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How to Travel with Meaning

Photos By : Dan Kuras

As the world starts to open back up and we look at ways to stretch our legs and see loved ones we haven’t seen in a year, how will we travel differently? The reality of travel and the ability to roam freely around our country, and the world, is something we’ve all learned to appreciate this past year. If there is one thing the pandemic has stirred up within us it is that desire to learn, to better ourselves, find new ways to step outside of our comfort zone, grow. 

Stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park.
Camping at Joshua Tree is perfect for families; An endless amount of rocks to climb and explore.

Travel has been the chosen vehicle to drive change and transformation throughout history. The concept of travel, as it relates to the tourism industry, destinations, tour operators, hotels and influencers, was somewhat a functioning dysfunctional system pre-pandemic. Over-tourism, the lack of sustainable practices and supporting local were big topics even before the world paused. Now, as travel becomes a more regular part of our lives again, I am eager to see how the industry evolves to address ways to improve. What I am most curious about is, how we, as travelers, will react.

There has been a term thrown around throughout the pandemic, “revenge travel.” It’s the act of making up for lost travel time by going on more trips. I’m all for this (as long as it is safe for people to travel), but I want to invite us to think further about “traveling with meaning.” Let’s ask ourselves these questions: What does travel mean to me? What has my view on travel been this past year?

As we step into the world from lockdown, here are easy tips that will support a meaningful inner journey and a memorable outer adventure. Travel is personal and these steps will be different for each of us, but I’m confident that if we collectively embody them together, travel will be much more fulfilling.

 

  • One of the greatest gifts of travel is its allowance to disconnect from our current life, routine and inbox. Sure, having access to WiFi offers the luxury to stay connected from almost anywhere in the world. I invite you instead to instill these steps. Be present to the magic: Take deep breaths, look around, acknowledge where you are, sit still. This doesn’t have to mean avoiding posting on social media. Perhaps capture the moment and find a time later to do the posting. Try not to take away from your time being in the “” That is the magic. Enjoy any unique opportunity to connect with nature and yourself, while also disconnecting from the constraints of the normal daily routine. Sometimes there will be limited reception available, which can feel very scary. Just remember, we don’t need to constantly be connected. On one of our recent road trip adventures, one of the travelers told us how liberated, free and soul-cleansed they felt from being disconnected from the stranglehold of their phone. This was just over 24 hours of no service. Sometimes, a little break is all that is needed for reflection time.
  • Pre-pandemic I was guilty of thinking travel with deep meaning usually involved getting on a plane and going far, far away. As I’ve traveled much closer to home these past few months, I now know exploring a new part of the neighborhood or embarking on an afternoon drive to visit that town you’ve always want to check out can create the much-needed adventure. You don’t need to go far. I started leading a beach bike tour in Santa Monica to share the unique history of the coast. When guests who have lived in the area for decades tell me they can’t believe how much they learned about their own backyard, it lights me up!
  • During this past year, I spent several weeks exploring parts of Southern California I have not experienced in years. Since travel was forced to be local, I took advantage of the incredible offerings we have within two- to four-hour drives: the Kern River, Eastern Sierras, Joshua Tree. Going for long hikes, jumping in lakes, seeing the sunrise all helped me take that pause in uncertain times. I learned that nature is the best therapy.
Sunset is the best time of day to sit back and enjoy the show.
  • I kept hearing from people who wanted to go camping but didn’t have anyone to go with, or were unsure of what to bring, or where to go. This sparked a collaboration with adventure guide Jack Steward (also known for his Emmy Award-winning TV show “Rock the Park”), and Road Trips With Meaning was born. Jack and I created a program for small groups to connect in nature, and enjoy hikes, fireside conversations and gratitude circles. We work with a local campervan rental company that allows guests to experience van life with extra amenities such as a refrigerator, stove and running water. It’s a great way to ease into a nature getaway if it is not your norm. We also have pre-made meals from a local catering company that guests heat up, providing a turnkey option for camping. Whether you join a program like this one, or create your own experience, remember: You can do it. There are many options, for all different lifestyles, to get out and enjoy the world.
The Joshua tree is the park's namesake and one that is quite photogenic, especially as the sun sets.
  • Now let’s talk about one of the biggest vibe killers of travel: expectations. Have you ever experienced a trip where you thought it was going to go a certain way and it didn’t, only to find yourself and your group upset? Me too. Let’s change that thinking. It’s good to plan the adventure, but like the weather, sometimes things change. This is where we as travelers must go with the flow. Roll with the changes, see them as challenges to overcome and let them be part of the trip, not define the journey. And perhaps the stories you’ll have to tell from it will be epic.
The road towards the Hall of Horrors area in the park and one of many open roads to enjoy.
  • The last step of traveling with meaning allows for a truly meaningful journey: respect. Travel teaches us to respect ourselves, each other and the environment. The more we travel, connect, learn and grow, the better off we all will be. So let’s learn to also leave no trace. I’m proud that we’ve launched a partnership with international nonprofit Leave No Trace to support outdoor adventures and sustainability, lending itself to any aspect of life and travel.

Embrace the new dawn in travel and prepare yourself to travel with meaning. See you on the open road!

Contributed by Mike Schibel of Travel With Meaning, a travel storytelling community, sharing authentic and inspiring stories from incredible travelers on the Travel With Meaning Podcast and pre-pandemic at our live Travel Talk events. “I believe that everyone has been impacted in their life and career through travel.  After exiting my career in the entertainment industry over a decade ago and buying a one-way ticket to travel for a year, I’ve been on this quest to hear other travelers share their grateful journeys and their untold adventures. There’s a powerful thing that happens when travel stories are shared.  I’ve been fortunate to interview exceptional humans from all over the world learning that no matter what you do or who you are travel is a universal bond.”

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