24 Perspectives & Thoughts on Meaningful Travel

by Published

There are as many reasons to travel as there are gelato flavors to taste-test and awe-inspiring sunrises to groggily pull yourself out of bed for: to learn, to grow, to become, to breathe fresh air, to see new horizons, to dive into new depths, to hear strange words. But, don’t just take our word for it—there are plenty of fellow travelers out there that will back us up as to why traveling is good, and just how important meaningful travel is.

Man rowing a boat in a lake

Travel is all a matter of perspective—and here are some great ones.

To celebrate 20 years in the world of making travel meaningful, we’re here to share 20 inspiring and unique perspectives on travel from our community, our colleagues, and our team. Read on!

24 reflections & thoughts on travel

1. Destiny Davis—Meaningful Traveler

Community Member | GoAbroad

Meaningful travel is the reason why I never hand individuals items with my left hand or why I would never allow the bottom of my feet to face a Buddha statue in a temple. Meaningful travel is learning respect. Meaningful travel is when you dive into a culture and leave with a greater understanding of a country, its physical atmosphere, people, and social climate. Meaningful travel is one of the most important types of travel, for not only is the traveler forever changed, but leaves an imprint and positive impact on the country he/she visits.

Umar KhanMeaningful traveler

2. Umar Khan—Meaningful Traveler

Community Member | GoAbroad

Travel doesn’t mean leisure only, it is more than that. Travel means responsibility, care, opportunity, and learning. Responsibility for the environment—a meaningful traveler does not engage in any activity to pollute it. Care is to be given to the local community to respect them and buy from them. Opportunity is to do better at the destination, to invest in for the benefit of locals. Learning means to learn something new that you can later implement in your own life in your own country for the betterment and improvement of sustainable travel practices.

Amy Reuter McMillanInternational educator

3. Amy Ruhter McMillan—International Educator

Associate VP of Marketing | IES Abroad

How has meaningful travel changed in the last 20 years? The one thing that never changes about travel is how extraordinary the people in this field are. Attend any youth travel-related conference or event, and it will be full of people to admire. People who are committed to study abroad and international exchange. People ultimately committed to international education because we believe it can and will change the world. People who have seen first-hand that it IS changing the world.

Kate MosserGoAbroad team member

4. Kate Mosser—GoAbroad Team Member

Writer's Academy Alumni | GoAbroad

Travel creates new situations for you, where you can explore who you are in different contexts. Every time you're presented with something new, you have the opportunity to write the story of who you are. And everywhere you go, you have the opportunity to tell that story. Therein lies the magic of travel: it shapes you at precisely the same time you are shaping it. Whether this is on a camel ride across the Sahara or a bus trip into the next city, you are constantly encountering and creating the new you, and that gives meaning to all travel.

Charmaine YipTravel Blogger

5. Charmaine Yip—Travel Blogger

Blogger | The Canadian Wanderer

Meaningful travel is stepping out of what you know into a realm that you don't know and to see the best of both worlds. 

It is the ability to compare and contrast and to see the advantages and disadvantages of both places and learning to be grateful of where you come from. 

Nicole PowersGoAbroad Team Member

6. Nicole Powers—GoAbroad Team Member

CCO | GoAbroad

It's important to realize these trips are not separate from our everyday lives. They are windows into shared human experience. The people we meet abroad are living their normal life each day—buying groceries, picking their kids up from school, arguing with their boyfriends, figuring out how to pay their rent. This is the most powerful and meaningful part of travel—when your perspective changes from assuming difference to discovering similarity. The only way to care about someone is to identify with them, and the quickest way to that point is on an airplane.

Steph DysonMeaningful Traveler

7. Steph Dyson—Meaningful Traveler

Travel Goddess/Blogger | WorldlyAdventurer 

Meaningful travel is recognising that visiting a country is not just about the photographs you take: it is about setting aside the camera and become a participant in what you see before you. It is the recognition that travel is a two-way process: we must be willing to give something in exchange for being welcomed into communities and shown kindness by people who have little else that they can offer.

