Managing the International Travel Experience through Emotional Intelligence

Shelly Major Care for people, Culture, Doctoral Program

Shelly Major cropThe uncertainty and stress associated with international travel for an important event can be overwhelming. The time difference changes alone will have you sleep walking during important interactions or meetings.

I had the tremendous opportunity to attend the Irish Academy of Management Conference in Ireland last month.  As I prepared for the history and sightseeing points of interest of Ireland, I also found myself needing to prepare for the psychological processes that accompany travel.

Sightseeing was the fun part, and I looked forward to it. The bigger challenge was landing on foreign soil with my passport in hand, wondering where to pick up my luggage, wondering about getting to the hotel and finding the venue for the conference, worried about being on time and being prepared to present my paper. All this brought on an emotional reaction of anxiety and stress.

According to Daniel Goleman, “[Emotional Intelligence] is the skill of understanding and managing your emotions and also understanding the emotions of those around you.” People with more Emotional Intelligence (EI) have been found to generally experience greater success in their accomplishments and relationships – and perhaps, I propose, in their international travel as well.

Here are five suggestions that will build your EI skills and give you a means to cope and flourish during your international travel experience:

  1. Define personal goals for the trip – Part of the EI preparation should be to specify your personal goals before the trip.   Write down what you hope to achieve so that during the trip and immediately afterwards, you can look back and determine if the trip met your expectations. Share this information with family and others so to provide insight into your attitude about the trip.
  2. Write a Journal – Journaling can help with realizing feelings and incorporating ideas about how to manage them. Reading about our feelings and utilizing our emotions can help us to facilitate positive thoughts and even consider reaching out for the well-being of others.
  3. Hold irritated thoughts until tomorrow – Sometimes it’s best to keep negative feelings to ourselves. The pressures of travel can intensify emotions. Think through how reactions to anger or frustration should be expressed. Write these feelings in your journal, a safe place for expressing yourself.
  4. Embrace a “Live and Let Live” philosophy – Try to ignore and shrug off others’ angry or frustrated issues and idiosyncrasies. Don’t get sucked into negative conversations and build the negative momentum. It’s not worth it.
  5. Schedule a debriefing session after the travel – Share the experience with family, friends and co-workers. Communication including reflection time can help us better understand how the practice of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills can boost personal performance. Understanding emotions and managing emotions are EI competency skills.

Competency-building in EI skills will not only improve the travel experience but may also give you a set of skills for your professional and personal lives. Improved communication with less emotional stress will make the trip more enjoyable and provide other far-reaching benefits.



Shelly Major is the Chief Nursing Officer for The Methodist Hospitals in Indiana, and a student in the doctoral program with the Center for Values-Driven Leadership.

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