What is a travel quest and why should you have one?

Travel goals and purpose can make your vacations more fulfilling

by Jennifer Mitchell

A few years ago, No Small Plan’s founder was catching up with a friend who asked excitedly, “What should we do to celebrate our 50th birthdays?” A chill ran down her spine. This big milestone was still a few years away, but the traditional expectations of being 50 did not seem anywhere close to what she was experiencing in life. This got her thinking about why there was such a disconnect, and how she could reconcile her approach to life with this looming milestone.

Around this time, she picked up a copy of Chris Guillebeau’s book, “The Happiness of Pursuit,” wherein Guillebeau sets a travel quest to visit every country in the world by the time he turns 35. Guillebeau goes on to explore all kinds of quests in his book, but the travel quest resonated with our founder, motivating her to set a travel quest of her own: to visit 50 countries before her 50th birthday. She had done plenty of globetrotting in her adult life, but she never thought to turn her travels into a quest. But she realized that setting a goal that relates to her passion for international travel might make the 50th birthday milestone a positive one rather than something to be dreaded.

And so it did. Of course, it wasn’t easy to accomplish. She had multiple career changes and moved to a new city during that time, but the ambitious goal fueled her focus, drive and determination. It became a social endeavor as well. As she bonded with others over travel tales, she became convinced that having a travel quest is personally fulfilling and inspiring to others. From there, No Small Plan was born.

The idea of a travel quest may sound intriguing if you are confronting a major life milestone, or if you feel like you’re in a rut. On the other hand, it may seem like an unnecessary source of anxiety. Why add one more self-improvement task to your long list of other goals (work, fitness, health, etc.)? So before we dive into inspiration for your epic travel quest, let’s first talk about what a travel quest is and why it might be a great idea for you.

Travel quest woman in Russia selfie

What is a travel quest?

Think of a travel quest like a more ambitious, less macabre bucket list. More than just a list of places you’d like to visit, a quest should be focused on personal development and it should have a deadline, which serves as your motivation for crossing things off the list. Your quest should be an undertaking; it requires sacrifice and uncertainty, and it’s something you work towards over an extended period of time. Think catching a game at all U.S. ballparks by your 30th birthday or visiting every National Park with your family before your kids head off to college.

Though the concept of a travel quest might sound intimidating, let’s dive into why they are so beneficial. A travel quest helps you to focus and prioritize your goals, overcome challenges and feel more fulfilled (which will likely make you happier). You may find that even if you are setting a solo quest, it can bring you closer to friends, family or other travelers who come along for the ride.

Set it and share it: hold yourself accountable to ambitious travel

No doubt, every article you’ve read about losing weight, achieving success in the workplace or finding happiness will tell you the same thing: write down your goals. Setting and writing down goals will make you more likely to accomplish them. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, recently performed a study and found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals simply by writing them down and reviewing them regularly. Wow.

By writing down your travel goals, you’re forced to focus and prioritize. With so many destinations fighting for your attention, the decision of where to travel next may become overwhelming. But by creating a travel quest, you’ll realize what is or isn’t a priority, so you know how to spend your time and money. You’ll also start to subconsciously look for ways to accomplish your quest.

You can take that one step further by sharing your quest with others. By stating your quest to another person, you’re immediately held accountable for it. You’ll also likely receive support from those who hear about your quest, which makes it easier to push through the more challenging times.

In “The Happiness of Pursuit,” Guillebeau says, “We are motivated by progress and achievement.” You’re likely no stranger to this concept. Surely, you’re familiar with the elation and motivate that comes with checking something off your to-do list. The same goes for your quest. With each destination you visit, you’ll be more likely to complete your quest.

Make "someday" actually happen

There’s never a good time to take a big trip. You’re busy with work, you don’t have enough money saved, your kids make travel difficult or maybe you don’t have a travel companion and would rather not go alone.

By creating a travel quest you can identify the challenges and roadblocks that have historically held you back and devise appropriate solutions to overcome them. Creating your quest will serve as the motivation to finally come up with a plan for crossing items off your “someday” list.

Progress towards your travel quest equals happiness

We’re going to go for broke and make a bold statement. Setting, working towards and accomplishing a quest leads to long-term happiness. This concept was the founding principle of “The Happiness of Pursuit” and we’ve found it to be true in our lives. But for skeptics, here’s further proof.

Dr. Timothy A Pychyl said in a Pyschology Today article, “To the extent that we're making progress on our goals, we're happier emotionally and more satisfied with our lives.” He goes on to explain that the process of setting goals and finding happiness is a cycle. As you make progress on your goals, you become happier, and more likely to set and achieve new goals. Once you’re in motion, you stay in motion. Or in other words, one travel quest may beget another.

So by establishing a plan to visit all 50 states before your 40th birthday or to see all of the buildings designed by your favorite architect before starting a new job, you might actually find that you’re a happier person. And if long-term happiness isn’t enough to motivate creating a travel quest, we don’t know what is.

Ready to create your travel quest? Make your map and connect with us on social to get inspired by fellow questers.

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

Map your travel quest on a personalized No Small Plan t-shirt

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