adaptability will improve how you travel.
Interested in becoming more adaptable and bullet-proofing your mind for travel? Get your free copy of The Traveler’s Mindset right now by clicking here. It’s packed full of exercises based on the latest scientific research and personal experience that are guarantee to transform how you see the world while getting you ready to make the most out of your next trip.