travel health wellbeing

A few years ago, approaching 30, I had my own ‘Eat Pray Love’ quit everything and find yourself type trips. All romanticism and shiny Instagram quotes aside, honestly, that is exactly what happened.

I spent four months away from the UK volunteering on a remote horse ranch in Mexico, on a yoga retreat on the West Coast in Costa Rica before finishing up on a tourist horse ranch on the Caribbean Coast.

I left the UK with the sole intention; to get to know myself again.

The time, space and intention of that trip gave me the clarity I needed and the intentions that came from this clarity have now manifested and shaped what I do for work now, how I feel in myself and what my life consists of today.

But it’s not quite as easy or quaint as it sounds; travelling to find purpose requires work, dedication and commitment – often things we don’t associate with travelling are the exact things we want to leave behind when we go on holiday. But I can promise you, hand on heart; it will be the most rewarding, difficult, life-changing ‘work’ you will ever do. Here is how to get the most out of it:

1. Read

When we’re on holiday on an extended trip, it’s probably true for many that we read more. Lazing on the beach, in a hammock in the shade, or on a balmy, warm evening under the stars - reading is an activity we seem to prioritise in itself.

So if you’re embarking on a soul-searching trip, use this brain space wisely. If you’ve set the intention to get to know yourself, then arm yourself with the literature to support that.

My suggestions include; A Road Less Travelled, The Artists Way, A New Earth, The Deepest Acceptance, The Inside Out Revolution, The Lotus and The Lily… to name but a few.

An extra tip, take note of any parts of your reading and self-study that touch nerves, that you disagree with, that sit uncomfortably with you. Explore those part fully because often, that’s where you’ll learn your greatest lessons.

2. Stay in one place and add meaning to that stay

Backpack on, an open road and not knowing where I’ll be staying that night. How I LOVE making a trip up as I go along. There is so much to learn about life, yourself and the country you’re travelling when you open yourself up to going wherever the road takes you.

But if you’re on a deeper mission, my advice would be to stick around in the same place for a while. Get to know a place, become a local, use the space and time to stay put allows you to prioritise your self-study.

Volunteering, working and having a purpose to your day helps you learn new skills or simply remember old ones. It can offer travellers on a shoestring a thrifty way to get around.

I volunteered through a website helpexchange.com working 6 hours a day, five days a week. In exchange I received lodgings and food and using my afternoons to read, ride horses and explore. That work gave me purpose. It allowed me to reconnect with a childhood passion – horse riding, and learn a new one – meditation and yoga.

I have a magical memory of a simple moment cycling the 10k jungle road from the horse ranch where I was volunteering in Costal Rica to the yoga school that became my local.

I remember one day in the late afternoon cycling to class and passing the wild and vibrant café worker who served me my daily coffee in my favourite cafe. She was sat on the front handle bars of her boyfriend's bike on the opposite side of the road as they cycled along. Upon seeing me she wailed out ‘holaaaa amigaaaaa!’, waving frantically with the widest, warmest smile you could possibly imagine.

Feeling known when you’re getting to know yourself is priceless.

3. Meditate

What I learned through my introduction to yoga and meditation on this trip, and what has shaped my life ever since, was the power of stillness.

When I sat down to meditate for the first time in a sticky, busy yoga platform in the jungle, I almost couldn’t bare it. My eyes were closed for all but seconds before I opened them again. I was frustrated by my busy mind, wanting to get up and leave. I felt such a deep attachment to my sense of busy-ness – internally and externally.

But through time, commitment and patient practice, those moments of stillness made the greatest and most significant contribution to the clarity in myself and my purpose.

And in that clarity I realised; the peace, the stillness, quiet and connection, was mine – it was inside of me. I didn’t need to be the other side of the world. I didn’t need to be ‘away’ to connect with it. It was something I could take with me wherever I went and is something I access daily, no matter what is going on around me.

What that trip made me realise was, the answers I was looking for were inside me all along.

3 Tips For Travelling To Find Your Purpose via @HorizonRetreats #travel

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Have you been on a similar soul-searching-type trip? What did you learn from it? Tell me in the comments below.

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