Holidaying is very different to ‘travelling’. The aim of a holiday is probably to reconnect with friends and loved ones, have some fun and return home fully refreshed and ready to face the daily grind again. Holidays might place in villas and resorts, and we often return to our favourite holiday destinations time and again. We all need a holiday sometimes!

Travel on the other hand, is about taking yourself away from what you know and the spaces you feel safe in, and throwing yourself, sometimes gently, into a whole new place. Travelling isn’t necessarily where you go, it’s more about how you go, and the experiences you gain along the way. Find out why travel could change you, and how to make the most of your experiences.

A woman sitting at the waterfront in Brooklyn looking out over the New York City skyline.
Travel is about throwing yourself into new surroundings © Westend61 / Getty Images

What is a 'traveller'?

The idea of a 'traveller' is no longer confined to stereotypes of young hippies with flowing hair, or middle-aged single men with backpacks and hiking boots. To travel today, you don’t need to embark on an overland journey across half the world, as Lonely Planet’s founders once admirably did. You don’t even need to leave your own country to discover how much there is to gain from travel.

In a recent survey of over 7500 Lonely Planet fans, 92% said that they see travel as an opportunity for positive change. Whether that’s change within yourself, or change you can help influence, there’s no denying that travel and the experiences it delivers can change you forever. 

You might also like this: How travel helps me cope with grief

A couple in a rowboat paddle past sakura (cherry blossoms) in full bloom at Hirosaki Park in Japan.
Travel is an opportunity to shift our perspective © cowardlion / Shutterstock

Why should we travel?

In a world that sometimes feels divided and divisive, travel can remind us that we’re all living on the same planet, albeit in many different ways. In the words of our readers, 'Travelling is an opportunity to shift your perspectives and learn from other cultures.' It 'connects us with different cultures and exposes us to international concerns and issues', and it allows us 'to let go of generalisations and stereotypes put forth by media and experience first-hand a new culture and experience'.

60% of the survey participants across all age groups said they view travel as an opportunity for personal growth more than they used to – which suggests people nowadays care more than they used to about self-improvement through travel. One of the main ways our readers saw self-improvement from their travel experiences was in their confidence. Every time you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, even just a little, you’re increasing your self-reliance. As one reader said, 'I have grown as a person simply by learning to deal with uncomfortable situations.' Being lost in Peru and your only bank card having been sucked into the ATM seems horrendous at the time, but how you fix the situation and the confidence you gain from this will last you a lifetime.

Young male traveller with a backpack in Siem Reap.
Travel is rewarding whether solo or in a group © Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock

How to make the most of your travels

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 the 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.

You might also like this: How to travel with friends – without falling out

Young friends hanging out on a sunny clifftop with the ocean beyond.
Meeting new people is one of the highlights of travelling © Hero Images / Getty Images

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.

Published alongside the survey findings in this article is a new title called Travel Goals, which is packed full of ideas to inspire responsible, healthy, transformative travel experiences. From sleeping under the stars and witnessing natural phenomena to more ambitious challenges, such as helping communities and safeguarding the environment, Travel Goals is the essential companion to a life well-travelled and well-lived.

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