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Intentional Travel: Creating a Meaningful Travel Experience

Every new year I choose a word to reflect upon and lead my actions for the coming year. My word for 2019 is “Intentional”. What does it mean when you are intentional? It means you are purposeful in action. It means living a life that is meaningful to you by actively engaging in your choices. Reflecting on this word got me thinking about making travel intentional.

First of all, kudos to you for choosing to make travel a priority in your life. Travel takes you outside of your daily life and usually removes you from your comfort zone, opening you up for new possibilities. When you consciously make intentional travel choices you embark on a more fulfilling and transformational journey and create meaningful travel experiences.


Create Meaningful Travel Experiences

What’s my destination? Of course, knowing where you are going is one of the most significant intentional choices you have to make when you are planning to travel. Knowing your destination sets the stage for the kind of experience you are going to have. Once you figure out your location you can begin to plan where you are going to stay, what activities you are going to do and what you need to pack. It also helps you in setting  a budget for your trip.

Why am I traveling? Have you taken the time to intentionally plan a purpose for your trip? Sometimes we travel seeking an experience that gives us much-needed rest and relaxation. Many times we are looking to get away for some time with family or friends. Other times we are traveling to give back to a community by serving others. Or, seeking to discover a deeper meaning in life, a spiritual transformation. Knowing why you are traveling is the definition of intentional travel and the beginning of the recipe for creating a meaningful experience.

How can you immerse yourself in the local culture? To acclimate yourself to the local culture, learn the language of the place you are visiting before you travel. It’s surprising how learning a few phrases can really break down barriers. Be open to truly experiencing the local foods, customs and diverse way of life. Immersing yourself in the local culture is the best part of traveling to a new place.

How can I find out information about my location? Research is your friend when you are planning travel. Start your research on a destination by checking out its local visitor bureau’s website or fellow traveler's reviews on You can also watch YouTube videos, movies or TV shows set in the location you are visiting. Or, check out the city guides of travel bloggers.

Who am I traveling with? If you can, meaning if it's not family, consider whether the person/people you are traveling with have the same goals you do for your travel experience. If not, you might want to consider going alone.

Labyrinth at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Photo by Gina Duncan

Create space for reflection and self-discovery When I travel I always look for places to have quiet time for self-reflection. I do this in four stages; the first stage is during pre-trip planning, this is when I set my intentions for the trip. The second stage is during the first few days at the beginning of travel, then somewhere in the middle of the trip and finally towards the end, before I return home.

I journal, so most of my self-discovery time involves writing in a travel journal that I started pre-trip. I also create a trip music playlist prior to traveling which sets the tone for my reflections. There are so many things you can do during this reflection time, you can draw, paint, meditate, pray or just simply be still.

For this time of self-discovery I seek places and hours in the day when there aren’t many people around. I have found these quiet spaces in places of worship, sitting on the beach watching the sunrise or set, outside in a garden, or on a walk in the woods. Sometimes it’s just getting up earlier than everyone else and making that time your sacred space.

During these times of reflection, I ask myself the following questions: How are you feeling today? Describe what you are experiencing using all five senses. What can you do today to further your intentions for this trip? How are you being transformed based on this experience? What have you discovered about myself because of something you've done on this trip?

Whatever you choose to do, make your self-discovery time something that is meaningful to you.

When you take the time to be intentional with travel, your experience is more fulfilling and may even be transformational.


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