Traveling has become an integral part of my life, ever since I dared to step out of my comfort zone and go on a solo adventure to New York three years ago. I chose a safe, closer-to-home option to start my journey and test the Escape Rooms. And the next thing I knew was me, neck-deep into the ocean of breathtaking experiences that only traveling can bring to anyone’s life.
But it was not very easy to come to this point. Traveling is not as effortless as movie montages might make them seem. There are certain skills and qualities you need as a traveler to be able to navigate through foreign places, people, and environments. And I got the opportunity to hone these skills at a very unexpected place- escape rooms.
For the ones uninitiated to the idea, escape rooms are thematic rooms where a team of players is locked in with only 60 minutes to escape. You have to find clues, decode hints, and solve puzzles to make your way out of the room.
Now, how did such a straightforward recreation prepare me to become a better traveler? Let’s dive a little deeper:
One of the most desirable skills a traveler needs is communication. And this doesn’t imply that you need to speak the language of the place you are visiting fluently. Communication is also your aptitude- how easily you can ask for help if you can identify people who will be able to help you and to be able to make acquaintances while you are on a trip. Being a good communicator helps you not only mingle with new people and enjoy your travel experience but also ensures your safety.
Unfortunately, I am an introvert by nature, hesitant to talk to people. But playing escape rooms regularly helped me get out of that shell to a certain extent. I often go to escape rooms alone, where I am teamed up with strangers. And through those experiences, I learned that if you put yourself in a position where you have limited time to finish a job, you will automatically start to converse and negotiate with them to get things done. I am still an introvert, alright, but escape rooms trained me to be able to communicate better and clearly with strangers, allowing me to feel more confident about setting off to a place where I might not know anyone.
While traveling, you need to have keen observation skills to enjoy each little moment to the fullest. You should also be aware of your surroundings to ensure safety while in a foreign place. Thankfully, this quality comes to me naturally. I love to sit back and observe things and usually am the first one to pick up context clues. But escape rooms seem to have to help me hone this skill to the next level, where I not only sit back and observe but then act upon those observations as well.
You see, an escape game demands a fine eye for detail. You learn to read in between the lines, be on the lookout for the unexpected, and most importantly, spring into action when you have enough clues on hand. So, now I have developed this habit of questioning myself, “Is this just a thing to be observed, or should I do something about it?”.” Now instead of being a passive observer, I take part in experiences more directly, which has resulted in many beautiful memories- some of them captured in polaroids, hung on my walls.
Memory retention has been a problem for me since school, which is why I was the designated loser in those Capital City games we used to play sometimes during recess. But traveling does require a good memory, unless you like getting lost in unknown cities at 11 in the night, with no means to get back to your hotel (yes, this is an actual incident that I, unfortunately, had to live through).
There is absolutely no exaggeration when I tell you to escape rooms helped me get better at remembering things. It didn’t happen in one day, though. At first, I used to forget important clues and details while playing the game. And I did become the butt of the joke a few times for this. But thanks to my competitive spirit, I started to push myself to make more rigorous mental notes. I noticed that visual memory worked a lot better for me than words. And once I discovered how to get a hold of that, there was no looking back.
Interpersonal skills involve verbal and non-verbal communication, negotiation, decision-making skills, and listening. All of these are necessary for a traveler if they want to really experience the place they visit, instead of just staying at a fancy hotel and eating five-star meals.
As I said before, I am an introverted person. So, it comes as no surprise that I didn’t really possess many interpersonal skills. But escape rooms helped me get over that awkwardness that came to me instinctively when I was in an unknown setting, among unknown people. Playing escape games with new people, interacting with them freely, learning to make conversations, and being easy-going felt a lot less difficult after I had played a good 20-25 of these escape room sessions.
Cognitive processing means gaining new knowledge. Traveling to a new place helped me learn a lot of new things. Each journey taught me something about the place and helped me learn more about myself too. But for all this to happen, I had to prepare my mind to be open and accepting. Only when I learned how to look at the brighter side of things was I able to travel more freely and enjoy it better.
This mindset, however, was not something I was blessed with since birth. In fact, I tend to be the opposite. My first reaction to any unfavorable outcome is to rebel against it. But I think escape rooms had some involvement in helping me control this urge. I remember, when I used to lose a game as a beginner escapee, I would start to throw tantrums internally. But one of my teammates, who later became a long-term friend, helped me out of this habit. When we lost a game by just 1 minute, that teammate said, “the last time I was here, my team couldn’t even get through half the game. This time I made it almost to the end with you guys. The curve only goes up, I guess.” It stayed with me for a long time. After that, I started saying it to myself whenever I came across something new and couldn’t master it right away- the curve only goes up! And it made me more open to learning and failing, even while traveling.
Thinking on your feet is a crucial skill while traveling. Only a few are born with it. The others have to work for it.
While I was traveling in Europe, the hostel I had booked in Prague gave away my reservation because I got there late at night, much later than my expected arrival. It was hard to think fast and figure out what to do next. Even though I could find a cheaper hotel that night, the memory of being alone and having no place to stay still freaks me out. There have been several other unavoidable circumstances like flight cancellation and sudden calamities that have disrupted my original plans while on a trip. I had to find other ways to make things work and quickly.
Escape rooms gave me a good practicing ground for developing my problem-solving skills. The twisted riddles and cryptic puzzles train your brain to think in the craziest ways possible to solve any problem. And it turns out crazy approaches come in very handy as a traveler.
And that’s how escape rooms honed me to become a better traveler. Though I am still learning from my experiences and growing, a significant part of the credit goes to this unsuspecting game that prepared me with the soft skills necessary as a globe-trotter.
Charlotte Lin is a content creator at escaperoom.com. She’s a passionate young woman, mother to an amazing nine-year-old, and an avid reader. Over the years, writing has helped her explore and understand the world as well as her own self. She loves to travel, meet new people, and spend quality time with her daughter. You can find her on LinkedIn.
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