If you read here, I think it’s safe to say you’re a traveler. Probably one who travels not just to take selfies but to learn and change and grow in ways you never could have imagined. That’s why I’m delighted to share this interview about transformative travel.
Deidra Razzaque is a transformative travel coach based in the US. After studying abroad in college, Deidra served in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, and then lived there with her husband for nearly a decade. Now, with an MA from the School for International Training (SIT) and 20 year’s experience as an educator, coach, and trainer, Deidra is helping others live vibrant lives of travel and transformation through her coaching practice. You can find Deidra at www.athomeintheworld.us.
Deidra, what is transformative travel?
At its heart, transformative travel is a catalyst that kicks a deeper, wiser part of you into action. I’m interested in this because it’s about living as fully as possible. It’s also about increasing your awareness, your connections, and your authenticity.
When you have travel experiences that break you out of your customary ways of thinking and acting, along with the opportunity to process, understand, and integrate what you have experienced, this becomes part of the groundwork that will encourage and create a healthier world for all people.
Transformative travel will be different for every person. Sometimes it’s a very internal process—it’s not visible to everyone, but you know the ways that your perceptions and beliefs have change. And sometimes that transformation is very visible to others as well. The colors you wear, the things you say, the food you eat, the people you spend time with, the causes you support, the work you do –sometimes all of that shifts after a profound intercultural experience.
Often, transformative travel involves contributing in some way to the place you are visiting, which can take many forms. It also involves allowing yourself to take in what you are experiencing, or have experienced, and then apply it to your life beyond the travel experience.
I think transformative travel is also about walking in the center of joy. That’s not to say that transformation of any kind has only positive elements—a lot of times you feel highly challenged before you can begin to see any positives, but joy arises whenever we are truly present with one another and with ourselves.
Tell us a little about your travel background.
For me, travel is not just something you do, it’s something you are. To be a traveler is to be on the lookout constantly for that which is vibrant, fascinating, or thought-provoking in any experience.
From as far back as I can remember I have been in love with the idea of traveling. As a kid, I was fascinated by stories and maps. I remember poring over the atlas for hours and hours while imagining fantastic tales about my life in far-away places. I would fall asleep reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond or The Little Princess, and then dream of Barbados and India. I grew up with my grandparents, who were from Slovenia, and my father was from Bangladesh. I often felt like I was really from all those other places, and that I was just perched in Michigan, where we actually lived, ready to fly somewhere else.
Curiously, my family wasn’t interested at all in global travel. Sometimes I felt like they had expended all their effort getting to Michigan, and that was that– they were rooted. When I was a kid, we sometimes spent summers at a beach town in Michigan where my aunt lived, and we went on a few road trips down south. I didn’t travel overseas until I was in college, when I studied abroad in Caceres, Spain and traveled around Europe.
After college I lived in Washington, DC, in a neighborhood where there were native speakers of over 36 languages. It was enthralling just to walk down the street, watching and listening. Later, I worked in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, and I traveled in Central America. I met my husband, who is Costa Rican, while I was in the Peace Corps, and we lived there for nine years. Now we travel whenever and wherever we can, and we’re excited to help our kids fall in love with the world as well.
Can you share a transformative travel experience you’ve had?
One of my most profound experiences was during my time with the Peace Corps. I was offering workshops in schools on sexual abuse prevention. After one of the workshops, two young girls came up to me and told me that they had realized while I was talking that they had been victims of abuse. We were able to get them support, and their abusers were prosecuted. It was amazing to me that despite my limited Spanish and little understanding of the local culture, I had been able to make a connection with these girls that impacted their well-being in a huge way.
How can we make travel a transformative experience?
There are things you can do before, during, and after your travel that will encourage transformation.
Beforehand, think about why you’re traveling. Ask yourself what you’d like to contribute and what you would like to receive from this experience.
Set an intention as a traveler. Think about what kind of traveler you plan to be. And ask yourself what kinds of interactions you hope to have with the people you encounter, and how you would like your presence to affect the places you visit. You can do this before you travel, but you can also do it throughout your day as a traveler. If you find yourself feeling nervous or frustrated, take a deep breath and set an intention for that moment. Choose to see yourself as courageous or engaged or whatever it is you really need in that moment, and you will be amazed at how that intention shifts your perception of what you are experiencing.
Be present with what is. Spend some time during your journey NOT taking pictures and NOT blogging about your experience—just HAVE THE EXPERIENCE. That involves a bit of paradox doesn’t it? A moment ago I said to think beforehand about what you’d like your experience to be, but if you are present, you have to let go of your expectations and your plans. And in our daily lives we are often so accustomed to doing more and doing it more quickly—and yet to be present, you have to do just one thing and sometimes you have to do it slowly.
Finally, bring your travels home with you. Regardless of how anyone else views the experience you have had, you can look inside yourself and know what that experience means to you. And you can act on what you have learned. You can let yourself live differently because of what you know now.