“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
I am pretty sure we all agree that travelling can have a huge impact on our lives and that’s not a secret. However, only in recent years we have become familiar with the concept of transformational travel, a fast-growing travel trend that has raise more awareness on the transformative power of travel.
I have lived myself transformative experiences during my travels (as you can read in this article) so I have decided to share with you in this section, not only my personal experience but also interviews with other transformative travellers.
What does transformative travel mean?
According to the Transformational Travel Council “transformative experiences empower people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life”.
A journey doesn’t end in the destination but it continues once the traveller is back home and decides to make changes into his/her life.
This doesn’t necessary mean to turn your life upside down, sometimes small changes are implied related to your life style, consumption habits, or your relationships.
What’s new then?
Though we have always been aware of the transformative power of travelling, nowadays there is a deeper awareness of this process both in the traveller who has a clear travel motivation in mind and in the destination and tour operators who carefully design experiences that go beyond the simple exploration of a territory but can trigger a reflection and transformation.
Which are the travel motivation of a transformative traveller?
As I usually explain during my workshops on transformation travel, there are several travel motivations that can push you to undertake this kind of journey. One of the most popular is by far to reflect on love and relationships.
If you think about it, you may find out that you have travelled at least once in your life to heal your broken heart, or hoping to find love, or simply to reflect on your current relationship.
These where the sort of questions I have beek asking myself during my trip to Bali, that helped me to clear my mind and most of all my feelings.
Another motivation on the rise is sustainability, a theme that is attracting more and more attention (finally, I must say!). That’s why many people opt to visit sustainable destinations or projects, looking for best practices to introduce into their lives.
More than once during my travels I have come face to face with situations that have pushed me to make changes into my consumption of energy and water or use of plastic. One very powerful has been during my trip to Borneo, where I was shocked by the tons of trash that every day washed the deserted beaches of Libaran Island.
More and more travellers choose for example trips to better their physical and mental balance. I am sure you have noticed the incredible rise in the offer of detox retreat, either food or digital detox. Certain places such as Bali or Ibiza have been turned from beach and party destinations into yoga and mindfulness havens (in my opinion, marketing often exceeds the real quality of the experience).
Volunteering is attracting a growing demand too as more and more travellers, in particular millennials, feel the urge to “make some good”.
Let’s be clear though, many of these volunteer programs you find online ask you a big amount of money to participate, so my advice is, when possible, to contact the local associations direct instead. Also, make sure to have enough time to spend within the project, especially if you are dealing with kids, because there isn’t much sense in spending just few days at a village school or orfanage if not to make “you feel better”.
You can always support and contribute to local projects of social and economic development visiting and buying direct as I did during my trip to Thailand and India where I visited projects for the women empowerment in rural areas, or in Borneo where I stayed at a ecotourism community project in Orou Sapulot (learn more about this experience).
Last but not least, reflecting on time management and balancing work and family time.
For managers or people used to dedicate most of their lives to work, taking a vacation is already a big step, but transformative travel can help you to reconsider your lifestyle and time management, giving more importance to your free time.
I understand this topic pretty well being raised in a super productive and hard-working family that has always had little time off and I have experienced myself this challenge when I ran a tourism company finding little time for myself and beloved ones.
A transformative travel can allow you to come close with other lifestyles and local communities that have managed to find a good balance between work and family, enabling a deeper reflection on life priorities and quality.
How to organize a transformative travel?
It’s not easy to write down a list of the best transformative destinations or experiences because we all have different needs and motivations to undertake a transformative trip. For this reason most tour operators offer a one-to-one consultancy creating a tailormade itinerary.
Why do you want to take a transformative travel? What do you expect? What changes would you like to bring into your life?
These are the sort of questions you should start with, as well as understand if you intend to travel solo (learn more on how a solo trip can change your life) or prefer to join a group. There are several small group experiences accompanied by a tour leader who also acts as a sort of mentor making sure that every participant is making the most out of the experience. The interaction and sharing with the other components of the group can be a great plus too.
Have you ever asked yourself why you may find it easier to discuss private and intimate matters with strangers instead of with family members or close friends?
I found myself more than once talking about my life doubts and expectations with travel mates (as I mention in this article of transformative travel stories).
I have come to the conclusion that we find ourselves at ease with strangers because we don’t feel judged so we talk more openly, as if we are sending a message in a bottle into the ocean that nobody will ever read. We feel welcomed and safe somehow.
If you are planning to take a transformative trip I invite you first to reply honestly to the above questions with an open heart and be prepared to honour your intentions once you will be back Home.
If you are after some tips or travel suggestions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org