A travel bucket list for questers interested in wellness, self-care and personal growth
by Jennifer Mitchell
Travel gives you an excuse to unplug and unwind, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be purposeless or indulgent. In fact, travel can be a great excuse to focus on your personal goals and overall betterment. At the start of every year, so many of us make resolutions that fall by the wayside within weeks of heading back to work. Whether we vow to be healthier, to be more present, to learn new skills or accomplish long-put-off goals, it often feels impossible to motivate or make time to do so. By incorporating self-improvement and wellness into your travels, those goals will become more attainable.
At No Small Plan, we love travel quests because they are, by nature, focused on personal development. But what if you created a self-improvement travel quest, slowly working your way through a list of destinations and vacations curated for personal growth? We’re pumped about the idea and created a wellness travel quest with 10 vacation ideas to jumpstart your quest. Work your way through the list, then add a few more to become the best version of yourself.
1. Plan a trip tied to a personal goal
Do you start every year by vowing to accomplish the same specific goal only to find yourself adding it back to the list a year later? Why not plan a trip in which you can accomplish that goal? Want to learn Spanish? Plan a two-week vacation in Spain and make it your goal to learn the basics before then so you can converse in Spanish while overseas. Want to run a marathon? Book a trip to run the London marathon and start training months in advance. Dying to learn how to cook? Sign up for a cooking class in Paris or book an extended stay in Italy to learn how to cook from the locals. By committing to a date and spending money on flights and accommodations, you’ll have a lot more motivation to put in the prep work required to achieve your goal.
2. Attend a yoga or meditation retreat
Yoga and meditation retreats allow you to disconnect from your day-to-day routine and practice mindfulness for anywhere from three to seven days. These retreats tend to promote relaxation, stress relief and the mind/body connection. If you’re looking to do some self-discovery while getting your “ohm” on, Wanderlust puts on global events as well as a yearly retreat and music festival and Yovada curates yoga and meditation retreats around the world, which can be easily booked online.
3. Volunteer abroad
If you’ve wanted to give back to the community but struggle to find a way in your day-to-day life, you may consider using your vacation days to travel to a less fortunate area and offer up your skills to those in need. Voluntourism has become a popular, though sometimes controversial, branch of tourism in the last several years, and many organizations are putting together specific voluntourism packages. When it comes time in your travel quest to volunteer abroad, National Geographic shares excellent tips on how to approach voluntourism the right way and where to get started.
4. Book a solo trip
Continuing to grow in momentum, solo travel, is a great way to learn new things about yourself, become more self-aware and gain confidence. By taking a solo trip, you’ll quickly learn what you do and don’t like, how to become more independent and what it feels like to step outside your comfort zone. Even the most introverted traveler can benefit from solo travel provided you know where to go. For destination inspiration, tips and help from the community, Solo Traveler is a helpful resource, as are the variety of Facebook groups dedicated to solo travel.
5. Talk to strangers in a strange land
Let’s face it: we all get into our routines, which for most of us includes too much time staring at our electronic devices, so it’s far too common that we don’t expand our social circles or converse with new people in our day-to-day existence. Traveling to an unfamiliar place is a great way to ensure you engage with those you don’t know. If you aspire to expand your social engagement, or to be less awkward or shy, plan a trip and give yourself daily goals to talk to a certain number of strangers. If you’re traveling with others, make a commitment up front to be outwardly focused and converse with people you meet along the way. Then when you return home, try to maintain your goal in your hometown. You may find it’s easier to do after you’ve succeeded in another place.
6. Go somewhere new
Though it might be tempting to return to your favorite tried-and-true vacation destinations, traveling to a new destination challenges you to take a little bit of a risk and live in the discomfort of being somewhere new. Stepping out of your comfort zone exposes you to uncertainty and results in personal growth, including greater emotional agility, empathy and creativity. Visiting another country, even if for a short period of time, will allow you to see the world from a different view. Exposing yourself to different cultures and people will help you to better understand our world and broaden your perspective. Your brain will also benefit from visiting a foreign place and trying to figure out how to communicate with people who speak a different language.
7. Take a spiritual journey
For many, faith and spirituality provide purpose and meaning to life. In some cultures and religions, a pilgrimage is standard practice in a young adult’s life. If you want to reconnect with a religion or seek a new type of a spiritual awakening, consider planning a spiritual trip whether that’s traveling to a destination of religious importance or visiting churches, mosques and temples that will bring you closer to a religion’s history and reach. If your spirituality isn’t tied to an organized religion, choose a vacation in nature or any place that enables reflection, and focus on connecting with something bigger than yourself. Consider books, journaling and meditation to help with your spiritual exploration.
8. Check into a wellness resort
When you’re in need of an overall reset, it’s time to book a stay at a wellness resort. These immersive retreats tend to touch all aspects of mind and body wellness from fitness and relaxation to healthy eating and detoxing to culture and art, incorporating mindfulness into all elements of your stay. Upon returning home, hopefully you can bring some of that mindfulness to your everyday life.
9. Get out in nature
Spending time outside is quite literally nature’s stress reliever. In fact, one study found that participants who spent two nights outside had lower levels of stress hormones than those who spent time in the city. Being outside curbs fatigue and anxiety and improves your ability to focus. If you’re planning a trip that puts you out in nature, you’re also likely participating in activities that get the blood flowing, which offers its own slew of positive effects on your body and mental state.
10. Immerse yourself in another culture with an extended trip
If you have the resources to take a gap year or sabbatical, an extended trip—specifically an extended trip abroad—will give you ample opportunities to stretch yourself, try new things and learn a lot about yourself. These trips are thought to improve creativity as immersing yourself in another culture and adapting to their way of life increases cognitive flexibility and depth. Though this might be the most challenging item to cross off your list, it will potentially be the most rewarding. Even a few weeks spent abroad will do you some good provided you’re committed to engaging with the culture and the people.
Are you ready to start your self-improvement travel quest? We’d love to hear about it. Let us know where you plan to start and share your progress along the way on social with the hashtag #NoSmallPlan. And don’t forget to commemorate your travels with a one-of-a-kind travel quest tee, necklace or tote bag.
Jennifer Mitchell is a blogger, comedian, freelance copywriter and travel enthusiast.
Map and share your travel quest on a personalized No Small Plan t-shirt