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Are you ravenous for a major life change? Need a reboot? Do you want to know why you are here, where you are going and how you can make the most of your time here on earth? Are you asking yourself, “What is my purpose?” “Am I on the right path?” and “In what ways do I need to grow and change?

As a transformative travel guide and scholar of the topic, I recommend that if you are contemplating these big questions you should get out of the house for at least a week. You need not to go far, far away, or spend gobs of money to begin finding inspiration about your deepest of queries.

After having had a life changing experience in the remote wilderness myself, I spent years conducting research on the phenomenon of transformation-through-travel. Even though there is no such thing as 1-800-change-my-life, research shows that travel is an efficient and economical way to increase the likelihood that you will have a deeply meaningful, if not, life-changing experience.

Here are factors I have found that cause travel to be transformative:

  1. Novelty. The single most important requirement for transformation (other than inner readiness) is novel experiences. A life changing event is, by definition, an introduction to a reality that you had never considered possible. This means that when you start to imagine what you want to do and where you would like to go, consider: the greater the difference between your travel destination and your home in context to the greater potential for transformation. Domestically, this might mean you stay in a B&B in a small, Midwest town if you live in the big city. You spend time in historical sites of a conservative region if you live in a liberal locale, or get cozy with the locals at a volunteer farm if your work is starting to make you feel hardened.
  2. Quality of Preparation. A little bit of research means the difference between a “nice getaway” and “something happened to me there.” Now that you know about novelty, take time to find non-traditional lodging—a vacation rental is just a warm-up. What about a sleeping in a tree house, a windmill, lighthouse or hammock? Make sure to investigate the degree to which you can access the local culture, customs, activities, nature, animals, ecosystems, flora/fauna and everyday life – these are transformative elements of travel.
  3. Inner Readiness. It goes without saying, if you don’t want to change you won’t. Keep this in mind if you are trying to convince someone you love to transform. If they feel restless inside, have a lingering need for change, find themselves super curious about an unanswered question or sense an uneasy feeling in their gut that questions, “Is there something more to life than this?” then they are ready for life transformation.
  4. Intercultural Experiences. Although this is not number two in this list, it is the second most important factor for many people in preempting a transformative experience while traveling. Think about your last travel excursion – did you have an authentic personalized conversation (where you talked about their life and got to know them as a person and possibly vice versa) with someone from that place? The waiter? Tour guide? If you did, chances are you still remember them, the details of the stories and the context of your conversation. You might even remember their name. When we connect with another human being during the altered state of travel, we access something of that place, that land and those people that would have otherwise been inaccessible to us. Make it a point to initiate genuine conversations regularly—get to know the people—ask them personal questions. Better yet, do a home stay, B&B, couch surf or volunteer.
  5. Travel Companions. What do you really need? Being alone? One person? Small group? Anthropology explains that when we leave the structures of daily life and expose ourselves to differences that our mind and heart become opened to possibilities, others and ourselves. The journey itself can quickly foster deep bonds not as easily found during ordinary life. Several studies found that the unique alchemy of interpersonal experiences was crucial to having a major life-change. In case you are wondering, mainstream tour groups tend to leave little room for factors discussed in this list.
  6. Reflection. You will gain much more out of your experience if you are vigilant about what you are learning about others, your contemplation about what you encounter and what it teaches you about how the world works or doesn’t seem to work and yourself. Seek out the deeper meaning of synchronicities that occur along the way and take advantage of activities that stimulate growth or spiritual experience. How will you interpret the meaning of your inner and outer experiences? Daily time in solitude will make a difference.
  7. Post-Travel Integration Activities. What do you do when you return from travel? Just as Judy Garland as Mary Poppins sang, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine, makes the medicine go down” make sure to give yourself theses treats: ruminate about your journey as often as you can and for as many days and weeks as you can allow yourself. Internalized social norms may produce an inner voice that says, “move on” or “get over it.” Don’t listen. Instead, indulge in activities that help to absorb your experiences so that they can become a part of who you are today: look at your pictures, connect with people you met during travel via the internet, talk about your experiences with friends who have endured life-changing events or who enjoy personal growth, and wear clothing (after you wash them), listen to music, and engage in activities that you did while on travel. Remind yourself: It is important that I “go back there” in my mind.

Even though there is no formula for transformation, you can increase the odds that you have a life-changing experience. If the timing is right – you just might have one. The more you get to know yourself and plan ahead the more you will enjoy and even grow happier because of your travel.