How Traveling With Purpose Can Change Your Life

If Darth Vader could describe me, he’d say, “The wanderlust is strong with this one.”

I’m always ready to travel. My husband laughs when I say, “It’s been forever since we’ve gone anywhere.” He replies, “You mean since the trip to Death Valley two weeks ago?” Right.

Traveling is purposeful, fun, and enriching for us now, but I used to be a frantic traveler.

I was obsessed with checking off every single one of the 1,234 things on my must-see list… all in three days. After an ah-ha moment, my eyes were opened and I now choose to travel with purpose. My “must-see” list has turned into a “hope-to-see” list because I want to be open to discovering new things along the way.

I used to keep one eye on my watch and one eye on the sites in front of me. Each day was planned to the minute, with no allotment for deviation. Trust me, it was a miserable way to travel. I realized I had become a Travelzilla, ruining the travel experience for everyone, including myself.

What had I gained from this frantic pace? Did I ever just sit, observe, and learn from the environment and those around me? Did I take the time to engage with the locals? Did I excitedly run down a newly discovered trail? Not a chance.

And the worst part was that I ended up forgetting so many rich details from my trips because I was focused on adhering to my rigid self-imposed schedule. I failed to notice the amazing sights, sounds, and people around me. I also failed to share in the joys of discovery with my travel companions.

It’s Not Too Late to Teach a Travelzilla New Tricks

Due to my newly discovered Travelzilla status, I decided my travel style drastically needed to change. My husband and I were both stressed during our trips, which was definitely not enriching our lives.

The first step was to put down my phone.

Only after I consciously ended my false sense of human connection (and constant distractions) from social media, texting, and emails was I able to completely focus on the present moment.

My five senses immediately perked up and I felt an overwhelming desire to connect with those around me. I wanted to learn, understand, explore, and grow, all of which can only happen when you clear your mind and are truly present.

I discovered how travel offers an invaluable first-hand glimpse into the lives of locals and provides an amazing opportunity to connect with humanity while simultaneously learning more about oneself.

How Traveling with Purpose Has Changed My Life

During a recent trip to East Tawas, a small lake town in northeastern Michigan, I planned to explore the marina, hike the two-mile scenic Sandy Hook Nature Trail on Lake Huron, photograph the majestic red Tawas Point Lighthouse, and then head back into town for some boutique shopping. But here’s what really happened:

Upon arriving, I was drawn to an iconic scene near the marina. Colorful kites danced in the breeze, teenagers sat on the dock, dangling their feet in the water while loudly daring each other to jump into the thick weedy water, and seagulls hopped along the dock hoping to catch an abandoned fish left behind by the fishermen.

I stopped to soak it all in while marveling at the beauty of the puffy clouds drifting across the sky. I decided to wander around the marina while fantasizing about motoring across the waves on one of the sleek moored boats.

I was greatly amused as I watched the ducks bobbing on Lake Huron and couldn’t help but wonder to myself if they ever got seasick.

This is when the magic happened. 

While strolling along the dock, I struck up a conversation with a friendly elderly fisherman. I watched him effortlessly remove flopping fish from his hook as he excitedly shared several fishing stories. I couldn’t help but marvel at his tan fishing vest that resembled a Swiss army knife. It housed a great assortment of hooks, bobbers, lines, and cutting tools.

I lost track of time as we shared in the joy of his catches and discussed strategies for freeing his line when it caught in the weeds. I was surprised at how fast his gnarled fingers could thread a worm on a hook. A smile spread across his weathered face each time I clapped after he caught a fish.

After waving a fond farewell, I decided to head to the iconic red lighthouse near the sandy beach. As I strolled down the boardwalk toward the beach, I noticed a lady sitting cross-legged in the tall grasses. She was watching a small child playing quietly in the sand nearby.

She looked up as I neared, and I noticed a deep sadness in her eyes. I smiled and we engaged in simple small talk as we watched the waves. She seemed to need someone to talk to, so I listened for over an hour as she shared some recent heartbreak and loss in her life.

At the end of the day, I never made it to all my hope-to-see spots, but I’m ok with that. This trip was one of my most memorable day trips because I purposely opened myself up to watching, listening, and learning.

Taking the time to slow down, interact, connect, laugh, share, and be present in the moment really impacted my experience. It made me grateful for my health, the joy in my life, and the ability to travel. Thankfully, my travels have evolved into a more purposeful, life-enriching adventure.

I'm Sherry, an adventure storyteller, photographer and hard-core Michigan (and beyond) explorer. I believe life is about new experiences, meeting new people and exploring the world around us. Visit my website at www.travel-mi.com.

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