How To Build Self-Confidence

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I have been in Italy for over a week.

I’m sitting in an airport hotel next to Malpensa airport just outside of Milan.

About 15 minutes ago, we dropped off the rental car after a day of driving from the countryside in the Piedmonte region of northern Italy (where we spent the week) to Milan for a day of sightseeing. And then we navigated our way from the center of Milan to the airport (about an hour away).

I’m traveling with a friend, and we’ve had an amazing trip. The scenery, the cuisine, the people, the lifestyle — everything was simply magical. Italy is one of my favorite destinations in the world. You can read more about my last trip and the region here.

But even the best travel isn’t without some amount of stress and discomfort, especially in a foreign country. We didn’t speak the language. We couldn’t read the road signs or the menus. That landmarks and sites were different from anything I’ve seen in the U.S. So many things were new and unfamiliar that our brains were on overdrive as we processed everything we were experiencing.

However, these challenges — even the most frustrating like getting lost several times or finding a parking ticket on our car because we didn’t know the parking rules — did something unexpected for us. They boosted our self-confidence and stretched us to adapt, to learn new ways, and to step out of the comfort zone of doing things the way we are accustomed to doing them.

How To Build Self-Confidence While Traveling

If we wanted to really experience and savor Italy, we had to be bold. We had to muster the self-confidence to get behind the wheel of a car in a foreign country and drive on highways and back roads when we didn’t have any idea where we were. We had to embrace that getting lost was part of the adventure.

We had to boost our confidence to pull to the side of the road, walk into a gas station store, and ask for directions in English when we knew the likelihood of clear communication was minimal. We had to have the confidence to walk up to a stranger in the street and ask them to point out the way to closest bathroom or bank. In restaurants, we needed help in knowing what to order, how to pay, and how much to tip.

Traveling forces you to be a beginner again. No matter how educated, competent, or confident you might be at home, traveling reduces you to someone who is dependent on his or her wits and the kindness of strangers. And the more you step out of your comfort zone, the more you accept the challenge of adventure and embrace the unfamiliar, the more your confidence will grow — not just in your ability to navigate a new place, but also in yourself and your capacity to grow as a person.

Even when you travel within your own country but outside of your city or home town, you are faced with similar self-confidence challenges. You will encounter different environments, food, people, and ways of doing things. If you want to explore and fully enjoy your travels, you can’t sit in your hotel room, go to the same old restaurants, or avoid interacting with people. Travel is a perfect laboratory forbuilding self-confidence by challenging yourself to try new things, to take out-of-the-way detours, and to intentionally engage with the locals.

If you are shy or not naturally confident, travel can be a great opportunity to stretch yourself and your abilities. If you say something embarrassing, take the wrong turn, or look foolish in some way, the odds are good you won’t encounter the same people ever again. And a smile and easy manner goes a long way in counteracting any unintentional mistakes or offenses.

As you plan your next trip, think of ways you can improve your self-confidence by accepting the challenges of the adventure. Don’t shy away from situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Look for opportunities to meet and speak with new people. Ask questions and take the scenic route. With every trip, you will feel more and more confident about who you are and how much you enjoy the wonder of travel.


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Comments

  1. Sheila Ryan Hara says:

    What you describe sounds like my everyday experience here in Rural Japan, where I have lived for eighteen years now but still don’t know all of the rules and sometimes break them when I do! Just wished I had the kind of confidence you are talking about! Maybe stretching myself a little every day will help me build it, bit by bit. When I do, I will let you know!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Sheila,
      Wow, it had to take some confidence to live in rural Japan. You have probably learned more than you give yourself credit for. Yes do stretch yourself a little every day. It is a great way to increase your confidence.

  2. Davis Nguyen says:

    “Traveling forces you to be a beginner again.”

    This is so true. Traveling changes who you are.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I have found the more I travel, the more I realize how isolated we are in the U.S. where everyone around us speaks the same language and everything is relatively familiar no matter where you travel within the country. Traveling abroad opens your mind for sure. Thanks Davis!

  3. Love this post Barrie. I totally agree with you. I have been fortunate and have traveled to over 40 countries and each one has further increased my confidence. On a neuroscientific level, traveling actually builds muscles in our brains, because like you said Barrie, it is “a great opportunity to stretch yourself and your abilities.” This conditions our brains to better handle the unknown the next time we find ourselves immersed in it. Essentially, traveling has the potential to build neurological pathways in our brains that enhance our confidence.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Akshay,
      That is a great point! I love the idea of neuroplasticity applying to travel. Any new learning or habit change can affect that kind of brain adaptation, and travel is a fun way to do that. It mixes the pleasure with the challenge!

  4. Sounds like a wonderful trip! Anxious to hear more details when you get back -

  5. How adventurers! It reminds me of an experience in France. Thanks for the tips, will apply next time when I travel.

  6. I remember the first time I left the country. I was terrified. A strange place and a language I didn’t understand. I met so many wonderful people and had an awesome time. Life as a whole invites us to stretch, love, grow and have fun everyday.

    Thanks for the reminder to expand our self confidence and enjoy the journey, as the saying goes life is a journey not a destination.

    As always I love your posts.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Susan,
      One thing I’ve found on my travels is that people are basically the same in their essentials. Most of them are kind and helpful. They are willing to go out of their way for you. I’ve rarely been treated poorly by anyone in a foreign country. Thank you for your kind words and your thoughtful comments.

  7. Barrie – that sounds like an amazing trip. I travel a lot for my work but still get panicky when I have to leave. One day I would also love to travel to Italy. I could see where that kind of travel would definitely boost self confidence. Enjoy your journey :)

  8. Barrie Davenport says:

    Hi Monica,
    I know that feeling — the minute we step out of the safety and comfort of “home” we begin to get anxious. But the more you travel, the less you will feel that way. Yes, you must go to Italy. It is an amazing and beautiful country.

  9. Hi Barrie

    I did some travelling 7 years ago to Europe and enjoyed Rome. Such a piece of art for me since I studied art and design. This was also my first time in a plain and abroad. It really helped in gaining confidence and to feel like I can actually achieve more when I get back home in South Africa. Would love to visit Rome again. Such a surreal expirience it was for me.

    Thanks for sharing…

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