Motivation is the reason you do things, the force driving your efforts. You can link everything from why you get out of bed in the morning to where you spend your summer vacation to motivation.
When you know what motivates you, it makes your goals easier to achieve because you’ll want to achieve them. Knowing yourself makes your travel more enjoyable, because you can fulfill the true reason you want to travel.
According to Lifehack, there are six types of motivation1, and they all apply to travel. Find your motivation to travel below, and once you understand it you can make your travel more enjoyable, and maybe even more meaningful.
We’re all familiar with incentives: if you do something, you get something good. This type of motivation might seem selfish, because there’s something in it for you, but it doesn’t have to be.
Spoiling Yourself Silly
You work all year to get two weeks off, and dammit you want to treat yourself like the queen (or king) you are. Your ultimate dream could be someone waiting on you hand and foot while you sit by the pool, bottomless cocktail in hand. If that’s the case, there are plenty of all-inclusives calling your name.
Having memories of a trip that last long after you return home is a huge motivation for travel. After all, if you get back and can’t recall anything memorable, did you really need to go anywhere?
Maybe you want to be able to tell everyone at work how awesome your trip was, making them instantly envious of you. This makes you better than them, and you gain admiration (or whatever). This one is tough to admit, but it’s a motivation that’s oh-so-human.
Fear motivation is based on avoiding something bad, be it a feeling (regret), an experience (stress), or a situation (you’re going to miss a chance). Travel can help you overcome fear, and it can also help you avoid it.
Fear of Missing Out
A popular motivation to travel is fear of missing out. Missing out on things that could have made you happy, excited, or a better person doesn’t mean you’re any worse off. It’s avoiding the regret of missing that’s a powerful motivator.
This is kind of the opposite of fear motivation, because instead of avoiding something you fear, you’re running towards it (or biking, or flying, or taking a boat, or however you prefer to travel).
Your motivation to travel could be to overcome your fear of meeting people, trying new foods, or speaking a foreign language. By traveling, you put yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to rely on yourself, where you have to overcome fear.
Whether it’s achievement to satisfy something you’ve always wanted to do, or whether you want to show the world that you’re capable of achieving, this type of motivation can fuel all different types of travel experiences.
Taking on a Challenge
Going somewhere tourists don’t usually go, conquering a trek, embarking on a monster road trip… These challenges aren’t easy and the pride of accomplishing them can be a huge motivation.
It doesn’t have to be something that nobody’s ever done, just accomplishing something you haven’t done could be enough motivation to travel.
Getting a certification, trying something new, gaining a new skill… Some people collect certifications and experiences when they travel, and I’m one of them.
I didn’t necessarily feel a burning desire to live beneath the sea, but becoming a Divemaster motivated my trip to Indonesia. It’s a proud addition to my list of accomplishments.
According to a TripAdvisor survey, for over 53,000 people growth is the number one motivation to travel2. Becoming a better you is a noble goal, and one that travel can help you achieve. It gives you the opportunity to become immersed in a different culture, and widen your comfort zone by adapting to new foods, customs, languages, and traditions.
Interested in why people travel? See our infographic on Why People Travel Abroad.
Having a Unique Experience
Doing something you’ve never done before can turbo-charge your personal growth. When you’re solving a transportation issue, communicating under pressure, or confronting a fear of talking to strangers, it might not seem like a good thing at the time but that’s when you grow as a person.
Learning About a New Culture
Travel expands your horizons, helps you learn about a new country, and fulfills (feeds?) your curiosity of the world. You travel to enhance your perspective, and expand your mind.
You want to return from traveling a changed person, a more understanding person, a more knowledgeable person. Ultimately, your motivation to travel is to make a better you.
Having power over your own life is motivating: make your own choices, not getting swept along in the flow, no one controlling you. Power motivation also includes the desire for power over other people, but it all comes down to wanting to do things your way (or no way at all).
Regaining Control of Your Life
Travel can help you get control back into your life by giving you a chance to get away and clear your mind. When things start to weigh you down: job, friends, obligations, responsibilities, family, whatever: getting a clear picture of you want is easier when you change your perspective.
Power of Freedom
Being a grown-up is awesome because you can make your own choices. You’re in control of your life, you don’t have to answer to anybody, and you can make things happen if you want to.
The desire to exercise the power you have over your own life could be fueling your motivation to travel. You want to prove to yourself (and possibly the world) that you don’t have to sit still and do what you’re told: you can get up and do whatever you want to. Yeah! Empowerment!
Ah, social acceptance. When are we humans not striving for this? Answer: probably never. As much as you fight the system and go your own way, relating to peers and make meaningful connections with other people can still be motivating.
Getting Closer with Your Travel Companions
Traveling with a friend or with your family might not be so much about the destination, as about the time spent together. Sharing experiences while traveling can strengthen relationships.
Your motivation to travel with certain people could be to create shared memories that you can bring up later, or to learn more about someone so you can be better friends.
Meeting New People
Your motivation to travel could including meeting new people, whether residents of the place you’re visiting, or other travelers. Making a social connection isn’t just a good feeling, apparently your brain gets better the more friends you make3.
Understand your motivation to travel, and you can use it to your advantage. Keeping it in mind while you plan your next vacation can make your travel more fulfilling. By excluding things you know aren’t meaningful, you can avoid wasted time and disappointment (how’s that for motivation?).
And hey, don’t limit yourself to just one of the motivations on this list. Your motivation could be a blend of the six types. If you’re motivated by achievement and social connections why not embrace them both?
Have a travel goal but you’re not sure where to start? Check out A Practical Guide for Turning Travel Dreams into Travel Goals