Six Ingredients of Transformative Journeys

You deserve (and need) to take at least one life-changing journey. They're escapes that favor your personal growth, give a new meaning to your existence, and endow you with valuable learning.
Six Ingredients of Transformative Journeys
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Whether you’re 20 or 65, alone or with others, it doesn’t matter. Indeed, transformative journeys are an exercise in freedom, discovery, and self-knowledge. However, we’re not talking here about classic vacations or pre-programmed routes with a tour operator.

As a matter of fact, transformational travel has a philosophical, psychological, and transcendental component that’s far more profound and enriching. One such example may be seen in the experiences of Ida Pfeiffer (1797-1858). This wealthy Austrian merchant daughter was raised by a father who insisted on the need to conquer her dreams.

However, unfortunately, her father passed away when she was only nine years old, forcing her to submit to marriage and children. In fact, she ended up married to a man 24 years her senior, and it wasn’t until her children were adults that she finally decided to change her life. She went to Trieste and discovered the sea for the first time. That was her transformative journey.

Ida Pfeiffer subsequently abandoned her life as a housewife and traveled all over the world, becoming a travel writer and the first European woman to visit the island of Borneo. This represents the need to distance yourself from your daily routines in order to profoundly change your life.

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”

-Aldous Huxley-

Boy walking between mountains living his transformative journeys

Transformative journeys

If you want to find an anthropological and philosophical origin to the idea of transformative journeys, you could turn to Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero’s Journey (1990). This work describes the stages that the traveler who, departing from their ordinary world upon feeling the call of adventure, goes through. In fact, how they finally transcend the unknown to obtain their reward.

This type of travel has always been the Holy Grail that’s been yearned for by millions of people throughout history. Nevertheless, in reality, no treasure or reward is necessary, because you find your true gratification in the journey itself. You find it in those experiences that change you, awaken your self-awareness, and add greater meaning to your life.

The journey with meaning and with a transformative purpose is one that places you in an unknown scenario and allows you to reconnect with yourself. In fact, you’re able to put aside your filters of pride and connect with the world in a humble way. It’s then that you discover how small you are. Only then that you wake up inside.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients that make this type of travel possible.

1. The departure: the need for change in a time of crisis

Transformative trips aren’t like other vacations where everything is planned. On the contrary, in this type of experience, you don’t assume a passive and expectant role. Indeed, it’s not about lying on a beach, hiking a few miles from the hotel, and doing some shopping.

As a matter of fact, these types of trips generally seek to achieve internal transformation. This is only possible when you feel the need to leave something behind. Therefore, they tend to arise due to your need for change in times of crisis.

In this case, you feel a longing, an internal need to feel and experience new things. Hence, your mind is prepared and ready for such a transformative event.

What many people seek on their travels is to achieve personal fulfillment.

2. Leaving aside the tourist to be a traveler

As a tourist, you travel to a new country for pleasure and enjoyment. However, as a traveler, you long to discover it. As a tourist, you hope to take as many souvenirs as possible home in your suitcase, buy a lot of things, have fun, and see beautiful scenery. As a traveler, you don’t need objects. In fact, you seek experiences. This means knowing both the good and bad sides of your destination.

Any transformative trip requires your complete immersion in the culture and customs of your destination. Indeed, you make contact with the local people, explore, and experience a real adventure.

3. An external and internal journey

One of the purposes of transformative travel is to achieve self-knowledge. However, the University of Virginia (USA) conducted a study that claims it isn’t always easy to achieve this psychological competence. Furthermore, it can’t be obtained by simple introspection.

Knowing yourself, making contact with what you are and what defines you is achieved by placing yourself in new scenarios, having new experiences, and meeting new people. It sometimes happens by transcending into the unknown, beyond your comfort zone. Furthermore, it reveals those areas of yourself that you didn’t know about before.

4. Transformative journeys connect you with the planet

We all live in a stressed society, trapped in mazes of worry, and shadows of uncertainty. Therefore, it’s no wonder that transformative travel is a booming experience and a goal that many travelers seek. Tour operators know this and are aware that many people now want self-improvement and personal growth, not so much sand and sea.

Transformative journeys seek to foster in you a new way of being and participating in the world. You achieve this by connecting with the planet in another way. Much of that internal change awakens or flourishes within you when you make contact with nature. Also, by immersing yourself in extremely different cultures.

5. Overcoming obstacles

Trips that remain in your memories and not in the photo galleries of your cellphone are those that teach you something. This teaching arises when you discover a new ability in yourself, or when you overcome some kind of fear or obstacle.

In fact, the moment you allow yourself to go beyond your habitual routine and your comfort zone, you broaden your perspectives and are able to transform yourself.

You live a trip three times. When you dream it, when you live it, and when you remember it.

Redhead woman from behind enjoying transformative rides

6. Returning and appreciating everything in your transformative journeys

Nothing is internalized and consolidated in your experiential and emotional memory if you don’t analyze what you’ve experienced. When you return home to routine and your daily life after one of these transformational journeys, you feel strange and misplaced. Your return may even be painful, because you don’t want to break your link with the new, the stimulating, and the different.

However, you gradually integrate those new fragments into your own life. They find their own place and continue to enrich you, to generate new perspectives, and awaken your much-needed reflections. However, it’s highly likely that, within a few weeks of your return, you’ll need to make some new decisions.

That’s because it’s said that every trip changes you a little. Indeed, you don’t return home as the same person who left. Then, the possibility opens up that perhaps it’s time to shape the life you truly want…

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  • Campbell, Joseph (1990) El viaje del héroe. HarperCollins
  • Stone, Matthew & Petrick, James. (2013). The Educational Benefits of Travel Experiences A Literature Review. Journal of Travel Research. 52. 731-744. 10.1177/0047287513500588.
  • Skavronskaya, L., Moyle, B., & Scott, N. (2020). The Experience of Novelty and the Novelty of Experience. Frontiers in psychology11, 322. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00322

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