My plan for a while has been to spend this time learning what makes a transformative trip before undertaking one myself (everyone has to test their own product) and then start planning them for other people in the future.
Many of the things I’m learning seem obvious once I’ve realised them, so it sometimes feels like it’s not worth sharing - but then I look at how the majority of us travel and see I’m not the only one who could do with a little help.
As travellers, we all want to take the path less trodden and get ‘off the beaten track.’ To me, that would usually mean going to a destination - let’s say Thailand - and then trying to take a less touristy route by finding more local spots or avoiding the overcrowded areas. But ultimately, it would be ‘touristy’ wouldn’t it? As we all end up picking the same destinations (I blame Instagram). Think of the travels of the majority of the people you know, and you can guarantee they'll all be to similar places. In the UK, it's smaller trips to Europe and then most longer term travellers take the South East Asia and Australia route.
Recently my idea of ‘the less trodden path’ has changed. When I’ve been planning my own trip, the ‘usual’ destinations were coming to mind. Vietnam's been at the top of my list for a while now (the coffee, food and scenery are calling me), but since my interview with Justine and discovering Instagram's such as @kishanth, I'm realising the power in visiting destinations that are off the typical tourist radar. In my interview with Justine, she talks about how her visit to East Africa completely changed her perception of the continent and showed her how important the images fed to us by the media are. With Kishanth, he recently shared images on his story from Palestine (you can find it on his highlights) and the images were nothing like what I would have expected. He also backpacked Ethiopia - again a destination I would never even think of and shared this of his experience:
It seems silly to think that this never occurred to me before. The whole time I've been trying to learn what makes a transformative trip, I've been continually debating how important the destination is. You can even find this post here where I say it's not the destination but what you do once you're there - which I do still stand by, however I think this applies more if you're going to a ‘typical’ destination. For instance, if you took a trip to Paris, I think you'd have to work harder to have a transformative experience, by seeking it out when you’re there.
However if you were in Ethiopia, you wouldn't have to work as hard to find experiences that challenge you. It's automatically going to be an environment unlike what you're used to or unlike the idea you probably have of it. If transformative travel is about adventure and challenging yourself and your beliefs, then we should be taking ourselves far away from anything that we’re used to.
Millennial travellers have become known as those who seek out local experiences through Airbnb and Instagram recommendations, but it would be even better if we became known as the ones who started seeking outside of what we know, to completely unfamiliar places to build our own viewpoint of the world - not one that’s through the eyes of the media.