Want to change careers? Go on a holiday first

Travel company Explorer X will start offering transformational-minded tours to destinations like Tasmania from next year.
Travel company Explorer X will start offering transformational-minded tours to destinations like Tasmania from next year. PHOTO: TOURISM AUSTRALIA

NEW YORK • A holiday can set you off on a new career journey.

Just ask Ms Christina Beckmann. "I had my first transformation on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon," she said. "I quit my job."

Now, she is senior director of strategy and impact for the Adventure Travel Trade Association and well aware of the growing demand for deeper travel experiences - what some in the trade call transformational or transformative travel.

Ms Beckmann believes many travellers hope to be changed in some way. "Transformation - call it learning, personal growth, pushing yourself - has been there all along, but as an industry, we weren't looking at that," she said.

Not until now, at least.

The Global Wellness Summit's 2018 trend report labelled "transformative wellness travel" a top trend, calling it a step beyond "authentic" or "experiential" travel - one that reaches "a deeper emotional level".

A new series of trips from Montana-based outdoor tour operator Austin Adventures is a case in point.

For its Life Is Good Vacations, it has partnered the Life Is Good lifestyle brand, known for its stick figures, optimistic slogans and outdoorsy bent. The tours, seven in total, visit Yellowstone National Park, the Canadian Rockies, Utah's national parks and Costa Rica.

While the branded trips overlap much of what Austin Adventures already offers and prices are the same, the groups will be smaller and the contents will emphasise Life Is Good's oft-promoted "Superpowers", which include gratitude, authenticity and courage.

One addition to the trips will be "solo walks", in which guests spread out and have time alone to reflect on words found on cards placed along the trail.

The cards will have the superpowers on them and a question on the back that makes people stop and think.

In a similar vein, Ms Beckmann cites custom tour developer Henry Comyn of Joro Experiences, who told her about two upcoming trips that include extra time for guests to reflect - one a culinary exploration of Sri Lanka and the other a horseback trip through remote villages.

"At the end of each day, around a campfire in their tented desert camps, the guides will invite discussion and reflection about what they've seen," she added.

Taking the goal of transformation even further is the Transformational Travel Council, a consulting and speaking platform founded by Mr Michael Bennett and Mr Jake Haupert. The two have spun off a travel company, Explorer X, which will start offering transformational-minded tours next year.

Among the offerings will be Muddy Shoe Adventures - multiday, small-group excursions that combine challenging physical activities with immersive cultural experiences and group discussions about the experiences and how they might be applied once the travellers return home.

Destinations include Tasmania, Patagonia, Oregon and Colorado.

Mr Bennett said: "We want travel to be deeply experienced and we think it's a chance to change other people's lives, not only in transformations of the life of the traveller, but also way beyond."

Ms Stine Selmer Andersen, who helps market Greenland's capital of Nuuk and is steering its rebranding campaign, heard Mr Bennett and Mr Haupert speak at a travel trade show.

She was so taken with their message that she invited them to lead a workshop with the local tourism board and related businesses.

"What made sense to me was how they described what tourists are starting to crave - that travel is about personal development, exploring something new and looking at your life in perspective to others," she said.

Proponents of transformational travel say the key lies in taking the change it inspires beyond the personal and into the community.

"That's what presents the greatest relevance," Ms Beckmann said.

"What are we as an industry doing to give travellers not just a great time, but also to awaken in them passion and energy to do good in this world?

"That's possibly our greatest opportunity right now."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 30, 2018, with the headline Want to change careers? Go on a holiday first. Subscribe