I recently saw a video online that was poking fun at some traveler stereotypes that I found amusing, but it also got me thinking. In this video the character was making fun of a fictional “traveler” who was saying things like “I just want to experience local culture and immerse myself” but would then step into the corner Starbucks and complain about the dirty street. The character used words like “experience” and “culture” and “immersion” in a way that made them feel like jokes. There is a lot of truth to that satire, but it also got me thinking that the concepts of transformative travel and immersive cultural experience might be getting made into caricatures of concepts that are actually very valuable.
The basis of what we call Transformational Travel has become both punchline and trendy new topic at the same time. But both of these labels fall short of giving this way of movement it’s proper reverence and understanding. Right now as we speak, you can find a litany of blogs, videos, articles, and commentaries on the “cool new trend in travel.” We wanted to take some time to present a different view of transformative experience and try to shed some light on what this actually means and its value not only in travel, but in the human experience.
People make fun or diminish the use of “buzz words” and descriptions of transformative travel that, under their syntax, describe a revolutionary and particularly human way to travel. Let’s talk about a couple.
“Immersion” or “Cultural Immersion”
When people say things like, “I just want to get immersed in the culture” and then stay at five star resorts, don’t connect with local people, and eat at Applebees, this presents a problem. What does immersion actually mean. In the context of Transformational Travel, immersion is about giving yourself to a place and an experience. It starts before you ever leave home by preparing you mind and heart to be open to being changed. It is the lack of judgement and expectation. It is seeing the world around you without preconception or personal bias. Ultimately, having an immersive experience depends little on where you go and what you do, but has everything to do with how you feel, listen, and are changed from the experience.
“Responsible Travel” or “Ecotourism” or “Sustainable Travel”
Because Transformative Travel is inherently centered on acknowledging and learning about the truth of space and people, these ideas become naturally part of how you move through the world in this way. Respecting the power and reverence of nature, seeing people as full human beings worthy of respect and love and empowerment, and leaving the world better than you find it are all naturally and inherent aspects of Transformational Travel. These are not something special or unique or somehow exclusive. These ideals are in the fabric of being human and in the very basis of transformative experience.
I am convinced that few people actually understand what this really means. It’s like when people use the word “hilarious” or “legendary” to describe mundane daily occurrences. Where do you go from there? What happens when something truly hilarious happens? You have wasted that word on a dog video on Instagram, now what? The same can be said for descriptions of life-altering experiences while traveling. This also speaks to the very basis of what is being left out in the conversation of Transformational Travel:
Transformational Travel is not only about how you change or what you learn, it is about WHAT YOU DO with that change and knowledge that make this way of travel truly world-altering.
It is not enough to have a fun trip that checks off the bucket list box and some cool photos to share on social media. For travel to be truly transformational it must reveal to you some truth about your deepest soul-level purpose and prompt an action that seeks to make the world around you a better place for having had that experience. This is the key idea that is missed and what sets Transformational Travel apart from other forms of immersive travel and experience.
Here at Travel Life Adventures we want to help you see that Transformational Travel is more than consuming or connecting with people and places to enrich our own life only. It’s about learning about ourselves and the needs of the world so we can use our unique gifts to give back to our community. It is about empowering voices of those who are held down and giving space for culture and tradition, nature and landscape to speak to the world.
There is really no one way to participate in Transformational Travel. In its true form it is pure, raw, uncomfortable, can move you to tears, and will change the way you see yourself and the world around you. It is fun, thrilling, moving, and creates a change in you that can’t turn back from. At the same time Transformational Travel is not marketing. It is not a new way to get clients or make money or exploit people’s desire for meaning to fill your bank account. It is not a way to put yourself above others or set yourself apart in your community. Transformational Travel is the hero’s journey into the depths of soul, the dark places that hold the secrets to our highest purpose and our most full existence. It is personal and only for you, and you alone.
Here at Travel Life HQ we have now found ourselves connected to places and people that live across the globe, understanding that we all share in this space together, yearning for the same things: peace, happiness, and a for a better future. We know that our actions affect those we do not know, and that we all have gifts that can help move the world forward. We are all connected, the people next door and those a world away.