Whatever your budget, destination or aspiration, there are hundreds of ways to have a transformative experience while travelling.
1. Travel in your own country
66% of the Lonely Planet fans we surveyed feel that experience is more important than the destination. You don’t need to travel far to expand your horizons, and as 68% of respondents said they care more about sustainable travel than they used to, taking fewer flights is important where possible. Domestic travel means viewing where you live with fresh eyes, and realising that, even in your own country, people often live differently to you. Are you a city dweller? Get yourself to the countryside for some fresh air and peace. Do you tend to shy away from urban spaces? Throw yourself into the culture and noise of a city.
2. Learn about the darker side of history
Often, there is a more sinister past associated with the places we visit, and while travelling is also about moments of joy, visiting sites that have witnessed atrocities shouldn’t be avoided. As one reader said, ‘Seeing the concentration camps in Poland and Germany gave me a better understanding of anti-Semitism.’ It is a strange kind of ‘tourism’, but when done with respect (no Chernobyl selfies please) it forces us to face up to facts – lest we forget. Ensure you visit sites that are there to educate and memorialise, and where victims of the incidents will benefit from your visit, rather than sites of voyeurism. Some important sites include Choeung Ek Killing Field, outside of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, USA, and the Ninth Fort near Kaunas, Lithuania.
Also Read: Why travel could change you forever
3. Meet new people
Whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple, or in a group, you’re bound to meet people on the road. Getting to know new people, whether locals or other travellers, is one of the best ways to remember we’re all in this together, and keeping in touch with them once you’re home means you have a connection to that place forever (not to mention another source of photos). For anyone with an ounce of shyness or social anxiety, talking to new people sounds pretty terrifying, let alone joining them on the next leg of their trip. Luckily, there’s plenty of non-awkward ways to meet people on the road, and you’ll soon realise that whether you meet in a bar after a few too many beers, or at the free library in your hostel, connecting with people about the experiences you’ve had is the best way to commemorate them.
4. Experience culture shock
Get properly lost in the heat, scents and noise of Marrakesh’s souqs. Barter in sign language on the dusty streets of Madagascar’s capital Antanarivo. Stay in a Gur Buudal (homestay) with a local Mongolian family in Khövsgöl Nuur National Park. Experience the otherworldliness of real culture shock. Perhaps you’ll learn that ‘we have far more in common with each other than things that divide us’. Perhaps you’ll decide how lucky you are, and gain appreciation of the things you have back home. Maybe, you’ll simply wonder at this amazing planet we live on, and take this feeling of awe with you into the rest of your life.
This article was first published on www.lonelyplanet.com.