We can all agree that social media has reached its zenith in recent years, and travel is often one of the highlights that is shared most across platforms. Our travels represent milestones reached (birthdays, anniversaries, graduations), have the ability to bring families and friends together, and can undoubtedly be a source of learning, growth, and inspiration — so it’s no wonder we want to share them.
But with so much content being posted online, one of the most pressing questions I am asked is how to make a trip meaningful, which is a growing trend according to a new study by Capital One. People want to know how to go beyond what is Instagrammable and hone in on moments that move us the most. With that in mind, I’ve compiled some tips and ideas to help you get the most of your time in a new place.
Do your research
…And I don’t mean research in the traditional sense of the word. Allow yourself to dream a little bit about the places that you’ve been most curious about, those that might teach you something new, then move on to more practical considerations like timeline, climate, and budget.
From there, think about the social parameters of your trip: Is this a trip you’d ideally take with a close friend, a family member, or one you’d prefer to undertake alone? Is this a place currently experiencing conflict/will your presence be helpful or harmful? Is there an organization doing responsible work in this place that you could align yourself with?
Considering these questions will help galvanize the goals and structure of your trip.
Lean into your passions
Next, outline the passions or hobbies that you’d like to explore while you’re on the ground, whether you’re going to the next state over or flying halfway around the world. Use these passions to inform a significant chunk of your time on the ground, but leave plenty of room open for the spontaneous. From there, think of activities that excite you, that are unique to the area you are visiting, and that might not be in direct alignment with what you would typically do. This is where some of that magic can happen. If you’re feeling stuck, reach out to local creatives or others on the ground who could help facilitate such activities or introduce you to local, authentic experiences. Locals and creatives know their cities best, and can often point you in a new direction.
Do something that takes you outside your comfort zone
Although this is connected to the previous item, it goes one step further. I’m not saying you have to go skydiving or hike up to the highest peak in order to have a meaningful trip. I’m saying that if you take yourself outside of your comfort zone and participate in an activity that forces you to flex new muscles — literally or figuratively — you’ll experience the world in a new way, shake your senses, and truly adapt to your surroundings. So, take a dance or a language class; participate in a cultural tradition; talk to strangers; indulge in cuisine that is unique to the area. More often than not, these “uncomfortable” moments are the ones that we’ll remember best.
In order to ready yourself to be impressed or surprised by your surroundings, leave your phone in your bag. Instead of reaching for your screen, trust your senses and your curiosity, and use your phone only in moments when you really need it — like navigating a hectic city center. Posting to social media or keeping friends or family updated on your every move can wait until after the trip. If you do this, you’ll find yourself more alert and immersed in the present moment. It’s amazing what can happen when notifications, emails, and other digital noise aren’t monopolizing your attention.
Make the most of every moment
Most Americans only have a couple of weeks to vacation each year. Whether your trip is three days or three weeks long, this mindset will pay dividends: when we venture beyond top-10 lists and truly lean into what is most unique about a place, our passions, and the activities that challenge us, we’re bound to get the most out of our time in a new environment. Travel will then do what it does best — it will teach us, challenge us, and shape our lives in new and deeply meaningful ways.
I’d love to know what you do to make your trips meaningful. Sound off in the comments below or join the conversation on social media using #MeaningfulMoments.
As a Capital One Purpose Project partner, I am excited to be a part of the conversation to showcase how people are rethinking the power of travel. Find more tips on how to travel with purpose on the Capital One Purpose Project Hub, in collaboration with The Points Guy.