Tag

transformational travel

costa rica, transformational travel, numundo
Central America, Transformation

What is Transformational Travel, Really?

transformational travel, costa rica, toby israel, numundo

Look closer. That yoga class is a portal into mindful movement and heightened self-awareness. That farm tour is an introduction to the revolutionary world of permaculture, closed-system loops, and community living. That simple sharing circle is an initiation into a different way of communicating and relating.

Look closer. Our world is shifting…evolving…transforming — for better and worse. Widespread ecological degradation, disconnection from self and nature, and lack of purpose urgently demand solutions. We must respond with a global shift toward regeneration, reconnection, and repurposing.

We are already responding. These shifts are happening.

They are present in the inspiring growth of the global ecovillage movement. They are present in the increasing traffic to platforms like NuMundo, Gen Europe, and Fellowship for Intentional Community.

Look closer, and you’ll see that the regenerative future is right under your nose.

 

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Last month, I had the unique privilege of both facilitating and participating in a press trip highlighting the thriving transformational travel movement in Costa Rica.

We visited NuMundo impact center Rancho Margot, an exceptional permaculture research, education and retreat center in the Arenal area, and Nammbu, the physical manifestation of your dream (eco) beach getaway. Along the way, we explored the theme of transformation in theory and practice, with ceremonies, yoga classes, excursions in nature, sharing circles, profound conversation and a collective effort toward digital detox.

 

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The pre-trip documents included the following thoughts on the multifaceted travel phenomenon at the heart of our mission:

“What is Transformational Travel?

This is not a simple question. As “Transformational Travel” becomes an increasingly popular buzzword in the wellness tourism industry, it is getting harder to pin down the essence of this trend. But we believe it’s important to try…

A woman jumps from a waterfall, conquering her fear of heights and reigniting her hunger for adventure and new experiences.

Is this transformational travel?

Following a difficult breakup, a young professional quits their job, sells everything but a backpack’s worth of belongings, and sets off to explore the world. They discover many ways of living they never could have imagined at home.
Is this transformational travel?

Burnt out from a stressful, overstimulated life in the city, a woman travels to Costa Rica for a 7-day nature and yoga retreat. After delving into many mindfulness practices she never had the time to try, she rearranges her world to support a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

Is this transformational travel?

A man participates in a plant medicine ceremony, facilitated by trained guides, and returns to his former life with entirely altered thought patterns and a new connection to nature.

Is this transformational travel?

The answer to all of these questions is yes. Each of these scenarios is, potentially, a perfect example of transformational travel. Of course, this is far from an exhaustive list.

 

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Overall, this evolution marks an exciting progression toward traveling with greater intention, growth, positive impact, and (of course) transformation.

Transformational travel is, to us, more than the “next big thing” to follow sustainable travel, intentional travel, and eco travel. It represents the deep potential for tourism (a rapidly growing global industry) to evolve into meaningful, life-enhancing journeys. And it simultaneously supports the notion that the tourism industry can be regenerative — rather than extractive — for local people and environments.

Those are some big shoes to fill. It won’t happen all at once, but we’re extremely optimistic about the trends toward eco-restorative and human-restorative travel in our home of Costa Rica… and around the world!”

 

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Beneath the Buzz: The reality of Transformational Travel

As I’ve mulled over this concept in preparation for our press trip(s), I’ve come to believe we can break down this buzzword into a couple key components:

Transformational travel is personal. It can be small, like deciding to keep a regular mindfulness practice or cooking at home more. It can be a massive life shift like moving to the other side of the world or starting a new business. But there is some kind of internal shift, personal growth, or deepening of self-awareness.

But it also ripples out to touch our communities back “home.” Transformational travel doesn’t stop when the trip ends. Or rather, a transformational journey does not have a fixed end point. Transformation is about process, evolution, and action. And so, the movement sparked by a transformational experience continues, according to the laws of inertia, far beyond the initial impetus. It follows us, fuels us, and ignites further shifts in our communities.

