Experiential Travel: Where Travel Can Take You

We often approach travel as where we take a trip. But what about instead approaching it as where the trip takes us - or rather, "where travel can take you", which is the motto of AFAR (Playing off the John Steinbeck quote: “People don’t take trips – trips take people.”). It makes a case for experiential travel. It's often what separates a tourist from a traveler. This type of travel isn't based on a look or terminology, but more of a perspective. As Daniel J. Boorstin wrote: "The traveler is active; he goes strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him."

They aren't mutually exclusive of one another and one isn't more superior then the other. Some days I'm a tourist, but most days I'm a traveler. Today I'm excited to talk about this idea of experiential travel and even more excited to be partnering with AFAR to give away a one-year subscription to their magazine. I've seen what I consider a lot on my travels. I've seen Trim Castle (Where Braveheart was filmed), the Statue of Liberty (Both the one in New York City and the one on the Île aux Cygnes, River Seine in Paris), the Eiffel Tower, Mount Rushmore, and Arenal Volcano, just to name a few. But what are my memories of these places? Were there significant moments of those specific trips or were they more of just a photograph or item checked off a list?

In the movie The Lookout, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character, Chris Pratt, keeps lists to help him remember things because he has short-term memory problems that are the result of brain damage from a car accident. His roommate Lewis, played by Jeff Daniels, encourages him to not write down things he experiences as lists, but more like stories. Lewis states: "Don't think of it as a list. Think of it as a story instead... Everything is a story. Stories are what help us make sense of the world." Stories are what we remember. It's what we tell our kids and grandkids when we get older and it's what we most remember from our travels. The fascinating thing about this insight from Lewis in The Lookout is that Lewis was blind.

As easy as it is for me to list famous landmarks and attractions I've visited from around the world, those aren't the most significant memories from my trips. What's memorable are the conversations and experiences I have. The ones that have a story that even a photo can't tell. Many of my greatest travel moments have little to no photographic memories. Those travel memories have been stories like crossing the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border with ticos, asking a question to a couple older Irish women that turned into a two-hour conversation, and being invited to dinner by a stranger in Pretoria, South Africa. I've said it many times and will continue so until the day I die that travel is less about the places, and more about the conversations and experiences. That is, getting down to what I call ground level and seeing and experiencing a place through the eyes of that destination.

It's for this and many other reasons that I like the vision of AFAR. Of all of the travel publications on magazine racks at newsstands, AFAR is the one that I can relate to because it represents how I travel. I've often found myself reading about a hotel, restaurant, or activity and said aloud: "Now that's the type of travel I can afford." That's not something that I find myself saying with many travel magazines. You can imagine my delight at our San Francisco Meet, Plan, Go event last fall when AFAR co-founder Greg Sullivan shared with the crowd that starting AFAR was the result of his own career break and stint of long-term travel.

I've been wanting to partner with AFAR for a while to do a giveaway and the timing has worked out to finally do it since they have recently launched an iPhone app. The app is an extension of their online community, which I've been using for months to plan and share my trips. I've used it ask questions about destinations I'm traveling to and typically get a wide-variety of targeted answers from travelers and locals who know that destination well. The website and now the mobile app allow you to publish and share highlights from your trips. AFAR magazine features some of the best highlights in each issue.

With the launch of AFAR's mobile app, I'm excited to share with you two giveaways. One, I've already mentioned, for a one-year subscription to AFAR magazine, which I include more information about below. The second is from AFAR and is a 6-week photo challenge with the grand prize winner being awarded a trip to India on SWISS International Air Lines, plus five nights’ at Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. AFAR's photo challenge is in its second week, with this week's prompt asking travelers to upload highlights through the mobile app that showcase delicious foods and/or surprises uncovered while getting from one place to the other.

For the next week I'll be running a giveaway here on my blog for a one-year subscription to AFAR, which includes 7 issues. To be eligible to win, you must have a U.S. mailing address. You can have up to two entries, one by commenting below and one by tweeting. The giveaway will close next Thursday, March 1, at 11:59 p.m. PST. I'll then randomly choose one winner who will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond.

Giveaway Details

  • One winner will randomly be chosen to win a one-year subscription (7 issues) to AFAR.
  • To be eligible to win, you must have a U.S. address.
  • The giveaway ends next Thursday, March 1, at 11:59 p.m. PST.
  • The winner will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond before another winner is randomly selected.
  • I will make an announcement here on this post and on Twitter when the winner has confirmed.
  • First way to enter: Leave a comment below about where travel has taken you. It can be anything. Maybe it was just to the world's largest rocking chair on Route 66 in Fanning, Missouri. Or maybe it was to experience healing because of past pain. Or maybe travel took you to finding the love of your life. See the first comment below as an example.
  • Second way to enter: Tweet about where travel has taken you. It can be a similar comment or something completely different, but just make sure you tweet with the hashtag #traveltakesme and the link to this blog post. You can use the following shortened link to shorten characters http://j.mp/AAqyvo. See my example on Twitter to get you started.
  • Tweeting/commenting more than once doesn’t give you more chances to win. If you tweet once, you get one entry. If you tweet 100 times, you still just get one entry. So this means you can get up to two entries: One for commenting and one for tweeting.

Per my ethical duty, I was not paid to write this, nor was I given a free subscription to AFAR, although I am in fact a subscriber. AFAR didn't even ask me to write this. While I recommend giving them a follow on Twitter and Facebook, I can't be held responsible if you're immediately inspired to book a trip. This post came under the influence of many listens to The Head and the Heart's "Rivers and Roads", which makes me think about traveling. I highly recommend it to help get the creative juices flowing as you think about where travel has taken you. If that's not doing it for you, see where travel has taken the honey badger.