Turning Vacations Into Journeys

Mountain with yellow flowers


The desire to travel is often fueled by the urge to do something different and unique with our lives. The daily grind becomes dull, we eat the same meals, we get up at the same time every day, we relax on the weekends (if we let ourselves), we have the same conversations over and over. In short, we do the same tired shit all the time, to the point that we may feel caged and shackled like circus animals, and travel is our opportunity to break free. Somehow though, you can get in the same rut with extended travel. Particularly those trips with little focus beyond “getting a break.” Experiencing a new culture, sampling local cuisines and enjoying life without a set agenda are all fantastic reasons for getting out of your comfort zone, but without a goal, many find this type of travel to grow rather boring as well. You can experience a new place in a way that is not only relaxing, but also intriguing, exciting and challenging. It only requires shifting from a vacation mindset to an expedition or journey mindset.

Choosing Your Destination
People often choose travel destinations based on pretty pictures of a beach they saw on a computer screensaver or something similarly trivial. They decide that’s the place they want to go without really putting in much thought. In the end however, how long would you actually stay content by simply sitting on a beach all day? Instead, consider something you want to get better at or learn more about, and choose a destination based on which part of the world would best help you accomplish those goals. This can be broken down into dozens of categories, of course. A few examples are offered below.

Adventure and foreign locales go hand in hand. Think about an activity you enjoy, and apply it to your destination. You like cycling? Load up your bikes with panniers and dromedary bags and go on a self-propelled tour through New Zealand. You’ll experience more scenery, have more encounters with locals and far more fun than you would from the seat of a car. Going to Mongolia? Ride a horse across the steppes. Thailand? Train Muay Thai, the country’s national sport, and conclude your trip with a fight in a local stadium. Spain? Head to the Basque region with your climbing gear and your Venturesafe 32L and try and conquer new routes. Costa Rica? Make it a surf trip and find the best waves the country has to offer. Not only will you have ample opportunity to see everything your destination has to offer, but you’ll also go home satisfied by having completed something challenging and something that speaks to the landscape or culture of the country you visited.

Going to Italy and trying out the cuisine here and there is one thing, but enrolling in classes and diving into the intricacies of process, ingredients and origins of specific meals is another. If you love to cook, plan a trip around advancing your culinary abilities. When you return home, instead of saying, “Oh, the food was delicious!” you’ll actually be able to make your friends and family the meals. You can either try and describe the vibrant flavors, or give them the opportunity to taste it for themselves.

Stumbling upon Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival or Peru’s Tinku Festival will offer plenty of excitement, but simply watching a cultural event is a surface layer experience. If culture is really what you’re interested in, spend some extra time investigating the traditions of the places you are going so that when you see something unique, you’ll know what it represents and why it’s significant. Consider making a documentary – interview locals, shoot video and create a project that can serve as a token for all you learned along the way.

Go on Assignment
A group called Adventurers and Scientists has a bunch of scientific sampling they need done in countries all over over the world.  The reason being, there are scientists who’d prefer that you, the adventurer, do the sampling for them since they, the scientists, can save a buck and stay in the lab, thus creating an opportunity for you to benefit the world on your travels. Most assignments are collecting samples of some kind of rare moss in a cave in tropical country to study global warming, or some kind of plastic waste for ocean research.  It’s a great way to make your travels interesting, full of purpose, and most importantly, beneficial to the world.

Traveling simply for the sake of traveling is all well and good, particularly if you have limited time. But if you’re out exploring the world for more than a week or two, consider taking that extra step to make it not only enjoyable, but enriching.

By Bryan Schatz