And it must have a positive impact on the places visited. This last element is crucial. It makes the difference between a nice-sounding travel trend and a real, meaningful shift in the tourist/traveler mindset. Transformational travel requires that we flip the traditional extractive model of tourism on its head — regenerating and contributing rather than Not to be confused with “eco-tourism” or “greenwashing,” transformational travel implies grassroots, integrated, inclusive initiatives that benefit local communities on their own terms.

 

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Of course, this summary is far from exhaustive. In conversations about transformational travel, each press trip participant offered their own perspectives, based on their own experiences, expertise, and passions. Some focused more on adventure and conquering self-imposed limitations, others on spirituality and self-actualization, and still others on getting off the beaten path and into truly local experiences.

All of these are valid, and all bring value to our dynamic conversation about the evolution of travel.

Because ultimately, transformational travel is about you. It’s about me. And it’s about how we’ll connect — to one another and to our communities — to create something real.

 

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What Do You Think?

This is a conversation, and there are as many answers as there are travelers experiencing true transformation through their journeys. So, I’d love to hear from you:

What does transformational travel mean to you? How can we do it, share it, and live it?

Please share your thoughts and experiences!


Originally published on the NuMundo blog.

This unique experience came to fruition in collaboration with Desafio Adventure Company, Blue Butterfly Events, and the Costa Rica Tourism Board.

Check out my upcoming transformational experiences at my retreats page!

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musafir, pirates, ship, kenya, africa, travel, distant relatives
Adventure, Africa, Nomadism

The Floating Pirate Community you always wanted to Join is Real… & it has a Name

Musafir is more than a ship. She’s an ideal—a vision and symbol of another way of life.

Those who built her and those who meet her find themselves swept up by the singularity of her story.

Musafir—or Msafr in Ki-Swahili—is Arabic for traveler. And indeed, the soul of the 70-foot (21-meter) dhow is travel. When I met her in early 2015, she lay at anchor in Kilifi Creek, on the North Coast of Kenya. Just 3.6 degrees south of the equator, Kilifi rests in equal proximity to the chaos of Mombasa to the south and the ancient port town of Lamu to the north, yet remains utterly tranquil.

During my two months in Kilifi, I visited the nearly-finished vessel often.

sailboat, dhow, musafir, distant relatives, toby israel

The approach to Musafir required a two-minute swim, or a one-minute kayak ride, through calm saltwater. At the boat’s hull, the water glowed a brilliant green as though illuminated by the vessel itself.

Louis, a 30-year-old Frenchman from Burgundy who arrived in Kenya in September 2011, rested on board, a feather in his dreadlocks and a worn pair of shorts around his narrow hips. He had been building the Musafir for three and a half years.

Work on the deck had begun only a week prior to my arrival, and a jumble of boards—some secure, others less so—sprawled before him. From several beams a collection of items hung: one hammock; woven baskets; a blue glass evil eye; a shard of mirror; solar lights; and a Kenyan flag.

The mirror reflected the bright afternoon sun as Louis spoke:

“It was the idea of freedom that called to me. The idea of doing something else. That’s why I started traveling, because I saw that this life that was suggested to me was not exciting. I think with this vehicle [Musafir] we can send a message somehow to the world. Not screaming it loud, you know, but by touching people pole pole [slowly in Ki-Swahili], showing that another way is possible. And if you follow your dream, even if you think “no, it’s impossible,” it’s possible.”

Louis, along with an Italian man named Paolo, is one of the project’s “initiators.”

kenya, sailing, dhow, kilifi, musafir, numundo, transformational travel

In theory, however, “the boat belongs to whoever is on board.”

He laughs and adds, “Me I’m just the Chai Wallah. My job on board will be to make chai and coffee. Just now, you know there are so many other jobs to do and no one else is around to do them.”

The project relies on donations, crowdfunding, and—above all—the resources of those who have devoted their lives to actualizing it. Louis, Paolo and many volunteers repeatedly poured their savings into building costs.

