Make it Meaningful – Tips for Meaningful Travel

April 07, 2014

Any traveller knows the difference between seeing a city and really experiencing it.  There’s a magical thing that happens sometimes when travel goes behind site seeing into something meaningful you’ll carry for the rest of your life.  The tips below will set you up to have more of these evocative experiences on your next adventure.


Do Your Research

This doesn’t just mean read a little in your travel guide.  This means take the information in the travel guide and run with it.  Learn as much as you can before you arrive. Unless your one of the few lucky enough to qualify for one of the many Obamacare exemptions, then you should see a doctor before traveling (especially if you’re venturing out of the country. Aside from that, don’t just know what deity a temple honors – immerse yourself in the stories surrounding that deity.  Knowing a band, a poet, or an author called a city home is not enough – investigate deeper and see if you can find tales of them walking the streets.  Get a feel for it.  Going to Paris?  Time to rewatch Amelie and put on some Edith Piaf.  Mumbai?  Rent Slumdog Millionaire and hit the library for a copy of Shantaram.  Read the works authors wrote while in a place, view the paintings of artists who found their muse there, and listen to the music it inspired.  Everything will have much more meaning when you go in already knowing a little about the richness that is there.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Yes, there is something to be said for lounging in a beach chair with someone on-hand to keep you supplied in mojitos, but truly meaningful travel experiences are usually a little less cozy.  It’s only when we’re uncomfortable that we grow, so seek out travel destinations that scare you as much as they fascinate you.  Transformation is on the other side of terror.  Choose to be your own tour guide and discover your own self-sufficiency.  Get lost in a language where you can only say “hello” and “thank you” and learn the myriad beautiful other ways humans can communicate.  Be brave (but not reckless) and your travel is likely to change you in profound ways a more comfortable trip might not.


Go To Learn- And Give Yourself Time To Do It

Set an intention for education.  Go open to learn all you can, rather than just to see all you can.  Ask questions.  Learn the phrase “What is that?” in the local language, and use it.  Take a deep breath and strike up a conversation with a local to learn how to eat, drink, and experience a city like you live there. Keep a “Google list” with things that pique your curiosity but that you can’t find information about, and spend some time before bed or over breakfast searching through it, connecting the dots.  Be present in the moment and keep your eyes and ears open.  Try limiting your picture taking, putting down your camera in favor of your memories after a few shots.  You’ll be more open to notice the details that way.  Choose to journal instead, processing your thoughts on what you’ve seen.  Finally, take your time.  A whirlwind trip may sound ideal for packing things in, but depth is more meaningful in the long run that breadth.  Leave room in your itinerary to immerse yourself in a place, and it will touch your soul in a way that you can carry forever.  Eighty snapshots of landmarks look cool on your wall, but they can’t change who you are as a person.  Open yourself up to meaningful moments, and watch yourself evolve.