Although the railways and airlines very quickly turned to new technologies to optimise and simplify client pathways, in the hotel industry the relationship with digital tools is more ambivalent. Smart Hotels that put technology at the heart of every level of the concept inspire desire and mistrust in equal measure.
We must meet a sizeable challenge “planning and selling” transformational travel experiences that favour personal development and, also, a global change.
A transformational experience is a concept that is not unlike that of a spiritual reawakening: “An immense emotion that can be felt deep down, and that intensifies as it is welcomed by the body and the mind. This resonance is felt almost every time, with a feeling that finally everything makes sense…”
Our aim is to cultivate transformation by encouraging an internal journey and by adding more awareness to the design, marketing and coaching of our programme. The idea is to favour full awareness, the synchronicity, the adventure and an action to connect to others, and create transformational experiences.
To offer a transformational trip, maybe we should completely reinvent the process, from how we sell the holiday and communicate our message, to the way in which we design and orchestrate it - including our relationship with holidaymakers. The aim is to increase the peak experiences, to invite travellers to go outside the carefully prepared itinerary and to bring back more spontaneity to encourage personal fulfilment. For this, we must add more intention, full awareness and introspection into the travel equation.
Let us be very clear, we cannot reinvent the wheel. The Australian aborigines have their walkabouts and the Inuits have their wandering. Rumi, a venerated poet and mystic from the 13th century said “As soon as you walk on the path, the path appears”. The English word ‘travel’ actually comes from the French word ‘travailler’ in the sense of making an effort.
To create experiences that favour personal development, we are convinced that we must learn to travel with a spiritual dimension. We need to completely rethink the human dynamic, the brand, the message, the design of itineraries, the tracking and how we guide travellers in their transformation once they return home. It is essential that when an explorer answers the call to adventure, we explain to them how to look within themselves, to show some introspection, to question themselves and find the time and the place to truly think about what makes them want to travel.
1] Efficient arrivals, memorable ends, gratifying peak experiences: we think that hikes, treks, challenges, climbs, experiences with locals, etc. are those that inspire the greatest transformation, and that are most likely to incite people to start the experience based learning cycle, by thinking every day and giving great space to meaning.
2] Practicing the art of slow travel, for example by walking in full awareness of your arrival, which allows your spirit to become aware of the present moment. Instead of visiting a place quickly, we take our time and we take in our surroundings. As professionals in the travel industry, we should help our clients to SL-OW DOWN, and not the reverse.
3] Between activities, leave time to explore spontaneously , which is designed to quench the client’s desire for escapism and to capture the essence of the poem Undersong by Emerson. Go and meet local people; every encounter could be a new chapter in an unforgettable journey.
4] Places that offer good energy to explorers—remote and quiet places, starry skies, sacred sites, etc. Places that appeal to the traveller and that amaze them.
By ritualising their departure, the traveller honours the moment when they “cross the threshold”, and this process may transform an experiential adventure into a spiritual journey. Where is your threshold? Is it the entrance, the airport, or when you set foot in an unknown place? Whatever the answer, you need to identify it and give it a symbolic dimension.
Once the adventure begins, how do we know when we have truly arrived at our destination? When we arrive at a station, a sanctuary or a forest? Or as Phil Cousineau says “Perhaps we have arrived when we find ourselves on a road that brings us back to ourselves?”. And once they are immersed in their destination, the traveller must slow down and be present for themselves, not forget to breathe, to open their eyes and their ears… But how best to achieve that?
- Introducing meditation, daily yoga, offer an application to download.
- Encourage them to keep a diary, a sketch book, suggest recording sounds.
- Invite the traveller to find their own pace and to connect, to listen to their neighbouring table and conversations at the market place, the train’s whistle, the birds singing, and the wind whistling through the treetops.
- Open your senses – In Explorers of the Infinite, Maria Coffey examines how intense adventures, like climbing, rafting or other demanding activities have the potential to take you beyond yourself and to shake up your whole being. This
phenomenon can be explained by the strong correlation between spirituality, adventures in the outdoors and personal transformation. By living these intense moments to the full, travellers find their
rhythm, stimulate their thirst for escape and increase the moments that can create personal transformation.
To conclude, I would like you to reflect on the ways in which we invade our destinations, about our irresponsibility with regard to travelling, and the fact that there will soon be nowhere left to discover. Travelling is becoming increasingly easy and therefore far removed from sustainable development. We must therefore approach these same destinations from a new perspective, or transpose the journey into an exploration of ourselves, of humanity and an unknown area of our mind, individually and culturally. By leaving more space between activities and by leaving room for spontaneity, we can return to the origins and the essence of travelling. Travelling should not be about collecting air-miles, about bucket lists, or visas, or the number of stars a hotel has or photos that shout “look at me!” on Facebook.
Jake Haupert - Co founder Transformational Travel Council