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The Single Biggest Reason People Travel Has Nothing to Do With the Destination

Every trip has a purpose. We travel for business and for pleasure, sometimes to relax or to explore, to accomplish work or completely unplug.

People Travel

So what exactly does it mean to take a purposeful trip?

According to a new survey released today by Capital One, Americans are interested now, more than ever, in finding “meaning and purpose in their lives outside of their usual, daily routines.” And they are doing so by booking purposeful travel — meaningful and significant trips — that takes them out of the resort pool and helps them create transformative, once-in-a-lifetime moments instead.

For some people — nearly 74% of the more than 2,190 adults surveyed — purposeful travel means “discovering something new about themselves” while traveling.

“This research further reinforces our belief that straightforward travel rewards give people the flexibility to travel their way, allowing them to make connections and create memories that give our travels a true sense of purpose,” Lauren Liss, vice president of US card at Capital One, told TPG. 

TPG reader Will K. described “meaningful travel” as a deliberate attempt to learn something new. Stacia E. echoed the sentiment. When asked how she would define purposeful trips, she said it’s about “learning something new with people [she] loves.”

Traveling with people, it turns out, is a huge part of what makes travel meaningful. Capital One reported that 92% of travelers have taken trips with the express purpose of reconnecting with, and spending quality time with, friends and family members. In fact, it’s one of the aspects of travel TPG himself finds most powerful: the opportunity to share amazing experiences with relatives and other loved ones.

“When I think about the most meaningful trips I’ve taken, many have one thing in common: They were destination weddings,” TPG editor Jane Frye said. “Why? Because for me, traveling with my closest friends, celebrating something wonderful that no other tourist will be able to recreate is more special than any Instagram-fueled vacation.”

Survey responders also vocalized a desire for feeling fulfilled after traveling. And though it’s certainly not out of the question, that sense of satisfaction is harder to find alone, sipping mai tais on the beach, than doing things you consider rewarding with people you care about.

It’s a trend that’s already playing out in the travel industry. Earlier this month, Intrepid Group, a travel company known for its “purpose beyond profit” motto, launched a new line of tours designed specifically for millennial travelers, with a focus on sustainable and socially conscious activities.

The ethos of these tours echoes Capital One’s findings: Travelers want to explore new destinations while “making a difference in the world” and “connecting with … their crew.”

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