“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.”
Exploring Washington state's regal Mount Rainier — Photo courtesy of Evergreen Escapes
At a time when nationalism, hate and intolerance seem to pervade headlines, Jake Haupert and Michael Bennett have never believed more in the transformative power of travel.
As two of the cofounders of the Transformational Travel Collaborative (TTC), they aim to bring to the mainstream a mindful approach when it comes to the ways in which we move around the globe and interact with others. They view travel as a catalyst for personal change that ultimately benefits everyone.
In summary, TTC wants to teach travelers “how to translate the cool stuff experienced and the lessons learned, back to real life,” so that folks can become “better global citizens” who remain tuned into nature, their environment, their immediate community and the world at large.
Bennett explains the aim is “coming home transformed, acting and living differently than before.” Perhaps most importantly, the organization adamantly believes in a positive, trickle-down effect that can impact the traveler’s entire network, potentially touching even those unable to leave hometown soil.
TTC cofounders Michael Bennett and Jake Haupert — Photo courtesy of Evergreen Escapes
We recently sat down with these two curious adventurers – in between enviable continental leaps – quickly learning that their passion is palpable, their enthusiasm electric. As the duo respectfully engages in dialogue and animatedly picks up where the other drops off, Bennett confirms that the collaboration has been "organic and fluid" since its official launch last fall.
While most find travel to be transformative by nature, this group’s unique concept seems to be just recently gaining momentum. Haupert addresses the over-connected world in which we currently live. He marvels, “We put intention into our health, our families, but not our travel, which is where we spend our hard-earned money.”
Warm and welcoming Namibian locals — Photo courtesy of Evergreen Escapes
The pair notes that even though excursions like pilgrimages and yoga retreats have become popular in recent years, these types of trips often prove to be “overly curated.” Haupert and Bennett’s preferred style of travel, which purposefully builds in time for self-reflection, unplanned exploration and the “art of slow travel,” seems to be resonating with people and is quickly gaining traction.
In fact, a Vogue story this January predicted that transformative travel will be the trend of 2017. (Instead of using the word “trend,” Haupert prefers to frame this as the “reclaiming of travel.”)
The Transformational Travel Collaborative offers services to travelers and those in the travel trade, helping to mindfully design trips and to properly prepare for “opening [one’s] eyes and heart.”
Bennett, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on transformational travel, explains how TTC leverages his research to provide tools like one-on-one coaching, program development and speaking engagements. These resources encourage conscious thinking before arriving at the airport and launching into “travel mode” long before takeoff. “That way,” he says, “you’re on the journey before you even leave.”
Kayaking in the Pacific Northwest's stunning San Juan Islands — Photo courtesy of Evergreen Escapes
The team is especially excited about a soon-to-arrive product (that anyone can pre-order online) – the “Hero’s Journal,” inspired by author and teacher Joseph Campbell’s The Hero's Journey.
This sacred journal, meant to be packed and toted along, will prove a powerful resource for extending the travel experience with its reflective questions, prompts, challenges and other inspirational tidbits. The product’s design allows both individuals and groups to state their intended travel goals before the journey begins, to track progress throughout and to review and share once back home.
Haupert began “traveling very mindfully” at a young age, he says, thanks to his globetrotting grandparents and Reiki master mom, influences who collectively led him to always “fantasize about what’s out there.”
He states, “I think that our travel self is our real self, when we’re most aligned, most in the flow.” It is his hope – and that of the entire collaborative – that travelers discover how to truly "follow their inner compass."
A roaring fire at Nimmo Bay Lodge, British Columbia — Photo courtesy of Evergreen Escapes
This July, Haupert’s adventure travel company Evergreen Escapes International merges with Bennett’s Muddy Shoe Adventures to create a new brand called Evergreen X, built entirely on transformative travel concepts. This will include highly customized, small-group experiences (EG-X); Muddy Shoe will continue to specialize in small group, transformative travel journeys (for example, 8 to 10 participants exploring Peru for nine days).
These offerings promise to invite deeper travel and to “bring a higher consciousness to the art of travel based on personal experience, contemporary science and ancient wisdom, through re-imagined client relationships, trip design and support materials.”
Yosemite grandeur — Photo courtesy of Evergreen Escapes
Bennett clarifies that he and his team have no intention of competing with anyone. Instead, they hope to enhance the field and complement the work of those who share their philosophy.
“Travel is innately transformative,” he says, “many people may not need us, but we can help those who do.” Haupert comments, “Travel, at its purest, inspires empathy and stewardship. Those two traits are what the world needs today.”
“I believe that no one else has spent as much time breaking it down and building it back up again as we have,” Haupert adds, “We want to reconstruct the travel experience with an eye toward changing travel globally.”
They know it sounds like a lofty goal, and yet they’re confident it’s easily within reach. Somehow, after speaking with them, we very much believe, too.
“This,” says Haupert, “is how we shift.”