Ever since Elizabeth Gilbert ate, prayed and loved her way around the globe, many of us have fallen for the idea of transformational travel. Whether it’s discovering our spirituality high in a mountain monastery, changing our outlook through immersion in different cultures, or simply digging ourselves out of the rut we may have found ourselves back at home, the idea that you can globe-trot in the direction of a happier, healthier new you is a concept that’s full of potential.
According to the Transformational Travel Council (TTC), “transformational travel is any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life”. However, it can be easy to assume that this kind of experience requires something wild and dramatic, like a year backpacking on a shoestring or months spent at an austere silent retreat, meditating on hard floors.
Sometimes, the desire for comfort and quality may make a luxury traveler feel they are precluded from the “authentic” experience required to indulge in transformational travel – but nothing could be further from the truth.
At Beeja meditation, we have spent many years organizing meditation retreats, set in an Edwardian mansion deep in the countryside surrounding London. During this time, we’ve learnt that deep and meaningful transformation needn’t come through discomfort or life-disrupting inconvenience. In fact, you can embrace transformational travel in a variety of perfectly achievable ways.
Why transformational travel?
In our technology-led, fast-paced and competitive modern world, taking care of ourselves has never been so important. For many of us, time is a scarce resource and our mobile devices are a constant connection to our professional lives, with emails and phone calls arriving well outside normal working hours.
After spending many years working hard to achieve our goals, work burnout is a real danger, and the reality of our tech-heavy lifestyles is that we can start to feel disconnected from our relationships, communities and nature.
Taking time out for a meaningful and immersive travel experience is one way to reconnect us to areas of our lives that we may have been neglecting, and the perfect way for a luxury traveler to consider what they want to change in their life.
How to have a transformational travel experience
Head somewhere unexpected. While you don’t necessarily need to head off the beaten track (unless you want to), simply pursuing a travel experience that’s outside of your normal preferences can be a powerful act.
For example, you may usually book beautiful hotels in far-flung locations, but haven’t revisited the location of your childhood holidays in Cornwall for decades. In this case, heading somewhere half-forgotten could invoke memories and feelings that are important to you, as well as putting you in the position of experiencing things you don’t tend to usually encounter.
It can also be helpful to seek to overcome challenges, whether that’s conquering a fear of heights on a Costa Rican adventure tour or walking an ancient pilgrimage route in Japan – helping you access both your capacity for resilience and your potential to exceed your own expectations.
Consider travelling solo. Aside from going on business trips, travelling solo is not something most of us usually do, instead choosing instead to involve our friends, partners and families. This is no surprise given the fact that we want to spend our free time with our loved ones. But even if it’s just heading off by yourself for a day while you are on a family trip, carving out some alone time can add a whole new perspective to your travel experience.
As a luxury traveler, you will have the chance to visit some truly unique and beautiful locations. Being alone (whether for all or part of your trip) will allow you to appreciate these surroundings without distraction, and give you time to think clearly.
Just a few days of quiet – especially if it forces us to acknowledge and think through uncomfortable feelings we tend to bury under the day-to-day busy minutiae of our normal lives – can bring about a significant shift in our mindset.
This is also a wonderful way to unplug and engage. By disconnecting with the technology we all carry with us, i.e. leaving your smartphone behind, you can engage in a far more meaningful way with your surroundings, the people you meet and your own uninterrupted thoughts.
Begin a meditation practice. Even if you've read all the articles about meditation being the secret leadership tool of everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Ray Dalio, you may have found it hard to actually commit to your own practice.
Transformational travel gives you the perfect opportunity to start working meditation into your daily routine – and you’ll quickly find that it enhances the experience with a newfound clarity and serenity.
The changes that meditation brings about can be a life-long process, with our deeply held fears and preconceptions slowly shifting to something more naturally positive, compassionate and self-forgiving. But this isn’t to say you won’t feel some significant benefits very quickly, especially if you begin practicing alongside other actions you’ve pursued to bring transformation into your life.
Starting to meditate doesn’t have to involve a spiritual commitment or huge amounts of time - from repeating a mantra for twenty minutes a day to setting aside the time to watch your breath, there are plenty of seamless ways to bring meditation into your travel experience.
This post was written by Holly Ashby, who works with Beeja meditation, a London meditation center that provides an alternative to mindfulness in London through their meditation courses and classes.