8 Easy Steps to Setting and Achieving Your Trip’s Purpose

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Setting Your Trip’s Purpose: Why It’s Important

You would think that when booking a trip, the purpose is clear. The objective is to travel. Travel. Learn. Grow. Easy, peasy. Right? Not necessarily. Vacationing is expensive. Get the most bang for your buck by setting your trip’s purpose. When setting your trip’s purpose, you’re giving the journey deeper meaning and higher value. You’re transforming this getaway into an invaluable experience of abundant learning and exponential personal growth. Go with a goal to grow..

1. Identify why you’re taking this trip.

Why have you decided to travel? Everyone has a reason. Maybe you’re celebrating an anniversary. Perhaps you just needed a break. You might be checking off an item on your bucket list. Ask yourself why, then drill it down so that you have a specific reason. Whatever the reason, it’s yours, and you should deliberately focus on it because this is your trip’s purpose.

For example, anniversaries are a time to reflect on a relationship, show gratitude for one another, reminisce about years passed, and celebrate the life you have created together. Essentially, your trip’s purpose could be one or all of these. Maybe the two of you already have a specific goal. If you’re trying to rekindle the magic or have decided to be more adventurous, your purpose could reflect that.

On the other hand, maybe solo travel is on your itinerary. It is all the rage lately. So, decide what you’d like to get out of the trip. Are you looking to gain confidence? Realize a dream? Maybe you’d like to learn about the world. Decide on your “why”. Why do you want to travel alone? Your answer is your trip’s purpose.

Setting Your Trip's Purpose

2. Identify how you will meet the set purpose by setting a S.M.A.R.T goal.

When I was a teacher, I’d have my students set S.M.A.R.T goals each year. According to mindtools.com, S.M.A.R.T goals were first introduced November of 1981 when Management Review published an article called, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives.” It was written by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham. At inception, these goals were intended for corporate managers. However, the practice of setting S.M.A.R.T goals has become incredibly useful for anyone trying to achieve all kinds of results in any area of life.

There are s few variations to the meaning of this acronym. For setting our trip’s purposes, S.M.A.R.T goals will be  be defined as:

  • Specific: Well-defined, clear, and unambiguous
  • Measurable: With specific criteria that measure your progress towards the accomplishment of the goal
  • Achievable: Attainable, not impossible to achieve
  • Realistic: Within reach, realistic, and relevant to your purpose
  • Timely: With a clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target date. Setting a timed, specific deadline creates urgency.

An example of a good travel-related S.M.A.R.T. goal:

Our family will spend quality time together so we can reconnect during our week long vacation in Puerto Vallarta by participating in at least five excursions or activities together. 

  1. Is the goal specific? Yes, I know what I want to achieve, who will participate, how I will achieve the goal and when we will work toward the goal.
  2. Is it measurable? Yes. I  can quantify the number of  excursions and activities we complete together. .
  3. Is it achievable? Absolutely. We will all be in Mexico as a family and we will all be able to participate in the excursions or activities.
  4. Is it realistic and relevant? Yes, it’s relevant to us and it is realistic. Since the trip is seven days and th goal only states that we are trying to participate in five excursions or activities together, I know this is achievable.
  5. Is it time-based? Yes, I know I have one week to participate in at least five excursions or activities as a family.

3. Share your trip’s purpose

In the example above, the trip’s purpose included my family. Therefore, I could never reach my goal  without communicating it to them. If your trip’s purpose includes others, be sure to let them in on it. When the actual goal includes others, the best thing to do is work together to create a purpose upon which everyone agrees.

Further, even if your trip’s purpose doesn’t include someone else, you should still share it. Write down and share your purpose, desired outcome and plan of action with whoever you think will be most supportive. This creates accountability.

Students would share their S.M.A.R.T. goals with me as well as their parents and each other. We called this person our “accountabilibuddy”. Accountabilibuddies serve as someone, other than ourselves, to hold us accountable as we progress toward goal achievement.

According to Dataquest, it’s important for you choose the right accountabilibuddy. Studies have shown that 70% of people successfully achieved their set goals when they chose a friend or family member for the role, as opposed to a stranger.

4. Be flexible and consider all the ways your trip’s purpose could be met.

It’s important to remember that there’s more than one way to shoe a horse. The S.M.A.R.T. goal example used above states that we will “participate in excursions and activities.” When I initially set this goal, the excursions were meant to serve as the family bonding time. However, the process of choosing activities turned out to be just as important. It gave everyone the chance to voice their opinion, feel included, and ensured that each person had something special to look forward to. Additionally, we were more open to each other’s chosen activities, even though some of us were nervous. As a result, we also shared in meaningful discussions and supported each other through difficult activities. Certainly, these supported the trip’s purpose.

