How can you create a deep and meaningful travel experience that will help you grow and evolve as a person?
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
Travel is not just about collecting stamps on your passport, getting a tan, or impressing your friends with the ever-growing list of countries that you have visited. When exploring distant lands, it is important to remember that travel has so much to teach us and we need to open our minds and strive to find the meaning and the inherent lesson in every situation we find ourselves in on the road.
Of course, something this ephemeral can never be forced, you just have to keep an open mind and let your journey reveal itself as you go along. However, there are a few things that you can do on your travels to deepen your experience with the cultures you are moving through:
How to Have a More Meaningful Travel Experience
Learn the Language
Finding yourself in a foreign land where you are bewildered by every street sign, menu, and conversation can be humbling and sometimes frustrating. We get so used to being able to express ourselves in our own language, that it can be very difficult to start again at square one. However, learning even a bit of the local language will give you a much deeper appreciation for the place you are visiting as so much of the culture of a people is expressed in its language.
The best way to learn the language before your trip depends on your learning style and personal preferences, but here are some links that will help get you started:
Study the History
To gain a better understanding of the country that you are visiting and have a more meaningful travel experience, take the time to read a bit about their history and culture. You could study a few pages online, buy a book to read on the plane, or watch a documentary. When you get to your destination, you can also supplement your knowledge with visits to ancient sites and museums historical tours. Knowing a bit about the past of the country you are visiting will not only gain you respect with the locals, but it will also help you grasp why the culture is the way it is today.
Express Your Experiences Creatively
If you have a bit of an artistic streak, let your travel experiences come through in your creative endeavors. Anais Nin said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection.” and so if you do some travel writing about your adventures you will have the chance to reflect on them and relive the experiences again. Not much of a writer? Feel free to tell your travel stories through a song, painting, theater, photography or some other means.
Live With the Locals
Staying in a resort or a hotel, you will likely only meet other visitors just like yourself and keep the same schedule and habits you had at home. However, why not find out what happens when you visit a local of the country and experience what life is really like for a typical resident? You will adjust to their schedule, eat their food, celebrate their traditions, and get an amazing insight into their day to day life.
If you don’t have a friend in another country, there are many ways that you can live with a local family in your destination, from helping out on an organic farm to organizing a homestay.
Work or Volunteer Abroad
Working in another country can be a great way to hang out with the locals, get an idea of what the culture is like, and truly feel like an insider. You will make friends, have a meaningful travel experience and create memories that will last a lot longer than seeing the tourist sights. Working as you travel also helps to fund a longer journey! If you are between the ages of 18 and 30 it is quite easy to get a working holiday visa for many countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Here are some helpful resources for working holiday visas.
You can also volunteer abroad, and there are many beautiful but tragically impoverished countries that really need your help! You could do anything from teaching to building homes to providing healthcare. Volunteering abroad has to be one of the most meaningful travel experiences possible, as you are giving something back to the country you are visiting and you are making their lives better while creating unforgettable memories. The volunteer section of GoAbroad.com has quite a few opportunities.