Historians differ on the exact origins of the dhow (a broad category encompassing many particular models). Some declare it Arab in origin, while others trace its roots as far as ancient China. A lateen sail and long, narrow hull differentiated the dhow from its Mediterranean kin. Many were constructed in Kerala, South India, known for the quality of its timber. Until Vasco da Gama’s arrival to Africa in the 15th century, wooden pegs and coconut rope—not nails—held the vessels together.

Kipini has long been a notorious hub of expert Swahili construction, and thus a natural, far-off-the-beaten-path starting point. Musafir made its maiden voyage from Kipini to Kilifi (more accessible and less isolated) in November of 2014. In four days, she traveled 75 nautical miles, carrying fifteen passengers, a goat who would not see the end of the journey, and several chickens who would.

Musafir, which, more precisely, is a jahazi (a Lamu-style dhow), is held together by copper nails rather than coconut rope. A few power tools for sanding and drilling assisted her construction, and she will eventually have an engine, too. However, Badi (the fundi, or master ship-builder), largely employed traditional techniques.

Cotton canvas sail; old wood from Kipini; axes and sweat.

musafir, boat, dhow, sailing, kenya, africa, adventure travel

Building a boat of this size by hand is an endeavor few would undertake, but those involved agree that their labor adds inimitable depth.

Louis elaborates, “Does it have soul? Does it have a special energy added to it? I think it does… Day after day of work, you start to know every piece, every nail. It makes it totally unique. You can be sure there won’t be two dhows like this in the world.”

Dhows once traversed the Indian Ocean, sailing along the Arabian and East African coasts, and following the monsoon winds all the way to India and back. They carried dates from Basra, curved daggers from Muscat, gold and ivory, carved chests, spices and mangrove poles—and ideas. The dhow enabled the exchange of languages, people and ideas as well as goods.

Likewise, Musafir will transport stories, goodwill, and possibly trade items. When the traveler and its travelers make port, “the vision is to have this exchange of culture—learning from communities and doing what we can to fill any specific needs.”

Louis, Paolo and others made an exceptional effort to integrate into their temporary homes. They learned Ki-Swahili and befriended the Kilifi men who spend vast swathes of time cleaning the nearby beach. They drank mnazi (coconut palm wine) and worked closely with local experts.

Cross-cultural understanding, they have understood, is an integral component of modern-day travel. Along the Swahili Coast—a vibrant blending of deep Islamic roots and centuries of Bantu, Arab and Indian influence—such insight requires time and complex awareness.

musafir, distant relatives, pirates, community, travel, africa, toby israel

What could inspire a group of unconnected people from around the globe to live and work together towards a common goal? It’s not the physical ship, though many involved love to be at sea. More than anything, it is the promise of freedom.
Dario, a volunteer from Sicily, explained,

“I think it appeals to people who are curious, adventurous… and who have a little craziness around, because it’s not a safe environment. I fell in love with the idea. To travel, to have access to any country. There are no roads, you know; you are just thinking where to go and you go.”

Travel represents both a means and an end. For these Musafiri, there is no “after” in sight—only oceans and journeys to discover.

Dario peeled a mango with a recycled blade and spoke over the snapping of the green tarp overhead as the wind churned and the light became hazy with the setting sun.

“Musafir is about traveling,” he says. “It’s about life. It’s about getting to know new cultures, new people. It’s about growing, because while you travel across the globe you’re able to learn many, many things that can be illuminating. It’s about helping out as well. It’s an idea that can amuse people, because if you think about building a 70-foot sailing boat in order to travel around the world, wow, it’s a bit of a crazy idea. But eventually… You’re sitting on it. The boat floats. We’re here talking about it. So it’s a project that shows that if you really want something, you can do it.”

