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New Year, No Fear!

The new year is here! The time when we make all sorts of resolutions in hopes of transforming into a better version of ourselves. It’s renewal, hope, and optimism for the year ahead. Travel has always held the power to transform, so what better time of year to discuss the concept of transformative travel.

I was recently talking to a good friend about my ideal way of celebrating a milestone birthday coming at me at lightning speed. I concluded that I would like to travel to a new and interesting location and stay in a luxurious resort, not thinking about a single detail. This may not be exactly what I would call a transformative experience, but nonetheless my dream of relaxing makes me smile. There is a time and place for all types of vacations.

But in today’s world of constant movement and connectivity, more and more people are feeling disconnected from each other and themselves. Transformative travel is seeking out life changing experiences, meaningful connections and the overall feeling that you have been changed in some way, beyond the life of your trip. Not that just laying on a beach is wrong, but sometimes there is a real craving for learning something new, meeting new people, or achieving a personal goal.

It should come as no surprise that this will take on different shapes for different people. There are amazing opportunities out there to explore, and a travel advisor will be indispensable in helping you in both defining what exactly this looks like to you and then creating the ideal trip to achieve your vision.

There are broad categories of what I would classify as “transformative”: wellness, adventure, and cultural. All encompass learning something about yourself or others, and most often involve embracing a bit of the unknown.

Wellness looks like different things to different people. Maybe your idea of wellness is healthy eating. You can travel places that serve on-site farm to table meals or even meet with a nutritionist and chef to create new ways of eating altogether. It might mean taking your yoga practice to the next level, finding inspiration in beautiful surroundings, or learning to meditate. And of course, wellness is always better (in my opinion), when it is combined with a spa that not only pampers but heals as well.

Adventure goes hand in hand with nature. Biking miles through the Irish countryside, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or swimming with sharks in the Galapagos Islands will really get you out of your comfort zone and your heart pumping. The list of possibilities seems to get longer each year.

Maybe the best way to find transformative travel through culture is to follow your passion. For some it may mean staying for several weeks in one or two locations to assimilate into the daily living of a foreign country speaking the local language. It could mean joining a small group to cook and have dinner with a chef in Italy, learning how to dance the Salsa in Cuba, or getting up close and personal with the gauchos (cowboys) and their horses in Argentina. Experiencing from the inside rather than looking from the outside is the key.

What they all have in common is that the responsibility of the experience being transformative lies with the traveler, otherwise they are just experiences. You must be ready to embrace uncertainty, whether it be in wellness, adventure, cultural exploration or otherwise. What does this mean exactly? Well, according to the Transformative Travel Council (TTC), there are a few elements needed:

  • Setting out with openness and mindfulness for what you are about to experience.

  • Allowing the experience to be something that challenges you in some way. How much of a challenge you are willing to accept depends on your individual comfort level, and you must be honest with yourself about what might be too much or not enough.

  • And then once back home, you can reflect on what you have done, who you have met, what you have learned, and how it fits into your life going forward.

So, the next time you are ready to travel, give some thought to what you want to bring home with you, other than souvenirs.

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