There is no doubt that travel changes us. New experiences out of our ordinary broaden our horizons and expand our reality. Transformational travel goes a step further than experiencing the authentic though. The journey is a tool to not only offer a life-changing experience but to change our perception of the world for good, even after the trip is over.
So why should this type of travel be on the radar of tour operators then?
Well, the number of specialists embracing the ethos and offering transformative travel experiences are on the rise. Skift identified it as one of their megatrends for 2018, and the Global Wellness Institute projects a 7.5% growth in the wellness tourism industry annually through 2020.
The general attitude seems to be that travelers are increasingly motivated to journey more mindfully.
What Exactly is Transformational Travel?
A defining aspect of transformational travel is the traveler’s intention. The journey is about engaging in life-changing experiences which encourage personal growth and increase awareness of how we impact the world.
Considering the incredibly personal nature of how a person is affected by their experiences, it is hard to say exactly what it is that should be taken away from the journey. Overall, the focus is on the approach to travel, reflection, and personal growth that occurs as a result of it, rather than the destination.
Elements of the Practice
Elements of education and personal development are ingredients to transformational travel trips. Travelers should be experiencing personal growth by practicing new activities or learning new concepts first-hand. It is through this process that you learn more about the world around you, and expand your knowledge beyond what is in your own reality.
Although a personal experience in terms of how travelers are changed by what they do, trips can also be communal in nature. This is why it is ideal for tour operators to include it in their offering.
Examples of this kind of trip could include hiking through national parks to learn about the flora and fauna, joining a community to help them build something, or working on a farm and discovering the concept of permaculture.
Of course, the idea is that whatever principles are learned during the journey, can be applied in the person’s everyday life once the trip is over. It is transformative and should cause some sort of internal shift, deepening self-awareness and result in personal growth.
It is not to say it has to be a major change either. The impact can be on self, personal relationships, or it can be on the community, the environment, local wildlife, etc. It could be packing up to live in another part of the world with a simpler lifestyle, or it could be getting more involved with your community, or even meditating more often to keep centered.
Overall it is for the better though. And unlike arriving home after traveling, there is no endpoint in the transformational journey. It continues to follow you, and inspire your actions.
Why Tour Operators Should Be Offering It
We would like to consider transformational travel to be more than simply one of the latest travel trends. It is a mindset and a way of life. As a result, it is a chance to travel more sustainably and be more mindful of our impact on the planet and the places we visit.
“What are we as an industry doing to give travelers not just a great time, but to awaken in them passion and energy to do good in this world? That’s possibly our greatest opportunity right now.”
Tourism is a rapidly growing global industry, and the impact travelers have on different country’s cultures is not always a positive one. By changing the purpose of a journey from desiring a change of scenery to desiring an understanding of new ideas, new cultures and learning a new way of life, travel can become more impactful in the right ways.
Ultimately it promotes the idea that tourism can be beneficial to both travelers and local communities alike. Care must be taken to step into another way of life in a sustainable manner which supports the values, economy and the environment you are in. That is instead of the alternative which can see overtourism having negative socio-cultural and economic impacts on host communities.
At its core, transformational travel is rooted in values. It integrates traveler and host community, through inclusive practices that benefit the hosts on their own terms.
Examples of Tour Operators Who Have A Transformative Travel Offering
Transformational travel is an ethos rather than a sectional travel offering. Companies design fundamentals to get travelers thinking about their footprint, and engage in practices that open up perspectives which can be taken back home.
One look at the Transformational Travel Council’s partner page and you will find many travel companies and tour operators who ascribe to the principles in some way.
We picked out a TTC ambassador to use as an example, Wildland Adventures. Their ethos is to foster genuine connections between travelers and their hosts. They encourage travelers to contribute and participate in various conservation and community development projects in host countries. The idea is for the interaction to positively transform the lives of both hosts and travelers.
Another example is small group tour operators, Intrepid Travel. Their travel style involves things like using real-life experiences to promote cross-cultural understanding, using public transport where possible, staying in smaller-scale locally owned accommodation, buying food, drinks, and souvenirs from local businesses, minimizing plastic waste, etc.
There is no right or wrong way to offer transformational travel trips to your clients, as their respective goals will be different or not even necessarily known at the time.
The most important thing is to encourage them to actively participate in their journey. To create connections and be involved. It is through immersion that values are imprinted and lives are changed.