My interest in travel began by growing up in a semi-tropical resort.  I received one of the first Master’s degree in Travel and Tourism Administration and worked in hospitality for a few years. Leisure and recreation became part of my PhD studies as a psychologist.  The IDEA of travel continues to fascinate me, no less than the experience itself.

In the 18th century, affluent young men traveled within Europe to find themselves.  It was a rite of passage for self-discovery and worldliness.  By the 20th century, mass tourism developed and travel was in the reach of many.  Alas, creating tourism pollution for destinations and cultural artifacts.  Now in the 21st century, travel seems to be returning to its 18th century roots as an opportunity for personal expression, but no longer a privilege for the few.

Travel has trends like fashion.  Travel is re-branded to express other dimensions.  Not long ago, marketers called it experiential travel and more recently, there’s transformative travel.  Genealogy travel is now on the rise given the explosion of DNA testing.  No matter how we label or re-brand the travel experience, I believe that at its core is the idea of self-expression.

Travelers today are increasingly drawn to travel as a form of self-actualization and personal transformation and growth. They want more than a simple visit to a new destination or days spent relaxing on a beach. Instead, the travel they’re seeking is an experience of the world that goes deep — one that changes them in ways they may not even be aware of. 

With personal growth now a central goal of many travel experiences, [those] operating in the travel and tourism space can thrive by helping travelers enrich their inner lives as they explore outwardly. ~ Skift Report

As the historian Miriam Ritter Beard once said, “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”  I amend her insight, adding:  And the ideas of living have self-expression at their core.  

While transformative travel tends to attract those under 50, due to its requisite physical challenges, those at an Expressive Age can experience its essence.   Likened to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, the Transformational Travel Council defines it as “any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life.”  Clearly, this trend attempts to deepen the mundane experience of travel for anyone open to being transformed!  But something more is happening.

In the 1980s, I wrote a master’s thesis on use of market research in the travel industry and found that most travel organizations did not understand their consumers’ needs.  Fortunately, travel has come a long way!  For example, a recent article in the Annals of Travel Research concludes that “consumers not only play an active, co-creative role in generating the experience, but are self-directed, self-expressive and firmly in the driving seat, with organisations playing a facilitating role.” 

This is exciting because it means that you have an opportunity to authentically express yourself through travel.  The responsibility for something expressive and meaningful lies within you.  What travel experiences have you had that were expressive and meaningful?  Please share your comments.

Expressive Links

Grand Tour – Wikipedia

New Skift Report on the Rise of Transformative Travel

10 Trips of a Lifetime: Transformative Travel at its Best

Transformational Travel Council

“If I was going to die I should at least be having fun”: Travel blogs, meaning and tourist experience