Why did you take the last trip you took? Likely answers to this question… to relax, to spend time with family, to visit friends or family who live far away, for fun, to visit a place I’ve always wanted to experience, or to do something specific like fish, hike, etc.
Let’s dig a level deeper… Why did you want to relax? Why did your family need to spend time together? Why do you want to visit friends and family? Why did you want to have fun? Why did you want to visit a place? Why did you want to do that specific thing?
Right now you might be thinking “this is silly and obvious… we all want to spend time with our families and see people we care about who don’t live near!” Maybe “why?” is obvious, but it’s important to call out because it is the most important question to ask ourselves when approaching travel. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked or just partially addressed.
I have lots of conversations with people about travel… planning trips, about trips taken, places to go, etc. Often people are hesitant to take their weekend or vacation time to travel and have new experiences because of a bad past travel experiences. When we dig deeper and talk about the bad travel experience the culprit is often not thinking about the “why?” behind the trip when planning (although food poisoning does come up occasionally!).
So let’s circle back to the friends and family example… obvious is it? How many times do you hear someone talk in dread of the weekend visiting Aunt Marge, or the college roommate who isn’t at the same place in life, or spending extra time in the bathroom to get time alone, etc.? We’ve all heard these stories and have to admit that we’ve all been characters in one (or more) of these dreadfully hilarious situations. For some of us, these situations repeat year after year!
Not so obvious anymore? Staying with family and friends… perhaps the “why?” is a feeling of obligation, maybe it’s a yearning for a time past, maybe it’s pure and simple love, and maybe it’s a combination of all of these. The key is being honest with ourselves… honesty can lead to a much better experience and turn the dread into something great. If the visit is obligatory, acknowledge that and don’t stay at Aunt Marge’s house, or perhaps you could meet somewhere you’d both like to visit, or visit Aunt Marge for a portion of the trip and spend the rest of the trip enjoying other experiences in the area. A change in scenery might be great for your relationship… Aunt Marge may be feeling the same about you…
Going back to the original list, which are some of the most common reasons to travel, what follows are some thoughts to consider when peeling back the why…
Why… to relax
What are the things present in your life that make it hard for you to relax? Is it constant connection? Maybe a packed calendar? No time alone or with your partner?
A beach vacation is a popular relaxing vacation, however beach vacations vary greatly… from totally remote with no connection to fancy high rises with constant activity and people. If you’re yearning for simplicity the high rise might be overwhelming, noisy, and far from relaxing. A more remote destination may be a better choice.
Why… to spend time with family
What doesn’t the family get to do together regularly? Does the family want to have time to truly connect and get to know each other away from the crazy pace of life?
Many families plan vacations chocked full of fun activities… theme parks, excursions, day trips, etc. The result is a calendar way fuller than the calendar back at home! Did the family have time to really connect? This is a trap we (Daniel, Todd, and I) have fallen into, and trips have turned into what felt like work! We are really aware of this now as we plan trips and leave lots of cushion in the schedule and loosely plan so we can go with the flow.
Why… to visit friends and family
Why are you visiting your family and friends? What’s really driving the trip? Do you really want to spend time together or fulfill and obligation?
A change of scenery, planning for alone time, planning separate lodging, and planning other experiences in the area are just some ways to turn the trip from dread to great.
Why… to have fun
What fun isn’t present in your everyday life? What do you consider fun? Do the other people on the trip have the same idea of fun?
Fun is very subjective. For example, lots of people consider Disney fun… full disclosure… we don’t. We went to Disney and all Daniel wanted to do was swim in the hotel pool. The crowds and need to schedule everything was not fun for us. Know yourself… your idea of fun is likely much different than others. It’s important to plan a trip that’s fun for you!
Why… to visit a place I’d like to experience
Why do you want to visit this place? What are the sites most important to you? Are you more interested in seeing things and learning about history, or diving into the culture of the place? Maybe a little of both.
We like to see things and learn about history, but we love to have time to connect with local people and learn about the culture of a place. This means that we miss some sites and leave plenty of time to immerse ourselves. Sometimes we plan a few extra days to relax in an area if we know the trip will be fast paced. A 10-day whirlwind tour of Europe wouldn’t appeal to us, but to others it’s perfect and they may think traveling with us is boring. It’s important to know why you want to experience a place when planning so you don’t spend a bunch of money and time and have an unfulfilled feeling at the end.
Why… to do something specific
Why do you want to do this thing? Do you want to climb a mountain to challenge yourself personally? Are you trying to catch a specific type of fish? Do you want to be close to nature to clear your mind?
This is where travel can be an amazing transformation tool… this is where travel can become addictive… this is where our entire outlooks on life can change. However, it takes planning, mindset, and intuition to nail this and get the absolute most out of the trip. For example, you may feel a yearning to be close to nature. If you don’t take the next step and recognize that you want to clear your mind, you might end up somewhere naturally beautiful but too busy and crowded to connect and gain clarity.
Are you thinking about your next trip? Why do you want to travel? What elements of the experience are you drawn to? What makes you back away? When planning travel, asking “why?” before doing anything else will make the experience amazing and fulfilling!