Updated: Nov 25, 2019
We've used these essential elements to make our travel transformational, instead of just another vacation.
We've spent 12+years of nomadic living and traveling with 7 children on 5 continents to 35-44 countries (I've been to 35 with our kids, my husband to 44. My 14-year-old has been to 36.)
During that time we've learned a few things that help to make our experiences more than just a nice vacation.
We've discovered that there are two main ways to go about it.
Transactional -- go here. Do this thing. See this sight. Stay at this hotel. Eat at this restaurant. Talk to nice people. Go home to regular life.
Transformational -- go, do, see, stay, eat... but feel, experience, process, ask questions, get uncomfortable, try new/hard/weird/exciting things. Go home, forever transformed in how you approach life and the world.
It is the nuances that make the difference. Small shifts that produce big internal changes. The right approach can yield different results.
Here are some of those essential elements:
Reading -- read something about the place you're visiting or related to the theme/topic of the trip. Some topics might include -- Doing hard things; Grit; Perseverance; Confidence; Empathy; Compassion; Open-mindedness. Buddhism. Islam. Discuss what you read on the topic with the group before/during travel.
Discussions & devotionals -- morning and/or evening so that you can share and process what you're learning, experiencing, feeling, etc. as you travel in order to get the most out of it.
Strategic experiences that challenge comfort zones -- travel is the perfect laboratory for growth. Make sure that your itinerary includes elements that challenge you physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially -- with the opportunity to 'recover' and process afterward. Also, make sure that you don't go too far past 'discomfort' into the 'panic zone'.
Mix luxury with 'the real experience' -- contrasts create transformation and insights. A purely luxury experience or a purely budget/backpacker/local experience can't provide you with the contrasts necessary to gain insights into life and yourself.
Connect intimately with local people and traditions/customs -- understanding more about where you're traveling is one of the best parts. The most memorable and meaningful experiences will come from connecting in a real way with the local people and learning more about their traditions, beliefs, and way of life.
Master the logistics -- you can't have a great experience if you don't get there, or you miss your flight, or lose your passport. Pay attention to the details. How long will it take? How long will you be there? Make sure to factor in for the unexpected.
Solve problems & go with the flow -- no matter how well you plan, things will go wrong. They just do. That's the nature of travel. Figure out how to solve problems in the (high-stress, uncomfortable) moment. Improvise. Cobble together solutions. And then just go with the flow.
Squeeze the juice out of every experience -- a tour guide makes travel transactional -- they tell you where you are and what happened there. Take it to the next level. Figure out WHY what happened and where you are MATTERS to your life and how you're going to live it from now on. That's transformational. (My hubby is a master at doing this. Just saying.)
We discovered these elements while traveling the globe with our family for the past 12 years.
We're now SUPER strategic about including each of these elements in all of the trips we lead and plan. We're committed to making them transformational experiences for us and for our teens (that's who I really plan them for).
Our 2020 trips include:
US History Tour in DC & Virginia (14-adult)
Guatemala Humanitarian Leadership (12-adult)
Martial Arts & Mandarin in China (6-adult)
Horse Riding & Nadaam Festival in Mongolia (10-adult)