When Travel Becomes About More Than Just Sunbathing & Drinking

Every year millions of people pack their bags and head towards wherever the sun is shining – Swedish people are among the most devoted sun worshipers of all.

Because the sun doesn’t shine very often in Sweden, people here want to make the most of it when they have the chance, and often that means leaving Sweden to find the sun somewhere else.

Many people travel abroad for 4 simple reasons; To swim in warm water, relax, party and then arrive back home with a great tan.

But often people reach a point where the purpose for traveling changes – often that happens when we finally open our eyes and really see the country we are visiting.

We’re introduced to new fascinating cultures, traditions, new food and smells around us, and once we’ve had a taste of this kind of travel, chasing the sun & partying becomes far less important.

For one of my closest friends Sanna, the spark for travel and getting to know other cultures came when she decided to travel to Africa and volunteer for a year.

It’s a pretty big step for someone who has never really traveled before, but volunteering in Africa changed her life.

She was away for a year in Rwanda, experiencing some crazy culture clashes and situations.

When I met her again after she had returned, something in her had changed. She had a different understanding of people and valued different things.

It was a very obvious change for everyone around her. Some things which used to take up a lot of time, like shopping, wasn’t something she valued at all anymore.

When she had lived with people who were amazed that she had her very own refrigerator in the kitchen, she found a whole new perspective on material things, and how little of it you actually need.

By leaving the certainty of home, volunteering abroad and travel to a country to embrace everything with open arms, she found her purpose.

She wanted to help people in some way, make their future brighter, and help them grow.

Today, a year later, she’s studying to become a teacher.

Some of us don’t find our purpose the first time we travel, but I believe that by traveling and being open to learn from these new cultures, you’re one step closer.

Some people say that you can never return from traveling as the same person you were before you left.

I say it depends on how you travel, and what you learn on the way. Some people never change, they also never learn.

There is a big difference between travel and travel …

Have you changed your purpose of traveling? How do you think travel changes people?

(photo credit: 1)

8 Responses to When Travel Becomes About More Than Just Sunbathing & Drinking

  1. Guyorsmond August 17, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    I could not agree more with this article. If I don’t return home from a trip with a different perspective on people and a culture and I have not learnt something about myself I feel the trip was a waste.

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 17, 2011 at 11:11 am #

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and what you expect from your travels Guyorsmond, learning something about yourself is one of the most rewarding things that travel brings.

  2. Adam August 17, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    Sometimes a vacation just needs to be a vacation So I wouldn’t be too bothered if all someone is looking for while they’re traveling is a break. In America, when you only get two weeks vacation, you may not have the time to volunteer or do other more cultural events. Sometimes you just need a recharge.

    That being said, I absolutely believe learning about the place you travel to is a vital part of traveling. But I can see why it also might not be that important.

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 17, 2011 at 11:18 am #

      I see what you mean, and I can definitely understand people looking to relax on their holidays rather than volunteer. But I think that even on a two week break people are still able to take a day off the beach and do something different.

      And when ordering food at a restaurant, try something different than what you can find at home.

      Often, experiencing a new culture and place comes down to the little things :)

  3. Anonymous August 17, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Im still doing too much sunbathing and drinking. 4 months in, and I am looking for an experience to help me “change”.

  4. Danielmcelroy1 August 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    great post here. thats why I think it’s a good idea to have one party vacation and one cultural learning trip every year to keep things balanced

  5. Laurel July 1, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    Great post! I’d prefer to here this kind reality story any day over the “reality junk” that’s popular. Or better yet just go live it! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Katie July 24, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    I totally agree with the saying that “You can never return from traveling as the same person you were before you left.” But one needs a different kind of mindset for that. When we explore different cultures, cuisines and lifestyles, we only see them rather than experience them. Not everybody gets the opportunity to leave their family and country to go and volunteer in an area that needs help and support. However, I believe that at least we can become more sensitive to and acceptable of how people are forced to live (and happily at that) in circumstances that we cannot even imagine ourselves.