Making Travel Meaningful

This young man was incredibly eager to practice his French with me.

To some travel is about sightseeing. To some it is about collecting memories. To some, travel is about bragging rights.

It is all these things but I think that travel should also be meaningful. It should have meaning in your life and, hopefully, in the lives of the travelers and locals you meet along the way.

Some of the travel I did this year was interesting but not very meaningful. It was work related giving me only brief opportunies to slip away into the local scene.

Fortunately, some was quite meaningful. I’m thinking especially of my trip to India. There, I traveled close to the ground. I had enough time to quietly wander and observe.  I lived with a family for five days, stayed at an ashram for a week and then traveled with a wonderful solo travel newbie for a while. People are the common theme for me when it comes to meaning. Understanding people and, by consequence, better understanding the world and myself.

This is the second in my series of three posts I’m writing that are sponsored by Scotiabank to promote the new Scotiabank Gold American Express Card (available in Canada). It’s an interesting assignment in that they’re not asking me to simply plug the card. They want me to let you know about it within frameworks that make sense for me. Last month, I wrote about Saving Travel Dollars with Loyalty Programs. I consider this to be important because when I manage money strategically I get to travel more. Also dear to my heart is traveling in a way that is meaningful. Using points gets me to meaningful travel more often.

Udaipur, India

Morning prayers in Udaipur

Three ways to make travel meaningful.

Scotiabank’s slogan is “you’re richer than you think”. In the case of travel this can mean you’re richer with loyalty points so that you can travel more often. But, more importantly, it can mean that your life is richer thanks to the experience of travel through the card. Because of your ability to travel in meaningful ways. This will mean different things for different people. For me it means connecting with people to:

  • Learn
  • Discover
  • Understand

Kalmini was my cooking teacher.


When in Udaipur, I took a cooking course at my hotelier’s home. It was an amazing chance to learn how to cook Indian food well. At least, that’s what a foodie would take away from this. For me, it was an opportunity to ask questions about my teacher’s life and look at the details of her home – it’s size, decor, what was on the shelves, photographs and more. It was more a chance to learn how the Indian middle class live than to learn how to cook. But, of course, you could do that too. :)

A pause between brides shopping for gold for their weddings.


In the commercial streets of Udaipur I discovered shopping the Indian way. This was not the bizaar of Pushkar or Rishikesh both of which are largely targeted at tourists. This was a street in which I was one of maybe a handful of westerners. On this street I discovered the economy of wedding season in full swing. Gold is to weddings in India as cake is to birthday parties in the west. It was being bought and sold in every other shop most of which were no more than six feet wide. Mothers and daughters crawled up onto sheet covered mattresses and sat cross-legged in front of counters of gleaming jewellery to purchase gold for their wedding day.

India is s a crowded, interesting country.


It’s not until you’ve been to India that you really understand the nature of its busy society. It’s actually quite difficult to take a picture of crowd in a way that communicates the claustrophobia that one feels. This photo comes as close as I got. There was polite pushing and shoving and when people saw my amazement they smiled showing that there was no road rage – it was just par for an afternoon.

Towards Trips of Meaning

Meaningful travel does not have to be half-way around the world. It can be in your own province or state. And saving the money can be as easy as using your credit card for purchases you would make anyway. Gas, groceries, dinner out, entertainment… you can turn those every-day needs into relevant and meaningful travel rewards using the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card (with the caveat that the card should be paid off every month so that you don’t lose more in interest than you gain in loyalty points.) This card allows you to:

  • Redeem points for all aspects of your trip – including taxes and surcharges – or use them for part of your trip and pay the rest on your card.
  • Buy an entire trip with your card and then redeem the points to cover your purchase. As you buy your trip you are actually earning more points you can use to pay for future trips.
  • Book for any time of year. There are never any blackout dates and points never expire.
  • Use points to create a credit balance on your card for spending as you travel. I really like this benefit.
  • Save on travel insurance because so much is included with the card: Travel Emergency Medical Coverage, Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Insurance, Flight Delay Insurance, Lost Luggage and Delayed Luggage Insurance, Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance, Rental Car Collision/Loss Damage Insurance, Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance, Retail Insurance: Purchase Security and Extended Warranty and Price Protection.

I hope that my Canadian readers will check out the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card to see how you might use it for meaningful travel in the future.

  • The Travel Type

    I totally agree that meaningful travel doesn’t have to happen in a far off land, it can be right in your very own country, or even your hometown!
    “Meaningful” means something different to everyone, and I’m glad that you recognized that by acknowledging that for you it means connecting with people. Not everyone knows what is meaningful for them.
    Finding what is meaningful to you is what my website The Travel Type is all about. I want to encourage people to find out what makes travel meaningful so they can go out and get it! (maybe with a Scotiabank credit card…? 😉

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  • Phill Greenland

    Thanks for this awesome post! It’s so nice to read about making our solo travel more meaningful; and for addressing domestic trips specifically. On my short US trips, I’ve often thought, “I’m so familiar with my home country. How can I make my domestic trips more important to me?” I’m going to Vegas for a week next month … and totally turning myself over to proud locals, rather than doing the hyper-tourist thing.

  • Tour Plan To India

    Great information. Thanks for sharing…

  • Janice Waugh

    Ah, your walk across Spain – fantastic. It’s something I’d like to do.

    Happy New Year,

  • Anita Mac

    Love that you are talking about making travel more meaningful. Sometimes I wonder if the desire for travel and the meaning of the places we visit get a little mixed up! Sounds like your time in India was pretty special. Nice that you spent more time with a family and experienced the culture from the grass roots. Felt that way about my walk across Spain…a meaningful journey that was well worth the effort! I met so many fascinating people from all around the world. Would like to take the next step to dive in and experience more from a local perspective.


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