When I first started traveling, I was just happy to be getting away from home and adding another stamp to my passport. But as the years have gone by, traveling has become more essential to who am and thus, what I look for through travel has become more intentional. Any of my friends who've traveled with me will tell you that it's super important to me that I learn about the place I'm visiting. History, culture, immersion, is all very important when I travel and because of that, I arrange my trip to reflect my priorities.
I'm not getting into the whole tourist vs. traveler debate (it's silly anyway. Travel is travel.); however, I think the more you travel, a natural shift occurs where you're no longer satisfied with staying at the resort where everything is made readily available for you on a silver platter. While those vacations are nice and sometimes needed, other times it's not enough. Here are some ways I've traveled with purpose:
This is perhaps the most easily identifiable way to travel with purpose. While in Tanzania, I volunteered for a day at The Baobab Home and to this day, it remains one of my most memorable travel experiences. The Baobab Home is a home and school that provides a nurturing environment for children and their families that have or are affected by HIV and AIDS. I learned so much about their community and ways they've been affected by HIV and AIDS. I am still in contact with them from time to time and I'm always thinking of ways I can help.
2. Take a cultural tour.
Enroll in a cooking class. Go on a history tour. Tour a coffee farm. In my opinion, learning about how communities live and support themselves (both past and present) is the best way to really immerse yourself through travel. And in the process, you're probably supporting and helping to sustain local businesses. Win/win!
3. Stay and eat local.
Consider staying at a locally owned hotel or AirBnb to support the local economy. Same thing goes for eating and drinking. Find local places to eat and drink instead of chains. Plus, it's a great way to try the local fare. You may even end up finding a new dish to bring home for your family or a new cocktail recipe to share at your next dinner party.
4. Ask questions of everyone.
Whether it's your taxi driver, waiter, tour guide or passerby on the street, ask questions! Conversations with Uber or taxi drivers are the best because they can give you the low down on what's what. They'll usually offer suggestions about where or where not to go from a local's perspective. Don't be afraid to ask or answer questions; just be smart about it.
5. Don't nickel and dime local vendors.
This is probably one of my biggest bones to pick with travelers. While we all enjoy a good bargain and hate being taken advantage of, consider how far is too far. Selling wares is many people's livelihoods. How they feed their families and pay their bills. Think about that before you nickel and dime them for the little profit they stand to make. In most cases, that extra money means more to them than it does to you.
6. Combine passion and purpose.
What are you passionate about? Do some research and find out ways you can explore your destination using your interests as a means to do so. Obviously from the name of this blog, drinking is my favorite way to do that. But it's about more than just drinking. It's about figuring out cultural norms. Learning the local industry. Fellowship. These are ways that people use drinking (or eating) to socialize and perhaps even create a living.
Be more intentional about the way you travel. I promise you'll have a better appreciation and admiration for local people and culture.
Pin this post if you travel with purpose too.