Last summer while backpacking through the streets of Europe on my own, I came to an unexpected and striking realization. Prior to my trip, I couldn’t wait to embark on my solo travels.
I imagined that my trip was going to change my life completely. I was going to immerse myself in the different cultures I stumbled across, get lost in the chaos of new destinations and people, and maybe even find myself along the way. It would be my own little Eat, Pray, Love adventure.
Instead, I realized that I had no purpose in my travels. I wasn’t writing, taking photographs, or giving to a cause while on my trip. For some reason, I wasn’t doing anything that inspired and drove me. All I was doing was simply travelling to travel, and it left me with a deeply disheartening feeling of emptiness. I could be marveling over the most beautiful sunset casting it’s glow over Venice and still feel lost.
I do believe that feeling lonely and lost is an inherent part of solo travel, but for me it was also a sign of something deeper than that. Today, I see travel as an opportunity to make a difference. Whether it be through teaching, volunteering, or exploring my creativity- it’s so much more than simply taking a trip.
Not only is it important to gain something valuable from travel, it’s just as important to leave something for others to gain from as well.
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
If you’re looking for travel opportunities that also offer purpose, the National Geographic offers meaningful trips like these. These adventurous trips immerse you in, and educate you about diverse culture, as well as environmental and societal issues of the region. They run through Tanzania, India, Guatemala, and many other countries that are filled with opportunities to shift and alter your perspective.
Operation Groundswell is sparking a movement of globally active and socially conscious backpackers. There are plenty of countries and programs to choose from that will fit your form of activism. In total there are 162 programs in 18 countries around the world. These trips connect like-minded backpackers who want to shape the world while exploring it.
Ever dreamed of studying abroad while practicing sustainability in the beautiful rainforest? If so, Kalu Yala may be the choice for you! I first found Kalu Yala a year ago, and was captivated by the idea of the small off-the-grid, tight-knit community. They offer plenty of unique learning, building, and visiting opportunities in the beautiful rainforest of Panama.
These are all amazing opportunities to travel in a unique and fulfilling way, but they’re not the only ways to travel with purpose. If you book a trip to a country because you want to explore it’s beauty and culture, that’s great! The mistake I had made was not setting any goals for my trip. Goals even as simple as practicing photography or trying new foods will motivate you on your travels. You’ll feel inspired to try new things and make the most out of your trip, rather than relying on travel to do those things for you.
Have you ever embarked on a purposeful trip abroad? Share your experiences and stories below, I’d love to hear about them!