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How to Keep Your Travel Meaningful

Written by: Katie Vinson

5 Steps to Integrity and Purpose

It is not essential to have a reason to begin your travels. Sometimes you just have to get out there for reasons yet unknown to yourself.
But although not all who wander are lost, it is better to conduct this wandering with purpose, particularly if you intend on growing and learning from your experience (or at least having something convincing to write on your CV afterwards). So here are some tips on how to keep integrity and purpose in your days of adventure, based on my experiences so far.

Have a morning routine

Have a morning routine when travelling
This could be anything from taking a cold shower to embarking on a full-blown morning exercise regime. I take my yoga practice with me everywhere and it’s something I always return to in times of uncertainty; wherever I wake up I know for certain how my day will begin.
I’ll even whack my mat out in airports to kill time and more often than not get my fellow passengers involved too. For me, yoga studios are the first thing I Google when I land and the primary hub for meeting incredible people who help me get to know my surroundings. So get creative and explore your interests. You might even want to try something completely new like meditation, reflective writing or running. Whatever you choose, it will help start your day with meaning.

Seek out inspiring people

Seeking out inspiring people when travelling
Some days we cannot draw inspiration from ourselves. There are limits when it comes to our own vision of the world around us. So keep your ears open for conversations happening around you and use social media as a tool to keep tabs on people you admire; bloggers, Instagramers, adventurers, entrepreneurs, friends and friends of friends. By simply investing effort into connection I’ve been privileged enough to huddle in corners of coffee shops with men who have cycled around the world and women who have surfed the most dangerous waves on earth. Their stories are inspiring and their energy for life has pushed me to aim higher every day. So if you see your heroes passing through your way, send them a message knowing you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

If you enjoy a place, stay

If you enjoy a place, stay
This applies more if you have no fixed return date, but can still be true for those suckers who are returning home again soon. Becoming a slow traveller, spending a month at a time in a single city or country (usually the limits for visa regulations) enables you to better get to know a place and its people.
At first, it was all too easy for me to shift the busy, productive mentality I lived in London and apply it to my travel life. So I was in danger of slipping into ‘tick-box travelling’ my way around South East Asia, seeing everything but feeling nothing. Slowly, I learned to take my time and follow my intuition, to never feel like I needed to go anywhere or do anything just because the guidebook said so.
Equally, never feel like you have to remain in a place that doesn’t fit with you. Be brave enough to drop your expectations and move on.

Write about it

Write about your travels
In all these enriched experiences you’ll receive it’s good to develop a practice of reflection. Writing things down is a great way to understand what you have gained from a situation or place.
Aside from the classic ‘what I did’ diary format, I keep a ‘personography’ of all the wonderful people I’ve met, where I met them, what traits I loved and a little note about something they have taught me. I also include a dream section to record a different outtake of how my experiences have affected me in each place; looking back now I can trace where I felt settled and what struggles I was facing, even if I didn’t know it at the time. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself! So be creative and you will soon come to realise a theme of what you deem important enough to remember.

Pack less, live more

Pack less, live more
When you don’t take many possessions with you in your backpack, you are forced to choose what is necessary to your life. And when the time comes that you need something you don’t have with you, you must be creative to reach your goal.
The day I threw away all my cosmetics, I met someone who taught me how to make natural deodorant, foraging and exploring our surroundings for the ingredients needed and bonding in a lasting friendship along the way. Plus, having only hand luggage enables me to rent motorbikes (my main mode of transport around Bali), curl into sidecars when hitchhiking, ride bicycles and squeeze between locals on cheap public transport without much of a problem. And out of such freedom are born the best stories.

Katie is currently taking South East Asia by storm, teaching yoga and writing about her experiences as she goes. She travels to seek out authentic places and inspiring people, living off the beaten track and sometimes off grid. Next stop after this adventure will be New Zealand and Australia, and then over to South America, baby! Follow her journey right here on Gapyear.com and on Instagram.

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