"Transformation" is such a strong and beautiful word, suggesting change with purpose and new life. Intentionally transforming ourselves through travel can be powerful and life affirming — transforming our spiritual selves, our physical selves, our emotional selves, and our relationship with the extraordinary beauty to be found in the diverse lands and people of the world. Here is how to have a transformational travel experience.

Travel on Foot

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Taking the time to slow down and think is close to impossible in the rush of daily life. Since early history, people have taken time for themselves and challenged themselves physically and spiritually by going on a pilgrimage. Many pilgrimages are journeys taken by walking in the path of someone who has gone before. Today, nothing slows the whirlwind pace of life like a backpack, a pair of stout walking shoes, and a path. And paths, of course, usually have destinations.

El Camino de Santiago, known as The Way of Saint James or The Way, is a thru-hike that many people have on their bucket lists. The ancient pilgrim's path, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, begins in France and winds across Spain, ending in Galicia at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Hikers, pilgrims, and seekers of various types make the epic trek across Spain.

The route is very popular in July and August. The route has frequent hostels along the way called alberques. That means you don't need to stuff a bag with supplies.

The trip, if done in total, usually takes four to six weeks. The Way can also be experienced as shorter hikes, and some people go with groups or fellow travelers to share the experiences. In addition to the solitude, self-reflection, and time such a trip gifts to a traveler, many people also find the opportunity to speak to people of different lands traveling together, practice language skills, and to document the landscape with a camera.

For the experienced and adventurous, a trip of a lifetime might include Tibet, walking the Namtso Kora. The Koras are pilgrim's paths in Tibetan Buddhism that involved a clockwise walk, a spiritual circling of an iconic site. The Namtso Kora is around the Heavenly Lake, but there are many other traditional walks that can be done in cities and around the major sites.

In North America, the National Scenic Trail system and national parks give weekend wanderers many opportunities to set out on a transformational journey on foot. The trails range from the accessible to the more remote, and pass through the wonders of the natural landscape.

Travels Through the Great World

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Another way of experiencing the transformational power of the natural world is to combine travel with a learning or scientific excursion. Many of the wonders of the natural world are in jeopardy, and those who are seeking to learn and change the climate trajectory, or those who are hoping to document the changing world with a camera or blog, are traveling to unique, remote, and beautiful sites.

The wonders of the world are available to travelers, including those who are seeking a role in environmental stewardship. The Great Barrier Reef is a dive destination that is rapidly changing, and trips can be combined with excursions around Queensland, as well as sailing in the waters of the South Pacific.

UNESCO has described 29 new sites for World Heritage Designation in 2019; these include Vatnajokull National Park in Iceland, a wondrous mixture of active volcanoes and glacial ice that has given rise to one of the most extraordinary landscapes in the world.

Petra, the ancient Nabatean caravan city located in present day Jordan, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and many explorers begin a journey into the ancient world among the ruins of Petra.

National Geographic Expeditions provides some of the best environmental travel in the world, with trips guided by explorers, conservationists, and artists. Smithsonian travel focuses on cultural and educational travel experiences, especially for the traveler interested in visiting and learning from new people and cultures.

Travels for Learning

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Many seeking a transformational travel experience hope to learn a new language, a new skill, or an immersion in another culture or spiritual tradition. Go Abroad has a matching system that helps travelers find schools, hosting, and other travel arrangements when seeking to live overseas to learn a new language. National Geographic is known for trips guided by professional photographers.

Transformation Through Wellness

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Retreats or immersion travel are some of the most well-known types of transformational travel. There are learning experiences for practitioners of yoga, meditation, and various mindfulness practices in nearly every country, and with varying degrees of authenticity and difficulty.

India may be the best-known destination for healing and wellness retreats. The long history of Ayurveda, along with other forms of medicine and spiritual practice, combined with healthy diet, yoga, meditation, and exercise, have made India the destination of choice for many seeking a wellness excursion.

Thailand has a number of retreats that combine individual coaching with health and wellness practices. Travel companies in Africa are combining wellness retreat experiences with traditional safari and cultural learning travels, for an inclusive and extraordinary travel experience.

The Transformational Travel Council is an organization that supports the power of travel to transform individuals and the world. With resources for both travelers and travel industry professionals, the council helps people find the best possible ways to embark on their transformative journey.