Extraordinary travel has always been en vogue—from the British aristocracy setting off on The Grand Tour during the Victorian era, to today’s billionaires enjoying the Monaco Yacht Show. The search for novelty and phases of fashion have driven various travel trends, with enriching, adventurous and thoughtful travel experiences becoming more popular in recent years. But while those with the cash have always been able to have amazing experiences abroad, now they want more than an experience—they want to be transformed.
The responsibilities of everyday life, whether it’s family, work or the demands of running a business, mean that leisure time can be limited for the cash-rich. Even the most exceptional holiday will inevitably come to an end, but transformational travel promises something that lasts longer than a week or so. Rather than just being a memory-making exercise, this new form of travel is something that could change a person profoundly, leaving them with much more than photographs.
That’s the idea anyway, and a whole sub-section of the holiday market is growing and adapting around it. People are looking for something more meaningful than the traditional holiday, and the first manifestation of this—experiential travel—has been hugely influential. Visiting another country and staying in absolute luxury, but never leaving the resort, has in the public consciousness started to reflect badly on a person's cultural sophistication. Experiential travel is about diving into everything a country has to offer, talking to locals and setting off on voyages of discovery. Transformational travel extends beyond even this.
Luxury travel providers are now hinting at the idea that their holidays can permanently change you for the better. This may be through your discoveries, for example finding yourself more open-minded, cultivated and generally enhanced through your adventures. More often, however, it’s tied to the health and wellness industry, and the modern trend for almost transcendental good health. Influenced by fitness gurus on social media and the various diet trends of recent years, people have an increasing appreciation that their lifestyle choices could result in something like a spiritual metamorphosis.
For example, a city break may still be a desirable prospect, but consumers are more conscious than ever of the effects of stress and overindulgence such a break can involve may have on them. Millennials are especially aware of their health, smoking and drinking less than their parents' generation and spending lots of money in the wellness industry. With this in mind, a visitor to London may take advantage of the plethora of high-end spas in the city, attend health-conscious events like booze-free concerts, or even schedule a meditation retreat into their stay.
Retreats such as this are arguably at the forefront of transformational travel, and can be found all over the world. As an antidote to stressful and sometimes unhealthy modern lives, a week spent hidden away with everything from yoga to a juice detox is a new kind of luxury—one which offers both a unique experience and long-lasting change. Despite the aestheticism involved with the whole concept of cleansing (both spiritual and physical) these experiences can hugely luxurious in other ways—whether it’s amazing facilities or world-class teachers, with many of these retreats commanding top prices.
Ten years ago it would have appeared strange to pay huge amounts of money for the chance to do nothing but drink broth and exercise for two weeks under a tropical sun, but this is increasingly seen as one of the most aspirational forms of travel there is. The fantasy of stepping off the plane on arrival back home, glowing, slim and serene, is hugely seductive and appeals to our human desire to improve ourselves, perhaps even change our lives forever.