Meaningful travel is all about seeking experiences that help us learn more the world, other cultures and ourselves. It’s about stepping out of our comfort zone, connecting with local people and challenging our preconceptions about the places we visit.
Whether you would like start exploring new places beyond the guidebook, or try something different on your next trip, here are some ideas for planning meaningful travel experiences.
1. Choose tours that give back to the local community
In recent years, there has been a growing demand for eco-friendly tours. More and more travellers are becoming conscious of their impact on local communities and the environment. This trend has led to a rise in tour operators offering cultural immersions, responsible wildlife activities and ethical tours.
Unfortunately, some companies adopt green marketing strategies to lure tourists and mislead them into thinking that they are contributing to a good cause. Before booking a tour, do some research about the company’s efforts in helping local communities and protecting the environment.
I highly recommend reading this article about greenwashing, which contains a list of questions to ask when looking for ethical tours.
2. Stay with locals
One of the most effective ways to soak up local culture is to book a stay with a host family. It gives you the chance to learn a new language and try a variety of authentic dishes, while helping you gain a deeper insight into local customs and ways of thinking. I can honestly say that spending a couple of days with Berber families in Morocco has been the most enriching experience of my life.
If staying with locals is something that you’ve always wanted to try but at the same time feel a bit uneasy about, use a reputable booking platform like Homestay.com, which allows you to get to know your hosts in advance through the website’s video call and messaging features.
Another great way to integrate with local communities is to volunteer through Workaway, a community which connects travellers with host families across the world on a work exchange.
3. Challenge yourself with something new
Travelling is not only about exploring new places and cultures, but also getting to know yourself better. It gives you the opportunity to challenge yourself and test your limits, whether it’s climbing a mountain or trying bizarre foods.
You don’t need to go on outrageous adventures to get out of your comfort zone. Even a simple thing like turning off all electronic devices and disconnecting yourself from the virtual world for a few days can be a challenging experience.
Need some inspiration for new experiences? Get yourself a copy of 203 Travel Challenges – a book packed with ideas for trying exciting new things in different destinations, from rafting along the Tara River in Bosnia and Herzegovina to walking through an eerie ship cemetery in Uzbekistan.
4. Book a cooking class or a culinary holiday
Food connects people. Whether you’re a foodie or want to learn how to prepare traditional dishes, consider booking a cooking class or a culinary trip. You don’t have to be an avid cook to enjoy a culinary experience – many cooking schools cater for beginners.
Cookly.me is a great place to find immersive cooking classes offered in your destination. Meanwhile, BookCulinaryVacations offer hundreds of short and long culinary vacations (including vegan holidays) in a variety of locations across the world. These culinary holidays are perfect for those who love slow food and slow travel.
5. Connect with yourself on a wellness trip
Feel the need to connect with your inner self? Treat yourself to a wellness retreat in a quiet location. Many retreats pair relaxation and fitness with other activities, like hiking, wine tours and cooking classes.
If you’re a yoga practitioner, check out BookYogaRetreats for the perfect yoga and meditation holiday. Some retreats and yoga schools also offer yoga instructor courses in exotic locations.
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