Motivations for travel vary – for some it is simply a time to reenergize your batteries, while for others it’s to experience things first hand or disconnect from the stresses of work and home. Personally I choose to engage in meaningful travel, because it has the ability to enrich your life in ways, shapes, and forms that often can not be described. You return a different person than when you arrived.
Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully you leave something good behind.Anthony bourdain
While many people believe that having meaningful travel experiences strictly coincides with volunteerism, there are many alternative ways to travel deeper, exploring the world with purpose and making it matter. Only you can determine what type of experience will make a difference, but here are some tips we have learned along the way:
Immerse Yourself in the Culture –
Often we arrive to our destination without ever truly leaving our own “world.” We choose the path of being a tourist, while looking from the outside in, essentially sitting on the sidelines taking in whats going on around you without ever participating.
Immersing yourself in the culture is the only way to gain a more profound experience, which often only takes leaving the comforts of your hotel and being truly engulfed in the world around you. True depth in travel comes from integrating yourself into the community by interacting with the locals and understanding the way others live. Don’t know where to start? Try actively participating in local rituals, eating traditional dishes, or learning the history that made the destination what it is today.
Further tips for immersing yourself in Meaningful Travel:
- Learn some of the basic language & look for opportunities to interact with locals.
- Get off the beaten path, drink at local establishments, and frequent common hangouts.
- This should come without saying, but stay away from the tourists traps.
- Always be mindful & patient. Interact with a curious spirit & willingness to learn.
Connect With Nature & Wildlife –
Want to truly escape even if it is just for a brief second? Traveling gives one many opportunities to be among nature and consciously connect with it. While planning your itinerary look for places that allow you to interact with wildlife in their natural habitats, or to participate in conservation efforts.
The best journeys in life are those that answer questions you never thought to ask.Rich ridgeway
Give Back –
Giving should be a selfless experience, benefiting not only the recipient but yourself as well. As they say, “it feels better to give than to receive.” Humanitarianism builds relationships, profits people less fortunate, strengthens communities, and most importantly helps you gain a different perspective.
There are always plenty of opportunities to help others no matter where you travel in the world. Simply adding a few volunteer aspects to your itinerary or joining a development project solely based on humanitarian efforts can have an enormous impact on those you are helping.
It can also be as simple as leaving a little room in your baggage to bring much needed items to a community in need.
Push Yourself To Leave Your Comfort Zone –
Expanding your horizons is another way to get the most out of your travel experience. Every time you take the leap and try something for the first time you will experience growth; the fear of the unknown is being pushed back & replaced with a flicker of empowerment.
International travel will inevitably break you out of your comfort zone; language barriers, navigating the streets and ordering food. However make it a point to push your boundaries, and do something that scares you. Try adding something you have never done before to every day of your itinerary. Whether it be eating something bizarre, an adventurous activity, or exploring secret nooks and crannies.
Solo Meaningful Travel –
Lets face it, sometimes we need some alone time – doing what you want, when you want to and frankly it makes planning so much easier due to the lack of other people’s opinions. Also traveling solo opens you up to meeting new people.
Stop letting the fear and anxiety of traveling alone keep you from exploring the world. There will always be excuses, but stop putting your dreams on hold. You not only miss out on what the world has to offer, more importantly you miss the feeling of empowerment that comes from relying solely on yourself.
Share an Experience With Someone Special –
Often we find ourselves somewhere incredible wishing we had someone there to share it with. Just as solo travel can be enlightening so can traveling with someone special. A sunset, an activity, a wine paired dinner set atop a cliff with the waves crashing around you can lead to some of our most cherished memories.
Meaningful Travel Means Learning Something New –
Want a true degree in world affairs, travel. It teaches you things that can’t be found in any textbook. Traveling forces you to learn and figure things out on the fly. Immerse yourself in culture, history, and people all while learning about yourself.
Support The Locals –
In developing countries many businesses rely solely on tourism to survive. That means spending your dollars at international hotel chains and restaurants is not truly supporting the natives. While these companies create jobs, a substantial portion of the profits go to the corporations owners and not the destination’s people.
Support means booking with local guides, eating at local establishments, laying your head to rest at an independently owned hotel and getting your shopping fix from buying direct.