Vacations are great, but I personally love traveling with a purpose—an opportunity to reset my perspective and re-energize my spirit.
Vogue magazine called this desire for deeper travel experiences “transformative travel,” and identified it as the next travel trend of 2017.
“It has similar elements of experiential travel, but taken a step further—it’s travel motivated and defined by a shift in perspective, self-reflection and development, and a deeper communion with nature and culture,” the Vogue article explains. It’s ideal for the times in your life when you’re in transition, unsure of the direction you want your life to take next, or have a desire to find more passion and purpose.
Though I haven’t always used the term “transformative travel,” the concept isn’t new to me. I’ve been leading trips abroad for the purpose of creating life-changing experiences for several years, but it all started with a desire to experience an “Eat Pray Love” kind of trip when a friend and I decided to backpack through Italy. We documented our travels on a blog called Peace, Carbs, Creativity. And yes, we did attempt to stop in Naples and try Elizabeth Gilbert’s favorite pizza place, only to hike several miles from the train station to find it closed. It wasn’t the end of the world, though: We were led to a nearby pizza place with delicious pizza and met amazing people!
Throughout our journey, we opened ourselves up to unplanned connections and experiences—such as when we started chatting with some locals and discovered they were from Pistoia, the city my grandfather was from and a mere twenty-minute train ride from our current spot in Florence. We met the locals-turned-new-friends for dinner that evening and had an unforgettable time together, which made it clear what kind of opportunities can appear when you allow yourself to be open to new possibilities.
I felt a sense of “home” and foundation within myself that I’d never felt before, and my friend also experienced a new sense of self-sufficiency and confidence. Each experience opened a new door to growth that was at times uncomfortable, and at others, profound.
The trip helped us to both refocus and reorient our lives. My companion, Courtney, found a new awareness of her desire to control the outcome of everything in her life. The trip allowed her to let go of societal norms and open up to a sense of wonder and curiosity of what was possible. Even something as simple as asking for a different section at a restaurant where we could connect with the locals and experience their way of life offered an opportunity for self-expression. It wasn’t until she got home to Texas that she said, “If I learned anything from Italy, I am aware of actions and a choice on how I can choose to respond.”
A second trip to Italy on her honeymoon two years later revealed even more growth. She was able to see a reflection of her past self in her husband when she freely wandered the streets while he stuck to the straight and narrow sidewalk. She was no longer trying to control everything and instead was enjoying life even more. On this trip, she became the guide, lovingly assisting her husband in transforming and appreciating the way travel can help us change is ever evolving.
Experiencing the beauty of Italian life and the creativity visible in every art gallery, street performer—or even a bowl of fresh pasta—ultimately allowed me to transform and embrace my own creative spirit to a whole new degree. After visiting a costume gallery in Italy, I had a vision of designing clothing inspired by my art— it was so clear, it was almost daunting. I chose to trust in the vision and let it unfold in its own timing. Two years later, the idea led to the launch of my fashion line, Beauty and the Mess. By allowing myself to expand my literal horizons on the trip and trust in the creative process, I discovered a new creative outlet that I love and in time, overcame the fear of starting a new business.
In 2015, I led my first women’s retreat in Florence, guiding my travel companions in reconnecting with their own inner creative forces.
The trip allowed everyone to let go of their to-do lists, escape the fast-paced grind of American life, and immerse ourselves in another culture, tradition, and lifestyle. What we ultimately discovered was a deeper connection with ourselves, each other, and what each of us desired most.
One participant on our Italy trip had just closed her online magazine startup and was unsure of what she wanted to do with her career going forward.
“I’d recently shuttered a business I’d been building for nearly two years and was ready to process, recharge, and embark on my next adventure,” she says. “I left the [retreat] with an expanded network of heart-centered women, feeling both energized and at peace with whatever presented itself to me in my next stage of life.”
Another woman recently mentioned to me that the trip had taken her out of her comfort zone, but she returned home much more open to new experiences—prepared to see the world through a more spiritual lens. Shortly after the trip ended, she met and married her now-husband.
As for the woman who shuttered her past business, she is now working on a new novel and has transformed her health by eating an all-organic diet. It took being away from her American diet—and enjoying all the fresh, vibrant flavors Italy has to offer—to help her realize how much she wanted to invest in her health, something she was able to jump start once she returned to the States. After the trip, she and her husband subscribed to a community garden to start eating more organic, locally-grown menu—which has made her feel more fit and inspired.
We all brought back the Italians’ love and passion for life with us to Texas, and through it were able to rediscover our creativity and take pleasure in the everyday.
Where will your summer travels take you? I encourage you to take advantage of your vacation, not just for rest and rejuvenation, but as a time to pause, reexamine, and continue your journey towards the person you’re meant to be. Let’s join together to experience ‘Transformative Travel’… Share your inspiration and stories in the comments below!
Robin Emmerich has spent close to a decade coaching some of the most successful women in business. Even with their considerable success, the common denominator is that as much as they seemed to be cruising through life on the outside, they were melting on the inside. It’s why Robin created Beauty and the Mess—an athleisure brand launching Spring 2017—in support of a sisterhood who understands that life is messy and difficult and challenging, but together, can find the strength to prioritize passion over perfection and fearlessly seek beauty in their everyday lives. She currently offers the CIJourney online course, based on the famed Stanford Masters Degree Course, ‘Creativity in Business,’ individual coaching and worldwide retreats. Connect with Robin at robinemmerich.com on Instagram, or Twitter.