The dog’s barking. Traffic sucks. The house is a flipping mess. Sometimes we get so fed up with the status quo of our lives that we say in frustration, “I need a vacation!” We’re tired of work, obligations, details, stress. It just feels like it’s time to go. To run away! Get me out of here, you say. Get me anywhere, you say. Get me to a place where I don’t have to work, think, be sober, or cook, you say.

Yes, it’s true, vacations can be relaxing and fun–a great way to get away from the chaos, to push the pause button on the daily anxiety. A release valve for the pressure of regular life.

But it’s also true that there’s another kind of travel. A deeper, lengthier kind that gets us away from everything we know for long enough to make a real difference in our lives. We come back from these trips, not just with a suntan, but with insights about ourselves and our life and the world we live in.

These insights have the immense power to take us to the next level.

Travel like this helps us change the things we don’t like in our lives, not just escape from them. When we come back, we come back not just refreshed but transformed.

But how can we do this??

We do this by approaching travel–no matter how long we’re gone or where we go–with a sense of purpose. 

If you’re a regular reader, you know my husband and I have taken our kids on many family sabbaticals. These weren’t ‘vacations’ but rather times of deep growth and learning. They also sparked a great curiosity about places, people, and our planet that keeps us wanting to get back on the road to see more.

Ok, time to come clean. When we left for our first family sabbatical in 2012 to Belize, I wasn’t running toward deep growth and learning. I wasn’t running toward ANYTHING.

I was running away.

My mom had just died a couple of years before that and I was still grieving pretty hard. My world was out of whack and I just wanted… OUT.

I’m happy to report… I’m in a better place now. The trip to Belize turned out to be my wake-up call, a way of stripping all the preconceptions from my personal life’s canvas. Once that canvas was clean, I had a lot of space to paint more of what I wanted. Then began a time of longing for clarity and searching for purpose. Now I travel with intention and no longer run away but run toward.

The Vincent Family, on their 160km bike ride down the Florida Keys.

The Vincent Family, on their 160km bike ride down the Florida Keys.

Lee and Tim Vincent, Canadians from the Yukon territory, have embarked on several years of adventure travel with their son. They realized that they needed a pause from their regular life, so they planned a family travel sabbatical and now spend their time homeschooling their son as they drive around the U.S. in their truck camper. They were looking to focus on life, adventure, and family.

In their travel lifestyle, they spend lots of time together, learning and adventuring. Some of their favorite activities are biking, kayaking, white water kayaking, surfing, waterskiing, stand up paddle boarding, and hiking. They describe all of their many adventures on their blog, Chasing the Sun.

“We got off the hamster wheel three years ago in search of something better and have not looked back,” Lee told me. “It started with us deciding that enough was enough in terms of financial wealth and that playing is more important than amassing wealth for ‘someday.'”

Are you thinking of embarking on some travel in the future? If so, what are you running toward with that trip? What truth are you seeking? How will this trip enrich your life, even after it’s over?

One goal might be to provide a rich educational experience for your children. Another might be to pursue some creativity or adventure of your own–music, writing, skiing, biking, developing your spirituality, whatever… Or maybe you’re journeying somewhere to help others. Or spend more time with your kids. Or are you simply looking to take a breather… and quiet the noise that has been in your life for so long?

Whatever it is, my hope for you is that you see travel as a beautiful opportunity to grow as a person. If you’re a family traveling, then surely teach your little people about being curious, caring, conscientious citizens.

Travel deep and wide. See your trips as a way to run toward your purpose, toward what you want, toward clarity, not as a way to run away from what you don’t like. See your travel as an opportunity for deep understanding of both self and the world.

Your turn…

When and where will you travel next? What are your goals for this trip? What do you hope to bring back with you? Please leave a comment below and share your story.