Mark Twain once wrote that, “the worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself”. Too many of us go through life with our self-esteem hanging somewhere around our ankles. Still more appear confident on the surface, but with a tidal wave of self-doubt lingering just beneath.
This New Year, instead of making resolutions that we will inevitably fail to keep (hooray! another excuse to beat ourselves up), wouldn’t it be better to work from within?
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Self-esteem is one of those magical qualities that fuels itself – if only you give it a bit of oxygen to get going. So, we’ve picked out seven travel challenges that will be that oxygen, lending a much-needed swoosh to your self-belief.
These adventures will get the good times rolling, but more importantly, they’ll build up your inner reserves of courage and confidence. Whether you’re bored and unchallenged or suffer from social anxiety, find the solution to a whole range of self-esteem issues right here…
Build your confidence
This is you if: You want to challenge yourself but you’re not sure where to begin. You constantly talk yourself out of things that seem scary or overwhelming.
The challenge: Abseil down Table Mountain in Cape Town
The thing with fear is that it will never fade until you face it down. By ignoring or avoiding it, you’re only giving it wings. At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge that fear can be useful. It’s a motivator, an evolutionary response that is critical to pushing us forwards. Without it, we’d all be sat around eating Doritos or something (a fun past-time, but there’s more to life).
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Lean right into your fear by abseiling off Table Mountain in Cape Town. This dizzying 112-metre ascent over the city is no mean feat; even hardened adventurers might feel a few stomach flutters as they shuffle over into the abyss. But if you stare your fear right in the face and flip it the finger; well, you can do anything can’t you?
Break out of your comfort zone
This is you if: You feel like you haven’t done anything fresh or exciting in a long time. Life is safe, but oh so predictable.
The challenge: Dazzle your senses in Jordan
Life a bit… boring? We’ve all been there. It’s hardly the worst problem in the world, but it’s also surprisingly tricky to fix. Most of the time, you just hope something will come along and rescue you from the manhole of inanity you’ve stumbled into. But nothing will, so you need to help yourself out. Book a trip to Jordan, a place so intoxicating, you’ll be jolted right out of your comfortable routine.
Moments into the Flash Pack itinerary, you’ll find yourself canyoning through the gorges and sandstone turrets of the Wadi Mujib. You’ll cycle through the desert, star-gaze in a remote nature reserve, ride camels around sand dunes, and float in the Dead Sea. This Middle Eastern gem is off-radar from the tourist hordes, and promises a riot of adventure like no other.
Tackle social anxiety
This is you if: The idea of meeting new people and making small talk makes you break out in a cold sweat.
The challenge: Travel with a group of like-minded strangers
If you suffer from social anxiety, the last thing you want to do is travel with a group of strangers. Which is exactly why you should do it. Not merely because you’re confronting your fear, but in doing so, you’ll expose it for the mindless jabbering it is. At Flash Pack, we never have groups larger than 14 people, so you won’t be overwhelmed by new faces. We pack our itineraries with challenges, meaning people bond quickly and there’s no time to sit around and worry about small talk.
Most of all, we have a kind person policy. We draw together people who share the same kind of friendly, inclusive and open mindset and our reviews show that we do this well. Flashpackers often say the best and most meaningful part of their trips is the people that they travel with. In a world where many people get lost behind screens, the ability to meet and get on with strangers in the real world – with zero pressure – is a wonderfully empowering one. Try it and see.
Ward off work stress
This is you if: Your job is all-consuming and you find it really difficult to switch off, even outside the office.
The challenge: Camp out on a remote beach in the Philippines
When you’re super-stressed at work, every little thing can turn into a trigger. You have your phone bleeping the whole time, a to-do list that never recedes no matter how hard you work, and Sunday nights that are filled with worry and angst. Yoga will only cut it so far in this kind of situation – you need to get fully away. Where? The Bacuit Archipelago in the western Philippines.
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This labyrinth of limestone karsts, caves and hidden lagoons is about as far removed from everyday work stress as you can hope to get. There are no looming deadlines, no endless demands – in fact, there’s hardly any people at all. Flash Pack helps you to channel your inner Robinson Crusoe (with a boutique edge), by chartering a private boat. You and your fellow Flashpackers will zip between islands, before bedding down in luxury tents for the night on a secret beach. They’ll even be a chef on-hand to cook up a beach barbecue. Your burden of stress will vanish, just like the clouds on a turquoise-blue oceanscape.
Test your physical limits
This is you if: You’re forever telling yourself, ‘I need to get fit this year’. Then you cancel your gym membership after just three months.
The challenge: Climb Rainbow Mountain in Peru
Major fitness challenges land somewhere between mindset and physical action. You need to have stamina, sure, but you also have to overcome that nagging voice that tells you, “I can’t do this”. And if you do that, your self-esteem will skyrocket.
One of Flash Pack’s most demanding activities is the hike up Rainbow Mountain in Peru. A gem in the crown of the Peruvian Andes, “Winicunca” stands at 5,035 metres above sea level.
The climb up there is difficult, there’s no doubt about it. The altitude means progress is tough-going and the support of the group will be vital in propelling you upwards. We divide the ascent with an overnight camp at around 4,000 metres, meaning you and your fellow Flashpackers will have the summit to yourself when you reach there in the early morning. As you stand atop this incredible peak – amid a kaleidoscope of turquoise, maroon and golden layers – you’ll realise that fitness isn’t just about sweat and tears. The rewards can be life-changing.
Reinvest in simple pleasures
This is you if: The daily grind of life seems overwhelming, and you can’t remember the last time you had fun and lived in the moment.
The challenge: Join a cooking class in Sicily
Noticing the little things in life is a central tenet of happiness. Yet far too many of us plough through a frenetic pace, unable to pause for reflection amid a endless whirl of doing. If this is you, it’s no wonder that you’re frustrated. You need to slow things right down. Cut out the noise and remind yourself about the things that really count.
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Cooking is a great way of doing this, because it’s such a visceral process. Even if you’re a terrible cook, just the act of putting together a dish will force you to focus in a way that’s quite zen and therapeutic. Make a beeline for the land of wonderful food (aka Sicily). Drink in the sensation of plump, juicy tomatoes and super-fresh basil. Slice up pungent nodules of garlic. Let the smell of sage and oregano waft over you, in soothing waves. You’ll soon bring yourself right back to simple pleasures, and the magic of the moment.
Tap into your nurturing side
This is you if: You’re overloaded by the demands of other people – from relatives to work colleagues and beyond – and feel like whatever you do, it’s never enough.
The challenge: Bathe a rescued elephant in Myanmar
It’s so easy to feel divided in this fast world of ours. Sometimes, the more you try to make people happy, the more you fail. You’re chasing your tail in circles, and forever falling short of expectations (both other people’s, and your own). Needless to say, this spiral does no favours for your self-esteem. You need a change of direction, pronto.
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Join Flash Pack at the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Myanmar, a family-run sanctuary that helps to improve the welfare of retired logging elephants. Roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, as you help to bathe these beautiful creatures in a valley river. Join them lumbering around playfully in the shallows, and throwing dirt with their trunks.
Just this simple act will remind you how easy and satisfying looking after others can be. And just how much you rock at it.
Photos: Shutterstock and Flash Pack