One of the most significant travel trends in recent years – fuelled in part by social media – has been the growth of experiential travel, whereby the desire to be a ‘tourist’ – a passive, cocooned observer of alien landscapes and lifeforms – was replaced by a more profound need to connect with places and people.
Like all trends, this one has evolved, and industry insiders predict that 2017 will be the year of transformative travel. This is a shift which Wilderness Safaris welcomes, and with the opening of Bisate Lodge, our first ecotourism venture in Rwanda, one which we are uniquely well-qualified to drive.
The need for this new form of travel is a necessary consequence of modern lifestyles. “Today’s culture is device- and pace-driven,” says Jake Haupert, cofounder and president of the Transformational Travel Collaborative (TTC). “We’re disconnecting from ourselves, our relationships, nature, and culture. The external pieces of an itinerary don’t reveal the inner journey a trip can inspire.”
It’s this ‘inner journey’ which lies at the heart of transformative travel – a journey which involves a change in perspective, opportunities for self-reflection and development, and, ultimately, a deeper communion with nature and culture.
Whereas experiential travel was about making connections, transformative travel is the logical next step. It focuses on getting involved, and the legacy of change that can be created as a result.
The guest activities on offer at Bisate Lodge are entirely aligned with Wilderness Safaris’ assertion that ‘purpose is the new luxury’. Purpose is no longer about going where few others have been, or accumulating Instagram likes. It’s about the multiple, positive transformations that occur when a traveller visits Bisate, and returns home.
This is the so-called ‘hero’s journey’: the traveller venturing to a new, far-off place. Here, they acquire wisdom with which they then return home, to disseminate amongst their own community.
In the case of Bisate, this journey will likely focus on gorilla trekking and encounters with iconic mountain gorillas; visiting local schools; tree-planting as part of the Bisate reforestation programme and community walks (including experiencing the Gato Keza coffee farm).
It’s clear that each of these experiences can result in transformations and that, when they are undertaken in combination, the effect will be multiplied.
Transformative travel is about being challenged to leave our comfort zones, because it is only in this way that true impact will be achieved in the form of a deep shift in consciousness. This, of course is the transformative impact on the traveller.
The area visited can also be transformed – in this case through reforestation – while the local people see their lives transformed through new employment and upskilling opportunities, and increased exposure to the world beyond Bisate. The circle of transformation is closed when the traveller – our guest – returns home and spreads the word (the wisdom they have acquired) about the people, wildlife and landscapes of Rwanda.
By leaving behind any trekking gear that is no longer needed – to be given to members of the community – travellers are creating a tangible legacy that will endure long after they depart. The most significant change however will be in their own consciousness – they will never again be the same person. Their outlook on life will have been changed. For the better, naturally.
For many years, Wilderness Safaris used the tagline ‘Our Journeys Change Lives ’. In this, you can see the genesis of our approach to transformational travel, as the germ of this ‘new’ idea lies in our dedication to conserving and restoring Africa’s wilderness and wildlife by creating life-changing journeys and inspiring positive action.
You can learn more about the ‘why of Wilderness’ and our reasons to believe here: http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/blog/posts/the-why-of-wilderness
Take a sneak peek at our first Bisate photographs here.
Written by Nick Galpine, Wilderness Safaris