We often talk about how a traveler is different from a tourist. We all say we want meaningful experiences and not do the typical touristy things on a vacation, but somehow the lines get blurred and we end up doing some of those things. Not that it’s wrong. It doesn’t quite make the experience insightful if you so want it.
Making your travel meaningful is one of the ways to turn it into a wholesome experience, especially when we are trying a complete travel reboot after a year of pandemic.
Many people associate the idea of having a meaningful travel experience with having a bigger, social objective, like volunteering or philanthropy. But there are many other ways to travel deeper and explore the world for what it is and turn your trip into something more holistic.
The context rather than the content
In art, we often look at the context of creation rather than what the creation is. Traveling also has the aesthetics of an art form. When you go somewhere away from home, within your country, or a foreign land, you might want to dig into why you are doing it, rather than what you are going to be doing there. For instance, ask yourself this: why do you want to be at a beach location? Why does the desert draw you so much? What is it about a trek that fulfills you? Once you have the answer, what you want to do becomes much clearer. If trekking through steep mountains helps hone your concentration skills, then you know how you can immerse yourself when you actually do it.
Know the people to know the place
The soul of a place is not in its historical landmarks or landscape. It’s in its people, who live, breathe, and feel the heartbeat of the locale every single day. Immersing yourself in the local culture is what will give you a real view of the travel destination. A deeper travel experience comes from integrating yourself within the local community, actively interacting and engaging with them, and embracing their views on the place.
Tips on how to engage with the local life
- Step out of the comfort of the resort/hotel and be where the locals are.
- Walk the streets instead of using the hotel transportation or doing group tours. Rent your own local vehicle if necessary.
- Learn basic words of the local language. It lets the locals open up to you and see you as someone interested in their life and not just the things around.
- Eat locally made, traditional food and not the tourist-friendly fancy restaurants.
- Do something for the local community – teach, participate in their rituals/festivals, let them get to know you too.
- Be curious and willing to learn.
Feel the nature not just capture it
Most of our trysts with nature are a quick escape from the monotony and stress of daily life. It also feels rejuvenating to take a boat ride, walk through the hills, or camp under the stars. But the effect only lasts until we are back to the rote. Such natural encounters can only feel more intense once we can connect with nature. It’s more than just getting some fresh air or a change of scenery. It’s about the awareness of something much bigger than our lives. Instead of trying to get the perfect shot of the sunrise/sunset over the mountains while huddling over other tourists, wouldn’t it be more meaningful to sit and watch the same in a quiet, isolated area?
Learn something new
They say that nothing teaches you better about life than traveling. But if you are going to travel by the book, it won’t help you learn things the organic way. Don’t read everything about the destination ahead, rather experience it. That’s what makes the travel experience more magical.
Things you can learn when on a vacation –
- Take a pottery class or an art workshop
- Learn to cook traditional/ethnic dishes from a local
- Take a folk-dance lesson
- Learn to climb a coconut tree or ride a boat
- Befriend a local and learn the language
- Learn to fish or how to farm
- Pick up an ethnic musical instrument and learn to play
At the end of your vacation/travel, you should surprise yourself enough to say “I didn’t know I could do that too!”
The idea of such travels is to become familiarists and not remain tourists. It makes you experience the place and its people for what they are, and not just remain silent spectators.