How often do you hear of people traveling to “discover” themselves, to put things into perspective, to come back after hours wandering alone with a new understanding of themselves and their relationship with the world?
Of course this can be useful, and introspection in general is important for ourselves and for our travels, but perhaps it is not the only option for the wayward traveler.
Philosopher Roman Krznaric argues that we need more “outrospection” in our society. A concept he describes as “The idea of discovering who you are and what to do with your life by stepping outside yourself, discovering the lives of other people, other civilizations.”
Instead of wandering alone, go to interact with other people. Instead of writing sweeping statements in your journal for hours, try writing in your journal as if you were an individual from the people you’re generalizing.
In an extremely powerful video animated by the RSA, Krznaric explains his idea of outrospection and how stepping out of ourselves can drive social change.
Krznaric talks about cognitive empathy, an empathy that’s about perspective taking,
“about stepping into somebody else’s world, understanding somebody else’s worldview, their beliefs, their fears, the experiences that shape how they look at the world and how they look at themselves.”
Travel is often one of the most profound ways of doing this, and can truly change a person’s perspective. Seeing a country firsthand, feeling the atmosphere and talking with someone living there in that moment can change even deeply held beliefs, but you don’t necessarily need to travel to accomplish this. Like the co-founder of Maptia, an online storytelling platform, argued in his article on outrospection – this empathy can come from reading, from trying to understand and ultimately from appreciating the thousands of unique stories and experience that can be so easily shared today.
It’s the idea that we have to ditch the self-help books and instead reach out to others, which in travel or at home, is all about sharing stories.
This empathy is the ultimate step in traveling and, as Krznaric suggests, perhaps in our stable life as well.