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What Purposeful Travel Means to Me

Oct. 24, 2018
15 min read
Brian Kelly PeaceJam Guatemala
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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.

Each year, I seem to ponder the concept of purposeful travel more and more. Travel is powerful. It enriches my life and gives me the opportunity to see new places, but it goes beyond that. Because I spend so much time on the road (or in the air), I want to make sure each and every trip counts. To me, purposeful travel means three things: giving back, bonding with friends and family and exploring responsibly.

Giving Back

PeaceJam is a nonprofit organization close to my heart. With a strong focus on peace education, the nonprofit brings Nobel Peace Prize winners to conferences for teens around the world, inspiring youth to take positive leadership roles in their communities. TPG has funded and attended Peace Jam conferences across the globe, including Guatemala, Ghana, South Africa and even right here in the US. Hearing stories about the adversity each Nobel Peace laureate has overcome to bring peace to our world is beyond inspiring, and I'm in awe of the strength and intelligence of the youth attendees who are determined to improve their communities.

Earlier this year, my team and I traveled to Puerto Rico to give back to those affected by Hurricane Maria. Being on the ground to survey the damage firsthand and hearing stories from locals was heartbreaking. You may not be able to personally travel to a location after a destructive event, but you can always direct your efforts by participating in a drive for supplies or donating money to an organization like Bethenny Frankel's #BStrong.

The TPG team and I also marched together (well, rode on our 747-themed float) at the DC Pride parade last year in support of Rainbow Railroad, an extraordinary organization helps LGBTQI people escape state-enabled violence, murder or persecution. While I traveled to DC to support this organization, Rainbow Railroad is fighting to make destinations all over the world safe for LGBTQI travelers — making the world a safer place to both live and travel in for us all. This year, along with help from TPG readers that donated over $200,000, we saved 21 LGBTQI lives.

There are so many ways to give back when you travel, even beyond the organizations I've listed above. Your efforts can be as personal as bringing a pack of pencils along in your suitcase for Pack With a Purpose or taking the time to chat with locals during your journey.

Traveling With the People I Love

What's the point in seeing something amazing if you can't share it with friends and family? While I love solo travel, I'm often traveling alone for work and welcome a family trip whenever possible.

My parents and I in China.

My parents are the best travel companions ever. They keep up with my nonstop pace, and seeing my favorite places through their eyes is like learning to travel all over again.

My parents on the Emirates A380 in first class.

Plus, seeing them light up when flying them in Emirates first class was truly priceless. (Is this how they must have felt at my first baseball game, or when I graduated middle school?)

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One of my favorite trips was traveling to Egypt and Jordan with my dad. Some of his best travel qualities include (but aren't limited to) making epic dad jokes, being a solid wingman, a great seatmate and his openness to adventure. Of course, I love traveling with my mom, too.

We had a pretty amazing round-the-world trip last Thanksgiving, which included visits to Dubai, London, Beijing and Bali — we even got trapped in Bali during the volcano eruption.

Our most recent trip was just a few weeks ago, visiting South Africa for a PeaceJam conference and later, a safari. My mom had the patience of a saint, as always, and my adventurous dad even went paragliding with me. We embarked on a safari, seeing elephants, lions, alligators, hyena and more, making memories I know I'll never forget.

My friends are pretty awesome travel companions, too, bringing curiosity, excitement and never-ending laughter along on all our trips.


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Saga: a long story of heroic achievement, especially a medieval prose narrative in Old Norse or Old Icelandic.

A post shared by Brian Kelly (@briankelly) on

One of my all-time favorite trips was visiting Iceland with them over New Year's Eve — and then warming up a few months later in the Turks & Caicos.

My best tip for having a meaningful trip with friends and family is to remember — in addition to documenting your memories — that it's important to look up from your camera and phone and really live in the moment. Oh, and being patient and flexible is key.

Exploring Responsibly

Having bucket list adventures is important — I love a solid adrenaline rush. But making sure these epic experiences are done responsibly and sustainably is something I always prioritize. Ocean conservation is especially close to my heart: I'm an avid diver, and keeping the oceans clean and the reefs intact is a cause that's very important to me.

When traveling to dive, hotels that focus on sustainability always win points with me. During my most recent trip to the Maldives, I stayed at Baros Island, a resort dedicated to being eco-friendly. Baros uses biodegradable chemicals for cleaning along with recycled water, and is dedicated to the care of marine life and reef conservation. Seeing a family of manta rays while snorkeling and knowing the hotel was doing everything in its power to ensure a safe environment for these incredible creatures was really special.


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"They're like 4 planes taking off." - @briankelly ?✈️✈️✈️✈️ Tag someone you'd love to go snorkeling with!

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Earlier this month, I went paragliding in South Africa, which was another exciting adventure. Seeing Cape Town from high above (and watching my dad fly through the air, too) was so much fun. The winds were perfect, and the experience helped me conquer my fear of heights. Plus, this is a low-impact sport: it doesn't use fuel or alter the environment.

Trekking to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda was another unforgettable trip. These magical creatures are slowly losing their habitat, but the staff that runs these amazing treks is dedicated to protecting the species. It was incredible to see these mammals in their natural environment, and also to know I was joining a responsible tour operator committed to conservation.

Brian in the jungles of Rwanda.
Brian in the jungles of Rwanda.

So the next time you book a trip, decide what's important to you and know that there are countless ways to travel with purpose.

Featured image by Photo by The Points Guy)