The Art of Travel with a Purpose

Of course everyone travels with a purpose, there is always a reason why we buy a ticket to gome somewhere. What seasoned travellers talk about when they say to have a purpose is to go above the selfie stick and traveling because that’s what people do on holidays.

If we go through the travel machine, mankind started with a full-time nomadic lifestyle, then realized agriculture was needed to sustain the population growth and humans became sedentary.

Nevertheless, traveling never ceased to exist, maybe the purpose of travel changed, but travel in itself didn’t.

Ironically, we (the No Footprint Nomads) have now the same lifestyle we had millions of years ago: we travel a lot with no fixed base.

Although we don’t travel to find food or shelter anymore, we do it to feed our souls.

It is this life journey to responsible travel that we will discuss here, so if you are looking for happiness, follow Alain de Button’s insight but add a positive impact to our common future.

“If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest—in all its ardour and paradoxes—than our travels.”

Excerpt From: Alain De Botton. “The Art of Travel.”

Want to get some more travelling inspiration?

the art purpose of travel

Looking back at History, responsible travel was never an option

Can you imagine a crusader crossing Europe and avoiding throwing garbage to the floor because he was a responsible traveler? Well, there was no garbage packaging back then, but just for the mindset discussion. 🙂

If we fast forward the nomadic societies to the first sedentary settlements, then why did people had the need to move around, why not just stay put and work the land or do what kind of social responsibility one had?

The answer is very much related to a struggle our society has faced since it started to live in communities: the difficulty to be completely self-sufficient.

Today we call it globalization, the capacity to move goods and people around at the speed of sound, to fill any gaps in our communities.

Thousands of years ago, doctors were scarce, religion did not reach every corner and to find needed goods, traders often had to travel to obtain them. Hence, traveling was a perpetual requirement of life in society:

  • Trade: either to make more money or to obtain required goods, trade has been at the heart of travel in our society. The famous Silk Road, explored by the Portuguese during the discoveries period and now re-ignited by the Chinese government, is probably one of the oldest and longest trade routes ever created and the reason for much of the traveling of the time
  • Medical: health is a good motivator for anyone to cross dangerous rivers and mountains. The medical profession wasn’t so frequent back in the day, so people had to travel to find doctors who could cure. There’s a very interesting movie called The Physician that shows how barbers could also be surgeons during medieval times, a must watch.
  • Religious: pilgrimages from the common people or ecclesiastical activities from priests is a reason for traveling since religion exists, which means almost since ever, unfortunately. The Crusades were also responsible for a lot of traveling, and also for the first international bank transfers. The Crusaders needed a way to have access to their wealth in the promised land so the first international bank service was created.

    pilgrims purpose of travel

  • Government: taxation was manual for thousands of years, the collectors had to travel all around the lands to get the money. There were other activities that official entities had to do like spreading the word for new decrees, and trying to make sure the law was respected across the land.
  • Tourism: probably not exactly as we see it today, but most of the tourism back then was from the rural areas to the cities to have access to any kind of entertainment. Gladiators, theatre, and even executions were entertaining activities that frequently attracted people from afar.  For the very wealthy people, traveling for pleasure was also an option, but the unknown and lack of information did not make it that frequent. After the Crusades and Marco Polo famous Asian travel accounts, more information was available and people started to feel the urge for traveling, maybe it was then the travel bug disease started to spread relentlessly.

Why do people travel today?

Interesting enough, most of the reasons described above are still happening today with some modernization updates.

Doctors are now everywhere, but we now have medical tourism, where people move to warmer climates to optimize the treatment.

Even with all the digital globalization, trade is still pretty much done face-to-face, so trade fairs, business meetings, and contract signing still require a lot of traveling around.

Pilgrimage has probably increased with the population boom, and the only of the original reasons that have almost ceased to exist is the government taxation.

Nowadays there are millions traveling every single day, and it has become so easy that if you ask many of them why they are traveling, they will have to think for a while before answering the question.

How many times have you heard someone saying: “If I won the lottery I’d travel the world!!!”? It is in our subconscious minds that travel is the ultimate activity for a wealthy person, it’s like the society looks at us in a way that we have to travel the world to be accomplished.

At least in Western society, people work their ass out, go on two week holidays in pieces of paradise and when finally retired from the rat race they do month-long trips to see the world from a magnifying lens.

Spending most of our lives in the same environment will make us feel uncomfortable when living that comfort zone, and we’ll look at the rest of the world the same way we do it when we go to the zoo: impressed but in small doses.

Instead, if traveling was standard in our society as it used to be, we would all be accustomed to all our differences, we would respect them and our global society would thrive. Don’t even need to list all the advantages of this new society.

So, I believe we can divide the traveling motivations of today into 3 categories: Need, Pleasure, and Education.

  • Need – study, medical, work, family, any of those reasons that will force anyone to travel either short or long term: college students traveling to a new college, ex-pats looking for better-paying jobs, family emergencies or medical treatments that have to be done away from home. Not much gratification from this experience, although with time people may end up appreciating the new country they are living in now and never go back to the homeland.
  • Pleasure – this encompasses almost any lust traveling out there: kids looking for endless parties, visiting new cities because they are new to them, exploring an exotic or extreme activity like a safari or a week on the Phi Phi islands, or just spending some extra savings because they couldn’t find a better way to spend the money and travel is considered a good investment
    travel with purpose cartagena indias
     A day well spent at Cartagena das Indias, Colombia
  • Education –  not the MBA or college travelers, who move to a new location to pursue formal studies, those have a clear necessity so I place them in the first category. Here, I place the travelers that look at the world as a full-time university, who consider the planet a continuous classroom and are willing to take as many classes as they can. People like Ana who wanted to explore permaculture and traveled all SEAsia volunteering in farms. Or Caliche (post soon) who wants to start an eco-tourism company in Colombia and also traveled in SEAsia visiting eco-activities. Or just people that travel with an open heart and mind and look at everything around them as chances to learn and grow.

In a Nutshell: travel with a purpose

We just wanted to make you think about other reasons you could use your travelling opportunity.

Other ways you could create some kind of synergy and while taking some selfies, choose your places with an intention.

We love selfies, and we take them all the time, it’s part of the travelling rituals and no issue with that.

But at the same time we go to a place because we are doing something for our personal growth. Some ideas of people we have seen on the road:

  1. Food Trip – want to try African food? Travel and learn
  2. Learn a language – best school in the world is immersion
  3. Sport/Skill – go where they do it better
  4. History – get a museum’s subscription
  5. Heritage – trace your ancestors and find your beginnings
  6. Religion – travel to see the references for your organized beliefs
  7. Spirituality – go on retreats
  8. Stars – go to the Atacama desert and get lost with our galaxy
We chose Chiang Mai because it’s one of the digital nomads capitals of the world, so we wanted to learn with the best. 

And as an added bonus we did want to learn more about Buddhism, and 95% of Thailand follows it, so perfect spot.

What do you like? What do you want to learn more? Now… look at the map…

Want more travel inspiration? Head to our main page.

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