How Travel Can Cultivate Your Emotional Intelligence

What is EQ?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ) is the new big. It indicates your “ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.” (Source: Wikipedia). Your success depends on the people skills: your personality, ability to communicate, negotiate and lead.
Daniel Goleman, a renowned author and expert on Emotional Intelligence, identifies five components of EQ: self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy and social skills.

Self-awareness: ability to recognize and understand personal moods and emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. Traits of self-awareness include self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, and a self-deprecating sense of humor.

Self-regulation: ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, and the propensity to suspend judgment and to think before acting. Traits include trustworthiness and integrity; comfort with ambiguity; and openness to change.
Internal motivation: passion to work for internal reasons that go beyond external reward

Empathy: ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. Traits include expertise in building and retaining talent, cross-cultural sensitivity, and service to clients and customers.

Social skills: ability managing relationships and building networks, and an ability to find common ground and build rapport.

(Source: Sonoma University)

10 years ago, I got a reality check when I first read Goleman book “Emotional Intelligent: Why it can matter more than IQ.” I found that I had little EQ and that the same time, I also lost my ability to apply IQ to do anything useful, which I won’t get into details here.

No EQ and no IQ, what the heck could I do? I started traveling and moved away.  And my life changed.

How Can You Develop Emotional Intelligence from Roaming the World?


Often during your travel, you begin to discover things about yourself that you might not know. As you experience new environments, you encounter new beliefs and values that either align or contradict your own causing you to do some self-examination. You become more aware of your emotions, feelings and behaviors and how they play out at unfamiliar places.


Traveling to new places and exposing to new cultures bring not only positive but also negative emotions. Efficiency and punctuality are replaced with messiness and rubber-band timing or vice versa. Silence and space turn into noise and crowdedness. 27/7 opened business scene is now closed by six and weekend. When you’re used to one social practice, it can be challenging to get used to opposite practiced by the new society. This can bring discomfort, stress or even fear. But you will learn to regulate your emotions and accept the changes.

Social skills

This is a no brainer. When you go to a place where you don’t know anything or anyone, unless you set out to be a hermit, you will be more or less social. Think about it, what does it mean “social skills” if not the skills required to be social and to act in a social situation? You are good at math because practice and do a lot of math homework unless you were born a mathematical genius. You sit in classroom learning formulas and acquire the skills to do the math. You become better at writing after submitting countless of essays and writing assignments in addition to cranking out your novels in your bedroom. You run, swim and paint to get better at running, swimming and painting. Using the same logic, to acquire social skills, the simplest thing to do is to be social.

Being in a foreign place requires you to reach out and interact with people, the first act to be social. When you do it often enough, you start losing the self-consciousness often besieging you at home.


You come across people who are different from you, sometimes strikingly different. You can’t force them to adapt to your familiar practices and ways of thinking. Even when you resist the new mindsets and habits, you are aware of something new and gain new perspectives. You can then perhaps understand others’ point of views, their perception of the world. Perhaps you can walk a mile in their shoes.

Even if you can’t experience their thoughts and feelings, then you can at least have a free pair of shoes and are already a mile away from them. Now that is an additional bonus for travel.

Internal Motivation

Unless you’re competing for the Amazing Grace, a TV series in which people compete and travel around the world for a prize. Or you relocate to a new country or a new state as required by your job; chances are you travel for the sake of travel. You crave a good adventure. You thirst for new experiences. You desire to understand things. It seems cool at first to brag to your friends and family that “I’ve been there” and “I’ve done that,” but after a while you don’t care at much because seriously nobody gives a freak where you have been. You don’t do this to earn a bragging right or approval from other people. You do it for yourself.

The next time you roll your luggage out of the main door, remember to ask to “How can I improve my EQ there?”