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What is Transformational Travel?

By April 10, 2018 No Comments

We have been reflecting on why we travel.  Why we prioritize taking trips that involve packing, a lot of time on airplanes and significant cost. We miss some holidays with family and collect experiences that are hard to relate to others without the same perspective.  We have been asking ourselves why.  Why we do it?  Pack up again and again and skimp on daily comforts for far flung inconveniences.

This post is our attempt to refine our understanding of our own intuition.  To try and bring semi-conscious feelings into sharper contrast.

It is so easy to be desensitized to the every day wonder of life. As Americans we have so many opportunities that the remarkable can be easily taken for granted.  There is always an engrossing facebook post, a new clever tech gadget, a new cocktail.

We started traveling because we want to reconnect with meaning.  To connect.  To taste and feel and be energized by our lives.   We found that being in a different culture is a shock to the system.  Body language is different, the habitual movement through familiar situations breaks down and navigating even the simplest exchange can require a great deal of attention.  Marcus Proust said

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands
but seeing with new eyes.”

Maybe there is something to that.  We have found that, as we travel, there are activities and situations that help us have new eyes, to become something a little more than who we are in everyday life.  We tried to list some of these activities here.  We hope they help you find more meaning in your wanderings.

1. Connect with people and places

New friendsConnection is one of the most important aspects of transformational travel and it’s a two-way street. By connecting with people, you’re creating space for them to impact your life. But it also gives you the chance to have a lasting impact on others’ lives. There are lots of ways to make connections while traveling, as long as you remain open.

A simple but valuable step to making connections is learning to say hello and thank you in the local language. It’s an easy way to show that you have respect for the people, their country, and culture. Carrying small gifts is another great way to break the ice. Bringing something from your own country, like postcards or sweets, gives people a glimpse of your culture and can even make them feel more comfortable.

Another way to make connections involves spending time participating in regional activities. Try taking a dance class in South America, a yoga class in India, or spend time volunteering in a school are great ways to get a sense of a culture and especially make new friends.

2. Flirt with the unknown

Scuba Diving with Hammer headsEmbracing new experiences is a wonderful way to expand your world. And it’s not difficult to do. You could stop off in a new town, visit a local café that you haven’t been to before, or strike up a conversation with a local. Transformational travel involves saying yes to things and staying open to new experiences. So try a new dish when you go out for dinner, visit a local exhibition, or get purposefully lost and wander without a plan.

3. Become part of the community

Women's Center; Lugazi UgandaSlow travel offers plenty of opportunities to become part of the community. You could volunteer on a farm, attend meetups, and get to know the place you’re visiting on a deeper level. But even if you only have a limited amount of time somewhere, it’s still worth engaging with the community.

Instead of booking a hotel, stay in a hostel that’s run by locals. When it comes to meeting people, hostels tend to be more interactive than hotels. And if you choose one that’s owned by locals, you’ll also be helping to support the local economy. An added benefit is that locals have the inside scoop on the best things to do.

You could also offer to speak English when traveling to non-English speaking countries. When English isn’t the native language, there are always people who are looking to improve their speaking skills. Universities and language exchange groups are a good place to start. You might even make some new friends!

4. Challenge yourself physically, mentally, or spiritually

Annapurna CircuitTo truly transform, you’ll need to challenge yourself in some way. Whether that’s the challenge of simply traveling alone to a new place or climbing a mountain, overcoming difficulties will leave you with an empowering sense of achievement. No matter where you are in the world, you’ll find opportunities to challenge yourself. You could try confronting long-held beliefs by learning something new about spirituality. You could try a silent meditation retreat in a Buddhist monastery, or ride a horse for the first time in New Zealand. Of course, the challenge you choose will depend on your needs and where you travel to.

5. Take time out for yourself

Once you’ve pushed yourself out of your comfort zone and engaged in the “doing” part of transformational travel, it’s important to take some time to reflect. Meditating, taking solo walks, and journaling are all wonderful ways to give yourself some solo time.

You might want to look back on your travels and the impact they’ve had on your life. Or you might want to consider how to implement your new ideas and attitudes when you return home.

The experience and effects of transformational travel will be different for everyone. Maybe you’ll return with a desire to live in a more sustainable way, or maybe you’ll come home with a new-found confidence. Whatever the effects, if you fully embrace this form of travel, you can be certain that your life will never be the same again.

Do you have other ways to infuse your adventures with meaning?  We would love to hear what works for you.  Please reach out and connect with us!  Thank you, S&J