Adding purpose to your travels can make them more meaningful and rewarding. It can also help you avoid some of the common pitfalls of aimless travel.

Purpose is a long-term reason for doing something; it’s the root cause of all your goals. Goals, on the other hand, are more fluid and often temporary.

1. Think About Your Values

One of the best ways to plan a meaningful journey is by reflecting on your personal values. While values may change over time, it is important to define your core beliefs and determine which priorities are most important for you as a person. These values can be derived from your family, your education, or your religious traditions. In addition, they can be influenced by your current situation and experiences.

Your personal values should guide every decision you make. When you have clarity about your values, it is easy to identify which choices align with your true intentions and responsibilities.

You can find many resources for identifying your personal values online. Some of them are more self-assessment focused, such as the MyIDP tool for scientists, while others are more goal-focused, like the ImaginePhD tool for social science and humanities grad students and postdocs. In either case, you should choose an approach that fits your needs and the type of persona you have defined.

For example, if you value learning, you may be more interested in taking courses or attending workshops to improve your skills. If you value community, you might want to consider volunteering. If you value individuality, you might be more interested in marching to the beat of your own drum and rejecting what other people think is right for you.

2. Think About Your Personal Growth Opportunities

Often, people think of meaningful travel as a way to give back, but it can also be about learning. Our travellers, for example, often travel to meet people in their birthplaces or their parents’ homelands to understand more about their heritage. And they might take the time to learn skills in the place they’re traveling to, like crafts or cooking or even dance.

The goal is to foster self-discovery and growth – to bring something back home with you that will improve your life. And, if you’re going on a guided journey with Black Tomato, we will help you to achieve this. We will guide you to places that offer opportunities for self-discovery, and you’ll be supported by the group of like-minded travellers who are also on your journey.

We’ll help you to create a personal growth plan before your trip and then support you on your journey with activities that will allow you to achieve it. For instance, we might encourage you to keep a journal of your experiences and thoughts and also provide prompts for writing about anxiety-provoking moments on your journey.

And we’ll also ensure you have the opportunity to learn about the culture and heritage of the destinations you visit – so, for example, in Morocco our travellers will spend time with artisans to learn about traditional craft. Or, in Costa Rica, we might have you travel to precious ecosystems and actively contribute to their survival – for example, through our tortoise conversation project or coral reef regeneration program.

3. Think About Your Relationships

Whether you’re celebrating a milestone birthday, an anniversary, or a career achievement, travel is a way to mark such moments with significance. While cake, champagne, and a fine watch are customary symbols of these momentous occasions, they rarely match the depth of feeling associated with a meaningful journey.

A well-planned trip can provide opportunities to develop new friendships that will endure beyond the end of your journey. Those relationships may be with people who travel with you or with people you meet on the trip. The former will be the ones you share an intimate journey with and the latter are those that will offer support as you reflect on your experiences once your return home.

Pilgrimages often take place in groups, either with friends and family or with other like-minded pilgrims on a guided journey. In such cases, it’s important to consider the role of a Journey Companion. This could be your traveling companion or a trusted friend, family member, or mentor back home who will support you in the reflection that occurs once your journey ends and help you discern how to apply the wisdom gained from your trip to your everyday life.

Talking to others who have traveled to the places you’ll be visiting can help you to understand if your purposeful journey will be enjoyable for your personality type and interests. Be sure to ask about what they would have done differently, what they enjoyed most, and if their experience was what they expected.

4. Think About Your Family

As you work to plan a meaningful journey, consider how your family fits in. For example, if you’re traveling with kids, it’s important to ensure that all family members are compatible and will enjoy each other on a long trip. Incompatible grown-ups can cause headaches for everyone.

If you are planning a surprise trip to celebrate a milestone like a wedding anniversary or birthday, it’s crucial to listen to the wishes of the person being celebrated. They will be a guiding star as you make decisions about the location, activities, and overall experience.

For children, a trip to a destination rich in history and culture can be an exciting opportunity for learning. Younger kids can practice their language skills with local children using flash cards and playing word games. Older kids and teens can learn to appreciate a building’s architecture by building scale models with refrigerator boxes or with online tools such as AutoCAD’s free student version.

Many family travelers say that ‘creating long-lasting memories’ and ‘bonding with each other’ are the most important outcomes of their vacations. A family that travels together builds a sense of belonging and is able to take with them a more informed view of the world beyond their own borders. For that reason, we recommend that you start planning a family getaway this year, even if it’s just a camping trip to a national park or visiting relatives in another state.

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