When you plan a vacation, what aspects of the trip do you usually consider during the planning process? Dates, destinations, and day-to-day details are probably at the top of that list. Usually we pick a place that we’re interested in traveling to and then fill in the details from there.
But what about the feeling that you want to have when you walk away from your vacation? How much thought do you usually put into how a given trip will transform you? This isn’t something that most families consider when they plan trips.
I haven’t always been so intentional about this aspect of my own travels. But I’ve recently come to realize that the feelings I want my trips to inspire are a really important element. It’s hard to beat walking away from a vacation not only with wonderful memories, but also with that feeling you get when an experience is particularly special or precious to you.
So what are the components of a meaningful vacation? And how do we ensure that our travel experiences live up to this somewhat intangible expectation?
Each of us is different in terms of what we find most beneficial. But we’ve put together a few suggestions of how to plan a meaningful vacation that will change you for the better…
Plan Trips Around an Interest
Many of us have particular interests that can be deepened by a meaningful vacation. Including these passions or hobbies in our travels is a great way to ensure that our trips are truly memorable. In fact, some travelers are so invigorated by these types of vacations that they continue to prioritize travel around their hobbies year after year.
Take history buffs, for example. Many travelers who have a passion for historical events seek experiences around the world that add to their understanding of them. They may visit Belize to learn more about Mayan temples, or visit museums in Egypt to learn more about the Pharaohs. By experiencing things that they have previously only read about in books or seen in documentaries, their passion comes alive in an entirely new way.
There are, of course, countless ways to plan a trip around your hobbies or interests. It all just depends what you like to do.
Are you a spiritual person? In recent years, yoga retreats have gained popularity as a way for travelers to deepen their practice, unplug, and recharge, often in a naturally beautiful place. Discover Corps recently launched a Yoga and Culture Exploration in Cuba for both beginning and advanced yogis who want to visit the famed island nation and share in the yoga practice of local Cubans.
Planning a meaningful vacation around your hobby isn’t as challenging as you’d think, especially since there really is something for everyone. The tough part is just deciding which of your interests to you want explore!
Check Off an Experience from Your Bucket List
Another way to create a meaningful vacation is to create your own world travel bucket list. Most of us have a list– whether it’s committed to paper or not– of the things we want to do, places we want to see, and adventures we want to have in our life. The items we choose to put on our bucket list are special to us for a reason: They somehow excite us, inspire us, or call to us.
It makes sense that a meaningful vacation might include checking one, two, or ten items off of your bucket list of dream experiences. So the next time you’re planning a trip, think about that list of yours and prioritize.
Have you always wanted to take a photo on Princess Diana’s iconic bench at the Taj Mahal? Plan a trip to India, or join an organized trip there, including the Taj in your itinerary. You’ll surely have a meaningful vacation, simply because you’ve brought a dream to fruition.
Or maybe your goal is to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, go to Munich’s original Oktoberfest, or spot the Big Five on an authentic African safari? These are all once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And whether you’re adventuring solo or sharing them with loved ones, you’ll never forget them.
Of course, we here at Discover Corps think that one of the best ways to plan a meaningful vacation is to include a volunteer experience in the trip. When you’re working in service to others, you gain a more comprehensive understanding of the lives that others live. In doing so, you gain an entirely new appreciation for the place you’re visiting.
For this reason, volunteer travel has become an increasingly popular choice for those who want to vacation while also making a difference. With many different experiences to choose from, travelers are able to select trips that align the places they’re interested in exploring with the projects that they’re excited to contribute to.
If you want to work with local children, selecting a program that arranges work with schools or NGOs serving youth can place you in a position to gain the rich experience you’re looking for. If you want to contribute to wildlife conservation, there are programs to help protect the animals you love, as well as the environments they call home.
Volunteer travel an excellent way to share deeper interactions with locals in the community you’re visiting, and to learn more about a new place. But it also allows travelers to feel good about their time spent abroad. And it’s difficult to imagine a more meaningful vacation experience than that. –Sara McDaniel
BIO: Sara McDaniel is a San Diego-based educator who uses her summers to explore the world, often alongside her students! In addition to writing for The Volunteer Traveler, she has directed international programming for various travel organizations. When she’s not writing or researching, she can often be found swimming in the ocean, eating all of the delicious foods she can find, and teaching in San Diego State University’s College of Education.