As wonderful as the freedom of the open road is, our travels are often restricted by time. Spontaneity and open-mindedness can be sidelined for rigid plans and ambitious schedules. The lure of social media doesn’t help. Travellers soon lose the ability, time and space needed to transform – the reason most of us are drawn to adventure in the first place.
Eric Rupp, the author of the Transformational Travel Journal, explains: “The places we go, the activities we do, the people we meet all matter and can have a deeply profound influence on us, but transformation is created from within. Travellers themselves create transformation.”
Having cottoned on to this and the rising trend in experiential travel, some tour operators and experience providers now incorporate a more profound sense of learning and change into itineraries. The sincerest seek long-term change for clients.
Amid the shifting sands and glowing grasses of the NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia, conservation-led lodge Wolwedans reinvented its ethos during COVID-19’s pause, emphasising consciousness and “the state of being aware and responsive to one’s surroundings”. New experiences include a Home and Heart tour, which explores their back-of-house sustainability ethos and activities such as laying a stone circle or gardening at the onsite community-run nursery.
Black Tomato’s Bring it Back trips help travellers answer big questions, including “How do I find a more sustainable lifestyle?”. In this case, the tour operator sends clients to Peru to learn about its indigenous and sustainable food culture. By going with a question in mind, travellers are more likely to take something important away with them.
For other specialists, the concept of transformation comes more naturally. The British Pilgrimage Trust invite people from all backgrounds and beliefs to “walk with intention” along local pilgrim routes. Co-founder Guy Hayward explains: “A pilgrimage is walking with purpose, going on an outer journey to find a new inner direction.” He points out that we often turn to yoga or silent retreats for a spiritual or personal journey, but you can access those things through movement, too.
At its simplest, transformational travel is about thinking deeper and being open – a mindset critical to exploring responsibly. Pilgrim-travel author Phil Cousineau perhaps puts it best in his foreword to the Transformational Travel Journal: “The dirty secret of travel is that so many go so far to feel so little. It does not have to be this way. If we prepare our imagination as carefully as we pack our bags, then we will experience, learn and remember far more.”