Alyssa NotaInternational educator

8. Alyssa Nota—International Educator

CEO/President | USAC Study Abroad

More and more people are seeing the unequalled value of education abroad, language learning and the immense personal growth that occurs when one is forced from one's "familiar" into the "unknown" or "different." Technology has made the world smaller. Financial support in various forms has made the far corners of the globe more easily reached. Study abroad programs have transformed into innumerable formats, durations, types and destinations. All of this has brought study abroad into the scope of far more students than ever before - and this can only be considered a good thing.

Suzanne BhaganGoAbroad Team Member

9. Suzanne Bhagan—GoAbroad Team Member

Meaningful Travel Insider | GoAbroad

For me, meaningful travel is not a competition to see who gets to visit the most places first. It certainly does not mean treating foreign countries like cool selfie backdrops or commodities I can tick off a bucket list. It's about me trying to engage more deeply with a location, people, and culture, which also causes me to interrogate my prejudices from home. Above all, it teaches me that I’m part of a whole—the whole of the human race.

10. Antoaneta Antonova Atanassova—International Educator

Antoaneta Antonova AtanassovaInternational Educator

Founding President | Mexican Council for Cultural Diplomacy

If I don´t learn about the culture of the place I am visiting, I don’t feel I’ve traveled at all. The culture and the personal interactions of a new place are the object of my learning, and serve as an effective form to compare reality to the cultural bias existing in the media—and to ultimately break paradigms. Travel, interact, feel, analyze, and learn; then, your intercultural competences will grow.

Lara JeichMeaningful Traveler

11. Lara Jeich—Meaningful Traveler

Community Member | GoAbroad

Be open-minded, eager to observe, to learn, to adapt. Be open to relate with people, learn and EXPLORE! Be cautious, but don’t stop being adventurous, live the moment and take the best of it. If someone has an advice, take it, you never know when it could come in handy. GET INVOLVED!...with the places you go, the nature that surrounds you, and the people you meet. If you have an opportunity to participate in a local project, never doubt it! It will be the most rewarding experience you could ask for. Traveling can be transforming. Nevertheless, it has to be a “conscious traveling,” the kind that gets you out of your comfort zone.

Kayla PattersonGoAbroad Team Member

12. Kayla Patterson—GoAbroad Team Member

COO | GoAbroad

Something magical happens when we travel meaningfully. When we step outside our comfort zone, intentionally immerse ourselves in another culture, and learn more about the places we visit, it changes us. Our fundamental views of the world, ourselves, and relationships shift. We realize that before these experiences, our eyes weren’t wide open and we lacked a profound understanding of our place in the world.

Ali GaffeyMeaningful Traveler

13. Ali Gaffey—Meaningful Traveler

Community Member | GoAbroad

While travel is likely meaningful to the traveler on a emotional level, the term "meaningful travel" refers to a purpose rather than simply the destination. As humans, we are constantly searching for meaningful interactions with each other. Travel allows us to share experiences with people and places different from our norm. Meaningful travel makes us better citizens of the world and keep us desiring for more. 

Sunny FitzgeraldTravel Blogger

14. Sunny Fitzgerald—Travel Blogger

Founder | FROLIQ

Don't be so focused on your own journey that you forget to look up and connect with people around you that are all on journeys of their own. Other countries and communities don't just exist for your pleasure. 

Yes, of course, take time to learn and challenge yourself. But, don't forget to get to know the people and places where you travel. What meaning can any trip or life have if it's void of the connection with the journeys that are interwoven with your own?

15. Louise Lieselotte Katharina Mayer—Meaningful Traveler

Louise Lieselotte Katharina MayerMeaningful Traveler

Community Member | GoAbroad

Meaningful travel is not about the number of "likes" on your Instagram picture or checking off five star sights because TripAdvisor told you to. It has nothing to do with images portrayed or perception of what makes a true "traveler." Traveling with meaning comes from personal growth. It is a chance to challenge yourself and to absorb everything you possibly can, so that you can continue the cycle and give back once again to the world. 

Rebecca SchwabInternational educator

16. Rebecca Schwab—International Educator

Campus Operations Director | Kahal Abroad

Meaningful travel means an opportunity to see the world differently than you ever have before and reflect upon how far you've have come to be standing where you are. Being abroad is a once in a lifetime experience where you develop as a person in a completely new world; I hope more students take advantage of the blank slate being abroad gifts you.

