🌎 The importance of experiencing meaningful travel

A global pandemic, COVID-19, hit us in 2020. It meant that for many of us, travel we had planned would have to be cancelled, or postponed indefinitely. Travel between countries was banned, and borders were closed to countries and even between some states of countries – like Australia, where I live. Freight and logistics continued as usual, but with delays, but for many of us who yearn to travel, it has put a dent in our regular travel.

Nick and I were supposed to go to Greece this month, and we had to cancel our trip in April after so many things had been booked. I knew of many friends who had to endure the same predicament, some of them losing a lot of money in the process. While we were able to receive refunds for some of our accomodation, we had to accept a credit for a rebooking for many places instead.

We’re still unsure when we can travel again. At the beginning of this year, we headed to Tasmania for a really lovely weekend trip focused on the outdoors and experiencing nature. I set out to remain passionate about travel and remaining continuously present on my travels.

I think that for many of us, it’s easy to see travel as a vacation and a holiday. A well-deserved break from work, and holidaying. Many holidays experienced in a resort can have a tendency to make you feel this way.

There are a couple of ways you can experience “deep travel” and have a more meaningful, valuable experience while travelling. It relates to being in the moment and being present. Mindfulness is a topic that is often discussed in media and just generally today. There are many books about mindfulness and meditation. By employing mindfulness into your getaways, you can have a more meaningful experience.

Spend time in local areas with local folks

This might be something extremely familiar to you. Stay in local areas, talk to the locals, and don’t spend too much time in touristy areas. Although I didn’t travel when I was fresh out of college, if you are travelling on your own and have a lot of time, you can meet new, local people. When you don’t know much about the city you’re travelling in, it can be a good way to get acquainted.

You might not be into meeting new people and that’s OK. But take the time to do something like a food tour by a local guide, or a walking tour. Nick and I have done a walking tour in New York and Berlin, and did a food tour in Paris. They were really wonderful experiences and we learned so much. I love learning new things, and honestly, these experiences were eye-opening. When you were born in a pretty “new” city like Sydney, the history of any city can be extremely fascinating – because Sydney does not have all that much of a history compared to other major cities around the world.

The Washington Square Park arch during the daytime. In the distance, the tall Empire State building can be seen through the arch.
We stayed in a local neighbourhood near Washington Square Park when we visited New York.

Another amazing thing is that locals want to share their city with you. They know their city best. Put your trust in them and it will be worth it. 😊 The local experiences can be a lot more valuable than your run-of-the-mill commercial tour of all the popular sights.

Don’t be afraid of going off the beaten path! People are afraid of this for some reason – they choose to go to familiar eateries and follow the crowd. I encourage you to be uncomfortable for a few minutes and let yourself wander. You may never know what you will find. You might find a hidden gem of a restaurant, a vintage store with unique pieces, or street art you didn’t expect to see. You might see locals hanging out and be able to people-watch.

Forget what you already know and be prepared to learn new things

Sometimes we can have certain biases about a place before we visit. It could be about the way a country’s people live their lives, about their food, or even about something as trivial as their climate. I think it’s really important to try to drop all of these when you visit, and even as you plan and prepare for your trip. Getting some information from locals before you book accommodation is useful – for example, to make sure a certain area is close to public transit or not in a dodgy neighbourhood, but you might be surprised. Tourism has a funny way of facilitating biases, but it also brings some things to the surface that might surprise you.

A box of pizza and two glasses of wine on a balcony overlooking a beautiful lake in the afternoon
Nick and I stayed in Varenna on Lake Como (less popular with tourists than Bellagio), and had this incredible apartment view.

So I would say definitely prepare to be surprised. Some of my personal experiences with travelling have involved people telling me things about certain countries and places, and I’ve often gone by their recommendations but been met with disappointment! 🤐 I would also add, definitely be prepared to make up your own mind about a place. Don’t let those biases dictate what you do, and let yourself learn from experience. 😌

Really take the time to explore or let yourself get lost

The more you explore a place, the more you get to know it, which is why making the time to properly explore wherever you visit is important. We all know that staying in your hotel all day doesn’t really add to having new experiences.

When I say explore, I mean any old how. Walking around in the local neighbourhood you’re staying in is a good start, but if you’d like a vehicle, you can look at something like people movers while on vacation in Perth. Perth, by the way, is a major city on the western side of Australia but could also be the start to an incredible journey to the wine regions, beaches and natural beauty of the entire state. 😍 Even letting yourself get lost somewhere is wonderful. Although I didn’t do this on our trip to Venice, a friend of mine suggested walking around and getting lost in all the canals, as that was how you got to really experience Venice.

The rocky result of a volcano erupting on a mountainous area
On a tour of Mount Merapi, Indonesia. We learned a lot beyond what you could find on the internet.

Personally, I think the time I went for a spontaneous hike with Nick in Indonesia was one of my most memorable but hilarious and silly moments, because I slipped and lost my sunglasses (could have been worse). Of course, I recommend being safe when travelling. 😌

I hope this post inspires you to consider being more present and to travel in a deeper and more meaningful way. There is so much we can gain from travel outside of simply going to and visiting a place. We can have deep connections with places we visit and learn more about what our world has to offer. In all honesty, the reason I feel so grateful for being able to travel is because of the experiences I’ve had. It also humbles me and makes me realise I am just a small person in this huge world. Nothing can readily replace my experiences and I hold them close to my heart.

In the near future I hope to catch up on some of my travel posts in the past couple of years that I didn’t get a chance to write about. Rather than be sad about the state of the world and how we can’t travel, I’m pretty hopeful and looking forward to whenever we can travel again. 💚

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