At the heart of the concept of transformational travel is a sturdy and well-documented body of research. Michael Bennett, Ed.D., focused his doctoral research on exploring and identifying the critical elements of adventure travel experiences that lead transformational learning in adults. The results were the first of their kind to empirically suggest that there was a clear pattern for how and why people change as a result of adventure experiences. Michael's seven core themes are as follows:
- Answering the Call to Adventure + Traveling with Intention
- Crossing the Threshold + Entering a 'Zone Unknown'
- Being Open to Experiences & Transformation
- Consciously Seeking Out Extraordinary & Challenging Experiences
- Engaging in Meaningful Interactions & Conversations
- Taking Time for Reflection & Meaning-Making
- Launching Into Purposeful Action
Answering the Call to Adventure + Traveling with Intention
First, individuals heed a CALL TO ADVENTURE, where they have an intrinsic motivation to travel, grow, and transform. They are driven by the desire for a career-change, or they are going through a life transition—birth, death, divorce, retirement, etc., or they are experiencing a general feeling of discontentment in life that is inspiring them to go seek out something new in their lives!
Crossing the Threshold + Entering the 'Zone Unknown'
Inspired by this call to adventure, the traveler sets forth on their adventure, first crossing then travel to and enter a ZONE UNKNOWN—a foreign land where they are unfamiliar with the landscape, the culture, the language, and/or the people. Here, they are able to disconnect from life back home—the obligations, the responsibilities, the roles they are asked to play—and can focus on the idea of reconnecting with themselves.
Being Open to Experiences & Transformation
As they venture into the Zone unknown, travelers keep an OPEN MIND, HEART, & EYES. While they have specific goals or intentions for their journey, they also remain open to whatever other experiences come their way. They go with the flow, follow their hearts, and let the experience unfold for them.
Consciously Seeking Out Extraordinary Challenges & Experiences
In this Zone Unknown, individuals are often faced with many EXTRAORDINARY & CHALLENGING EXPERIENCES. These challenges can be physical, cultural, social, emotional, mental, psychological, and/or spiritual. Comfort zones are pushed. Boundaries are redrawn. Perspectives shift.
Engaging in Meaningful Interactions & Conversations
During these travel experiences, the individual inevitably encounters people with whom they have authentic, MEANINGFUL INTERACTIONS & CONVERSATIONS that form the foundation upon which transformations are made. Sometimes, people they encounter take the form of a helper and assist them through their challenges. Other times, the person is the challenge, and they are forced to draw on their own resources to overcome this person. And sometimes, the person is both helper and antagonist.
Taking Time for Reflection & Meaning-Making
After these interactions and challenges, the traveler takes time to reflect on and create meaning from the experiences. Oftentimes, this process of reflection and meaning-making leads to the traveler developing a deeper sense of their own passions, values, purpose in life, strengths, and goals ... In other words, the traveler is able to RECONNECT TO THEIR TRUE SELF. Once reconnected to Self, the person then created a vision of the life that they aspire to and developed a plan for making vision a reality. The re-connection with self was found to be the central element of the transformational learning process that these travelers experienced.
Launching Into Purposeful Action
Stemming from this reconnection to self, the individual then LAUNCHES INTO PURPOSEFUL ACTION towards changing their life. Oftentimes, this action takes the form of: (1) a career change, (2) a shift in one’s priorities and perspectives, (3) starting and/or ending a relationship, or (4) a renewed commitment to a healthy lifestyle. In doing so, not only do they transform their own life, but directly or indirectly transform the lives of those around them ... a true Hero's Journey!