To leave the ship, I could either climb down the rope ladder on her port side or jump into the warm waters of Kilifi Creek. The inimitable Distant Relatives Ecolodge was only a five-minute walk away. Their eclectic blend of earthy vibes and tropical hospitality served as a base for the Musafir team, as well as myself, for some time.

musafir, kenya, kilifi, distant relatives, transformational travel

 

When Louis and Paolo first arrived in Kipini, many of the villagers regarded them with suspicion.

Why did they live in poverty while spending large sums on Musafir’s construction? Why wouldn’t they use the finished ship to turn a profit? With their long hair and beards, the villagers concluded, the men must be undercover Mossad or CIA agents come to spy on them.

The answer to these questions, however, was and is simple:

Musafir is not a business. She is a message.

Dario concluded, “It’s important as well to come down here and understand what it means to take part in such a big project. It’s very challenging, and it’s wonderful in itself. It teaches you a lot—shows you great beauty.”

For those who dreamt her into being, Musafir is a message of freedom and unity. She is a lesson in perseverance and an example of a way of life not yet lost to the world.

When she sets sail, a traveler’s soul will go with her.


Anyone inspired by this project has several options. One can, if the fit is right, sign on as a volunteer for several months. Alternately, one may support the project financially by donating here.


Originally published on NuMundo’s Transformational Times. 

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finca la flor, transformation, costa rica, yoga retreat
Central America, Culture, Transformation

I’m not responsible for anyone’s Transformation

Saturday, 23 June, 2018 — Finca Agroecologica La Flor, Cartago, Costa Rica — Yoga & Mindfulness Immersion

I sit straddling the drum, rocking forward with each beat—the only way I know to comfortably play this instrument.

My knee has slipped off the mat and onto the hard studio floor, but the pain dulls in the background, my focus absorbed in rhythm. Driving rhythm. Holding rhythm.

As I relax into the drumbeat pattern, I am able to expand my awareness to the people in the circle with me: One has moved to the back of the room to dance; others lie down, motionless; and others sing, sway or clap in conversation with the music. A web of sound makes our many points of connection nearly-tangible.

finca la flor, yoga retreat, transformation, costa rica, travel

I should be exhausted after co-facilitating our first “Yoga & the Art of Listening” retreat at Finca la Flor, Costa Rica, but I have wings.

Maybe it’s the cacao we drank, still sharp and bitter in my throat. Yet, this sense of inspired-ness—of in-purpose-ness—has been building since day one of our five-day experience.

Eyes closed to hold onto our rhythm, I see the room in my mind’s eye instead: low light, candles at the center of a rainbow of yoga mats, faces glowing—transformed.

“I did this!” my ego wants to shout, claiming for itself all the credit for this transformation, but no… there’s something truer beneath this voice:

At my core, another, wiser self is in awe. I am in awe.

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In retreat, as in ceremony, we have each held space for one another to delve inward and to expand outward. I am in awe of the sheer beauty and courage and power of each individual who answered the call and co-created a unique container for accelerated growth. I am in awe of the journey that brought us to the selves sitting together in our closing ceremony, expressing and blessing with joy and freedom and grace.

My ego, of course, is wrong. I didn’t do this.

I didn’t make this transformation happen in the space of five short days. That would be madness. An impossible task.

Each participant was responsible for their own growth and (dare I say it?) transformation.

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I—as a co-facilitator, co-creator, and co-learner—may have shared movement and mindfulness practices. I may have designed a schedule. But I am not responsible for the scene tonight, which makes me (rarely sentimental) feel like tearing up.

This is why I prefer the term “facilitator.” A facilitator facilitates individual and collective self-inquiry and development through invitation, sharing, and loving support. A facilitator does not presume to have any monopoly on knowledge—or potential outcomes.

After this experience (the first of hopefully many to follow), I feel grateful, blessed, honored and inspired by what I helped to create. But I do not feel the pride of ownership, because I don’t own this outcome, laid out tonight in my mind’s eye, dancing over drums and twining with the taste of cacao. I recognize that our collective effort, love, and generosity made the experience what it was.

I didn’t do this; we did.

And I am in awe of that.

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