The Travel Transformation

My global travels aren’t an escape from life, but an extension of it. 

I may travel for weeks at a time, immersing with people and place. I deepen friendships and ignite new ones. I visit investment and philanthropic partners, and stumble on new ideas. I write countless notes to myself—Google this, read that. I’m inspired by people and their stories. I want to write about every one. But eventually my brain feels full and jumbled. When I fly home, it’s like the end of the most amazing dinner gathering when you don’t want the magic to end, but at the same time all you want to do is climb into bed with the comforter over your head, sleeping off the rich food, wine, and laughter that fueled it all.

It’s a travel hangover. 

I hide out for my first day home, catching up on tasks and all those things in my brain and e-notes folder. I download with my husband and hold my dog. And I think about how I am going to answer that one simple question—“So how was your trip?”

Spewing the above is too much. So I tend to answer “how” it was with “it was amazing,” and list three short examples of “what” I did. 

But what I really want to explain is “why” I do this. 

And to inspire you—and everyone—to think differently about travel. 

Because travel can be transformational if you intentionally seek to stretch, learn and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world. 

That I preach this today is unexpected. I was raised in a single-parent home in the Midwest. What we lacked in money my mom sought to make up in experiences, mostly involving station wagon road trips. International travel, investing or philanthropy were completely foreign concepts.

Traveling around Germany with a local

My university education opened up a whole new path. I studied math and economics and enjoyed a career in investing. In my work, I promoted the merits of consumer spending, economic growth and investment returns. Yet my personal spending—on rent, clothes, dinners and travel—needed to be more modest than most of my peers.

I didn’t travel outside of the U.S. until age of 23. My boyfriend and I traveled off-season to pre-EU Germany, spending time with his exchange student friend from college. It taught me two things—traveling internationally can be much less expensive than in the U.S., and personal connections upgrade a vacation to a life experience.

I write this today celebrating the 20 year anniversary of my first trip to Asia. I traveled to Thailand on my own, finding myself hating Bangkok, getting scuba certified off the beaches of Krabi, and meeting life-long friends Teri and Steve on a mountain biking trip in northern Thailand. Here’s what I wrote in my journal about the trip:

Thailand bike tour on my first trip to Asia

“This trip has been an adventure, not only to a new culture but within my own mind. The highlight was our mountain biking tour. It was the time I felt most in touch with the Thai people. They looked at us in wonderment, curious as to where we lived and the clothes we wore. I wondered if they thought we were rich or athletes. I wondered if they wanted to live our life.

But I think not. What they know and love is the simpler life. I’m a bit envious. Roles in their society are easily defined. And the concept of a tribe—an automatic group of childhood playmates who become workmates into adulthood—was a concept that even the strongest of Western families couldn’t model. 

What I loved most was our biking group—from Woody our leader to each eclectic participant. No one had anything to prove, but each had much to share. All were of comparable biking ability, yet no one felt constrained or pushed too hard. Woody was not only a national-ranked mountain biker, but a cook and tour guide, teaching us about Thai food and hill tribe culture. That’s what made the experience”

–Except from Thailand travel journal (Nov 1999)

I read this while celebrating Thanksgiving with Teri and Steve. I smile—it seems even then I was traveling with wonderment.

Celebrating Room to Read in India

Over the next 20 years, I expanded the connective ways I’ve traveled. Trekking adventures pushed my physical limits, and taught me there’s value in depending on others. Traveling with portfolio managers heightened my curiosity and investment mindset. And knowing the impact of education on my life, I couldn’t help noticing the educational barriers for many children—especially girls. Giving time, talent and treasure to girls education in developing economies is my life mission. The fancy word for that is philanthropy. Simply, it’s knowing what I care about and why, and advocating for it however I can.

Immersive travel experiences helped me figure that out.

That’s the power of transformational travel. Travel is something most of us already do, and aspire to do more. But in the era of how-many-countries-have-you-visited apps and Instagram-worthy photos, I worry we’re losing the transformational part. 

Transformational travel connects us as people.

It’s the crux of what my mom, former boyfriend, Woody the bike guide, portfolio managers and girls in school uniforms taught me. 

It’s why I began leading Venture Travel. Our focus is connecting people and ideas across the globe. When we step outside of our comfort zone, we find people inspire us. They surprise us. When they share a facet of their life that conflicts with what we know, it challenges us. Our perspective shifts. We change the way we think about the world and our place in it.

Learning about Uber in Tanzania

I know this because I watch it happen—during the trip and after we return home. 

It’s when the couple from New York sends me an audio recording of them explaining to their Manhattan Uber driver how Uber works differently in Tanzania. Or when the Tanzanian musician we met shares his just-released Le Maasai music video and we see our names in the credits—a thank you for the Go-Fund-Me campaign that produced it. Or when a 16-year old participant texts a YouTube video of her Tanzania experience, and I see the trip I curated through completely new eyes.

Then there are the big post-trip life updates—decisions to have kids, to move across the country, to change careers, to step back from a leadership role, to return to school. These decisions didn’t happen because of the trip. But when you pull yourself out of your comfort zone and engage with curious-minded individuals with no tie to your daily life, you consider big decisions with a fresh perspective.

Bike spice tour in Zanzibar

Most of all, I love directly reading trip participants’ own words:

“I was a seasoned traveler and now realize how surface level my previous travels had been. With this trip, I fell in love with travel all over again with a whole new perspective. I was so moved by all of the experiences, meeting so many different people and expanding my knowledge in so many ways. I will always cherish this experience and use it to shape the way I look at the world.”

Kym D, Tanzania 2018

I’m thankful that I went on that 1999 trip to Thailand. I’m grateful for the many gifts the experience gave me, and privileged that helping others experience the same is now my work.

Commit to transformational travel. Join a group experience. Start a conversation with a stranger.

If you intentionally seek to learn, grow and connect through travel, I promise your life will never be the same.

Learn more about my custom-curated Venture Travel or consider other experiences offered by the Transformational Travel Council (TTC).

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Jodi Morris Written by:

Venture Guide to High-Achieving Seekers. Success Coach. Venture Travel Curator. Impact Investor. Traveler. Writer. Global Connector. When we connect to others' stories it changes our own. Let's Venture!