What is Transformational Travel?

Travel is being recognized as more than just an escape but rather as a catalyst which inspires us to create meaningful changes in our lives and the world in which we live. The Transformational Travel Council defines it as: “Transformational travel (or TT) is any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life.”

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has recognized, in its annual trend report, the desire for personal growth and transformation as a top motivator for going on an active adventure vacation.

Why is Transformational Travel a trend ?

people are more stressed out than ever. In fact, stress is recognized as the #1 contributing factor to chronic illness in the United States. And yet, Americans find it harder than ever to go on a vacation, get enough exercise, get enough sleep, rest and play. Compounding the problem is that electronic devices make people feel more lonely and a lack of connection. Transformation travel is a travel experience that is intentional and helps people reconnect to themselves, their bodies and other people who share their interests.

What are the Pitfalls of Transformation as a Travel Trend?

Any travel company make the promise of “transformation” in its marketing. It’s easy to plug buzzwords into one’s marketing, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually deliver on that experience. We at Run Wild Retreats believe that you can’t sell a retreat based on the promise of transformation. Clients take from the experience what they bring into it. Our duties as a tour operator is to create a very intentional, supportive and safe environment for our clients to enter into this journey of inner and outer exploration. We our the facilitators, but not the instigators, of personal transformation.

How Run Wild Retreats Creates an Authentic Transformation Travel Experience

1. Craft the Experience to Serve the Clients’ Needs and Desires 

Delivering a transformational travel experience requires a deep understanding of your clients’ needs and desires. Listen closely to how they describe their biggest challenges and fears at this point in their lives and craft experiences that specifically help them overcome those obstacles to growth. Understanding their pain points helps you speak to them in a way that resonates on a personal level, build deeper connection and trust. This process also helps you avoid empty promises of generalized transformation, and instead speaks specifically to what they will learn do differently or change about themselves as a result of traveling with you. For example, our clients are very diverse in terms of running fitness level, but all share a common passion for running as a lifestyle and way to manage life stress. With that understanding, our marketing doesn’t promise to teach them “how to improve running performance,” but does talk about “learning how to stress less so you can run more.”

2. Take Them to Their Edge (With Proper Support)

Simply taking people outside their comfort zone doesn’t necessarily stimulate positive change. Growth arises from the application of the right amount of stress: too little has no effect; too much can have negative effects. There’s a balance between making an adventure just challenging enough that your clients feel exhilarated and increasingly confident versus taking them too far, making the adventure overly stressful or creating a high chance of failure.

Taking clients to their edge also means having a responsibility to provide the support of professionals who help them feel comfortable going there. Bake into the tour the specific types of support your clients need in order to meet the challenges you’ve placed before them. They’ll follow your guides’ lead and go to the edge of their comfort zone only once they feel sufficient trust and are willing to accept the group’s support and encouragement.

3. Create Opportunities for Connection

While they may not be aware of it, one of the primary reasons people seek out transformative travel experiences is to re-connect to themselves and to others. The pace of modern life, with its pressures, stressors and busy-ness make it more difficult than ever to feel connected, and yet connection is essential to one’s personal satisfaction and happiness.  Stepping away from one’s usual routine in a foreign place presents an opportunity to re-establish those connections, which is essential to self-discovery and growth. In a small group transformational travel setting, this works best when the participants are all seeking similar outcomes. It matters less if they are of the same demographic as long as they can connect meaningfully with one another around their shared desire for type of personal growth and activities being offered. This requires crafting marketing messages that speak directly to whom the tour is best suited and deters those for whom it is not. Feeling connected to the group helps your clients better support one another and openly share their thoughts, observations and feelings around the group experiences as they unfold.

4. Help Clients Reflect on Their Experiences

You’ll know when your experiences are truly transformational when your clients become advocates enthusiastically telling their peers about their experience. Their testimonials, social media posts and conversations with friends resonate more deeply with potential clients than any marketing campaign. In fact, asking your clients for testimonials you can publish isn’t entirely self-serving.
When your clients take the time to thoughtfully chronicle exactly how they have been changed by their travel experience, its effects are more deeply engrained and longer lasting. Not only do these testimonials build your reputation (without relying on buzzwords), they also inform you of how well your company is fulfilling the promise of transformational travel.