If your trip’s purpose includes another person, be open to their ideas. For example, a couple traveling to celebrate their anniversary would share a purpose. Moreover, they would have to work together to define S.M.A.R.T goals.

Be Each Other’s Accountabilibuddies

It’s absolutely possible to travel with a partner and have separate purposes for the trip. In this case, you can decide whether or not your goals align is such a way that you could work together. or if you might be scheduling time apart. Either way, be each other’s accountabilibuddies. Support each other and celebrate together when you reach those measurable goals.

For example, your trip’s purpose may be to brush up on the native language. Your partner’s goal might be to learn about the area’s history. In this case, you could visit museums or other historical sites together where you each can work toward your individual goals. On the contrary, if your purpose is to learn how to surf, it may be more difficult to find common activities which align with each traveler’s needs. Having separate goals doesn’t mean you have to spend time apart. There’s no reason your partner can’t learn to surf, too.

Remain flexible and open to all possibilities.

5. Take frequent “temperature checks”.

It’s important to stop every once in a while to measure your progress. Are you on track to accomplish your goals? So, simply take a moment to ask yourself. Answer with evidence. A travel journal would be incredibly helpful for this reflection.

For example, if you visit Paris with the intent of brushing up on your French, you might ask yourself, “How many new words did I use in a conversation today?” If the answer is lower than the daily minimum you set for yourself, you’re not meeting your travel purpose. You should probably modify your plan of action.

6. Have fun.

Remember, you’re on vacation. This travel purpose isn’t your singular focus. Be sure to enjoy each moment. Make time to relax. Your travel purpose is meant to guide you and help you get the most out of your vacation; it doesn’t have to be the sole driving force of the trip. Remember this when setting your goals. Remember to make them achievable and realistic. If you’re struggling to meet your goals or aren’t enjoying the process, perhaps, you should think about hitting the reset button. Certainly, setting your trip’s purpose should not be a source of stress or tension.

7. Don’t let setbacks ruin your trip.

If you read the Travel with Purpose article, then you know that my monkey encounter didn’t play out exactly as I’d envisioned. It was far from a “setback”. I did enjoy it. However, if I’d have been in a different mindset, I may have viewed this as a setback. If I had, the days’ overall vibe could have been negatively affected. Since I had the big picture in mind, there was no way I’d let that happen.

Setbacks are bound to happen, though. Weather changes. Flights are delayed. Luggage gets lost. Accidents happen. Things don’t always go as planned. (Which is why you should never travel without insurance!)  When things go awry, it’s essential to maintain perspective. Accept that there is a problem and work calmly toward a solution, if one is needed. Sometimes, all you need is patience while the problem works itself out. Flexibility and an open mind can also work wonder in these situations.

Some Tips for Combating Negativity In the Face of a Setback

  • Breathe.
  • Remember that you are on vacation and Jimmy Buffett says, “When life gives you limes, make margaritas.” He’s also said, “Breath in, breath out, move on.”
  • Make a mental list of all that you are grateful for.
  • Take a step back and ask yourself, “What is the worst possible outcome in this situation? What is the best possible outcome?”  I promise the answers won’t be as bad as you think. As long as everyone involved is safe and makes it past this challenge in one piece, it’s probably not that bad.
  • Take a break from whatever is upsetting you. Just walk away and cool off. Listening to music has been known to help.
  • Try to see the big picture, push past it, move forward, and continue to work toward your travel purpose.

8. Do what you genuinely enjoy.

On our trip, I opted out of one of the family activities. I wanted family time, but then I chose not to participate in the Teen Adventure. Since my goal was to have family time, You might wonder, “Why would she do that?”  Even though partaking in this activity would have probably contributed to my cause, I knew my own limits and knew I wasn’t up for the physical demands. Knowing, too, that we were achieving our purpose in several other ways eased my mind. I had room to take a step back and feel good about it.

You don’t have to do things simply because they fit into this travel purpose you set for yourself. Do the things that are meaningful to you, things you genuinely enjoy. Most of the time, these will naturally align with your purpose, anyway.

Setting Your Trip’s Purpose is Easy

Setting your trip’s purpose doesn’t have to be hard. First, decide why you’re traveling and share your purpose with others, then (on your own or with your travel tribe) set a S.M.A.R.T goal to serve as your plan of action. Once you arrive at your destination, remain flexible, and measure progress often to see if you’re on track for meeting your purpose. Above all, have fun doing what you genuinely enjoy and do your best to minimize your reaction to setbacks.

Make the  most of every trip. There is so much potential to learn and grow through each and every experience. Prepare for each journey by setting your trip’s purpose

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Use S.M.A.R.T Goals, Achieve Your Travel Purpose


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