For many, planning a vacation is somewhat formulaic. Usually, it involves jetting off to a distant place to mentally switch off and escape reality, but an emerging wellness and travel trend suggests that's all about to change.
Rather than escape the world by checking into an all-inclusive resort, travel experts declare 2017 is the year of transformative travel. "It has similar elements of experiential travel, but taken a step further," Vogue explains. "It's travel-motivated and defined by a shift in perspective, self-reflection and development, and a deeper communion with nature and culture."
The aim isn't merely to disconnect. Quite the opposite: It's to connect with a more authentic version of yourself. "Simply bringing mindfulness and intentionality to any travel experience, taking the time to be in nature, connecting with locals, and engaging in meaningful conversations about life all sets the stage for a truly life-changing adventure," Michael Bennett, co-founder of The Transformative Travel Collaborative, tells MyDomaine.
To revolt against our fast-paced, plugged-in way of life, Bennet says an increasing number of working professionals are seeking out a vacation that promises more than just a five-star pool. The benefit, he says, goes beyond a good tan. Travelers return with "a deeper understanding of both self and others that inspires and empowers them to make real changes in their life—not only to benefit them but the community as a whole."
Intrigued? Choose a focus—nature, community, spirituality, or well-being—and let us plan an adventure that'll change the way you view the world.
Juan Luis Durán/500px
The Purpose: Forget the restless rhythm and artificial lights of a big city—this South African adventure by Global Vision International will remind you what's really important by immersing yourself in the wilderness.
The Adventure: Learn to track animals such as lions, leopards, elephants, and rhinos at a private Big Five game reserve during this two-week trip. Unlike a tourist on safari, you'll play an active role in conservation and explore breathtaking attractions like Blyde River Canyon with other volunteers.
The Purpose: Reconnect with nature and glimpse the diverse wildlife in Bhutan and Nepal with Natural Habitat Adventures.
The Adventure: Marvel at the world's highest mountains, wander through subtropical forests, and experience each country's Buddhist and Hindu heritage on this WWF-approved trip. The itinerary takes travelers on a nature-intense vacation including wildlife drives, guided hikes, and canoe rides, and allows you to explore Kathmandu and Bhutan's peaceful monasteries.
The Purpose: You're technically there to teach, but those who go to the ancient city of Luang Prabang with Global Vision International end up learning a great deal about themselves, too.
The Adventure: Spend two weeks teaching English to novice Buddhist monks and learn about the unique Laos culture, history, religion, and language in the process. During your stay, you'll visit the iconic Mekong river and experience what life is like for young monks and local lay students in one of South East Asia's poorest countries.
The Purpose: Discover a shared sense of purpose by donating your time and effort to DiscoverCorps, a grassroots travel company tasked with revitalizing the neighborhood of Lawton, outside Old Havana.
The Adventure: Volunteers aim to improve community cohesion by leading art projects with young locals, repairing soccer fields, and preventing urban decay after the economic hardships of the '90s. You'll also be able to explore the colonial towns of Trinidad and Cienfuegos and immerse yourself in vibrant, fast-changing Havana.
The Purpose: Mindfulness is the main focus at Aro Ha Wellness Retreat, a holistic 20-room lodge in New Zealand's Southern Alps.
The Adventure: Located only 40 minutes away from Queenstown, this breathtaking retreat is perched between two glistening sapphire lakes and snowcapped mountains. Created to "bring people together to learn about nature, the world, and ultimately about themselves," the retreat offers daily yoga, spa therapy, sub-alpine hiking, and mindfulness practices.
The Purpose: Slow down to appreciate the subtleties of Japanese culture and learn to operate at a new pace, with this tour by immersive travel company Butterfield and Robinson.
The Adventure: This walking journey starts with a wander through the terraced rice fields near Osaka. You'll explore World Heritage temples, experience a time-honored tea ceremony in a traditional tea house, tread through rural villages, and practice meditation with monks. The vacation finishes at a hot spring resort town where you can relax and reflect on the restorative trip.
Courtesy of Silent Stay
The Purpose: Could you refrain from talking for days on end? Guests of Silent Stay Retreat Center learn the healing effects of silence and are encouraged to pause, acknowledge thoughts, and still a racing mind.
The Adventure: Choose your adventure—Silent Stay is located less than two hours north of San Francisco and has another acclaimed retreat in Assisi, Italy. Two- to nine-day programs include daily meditation and meditative movement to find "a balance between inner and outer life."
The Purpose: Find healing and explore your untapped spirituality with this boutique tour of Peru, by Sacred Earth Journeys. A sound healer and Andean spiritual guide lead the pilgrimage to make sure every person is able to learn and grow from the experience.
The Adventure: Wander the sacred sites and temples in Cusco, including Machu Picchu, discover authentic culture during a homestay on Amantani Island, and find out more about Andean wisdom from the expert guides. The trip finishes with a breathtaking aerial flight over the Nazca Lines.
Ready to pack your bags? Don't leave home without this checklist.