March 7th, 2018

How to Have a Transformational Travel Experience

How to Have a Transformational Travel Experience

Escaping your comfort zone while traveling has benefits that last far beyond your trip. Transformational travel can expand your worldview, help the planet, and positively impact people around you—here’s how.

We’ve been hearing a lot about transformational travel (TT) over the past year as a step beyond immersion and experiential travel. But what is it and how can it benefit you? According to the Transformational Travel Council (TTC), “Transformational travel is any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life.” That can sound pretty broad for anyone unfamiliar with the ideas behind TT, but if you love travel, the concept is well worth exploring.  From what TT means to how to take a trip that changes or pushes your forward in a positive way, here’s what you need to know about transformational travel.

What is Transformational Travel?

Travel in any form, whether you’re relaxing on a beach in Barbados, backpacking solo through Central America, or taking a business trip to Chicago, can be meaningful. It has the power to transform no matter where you go and for how long. So how does that differ from transformational travel? For starters, it doesn’t necessarily have to. When it comes to transformational travel, it’s not only about where you go and with whom, it’s about tapping into the potential for that trip (be it big or small) to impact you in a positive way that lasts, and that you can use going forward in your daily life.

The process of transformational travel is about doing something when you travel that opens your mind in a way that resists closing back up again once you’re home and back into your daily routine. It’s one thing to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, but it’s another thing entirely to then use that experience to learn and grow as a person and apply what you’ve learned or how your worldview has shifted to your life going forward.

Is Transformational Travel for You?

When I decided to sublet my apartment and move to Chiang Mai, Thailand for three months last year, I was fed up with the routine I had created for myself, I was in-flux personally, and no matter how much advice I solicited from friends and family or how many times I made small changes that didn’t amount to much, a little voice in my head kept asking for more. I knew I needed to do something to shake things up in a way that wouldn’t just change the scenery, but in a way that would change me. That was my personal call to action, something that the Transformational Travel Council calls the first stage or step of a transformational travel journey. Everyone’s call to action will be different – from the desire to disconnect from stress to the need to push yourself mentally or physically through where or how you travel. In that way, transformational travel is for everyone.

Benefits of Transformational Travel

The benefits of transformational travel will be different for everyone, depending on what you hope to gain from your trip. The journey starts with that call to action for something different. Moving on from that, as outlined by the TTC, the next step (referred to as the “initiation” or “road of trials”, is the doing part of things, the part that pushes you outside of your comfort zone whether through a physical, mental or emotional challenge. The third step is the payoff and where the real benefits can be felt. This is what the TTC refers to as “the return and rebirth” which is the positive change you feel upon returning home. That could be anything from a renewed passion for life, to a big “a-ha” moment that leads you to a career change, to a series of life lessons learned that may then bring about an improved overall quality of life or compassion for yourself and others.

Something that’s important to keep in mind about transformational travel is that while your travel surroundings are impacting you, you are also impacting your travel surroundings.  Make that impact a positive one on the environment by practicing sustainable, eco-friendly routines (think reducing your carbon footprint with direct flights or bringing reusable silicone bottles for toiletries instead of disposable travel sized items), and spending your travel dollars at businesses that benefit the local economy.

After returning home from my three months in Thailand I felt refreshed. The experience pushed me in ways that helped improve my overall confidence and my ability to trust myself rather than continually defer to others. This was my “rebirth”, something that will be different for everyone.

Ideas for Transformational Trips     

Ready to go? There are numerous ways to undertake a transformational travel experience. This can include anything from traveling someplace or in a way that is totally different than what you’re used to (i.e. traveling solo versus in a group, or opting to backpack through Guatemala versus booking a vacation somewhere you know or feel comfortable in), to booking a trip that will challenge you physically (hiking Kilimanjaro, tackling the Annapurna Circuit). Other examples of TT might be immersing yourself in the culture of where you are through engaging with locals, traveling somewhere for spiritual growth, or taking meaningful time during your trip to reflect on how the challenges you’re experiencing are affecting you. Where you go and for how long depends entirely on what you hope to achieve so the possibilities for TT really are endless.

Things to Remember

The key to reaping the benefits of transformational travel come down to the ability to reflect and also to sit with any uncomfortable feelings that may come up when going outside of your comfort zone in whichever way you’ve chosen. Sometimes what we learn about ourselves when pushed is positive—other times it’s not. When on a transformational travel journey, it’s important to grow and nourish whatever positive nuggets you uncover and continue to apply them to your daily life. And on the flip side, take those parts that might not be as sunny as you’d like and work to change them in a positive way.

Transformational travel offers something different for everyone, but the common theme is positive personal growth. Have you tried transformational travel? Let us know about your experience.

Related Links

Immersion Travel: Is It Right for You?

4 Simple Tips for a Meaningful Solo

Insider Knowledge: How to Meet Locals on a Solo Trip

Related Eagle Creek Products

Afar Backpack

Universal Traveler Backpack RFID

Packable Daypack

by Jessica Padykula

Jessica Padykula is a Toronto-based freelance writer with a focus on travel. When she's not writing or researching a story she can be found planning trips to places near and far in a never-ending quest to travel the world. You can follow her adventures on Instagram.

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