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We’re partnering with Capital One to launch our new Purposeful Travel Hub. If you have unique ways you like to give back when you travel or just love exploring new places with family and friends, we want to hear about it. Share your most treasured travel moments and purposeful travel tips with us using #MeaningfulMoments.
People travel for many reasons. But surprisingly, the single biggest reason people in the US travel isn’t to get some well-deserved rest and relaxation or escape the tedium of ordinary life.
According to a new survey released Thursday by Capital One, Americans are interested now, more than ever, in finding “meaning and purpose” in their lives outside of their daily routines when they travel. One way to do this is to connect with locals. Another is to work deliberately toward creating better opportunities for others beyond your own backyard.
For the staff at TPG, we are fortunate enough to participate as a company in purposeful trips with PeaceJam, a nonprofit organization that connects Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and youth from countries across the globe for once-in-a-lifetime leadership conferences. The symposiums help teens to develop leadership skills and to learn to take on leadership roles in their schools and local communities. TPG funds and attends PeaceJam conferences in Guatemala, Ghana, South Africa, East Timor and Liberia.
Last month, I was fortunate enough to join TPG’s PeaceJam trip to Guatemala, and I was inspired by the sage words of Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu, who fought for the rights of indigenous people and for peace during Guatemala’s brutal and decades-long civil war.
“I’ve fought because I have a special reason,” the esteemed laureate said at the PeaceJam conference in Guatemala. “Because I don’t want those crimes to be forgotten, and I don’t want you and your children and my children to experience the same thing again.”
Afterward, Menchu told TPG how much she enjoys working with Guatemala’s youth. “There is a great youth involvement in our democracy,” she said, “in the search for democracy.”
And I was also blown away by the strength and fortitude of the teenagers at the conference.
Together, we learned about the obstacles they face, and participated in workshops that helped them build upon their creativity and critical thinking skills. The teens all seemed eager and driven to make a positive difference in their communities.
Being in Guatemala also exposed me to a culture I personally had never experienced, which is one of my personal favorite reasons to travel. Interacting with the teenagers at the conference and with locals in the cities of Panajachel, Guatemala City, Antigua and Chimaltenango, we immersed ourselves in the Guatemalan way of life and learned about the history of the country.
Our team is not alone in finding an immersive experience in local culture a major component of a meaningful trip. About 80% of the adults surveyed by Capital One plan to take a trip that “allows them to connect with local culture.” This can certainly benefit the traveler, by broadening his or her horizons. But when two distinctly different cultures convene, it makes the world a more understanding, empathetic and accepting place for us all to live.
The PeaceJam Foundation also encourages the public to perform acts of peace: thoughtful actions that can inspire meaningful change. As a traveler, this could mean planning a sustainable trip, volunteering abroad or even doing a simple act of kindness in your home town. When we travel, we are vessels — capable of spreading peace, and communicating what we learn about the world with others.
As Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee said at the PeaceJam conference in South Africa: “Put your hand together with someone else’s hand, and try to create a community that will be proud of you. You see, every great person from Mandela to Tutu, all of them started small. What are you going to do?”
Of course, you don’t have to wait for your next trip to begin giving back. You can donate directly to the PeaceJam Foundation, or simply learn more about how to get involved directly with the Nobel Laureates and their individual causes.
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