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:
- stepping outside your comfort zone/personal growth/being transformed.
- respecting other cultures and creating connections on the road.
- traveling responsibly, especially regarding the natural environment.
- buying local in any country you visit.
- 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:
- keeping an open mind and freeing up your misconceptions about a place, its people, and their beliefs.
- doing one thing at a time instead of rushing around.
- embracing everything and saying yes to new experiences.
- paying attention in the moment.
- focusing on local.
- staying positive and being grateful in spite of upsets on the road.
- observing the people of a place more carefully to learn more about a place.
- putting down your camera and seeing things with your eyes only.
- 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!