How to Go Offline and Create Meaningful Moments When Traveling
Zach Houghton - January 9, 2019

It's no surprise that a majority of people plan their travels based on content posted to social media by their peers. Our travels often represent the high points in all of our lives – celebrating milestones such as engagements, birthdays, babies on the way, and more – arguably the most "shareable" times in anyone's life.

But with so much content being posted online, one of the most pressing questions I am asked is how to make a trip meaningful, which is a growing trend according to a new study by Capital One. People want to know how to go beyond what is Instagrammable and hone in on moments that move us the most. With that in mind, I've compiled some tips and ideas to help you get the most of your time in a new place.

Ministry of Buildings in Singapore

Do your research

...And I don't mean research in the traditional sense of the word. Allow yourself to dream a little bit about the places that you've been most curious about, those that might teach you something new, then move on to more practical considerations like timeline, climate, and budget. From there, think about the social parameters of your trip: Is this a trip you'd ideally take with a close friend, a family member, or one you'd prefer to undertake alone? Is this a place currently experiencing conflict/will your presence be helpful or harmful? Is there an organization doing responsible work in this place that you could align yourself with? Considering these questions will help galvanize the goals and structure of your trip.

Lean into your passions

Next, outline the passions or hobbies that you'd like to explore while you're on the ground, whether you're going to the next state over or flying halfway around the world. Use these passions to inform a significant chunk of your time on the ground, but leave plenty of room open for the spontaneous. From there, think of activities that excite you, that are unique to the area you are visiting, and that might not be in direct alignment with what you would typically do. This is where some of that magic can happen. If you're feeling stuck, reach out to local creatives or others on the ground who could help facilitate such activities or introduce you to local, authentic experiences. Locals and creatives know their cities best, and can often point you in a new direction.

Do something that takes you outside your comfort zone

Although this is connected to the previous item, it goes one step further. I'm not saying you have to go skydiving or hike up to the highest peak in order to have a meaningful trip. I'm saying that if you take yourself outside of your comfort zone and participate in an activity that forces you to flex new muscles — literally or figuratively — you'll experience the world in a new way, shake your senses, and truly adapt to your surroundings. So, take a dance or a language class; participate in a cultural tradition; talk to strangers; indulge in cuisine that is unique to the area. More often than not, these "uncomfortable" moments are the ones that we'll remember best.

A Train Ride Across Canada

Go offline

In order to ready yourself to be impressed or surprised by your surroundings, leave your phone in your bag. Instead of reaching for your screen, trust your senses and your curiosity, and use your phone only in moments when you really need it — like navigating a hectic city center. Posting to social media or keeping friends or family updated on your every move can wait until after the trip. If you do this, you'll find yourself more alert and immersed in the present moment. It's amazing what can happen when notifications, emails, and other digital noise aren't monopolizing your attention.

Make the most of every moment

Most Americans only have a couple of weeks to vacation each year. Whether your trip is three days or three weeks long, this mindset will pay dividends: when we venture beyond top-10 lists and truly lean into what is most unique about a place, our passions, and the activities that challenge us, we're bound to get the most out of our time in a new environment. Travel will then do what it does best — it will teach us, challenge us, and shape our lives in new and deeply meaningful ways.

Morning Kayak in Zurich

As a Capital One Purpose Project Partner, Zach Houghton, founder of Passion Passport, will be sharing his purposeful travel experiences and how travel has shaped his life on his blog and social media channels. Follow along and share your stories with #MeaningfulMoments.

Find more tips on how to travel with purpose on the Capital One Purpose Project Hub, in collaboration with The Points Guy.

More about Zach Houghton
Zach Houghton is the founder of Passion Passport, a startup which provides inspirational and purpose-driven travel storytelling, develops photo and video content, and designs experiential campaigns for brands and tourism boards. In his years of travels, Zach has always sought to immerse himself through one of the five languages he speaks. His photography work has been featured in international publications and media.

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