The older I get, the more it seems as though life has a way of becoming monotonous, void of meaning, even dreadful for so many people around me. By no fault of their own, people see life as a chore, rather than a gift. With no means to connect to a deeper sense of purpose or meaning, the average person is left to survive instead of being given the opportunity to thrive. The lack of means to rise to greatness leaves people with a feeling of emptiness that is impossible to fill. Since we know only what is available to us, we gravitate towards comforts like social media and fast food to escape or numb the pain.

Lucky for me, I happen to have a mother who is passionate about travel, and equally passionate about teaching her kids lessons you can’t learn anywhere else. At a young age, she taught me about the value of travel by locals. Without any travel experience of my own, I wasn’t sure I believed her claims about how “wildly different” your travel experiences are when you incorporate local people. I also wasn’t convinced that travel by locals was something that I wanted, or even something actually worthwhile or better. How could hanging out at a local hole in the wall really be that much better than relaxing by the pool at a resort? With some reluctance, I decided to find out myself. And as much as it pained me to admit, when I returned from my very first travel experience at age 16, I told my mom she was right.

Travel by locals is the type of travel that lets you truly discover who you are. It creates a uniquely incredible opportunity for you to be completely vulnerable and completely yourself – in a way you can’t anywhere else. The type of locals that enjoy hosting travellers are the type of people that make you realize that no matter who you are or where you come from – you are perfect, exactly as you are. They make you laugh at yourself for ever believing that you were not good enough and they make you realize the enormous amount of value that you uniquely bring to the world. When you’re given the opportunity to be in a place where the amount of money in your bank account and the logo on your belt carry no weight, you’re able to be your authentic self – and you’re able to be happy.

My first trip to the Dominican Republic, 2011

Once I experienced this type of travel, I knew my value and purpose in a way that can’t be unknown. It’s the type of knowing that has enabled me to live a life of meaning and happiness. A life without dread, regardless of circumstance. I believe deep down, that we are all called to be something great. Sometimes, we just need to be given the opportunity to see that we can rise to the occasion.

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