Trav­el is about chang­ing not only your loca­tion, but your point of view. While we all hope to use a trip to escape a rut, we can cross the world and nev­er real­ly go any­where if we don’t learn about our­selves in the process.

From Con­fu­cius to T.S. Eliot, count­less artists and philoso­phers have tack­led this idea, but maybe none so well as Harold Ramis and Bill Mur­ray. In their clas­sic com­e­dy “Ground­hog Day,” cyn­i­cal and arro­gant weath­er­man Phil Con­nors gets trapped in a time loop while on assign­ment in Punx­sutawney, Penn­syl­va­nia. While Phil’s ordeal in the movie deliv­ers plen­ty of laughs, it also con­tains plen­ty of lessons for the trav­el­er on how to make the most out an expe­ri­ence in any location. 

groundhog dayPart of the film’s bril­liance is that its mes­sage isn’t lec­tured, it’s shown, and in hilar­i­ous fash­ion. As the ini­tial­ly mis­er­able Phil spends more time in the town, he adapts and learns to live life to the fullest. Whether you’re trav­el­ing to a desired locale or trapped in “the mid­dle of nowhere” like Phil, you can still have fun and learn from the expe­ri­ence. While it takes Phil hun­dreds, maybe even thou­sands of repeats to tru­ly appre­ci­ate his predica­ment, our own time is lim­it­ed. Still, you can use the film as a reminder to always make the most of a new place the first time around. 

Learn Some­thing New
Phil is com­fort­able being adept at weath­er broad­cast­ing and wry jokes to get him through life, until his time loop leaves him with an open sched­ule to expand his knowl­edge. While we might nev­er have the time to acquire Phil’s even­tu­al mas­tery of ice sculp­ture carv­ing, piano, and French poet­ry, you can still take a lit­tle time out of every day to work on a new skill. And no time is bet­ter for learn­ing some­thing you actu­al­ly care about then a trip, where your time is yours and you can fol­low your pas­sion, not your job. 


Every Place is Worth­while
After four vis­its, Phil still thinks Punx­sutawney is a dump, to use the polite word, and there’s plen­ty of places in the world that trav­el­ers might give a sim­i­lar label. To the audi­ence, it’s already clear that Phil is miss­ing the quaint charm of the town, its live­ly annu­al cel­e­bra­tion, and the friend­ly locals. As Phil gives up try­ing to escape from the town, he too begins to notice its fin­er qual­i­ties, dis­cov­er­ing a choco­late shop, a Ger­man restau­rant, and beau­ti­ful ice and lights dis­plays. He even­tu­al­ly learns to love the place, even the fes­ti­val he once called “a thou­sand peo­ple freez­ing their butts off wait­ing to wor­ship a rat.” While there’s plen­ty of places a trav­el­er would imme­di­ate­ly dis­miss as unwor­thy, by doing so, they may be miss­ing out on the best it has to offer.

Stay Pos­i­tive
Phil is self-involved and per­pet­u­al­ly sar­cas­tic at the begin­ning of the film, which only serves to make him more despon­dent as he’s stuck in the town day after day. Bur­dened by his mis­ery, he deliv­ers a grim weath­er fore­cast. “It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be gray and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life,” he laments. But after over­com­ing his dark moment, he begins to seek out new expe­ri­ences and even­tu­al­ly starts to enjoy him­self, even deliv­er­ing a touch­ing broad­cast prais­ing the pos­i­tive side of win­ter. He shows how no mat­ter how dis­as­trous a sit­u­a­tion you may find your­self while trav­el­ing, there’s always a sil­ver lin­ing and a new oppor­tu­ni­ty to had with the right demeanor. It’s easy to be sar­cas­tic or emo­tion­al­ly dis­tant in today’s world, but even if you have Bill Mur­ray’s razor-sharp wit, no one will want to be around you. But seek­ing out real and authen­tic expe­ri­ences in the midst of tragedy can win you friends and allow you to dis­cov­er more about a new place or your­self than you ever could with a poor attitude. 

