Going on holiday is no longer just about getting a tan, sunset cocktails and retail therapy. Transformational (or transformative) travel is what going on holiday is all about now.
The way we travel goes through phases and the last few years has seen an upsurge in travel inciting profound personal change and makes a difference. Experiential and wellness holidays have been very popular recently and this has led to transformational travel.
Touted as this year’s trend, transformational travel is defined as ‘a travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life’, by the Transformational Travel Council. Trips include anything from exploring African national parks and learning about conservation and the communities that live within them, visiting the Antarctic, or even discovering how local people eat and how ingredients influence culture. These adventures make you reflect on your life and the world at large, and encourage changes for the better.
This year, think about what you want to accomplish on holiday and take a transformational trip. Companies offering these journeys are committed to helping the local community and preserving the destination’s heritage, environment and culture — money well spent.
Unique food experiences
One of the greatest joys of going on holiday is trying the local cuisine. Go a step further and join a local family for a meal where you’ll be immersed in their food and regaled with anecdotes of family history. You’ll be treated like a long-lost friend and the families chosen for this experience all have interesting stories. Try NOSHtrekker, a bespoke company focusing on transformational food experiences in Singapore, Brunei, Australia and South Africa.
Where time stands still
There are still countries where time seems to have slowed down and Laos is ideal if you’re looking for somewhere within a 3-hour flight. Not all transformational travel needs to be action-packed. There are times when you just want to take stock of things quietly and Laos is just the ticket.
One of the last communist (and one of the poorest) countries in the world, here is where you’ll still see monks collecting alms at dawn, the Mekong river still relatively untouched, market selling skinned rats (!) and where large swathes of the country are still covered in unexploded ordnance so tourism is still in its infancy.
Wellness in Bhutan
The fourth king of Bhutan declared that ‘Gross National Happiness is more important Gross Domestic Product’ in 1972, and he was right! Today Bhutan is very conscious of how many tourists visit and the effect it has on the environment, which makes it the perfect destination for wellness retreats.
Trips here involve trekking, visits to Buddhist temples and monasteries in the impressive mountains, meditation, authentic cultural experiences and just breathing the fresh air of the world’s only carbon negative country! Stay in one of the ultra-luxurious hotels (Aman and COMO have properties here) if you must, but a rural farmstay is the key to getting into transformational mode.
Sports and transformation
For many of us leading busy city lives, the opportunity to combine a sport we love or want to learn with a trip is transformational physically and mentally. Cycling from Bangkok to Angkor Wat over seven days passing colonial towns, rural villages and ancient sites offers insights into a the culture and landscape that you wouldn’t normally notice. Consider a surfing trip to remote Indonesian islands like Sumbawa, the Nias Islands and G-Land in East Java; or sailing through the far-flung islands of the Palawan Archipelago in the Philippines.
An important aspect of transformational travel is to give back to society or help a community / cause in need. Organisations like Volunteer World and GlobeAware offer many options covering conservation, humanitarian support, education, wildlife and specialist internships. You get to see a country, help the local community and actually give something back to society. Trips like these are good for the soul and may even lead to career changes.