Traveling With a Purpose

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try to understand each other we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

There’s so much more to travel than just crossing a place off on a bucket list!  Today, you hear a lot about travel bucket lists and the 1000 places to see before you die.  I’ve checked off a few, but I’m now at a phase of life where I’d prefer to travel with a purpose.

I love returning again and again to places that speak most loudly to my heart.  Tanzania is one of those places that keep calling me to return.  My multiple visits have taught me important insights about traveling with purpose.

It’s only when you’ve known a person for many years and have a shared wealth of experiences that you fully appreciate his or her true essence.  I’ve learned that the same is true for a place.  Each visit to a favored destination can help us dig a little deeper into its essence.

My love for Tanzania’s people, wildlife, and wild places pulls me back time and time again – back to the natural rhythm of life and relationships.  When I close my eyes and imagine Tanzania, what I see is purposeful people, grass savannas framed by umbrella acacia trees, the companies of grazing zebra, and in the distance mantled domes of Kilimanjaro.  It is scenic, rhythmic, and timeless lodged in my memory with a gravitational core that pulls me back time and again.

Not everyone can (or wants to) take off to travel to Tanzania every year.  In fact, most everyone is likely just trying to get a week or two respite from their day-to-day reality so that they can play instead of work.

Yet, fewer of us, today, take a true vacation from our work.  In order to justify our time away from work, we take our work with us (ensuring our hotel has Wi-Fi, for example).  And, we get caught up in the idea that our travels must be filled with activities and sightseeing.

To travel with a purpose, you just need to slow down.  Just permit yourself to have some downtime.

Have you heard of the “Slow Movement?”  The Slow Movement, as it relates to travel, is based on the premise that you connect with a place (and yourself) by visiting the place often, and perhaps, stay in the place long enough to get to know it’s essence.

A slower, less planned style of travel promotes self-discovery as well as organic connection with the locals.  You learn to explore on your own.  You allow travel to come to you.  Sometimes it’s wise to step back and allow things to happen.

If you want to travel with a purpose, consider these suggestions:

Seven Tips for Traveling With a Purpose

  1. Travel with these questions: “Why am I traveling to this place?”  “What will make my journey meaningful?”
  2. Travel with people who share both a passion for adventure and for “inventure.”  A big part of the travel experience is the way people interact.  There’s nothing like being out of your element to bring out the elements in people.
  3. Be curious – open to surprise, novelty, and serendipity.  You can’t plan every detail.  Things happen.  Circumstances change and you change.
  4. Travel with a beginners mind.  As Zen priest Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginners mind there are many possibilities; in the experts mind there are few!”  Go into a new setting and see the people not as being “others” but simply seeing them as people.
  5. Travel lightly.  Lighten your load.  Simplify life on the road.  A trip that is outwardly simple is potentially the most inwardly rich.  Pack less and dare to go with the flow.  And, don’t forget to pack a sense of humor.
  6. Walk.  If possible, walk a destination.  Experience the nooks and crannies – the quirky, overlooked, and hidden places.  Don’t follow others footsteps but find your own paths.
  7. Look for value.  Price and value are two different things.  Some of our best travel experiences didn’t cost anything.  Sometimes we paid a lot of money for a very disappointing experience.  Wherever you go, there you are.  Focus on where you are.  Go a step beyond the world that was created for the “tourist.”

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Richard Leider has been leading Inventure Expeditions – walking safaris – in Tanzania for thirty years.  To find out more, click on the Inventure button.

Print this article >