17 May 2019

Jake Haupert, co-founder, Explorer X, The Transformational Travel Council and Evergreen Escapes

The luxury travel sector has undergone a distinct shift in recent years, away from the material and towards the prioritisation of a more experiential form of travel that facilitates self-actualisation, personal transformation and growth. Jake Haupert, co-founder, Explorer X, The Transformational Travel Council (TTC) and Evergreen Escapes shares his insights into the industry’s forefront new trend.

TTG: How would you define Transformational Travel and how does this fit specifically with the luxury level of travel?

Transformational travel is any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life. Ultimately, it's a new philosophy on travel that connects travellers to their truest self and to others, cultivating a sense of purpose and belonging. This holistic approach raises awareness, cultivates consciousness, guiding the traveller into a state of flow that leads them into deeper meaning, fulfilment and happiness. The TTC believes that sustainable change starts with the individual, where the power of one creates a domino effect and a global tipping point by simply travelling from the inside out. The scope is personal; about transforming one's self and family, positively impacting humanity through gained awareness, empathy, connection, reverence, relationships and newfound wisdom. The TTC has developed this philosophy at the confluence of psychology, anthropology and spirituality, underpinned by research and evidence that provides practical knowledge, tools and sharing for both travellers and travel companies.  

Being that this a philosophy, it's free from any restrictive notions related to class, style of travel, or antiquated star rating system. None of that matters in the eye of the real explorer; it's a mindset – a results-oriented process that requires the traveller to call forth the explorer within, welcome challenge, push comfort zones by being intentional, mindful, engaged, humble, resilient and introspective, and finally, being transformed by taking meaningful action in your life. 

TTG: How do you cater to the demand for Transformational Travel experiences on the luxury end of the spectrum?

Data shows that travellers are increasingly prioritising meaning, purpose and wellness. This is due to our rapidly accelerating pace of life and hyper-connectivity in the digital age. Individuals and families are feeling isolated, distracted and disconnected from true purpose and meaning. 

This underlying cultural sentiment is contributing to a global separation from ourselves, one another and our values. These are very real and sharp pain points for many of us and perhaps even more so for those that have been able to accumulate the wealth necessary to be a ‘luxury traveller’. Unfortunately, this digital age has brought an end to real adventure, blame OTA's, social media and over-tourism, all of which have contributed to making travel too easy, predictable, surface-based and less fulfilling for the traveller, hosts and destinations. From researching, to booking to exploring, travel no longer serves us in the way that it used to and that has to change. The TTC and its Allies are trying to illuminate a new path forward for travel. As an industry, we have to serve the traveller by uncovering what their motivations are and stepping away from the traditional ‘What’ and ‘Where’ of travel and into the ‘Why’ we and ‘How’ we can do it better for the benefit of all. In this paradigm, travellers will illuminate ‘Who’ they really are, ‘How’ they fit into the world. 

We have to serve the traveller by uncovering what their motivations are and stepping away from the traditional ‘What’ and ‘Where’ of travel and into the ‘Why’ we and ‘How’ we can do it better for the benefit of all. 

Travel is already transforming to meet this demand that lay dormant for years and the forward thinking, thoughtful luxury travellers are awakening to the new possibilities this affords, where luxury is measured by sense of purpose, meaning, fulfilment, and ultimately, happiness. But I'm not referring to the kind of happiness that is rooted in ease, entitlement and empty motivations, I'm speaking of the happiness that comes with overcoming obstacles, moving through struggle, reflecting, healing, revering and giving. Travel has always been the catalyst and the venue for exploration of self and others, breaking down walls within us and between us.  

If personal growth and positive global impact are new the luxury, then the industry has to evolve to guide and support travellers in the pursuit of transformation, acknowledging that it is not a product, an experience or an itinerary, it's a holistic process and requires us to make meaningful changes in our daily lives, no matter how big or small. With this shift, luxury travellers and luxury travel providers will have to shift to a new, more appropriate approach to luxury, where the goal is self-realisation, higher-consciousness and a better understanding and increased reverence for nature and humanity. 

TTG: What do you think catalysed the shift from ‘transactional travel’ to ‘transformational travel’? What gave rise to this trend and why do travellers today demand this type of luxury over material luxuries?  

In this disconnected, digital existence we're feeling more isolated and alone than ever before. As a society, we've become separated from our loved ones, our neighbours and our own sense purpose and belonging. In the past, we would often reach for what we can grab on to, something tangible, resulting in a materialistic society. As we fall deeper into the digital existence, we're recognising how empty these things are, truly void of any real meaning and connection.  

As Dr Joe Pine recognised in his book, ‘The Experience Economy’, the economy has been moving from transactional to experiential for decades now, which has been incredibly positive. But now, Dr Pine and other thought-leaders predict a transformational economy, where the experiences go beneath the surface, start to resonate on a deeper level, inspire contemplation and activate change.  

Unfortunately, in this post-modern age of consumerism, commoditisation, overwork, and ironically, globalisation, travel has lost its superpowers. While travel experiences can create a domino effect of positive change, that's not the case if the experiences are transactional and void of genuine, open engagement.

Unfortunately, much of experiential travel has become too transactional and is no longer providing us with the intrinsic value we covet, the emotional return on investment we're seeking. This is where the magic of travel sits, in these tiny moments with one another, that carry so much significance in our lives and present a powerful opportunity to learn, grow share and understand.  

This sacred space of cross-cultural exchange should be genuine and organic, while protecting the ecosystem and honouring local customs, heritage and traditions. 

In a transformation economy, we transcend the transactional and the experiential by understanding that we're all playing a role on the same stage, no one better, no one worse, all engaged in real, organic interaction, based on honesty, vulnerability, intimacy and reality. Each opportunity for engagement should be a dance and finding a rhythm that builds a true connection and results in the realisation that while we're all different, we're really the same. 

In a time of cultural polarisation and increased xenophobia, we need to rely on travel like never before. The transformational travel philosophy is our most powerful solution to increasing environmental awareness, true-seeing, global understanding and sustainable change. The real benefits of travel come from being challenged, inside and out, transforming how we view ourselves, others and our place in it all. 

Travellers are simultaneously waking up to the power and possibility of what real travel affords us, from personal joy and purpose, to global peace and harmony. Travel isn't always meant to be fun and easy; it's supposed to challenge you and your world views. Travel has always been the way we break down walls, reduce fear, raise awareness and build bridges. I believe the real essence of travel is bubbling beneath the surface ready to take back its place as our most powerful ally.