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What is Transformative Travel and Why Do It?

written by Sam and Veren December 10, 2020
What is Transformative Travel and Why Do It?

This episode sparked out of a realization we had recently about a throughline that connects everything we do as creators: transformative travel. We dive deep into what transformative travel is and why it’s so important, as well as share some of our most transformative travel experiences. We’ll also talk about how this realization is going to guide and shape the direction of the podcast going forward. 

We’ve been getting at this idea in one way or another through this podcast, our blog, and presence on social media. But we think we’ve finally hit the nail on the head of what exactly we want to champion in the world of travel, and life in general. It’s a great conversation, enjoy! 

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The blog post here is an edited portion of the conversation to go over the main ideas. For the full conversation, be sure to listen to the episode!

What is Transformative Travel?

In a nutshell, transformative travel is personal development, fulfillment, and deep meaning gained through travel; how travel can transform our lives and our selves. Transformative travel enhances your life and helps you live a more fulfilling life.

In one way or another, both of us have had dramatic transformations in our lives, our values, and where we want to take our lives because of travels that we’ve taken and because of how we incorporate travel into our life.

Bottom line: we’ve transformed our lives through travel and so can you.

This doesn’t look one particular way and is something that can be very much tailored to who you are and where you are. Thinking of travel in this way doesn’t mean that you have to go to one particular direction.

And it works both ways; it’s a symbiotic relationship. You can take things that you’ve learned in your home life, while not traveling, and apply them to travel and vice versa. You can take things that you’ve learned while traveling and apply them when you get home.

These two spheres of “traveling” and “not traveling” aren’t so separate in our lives as we might think. They’re also merging more and more. We have more people working from home than ever, and that’s going to continue to be the case going forward.

How to Have a Transformative Travel Experience

There is no one way to explain this or to have a transformative travel experience. It’s a very open-ended idea. The main thing is that your experience somehow changes you and you emerge different than before.

Whether that’s a 1% change or a 50% change, that’s up to you to decide or figure out. We’re not pushing for any specific result oriented ways of thinking. But our experiences have set us on trajectories that we wouldn’t have been on otherwise. 

The simplest way to think about it is to imagine a fork in the road. These travel experiences made us go down a particular path. 

Thinking about travel in this way connects with how we think about slow travel. People think of slow travel as spending months in a place. But it’s more of a mindset than anything. You can have a slow travel experience in a few days. 

Equally, you can have a transformative travel experience that took place over a short period of time, like an amazing hike, or people that you met in a chance encounter. It could happen within the course of a day or a few hours or it could be a whole trip.

A transformative travel experience doesn’t necessarily have to be a paradigm altering experience, but it could just shift your thinking in a different direction. It could be a tiny little fork or it could be a giant fork or anything else in between.

It all comes down to personalizing your travel experiences, choosing to do the things that you want to do and that align with your values, instead of following a set itinerary of places that other people decided you should see.

Our Transformative Travel Experiences: Veren’s Story

Veren: If I could share one experience, it would be when I went to visit a friend in New Mexico, over ten years ago.

It was so eye-opening because the lifestyle in New Mexico was so different to what I experienced living in NYC.

We have this oversimplified view of America, we talk about it being a melting pot, but then we get really frustrated when people have different lifestyles than us or don’t see eye to eye with us. You see this in the political divide that we are experiencing more than ever.

The truth of the matter is people do live very differently even within the spectrum of American individualism. There are different communities out there, each with their own history of how they became like that in the first place. These things don’t happen in a vacuum. 

 Sometimes you don’t know what you want in life until you test the waters somewhere else. That’s what my travels in New Mexico did. There was nothing glamorous about it or places that were super Instagrammable. I didn’t have Instagram then and I wasn’t trying to put it online anywhere.

For a lot of New Yorkers, they can’t imagine living anywhere else. But often, they haven’t tried. It’s really easy to forget that there’s a whole world out there when you’re in the microcosm of NYC, caught up in your work and all of life’s conveniences.

So my trip to New Mexico so really set me on a path to reconnect with certain parts of myself that I had back from my childhood. 

If I tell the whole story, on a day to day basis what we did doesn’t sound like anything too terribly exciting or inspiring. But my mindset and openness to change allowed me absorb a lot of new values and then reflect on the ones I already had. Sometimes we don’t even realize how many values we have that have been put into our heads and we don’t really own them.

Often, we don’t think twice about how we do things. We take them for granted and don’t realize the disconnect later when we’re feeling dissatisfied with a lot of things in life. It might be because of the way we approach and do things. You might need some revision.

Trading post shop in Chimayo, New Mexico
Chimayo, New Mexico

Our Transformative Travel Experiences: Sam’s Story

Sam: The first transformative travel experience I had on my own was when I moved to Spain right after graduating college. While I had an English teaching position set up through the government of Spain, everything else was completely independent. I had to find an apartment myself (in Spanish), get my visa, move there, all that stuff, on my own.

I had been living and going to college in NYC and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. But I also knew I’d always wanted to live abroad, and since I didn’t get to study abroad in college, this was my chance and I took it.

Living abroad, while difficult, was incredibly transformative. I met so many different people from different walks of life. I had to put myself out there in another language, which got me out of my comfort zone every day.

There was so much to my experience living in Spain, but it was a huge fork in the road for me. I thought my life was going to go in one direction, where I’d get a PhD and enter academia, but going to Spain changed all of that. It opened up my eyes to other possibilities, like living the creative life that we do now.

Creativity and Reflection
Contemplating life in Segovia, Spain.
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