Travel can be more than simply visiting new sights, more than transporting to new locations. Travel can be a truly transformative experience which can offer entirely new perspectives on life and the world we live in.
We chat with Buffalo Tours’ Product and Marketing Director, Richard Ludwig, the driving force behind our innovative product development, to gain insight into the transformational effects of travel. From hiking alongside orangutans in the Bornean jungle to camping on the endless plains of Africa, Richard is an avid traveller with a thirst for adventure and offers a wealth of knowledge and experience – both personal and professional – within the travel industry.
Why do you think people should travel?
For those that walk down the jetway with an open mind, then travel provides a greater context for which to interpret life. Imagine a life exposed only to the baroque arts; you’d assume humans were only concerned with the dramatic, grand and exuberant - a very narrow picture. Now imagine that same life having experienced Surrealism, Impressionism, Pop Art, Cubism, Romanticism, and all the other movements of human expression.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from travelling?
Once you remove the social constructs of nationalism and religion, we all share a similar human experience. This is how travel erodes antiquated ideas of racism and sexism, leaving an unvarnished interpretation of the world’s inhabitants.
How has travel changed your life?
Travel has given me a career, a home, a partner and a deeper understanding of life. It’s forced me to be adaptable, to evolve as a person in a complicated world. But most of all, it’s given me hundreds of tales to regale – more likely bore – family and friends.
What are the benefits of interacting with local people while travelling?
For me, travelling used to involve learning about a country's history and culture with only the aid of a Lonely Planet guidebook - until I lived and worked Myanmar. During that time, I always travelled with guides visiting local communities whenever possible. These immersive experiences provide the access for greater understanding and meaning throughout our travels.
What type of transformative trips can Buffalo Tours offer?
We hope all our trips in some way can be transformative. Even those travelling just to lounge on a beach and return with a better understanding of themselves. However, Buffalo Tours do offer a number of experiences that are geared for those in search of something more when they travel. In Chansar Village, a community on the outskirts of Siem Reap, our team has created an immersive community-based tourism program which includes learning about local farming practices, taking part in local craft workshops, monk blessings, and homestays with local host families.
Have you personally taken a transformative trip?
Yes – a trip to Beijing involving a trek along the Great Wall completely undid the stereotype of the Chinese. It wasn’t life-altering, but it did transform me in unexpected ways. All of my previous exposure to the people of China were from the large group tours that occupy the airports, sights and malls of Southeast Asia. When I actually visited China, my expectations were shattered the first evening I arrived. A few local elders sat at our table and we continued to drink together into the wee hours using a combination of broken English and ad-libbed hand gestures to communicate. At the end, they paid the tab and walked us back to our hotel. The trip continued to unfold in similarly unexpected ways – the ancient lady hand-making dumplings for breakfast, the kind host at our guesthouse after our trek, the lively evenings in the ‘hutongs’ eating leg of lamb, the list goes on.
How does a transformative trip look to you?
Transformative experiences should be mutually beneficial for the traveller and the locals - the exchange of ideas is a key component. The experience’s emotional impact is also a consideration. A Phi Phi Island speed boat tour is purely about enjoyment, whereas our transformative experiences have more depth. From the operational side, health and safety play a vital role to ensure the right environment because an uncomfortable situation can lead to a negative transformative experience. But the most critical aspect is that we work with the right partners intent on finding travellers with the open-mindedness to be transformed.
We hope you enjoyed hearing all about one of Buffalo Tours’ adventurous leader’s transformative travel experiences and how we work together to change lives through travel. If you’re interested in embarking on your own transformative travel journey, reach out to Buffalo Tours and let our experts help craft your tailor-made experience.