Solo Travel

6 Ways to Travel with Purpose

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:

1. Volunteer.

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!

Grinding coffee in Tanzania

Grinding coffee in Tanzania

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.

Taking a food tour in London

Taking a food tour in London

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.

Drinking a local beer called "Shake Shake" in South Africa

Drinking a local beer called "Shake Shake" in South Africa

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.

Why It's OK to Dislike Solo Travel

There are tons of blogs that hardcore advocate for solo travel. They'll tell you it's the best thing since sliced bread. They'll tell you that you're missing out on one of the greatest experiences ever in the history of your life and that you're a terrible person if you can't go on a trip alone to be one with yourself. Sound familiar?

Don't listen to them.

It's a perfectly natural feeling to be hesitant about traveling alone. We're human. We need interaction. We need to feel like we belong to something or someone in most facets of our lives. Travel is no different.

I've traveled alone to a couple of places. I'm traveling mostly solo through Zambia right now. I did not know anyone when I arrived a month ago. I even have a solo trip coming up this weekend to Cape Town, South Africa. I am going alone because:

  1. I've always wanted to go;
  2. There's a long weekend so I don't have to use any vacation days; and
  3. I'm already in Zambia, so why not? 

But is this my preference? No.

I like having someone to talk to when sightseeing and to have a drink with, to people watch and laugh with, and frankly, someone who's inherently built-in to take my pictures (Not kidding!).  I like sharing the overall experience of traveling with someone. 

Does this invalidate any of my other experiences or make me a less-experienced traveler? No, it doesn't. 

Now, I'm not saying that there is something wrong with solo travel. Quite the opposite. I think solo travel is perfectly fine if that's your cup of tea. You should absolutely do it without apologies. But I refuse to be discouraged because it's not my shot of tequila.

I'm also not saying that you shouldn't travel alone because you're scared to. If this is your fear, my suggestion is to conquer it head on and to take a weekend trip to a nearby destination to see if you can. You may actually like it. But if it turns out that you don't, don't beat yourself up. There are plenty of other people out there who feel the same way you do. 

How do I know that I don't like solo travel? Because I've traveled solo. 

Now if your fear or lack of desire to travel solo is keeping you from traveling and living your life...then, we have a problem.