Outer Adventures, Inner Journeys
An open-hearted journey can take unexpected paths. More travelers today are searching for deep and lasting changes in their view of themselves and the world.
Declare Your Intentions
Attention and intention are the main ingredients for transformative travel for Phil Cousineau, acclaimed author of The Art of Pilgrimage. “Ask yourself what is motivating the journey: Are you going just to check something off your bucket list because you read about it or are you going because your grandma told you how magical her visit there was in the 1920s? Are you going because you’re at a crossroads in your life, marriage or work?” queries Cousineau.
Naming your intention helps open up the heart and psyche for transformation. Cousineau recommends sharing our choice beforehand with a friend or even a casual acquaintance. Writing it down can also unpack those yearnings and understand the pull to a place.
Part of the intention setting is clarifying what we hope to accomplish through making a journey, suggests Nathaniel Boyle, creator of The Travelers podcast. It might be climbing a mountain with our spouse to strengthen a marriage, or taking a cooking class in Italy or a basket weaving workshop in Indonesia to rekindle a sense of fresh input and creative expression.
Cousineau suggests that travelers prepare to open their thinking by reading about the history, culture and geography of a place, and then continue to learn en route by talking to locals for insight rather than relying only on a guidebook. “Make yourself vulnerable. Ask questions and be humble. Talk to your waiter or cab driver about their lives and conditions in their area. Those that become most delighted and transformed by their experiences are the most curious,” observes Cousineau.
Anna Pollock, of London, England, founder of Conscious Travel and a sustainable travel expert, elaborates on potential results. “Travelers may see the world and their part in it differently or feel greater clarity, peace, freedom or hope. For some, it’s about insights into their personal purpose. Others may return with a deeper sense of connectedness or feeling of mastery that comes from trying something completely new.”
Jake Haupert, of Seattle, owner of Evergreen Escapes International, co-founded the Transformational Travel Council to help people embark on such life-altering journeys, and translate “Aha!” moments on the road into meaningful changes back home. He has witnessed individuals undergo radical shifts from changing careers to becoming parents. One couple was so moved by their experiences on an African safari that they adopted their first child from Kenya.
If we truly want to know the secret of soulful traveling, we need to believe there is something sacred waiting to be discovered in virtually every journey.
Drive Home Transformation
Starting with a moment of reflection before departing a place, take advantage of a trip’s afterglow to recall insights learned, gel memories, share insights and move to make changes stick. Haupert sees this as a good time to develop an action plan to “express gratitude for the journey and create a framework for your homecoming.”
Then, take a day to reflect upon returning home before jumping back into work or other obligations, internalizing your experience and integrating your “traveler self” back into normalcy. It might involve an afternoon of journaling or organizing trip photos, suggests Haupert.
Adventure travelers named transformation and an expanded worldview as top motives for their explorations.
~Adventure Travel Trade Association
“Resist the urge to check emails the minute the plane touches down or start planning the next trip. Take time to remember the journey and see your home turf with fresh eyes,” adds Cousineau.
Chronicling the journey can be as simple as a dinner party with friends to share what we have learned, says Cousineau, but suggests that travelers engage attendees to also contribute their own stories and reflections.
“We have a choice upon returning; do nothing and just let that experience fade or own it for ourselves,” concurs Boyle. “It’s incumbent to extract the meaning of our experiences and find a way to express them, whether through a photo series, article, painting or video. The traveler’s ‘third act’ of creativity after preparation and execution is how we process change.”
By April Thompson