One of the reasons travel is so challenging right now is because of the lack of civility and simple human kindness. People are frustrated by restrictions, delays, and each other – and they’re taking it out on anyone around.
After experiencing rude and hurtful incidents herself, travel writer Robin Raven decided to do something about it. Her new book, The Kindness Workbook: An Interactive Guide for Creating Compassion in Yourself and the World, is filled with exercises that encourage you to incorporate kindness in all your actions. It’s a game-changer.
This little book has the power to literally make the world a better place. It’s small enough to carry in your bag so you can use your travel time to calm down, reflect and actually practice what you’re learning.
I caught up with Raven between travels to find out more.
First, thank you for writing a book that is so crucial right now. Tell us why, as a travel writer, you decided to do this.
During my travels, I realized that there was a big conversation about kindness that needed to happen. When you travel, you have so many opportunities to show kindness and too many people are choosing not to take advantage of that.
Emotions are often heightened during travel, and it’s easy for people to get upset. I was partly inspired to write this book because I’ve seen firsthand how kindness can transform simple interactions. From the time you are greeted by the person checking your bag at the airline’s front counter to the person sitting next to you on the plane, you have the opportunity to be kind and leave someone feeling good. When you choose kindness, you also feel better about yourself. You’re more confident and more empowered to make things go your way on your trip.
I love that the book is interactive. It’s perfect because you literally “practice” kindness. How do you suggest people use the book most effectively?
There’s really no right or wrong way but one easy way is to just start at the beginning and do an exercise each day. I also recommend getting a journal and writing down your thoughts after completing each exercise. That can help empower you to further reflect on each exercise and how you can utilize what you discovered to be kinder to yourself and others.
The exercises in the book are so thought-provoking. How did you come up with them?
I found inspiration in so many places. My therapist is very creative, so I was inspired by some of the things that she has suggested for me as part of my own healing process. Many of the exercises are ones I’ve been doing myself for a long time. Some were imagined when I was trying to figure out how to be kinder to myself, the people in my life, and even strangers.
Do you have any personal favorites?
I especially like the one called Manifest Your Values because it helps you get clarity and focus on the values you want to fully embrace. Also, I love writing, so I enjoyed doing exercises that required some writing. I am always excited to hear which ones most help readers.
Which of the exercises may be the most challenging for people?
Well, I want people to feel free to skip exercises that feel challenging or daunting. They can always come back to them later. However, I encourage readers to first examine what it is they find challenging about the exercise. Looking at what a daunting exercise brings to the surface can help identify an issue a reader might be struggling with, and that can free them to deal with the problem.
As an introvert, the ones that required me to reach out to others were the most challenging for me personally. However, I think they can be very beneficial. I think it will depend on each reader’s personality, but I do strongly suggest that they skip ones that may be challenging for them in the moment if it will stop them from progressing further in the book. On another day, they may feel like doing an exercise that seemed daunting at an earlier time.
Can you share any examples of how kindness has made a difference to you personally during your travels?
Yes, kindness has made a huge difference. Kindness always makes a huge difference. Even small things like a stranger’s smile. A stranger also stopped one time to ask if I was okay when I started crying after an intrusive pat-down at the airport that was very triggering. That simple gesture was uplifting. It was nice that the stranger cared, and I still remember how great that kindness felt.
Also, one time when I was hiking on a trip, the leader stopped to make sure I was okay, and he reassured me that I was not a burden when I was very worried about holding others up. That kindness meant a lot to me at the time, and it made me aware that I should also reassure others who might need it. I try to do that now.
On the other hand, some people’s lack of kindness have had a big impact, too. I was once openly mocked by a stranger in an airport. He made fun of my body, and his girlfriend laughed loudly at his cruel jokes. That hurt as much as the man’s horrible treatment of me. People stared, and I felt completely humiliated and deeply hurt. That incident really opened my eyes to the need for greater kindness.
I’m sorry you experienced that. I’d like to send that guy a copy of your book. He probably has his own self-esteem issues and can only feel good about himself by putting other people down. How does kindness toward yourself lead to kindness to others and a more civil world?
When our own needs are met and we feel content, we naturally want to reach out and help others. The same is true for kindness. When we see the transformative power of kindness and how it touches our hearts and betters our lives, it’s only natural to want to pass it on. I was really inspired by meeting my mentor, and his kindness to me inspired me to pass that on and be even kinder to others.
What’s amazing is that we can give that power to ourselves. Every single one of us has the ability to make a difference, and we can start today. The world can be overwhelming and it may take a long time for it to return to any kind of “normal,” but we don’t have to wait another moment to be kind to ourselves and reach out to others with an open, kind heart, too.