Don’t Plan the Per­fect Day
In an ongo­ing bid to woo his cowork­er, Rita, Phil grad­u­al­ly tweaks a roman­tic date to say and do every­thing per­fect­ly, but he repeat­ed­ly fails nonethe­less. He tries to force a sit­u­a­tion instead of let­ting things hap­pen organ­i­cal­ly, and ends up repeat­ed­ly with a lit­er­al slap across the face. When trav­el­ing, plan­ning is impor­tant, but you should­n’t expect every­thing to always go as you’d hoped. You just have to roll with the punch­es, or face slaps, in Phil’s case. How­ev­er, like Phil, if you’re open and spon­ta­neous, you may find that the best moments on your trip are the ones you could­n’t have pos­si­bly planned for.


Meet the Locals
Phil decries the res­i­dents of Punx­sutawney as sim­ple­tons and hicks, and shuns them or even out­right insults them. But forced into inter­act­ing with them day after day, he gets to know and appre­ci­ate a bed and break­fast own­er, some drink­ing bud­dies at the bowl­ing alley and every per­son at the town’s din­er. The rela­tion­ships with the locals that he once dodged become a big con­trib­u­tor to turn­ing his life around and escap­ing the time loop as well as his own tox­ic mindset.

Of course, that’s not to say you won’t need your fair share of locals like Ned Ryer­son, an insur­ance sales­man that pesters Phil relent­less­ly in the film. You should give every­one a rea­son­able chance, but some char­ac­ters like Ned will have few redeem­ing qual­i­ties and are bet­ter being polite­ly avoid­ed. Don’t punch them in the face, though, even if they are try­ing to sell you life insurance.


Be More Than a Guest 
In a new loca­tion, espe­cial­ly on vaca­tion, it’s easy to lapse into the delu­sion that you are supe­ri­or to hos­pi­tal­i­ty work­ers and oth­er locals and that they should cater to your every whim. Phil, for his part, repeat­ed­ly con­de­scends a bed and break­fast own­er and oth­er locals who try to accom­mo­date him. Most locals will be hap­py to help, but occa­sion­al­ly return­ing the favor open doors that you would’ve missed as a pam­pered tourist. Phil even­tu­al­ly learns that hap­pi­ness is found by mak­ing oth­ers hap­py, and under­goes a series of good­will tasks includ­ing sav­ing a child falling from a tree, tend­ing to a home­less man, and chang­ing a flat tire on some elder­ly ladies’ car. In return, he gets invi­ta­tions to a par­ty and oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties that he might not have got­ten if he’d been think­ing only of him­self. More impor­tant­ly, he finds more hap­pi­ness than when he only cared for himself.

Make It Mean Some­thing
When Phil real­izes a repeat­ing day means no last­ing con­se­quences, he pur­sues reck­less and thrilling expe­ri­ences, from eat­ing what­ev­er he wants to get­ting into high-speed police pur­suits on the rail­road tracks. He lives like there’s no tomor­row, but not for a bet­ter tomor­row. But the lack of risk and sig­nif­i­cance quick­ly makes his hijinks turn bor­ing. On your own trip, it’s impor­tant to have fun, but to also seek out things that will mean some­thing. Con­stant self-indul­gence gets old, but whether it’s vol­un­teer­ing, help­ing out a local, or sim­ply learn­ing some­thing impor­tant, you should take time to do some­thing that will trans­form your life long after your vaca­tion is over.

At end of the film, Phil trans­forms his life and is mer­ci­less­ly released from the end­less time cycle. He’s emerged a bet­ter man, and learned to love Rita, the town of Punx­sutawney, and him­self, albeit in a more hum­ble way. While we may nev­er have the unique learn­ing expe­ri­ence Phil did, we can use “Ground­hog Day” as a reminder on what’s tru­ly impor­tant in trav­el­ing and how to be hap­py no mat­ter where we may find our­selves. Like Phil, you’ll not only enjoy where you’re at for the time being, you may even find a place where you’ll want to stay forever.