Meaningful travel: what the heck is it?


Some of you may know that I’m a Meaningful Travel Insider (MTI) for GoAbroad. In short, I write articles that focus on meaningful travel abroad, whether it’s studying abroad, working abroad, volunteering abroad, interning abroad, learning a new language abroad, pursuing TEFL courses abroad, or doing a gap year or adventure travel abroad. However, you may still be asking, what does meaningful travel really mean? Also, you may have found that sometimes, it’s used interchangeably with mindful travel. Let’s try to understand these concepts, shall we?

First, let’s look at meaningful travel. GoAbroad wrote an article with 20+ unique perspectives on meaningful travel. In sum, they think that meaningful travel is about:

  1. stepping outside your comfort zone/personal growth/being transformed.
  2. respecting other cultures and creating connections on the road.
  3. traveling responsibly, especially regarding the natural environment.
  4. buying local in any country you visit.
  5. not viewing countries/local peoples as scenic backdrops or props to your travel story.

This is what I said:

“For me, meaningful travel is not a competition to see who gets to visit the most places first. It certainly does not mean treating foreign countries like cool selfie backdrops or commodities I can tick off a bucket list. It’s about me trying to engage more deeply with a location, people, and culture, which also causes me to interrogate my prejudices from home. Above all, it teaches me that I’m part of a whole—the whole of the human race.”

Next, let’s look at mindful travel. Matador Network claims it’s going to be the next big thing for travel in 2018. Here’s an excerpt from one of their articles:

“When we watched our parents growing up, we saw that new shiny things did not fix our parents, and when our kids watch us, they will see that visiting new exotic places did not fix us. At that point, they’ll have to ask themselves — is it possible that the problem isn’t with what we’re consuming, but with consumption itself?

Mindfulness is the healthiest way out of that trap. It emphasizes non-attachment, and it does not put a premium on some emotions (like happiness) over others (like sadness). Travel will still be a part of mindful lives, but it will be slower, more thoughtful, and more fully lived. If we want to break the cycle, then mindful travel is the future.”

According to Psychology Today, mindful travel is also about:

  1. keeping an open mind and freeing up your misconceptions about a place, its people, and their beliefs.
  2. doing one thing at a time instead of rushing around.
  3. embracing everything and saying yes to new experiences.
  4. paying attention in the moment.
  5. focusing on local.
  6. self-reflection.
  7. staying positive and being grateful in spite of upsets on the road.
  8. observing the people of a place more carefully to learn more about a place.
  9. putting down your camera and seeing things with your eyes only.
  10. not trying to do everything on one trip.

As we can see, mindful and meaningful travel share many similarities. I think the biggest takeaway from both concepts is that travel should never be selfish or exploitative. I would also add that travel should never be about FOMO because there’s no single story when it comes to traveling and that every traveler has a different story to tell.

If you’re interested, here’s a resource to help you create your own Meaningful Travel Manifesto.

Are you ready to travel meaningfully/mindfully in 2018? Share in the comments below!

meaningful travel

23 thoughts on “Meaningful travel: what the heck is it?

  1. I think the quote from Matador is very thought provoking. So many times I roll my eyes when my parents tell me about their travels and all they’ve done is go around and see all the touristy sites and haven’t engaged with the locals or experienced the local culture at all. It’s like we think we’re doing it “all right” by traveling more “authentically” – but it will be interesting to see what the next generation defines as meaningful travel and how they view the kind of travel we dub as meaningful today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think that it is so important to travel meaningfully especially in these days of selfies and selfishness. Respecting other cultures and the environment, and supporting local is especially necessary. I am glad that Matador Network considers it the next big travel travel trend. That can only be a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I identify with this article on so many levels, it is actually scary! I have never thought about the travels I make as meaningful… at least, I did not define them, as such. I have always considered them my personal experiences, with everything that they brought. It is nice to see a name put to what I enjoy so much doing – traveling to new places, learning as much as I can of their cultures, their history, their people, trying to share some details of my own country, experiencing new things and meeting new people, all of which make me think more about what surrounds me and what every single things teaches me.
    I enjoyed your article a lot. It makes sense, for us those who seek to travel to not only discover new places, but also to discover themselves and the other people!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is quite the thought provoking post here. As somebody who traveled around the world for 6 years continuously I think from reading this post I have definitely evolved into a mindful traveler. There have been a lot of growing up and self- reflection, I would say that my eyes have been opened far more than they would have ever done if I never started to travel, and especially the way I slow travel and really get to know countries, cultures and locals.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Discussing meaningful travel is such an interesting topic and I really like your approach. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone would be the most relevant aspect for me personally in connection with getting to know other cultures. It really is about broadening one’s horizon and getting to know each other and the world much better. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You work for GoAbroad? So cool! I wrote an article for them a few months ago about travelling as a Latino woman. Anyways, I am all up for meaningful travel. I find that I am a happier person when I deeply connect with a country, when I spend more time there and build a small routine that makes me feel like a temporary part of the place. I was supposed to jump from country to country in a trip that I made to Europe last year, but I felt so at home and so welcome in Ireland, that I ended up spending almost half of my trip there. I regret nothing. Cool article!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post! I first travelled abroad in 1983, already in my 30s, to Kathmandu. My wife is Nepali and our children were 8 and 6 at the time as we went to meet her parents for the first time! No MacDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks etc in sight, just a slow paced almost medieval culture. It shaped my, and our children’s approach to travel for ever, whether at home or abroad. Mindful travel, the opposite being mindless travel!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This has to be one of the best posts that I have read today. It talks deep and prompts us to introspect as travelers. The art of engaging more deeply with a location, people, and culture makes one of its kinds traveler.
    I really liked where you said one should be grateful for all the good things despite the hiccups and we should absorb in the things rather than be in a race to tick off experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello ,

    I saw your tweet about animals and thought I will check your website. I like it!

    I love pets. I have two beautiful thai cats called Tammy(female) and Yommo(male). Yommo is 1 year older than Tommy. He acts like a bigger brother for her. 🙂
    I have even created an Instagram account for them ( ) and probably soon they will have more followers than me (kinda funny).

    I have subscribed to your newsletter. 🙂

    Keep up the good work on your blog.



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