How to have more meaningful travel

Calvin Hanson

Calvin Hanson

What does more meaningful travel mean? For us, it means connection to the people and place. Here are our top ideas to have more meaningful travel!

We’ve traveled to over 44 countries and we’ve done each trip a bit differently. Some trips were one day and others three months. Some travels were more structured, while others were free of schedules or goals. Some were solo trips and others just Camille and I. Currently, we mostly travel as a family of five and stay 1 month at a time in places.

All trips leave a mark on us in one way or another but the most meaningful moments had the following characteristics in common:

Stay longer and go slower.

When we stay longer, our brain get out of rush mode. We can digest the places we stay at a slower more sustainable pace. We can enjoy finding new restaurants or hidden gems that are often missed when we stay for just a few days in a place. Many times you can find amazing rates on monthly stays. For example, we paid 70% off the nightly rate in Ubatuba, Brazil for a three-story house with marina view (one of our favorite stays in Brazil!)

Our Awesome Airbnb in Ubatuba with marina view
Our Awesome Airbnb in Ubatuba with marina view

Learn as much of the language as you can

If you know us, you know Camille and I are big proponents of language learning. We enjoy the intricacies and peculiarities of languages, but also we have found more than any other thing, language learning helps connect us to the people and connection to people leads to much more meaningful experiences.

We like to chat with locals on Language apps like HelloTalk before we travel and this can sometimes lead to meet ups in their countries. We have met some of our best friends this way! Disclaimer: You obviously have to use some wisdom on who to meet. Always meet in public places and with a friend or your spouse if possible.

Stay in Local Neighborhoods

Not only are they cheaper, but they help connect you to the local culture. While the tourists are at the big sites, you are eating at the very local restaurant where they actually serve homemade pasta. You can negotiate better monthly rates and stay in an apartment with a full kitchen. You may have to take public transport to the center but that can be an advantage as well!

We’ve met friends in local parks all over the world, just because we needed to help our kids get their energy out and happen to chat with other parents or park-goers.

Our local bus in Mexico took us to our Spanish Lessons
Our local bus in Mexico took us to our Spanish Lessons

Take local modes of transportation

The bus may have chickens or livestock on it in some countries like Guatemala or it just may be overwhelming like the Madrid, Spain metro, but one thing is for sure, you will find the locals there and you will get a deeper experience of a place and maybe some fun stories to tell!

Camille learning to use a machete in Panama from a local worker
Camille learning to use a machete in Panama from a local worker. Click the photo to see the tiktok.

Find out where the locals hang out and try to make friends

Simply walk by a bar or park and see if it is full of locals. Sports or clubs are great ways to connect to people of the same interest. Keep in mind “locals” doesn’t actually always mean you’ll meet an Italian in Italy. We live in a global world now and you could befriend a Italian Egyptian who sells you fresh tomatoes at the corner store.

If you didn’t notice, we believe the way to the center of a culture and more meaningful travel is through connection with its people and language. It can be scary as we face our fears of the unknown and speaking a foreign language, but when we press in, we see the fruit in our lives over and over.

Happy traveling friends.

THE HANSONS

We’re here to help you find the best gelato in Italy, and other less important matters.

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Learning English?

Camille wrote a book full of short travel stories just for English learners.

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