Recently I became engaged in a conversation about travel that was quite disturbing. The person with whom I’d begun conversing had a lot of negative things to say about travelers, and questioned the intent of our lot.
“What’s the point in traveling?” She asked. She continued, “It’s not like you’re going to change the world.”
This frustrated me, as you’d very well guess. Sure I travel for leisure, but that is not always my reason for escape. It is my hope that through my travels I can inspire others to find their respective blisses, whatever they may be. It’s also a goal of mine to obtain a better understanding of how the world is run, and have a working knowledge of the many different infrastructures out there, and get a sense of best practice so that I may one day be able to make a difference in my community. But I digress.
As I mentioned above, travel does not have to be all about one’s uninspired leisure. There are a number of ways to use travel as a means for a greater purpose, or— let’s say— for the sake of enlightenment. I can’t profess to be well-versed in every method of purpose-driven travel (in fact, I welcome your suggestions below) but I’ve compiled a varied list that came to mind immediately when I thought about my own experiences abroad, as well as the experiences of those in my immediate circle.
- Music - A friend of mine has recently began traveling, as a record collector, to try and seek out vinyl gems— find those proverbial needles in the world’s haystacks. Stopping to discover local artists and see shows along the way. It’s her goal to inspire through whatever music she finds.
- Media - I have a few friends who travel to create documentaries and web-series that have the possibility to educate and inspire the masses, expose hidden truths, and shake certain myths, stereotypes and stigmas. Another friend used her time in Peru to tap into her creativity and create a short film.
- Charity/Volunteer Work - This is an awesome way to see the world, and make a difference at the same time. Lending one’s talents and learned skills to a cause greater than oneself is an altruistic act that can have immediate outcomes. There are a number of organizations that cater to this very thing. WWOOF, for example, links volunteers to organic farms to help promote a healthier, more sustainable way of living.
- Competitive Sports/Adventure - What better way to challenge oneself than to partake in competitive sports, or push oneself in an adventure-filled travel excursion? Two friends come to mind immediately, as they’ve begun traveling to compete in marathons and triathlons, raising money for charity with their efforts.
- Photography - A big part of my reason for traveling has to do with my love of photography. I enjoy living on the outside of and amongst various cultures, documenting my experience through photo as a means to challenge ideas, create conversation and, ultimately, inspire.
- Education/Research/Anthropological Studies - This is an amazing reason to travel. A friend of mine recently moved to Panama to seek a better understanding of his heritage, and to get the full cultural experience he didn’t have growing up in America. Others friends have moved abroad to teach, which actually helps provide other cultures with accurate representations of who we [Americans] truly are (contrary to our portrayal in the media).
- Spirituality/Religion - This is something a lot of people are finding themselves doing nowadays. Taking spiritual quests. Trying to live better lives. Take the book-turned-film, Eat. Pray. Love, for example. People are sick of living mundane yet overwrought lives, working themselves into an early grave. People want peace, and to be in touch with their inner lights, and are seeking travel as a means to provide them with such.
The next time you go about spending time abroad—even if it is for leisure— think about trying to include some sort of purpose, or goal, for the trip. Something that is bigger than you. Somemthing that can inspire. Mindful Travels. - VJ
Have mindful travel ideas that weren’t listed? Tell us about them in the comments section below!