Sara EngelhardMeaningful Traveler

17. Sara Engelhard—Meaningful Traveler

Community Member | GoAbroad

To me, the phrase “meaningful travel” is redundant. All travel is meaningful; however, I do think that “meaningful” is a spectrum. At the highest end of the spectrum, there is travel that transforms not only you, but those who you meet. In even the smallest of ways, “meaningful travel” changes the world.

Jack MiersMeaningful Traveler

18. David Hayes—Meaningful Traveler

Community Member | GoAbroad

Don’t take that picture that literally every other foreigner visiting that place has taken, and never underestimate the power of simply "hanging out" with local folks. People shine their brightest in their moments of normalcy. Join them.

Vianna RenaudInternational Educator

19. Vianna Renaud—International Educator

Placement Development Advisor | Bournemouth University

Meaningful travel, to me, is an international experience that makes you think and creates an impact. Even during the most difficult moments, I know that my life has been much more enriched from living abroad.

20. Kendall Dick—GoAbroad Team Member

Kendall DickGoAbroad team member

Meaningful Travel Insider | GoAbroad

Meaningful travel is not just a trip or a vacation, it is a journey. But it’s not always as appealing as a picture on the cover of a study abroad brochure. The word “travel” is derived from the world travail, which means painful or laborious effort. 

Meaningful travel promises trials, but in the end, it offers a life changing opportunity for someone else as well as yourself.

Elsa Thomasma AlingasaGoAbroad Team Member

21. Elsa Thomasma Alingasa—GoAbroad Team Member

SEM Director | GoAbroad

Traveling to a new place always makes me realize how many extraordinary people, cultures, and places exist in the world, each one unique and beautiful in its own way. It restores my faith in humanity and the future of our planet, by introducing me to kind, generous, accepting people from all walks of life. Traveling reminds me that media reports are never representative of entire populations, ethnicities, regions, or points in history. When I travel, I find myself continuously redefining what it means to be human, and more importantly, a humanitarian.

Anna VatuoneMeaningful traveler

22. Anna Vatuone—Meaningful Traveler

Community Member | GoAbroad

I love the way a stranger looks when your first approach them. The way their eyes brighten and their smile curls in anticipation for the words soon escaping your mouth. I love the feeling of a fresh conversation, the way it revives you, the way it awakens you. Crossing paths. I can tell you of nothing more powerful, to meet the very people that make up a place. So, I suppose if you were to ask me what meaningful travel is, I would tell you it’s thanks to the people you meet along the way. 

Mary Ellen DingleyGoAbroad Team Member

23. Mary Ellen Dingley—GoAbroad Team Member

Meaningful Travel Insider | GoAbroad

Meaningful travel does one of two things—it puts us in touch with others, or with ourselves. Meaningful travel happens when we are open to receiving the stories of people on the other side of the globe, whether through building personal connections or through the local art or history. Meaningful travel can also, as one fellow traveler said, make us "come face to face with ourselves." While lost in strange cities or gaping at mountain ranges, I learned more of who I was. While what is “meaningful” to a traveler may change, the desire for intentional, immersive travel never will. 

24. Shelby Sage Lisieski—GoAbroad Intern

Content Marketing Intern | GoAbroad

Meaningful travel for me goes beyond sight. One can travel thousands of miles to "see" a certain attraction, however, if only the sense of sight is used, are you fully taking in and embracing all that is around you? Personally speaking, I enjoy taking time to fully immerse in a new travel destination and all it has to offer. The differentiating tastes, the aromas that surround you, the continuous sounds of everyday life, the feelings of objects foreign to what you are used to, and last but not least the entrancing sights. Meaningful travel to Shelby Sage Lisieski means that I become intertwined with the surroundings (living and inanimate), and to always have my five senses strapped to me at all times!

Feeling inspired yet?

Yeah, us too—these thoughts on travel get us pumped. Excuse us while we bite the bullet and actually book one of those Scott’s Cheap Travel flights… 😂

Go Abroad—Meaningful Travel Starts Here.