In today’s episode, we’ll talk to Claire Burt from Your Travel Analyst. Claire is from Toronto, Canada, and helps travel businesses (vegan and non-vegan) to make their travel experiences more meaningful and more transformational for as many different parties as possible – whether it is the local population, the traveler, the environment and the people you interact with whether it is hotels, restaurants, guides and so on.
While she mainly works with the travel industry, she certainly has many tips to share with you, the traveler, on how to make your travel experience more transformative. This is such an important topic because it essentially helps us get more of a meaningful experience for the investment of time and money you invest on your trip.
In this episode we discuss:
- What is transformational travel?
- Why and how the travel industry needs to change
- What it means to humanize the travel experience
- What transformational travel is and why it aligns with veganism
- Why vegans are an ideal audience for disruption in tourism
Learn more about what we talk about
- Finding Peace in a Frantic World
- How to make your travel experiences more meaningful
- The effects of meaningful travel in the surroundings
- By implementing these tips, you can make the most of your time and money
Other World Vegan Travel content connected with this episode
- A Magical Christmas in Alsace | Colleen Patrick-Goudreau | Ep 92
- S2 Ep 3 | Staying Healthy While Traveling | Tess Challis
- Lessons learned from an extended trip
Connect with Claire
Brighde: Hello, Claire. Thank you so much for joining me on The World Vegan Travel Podcast.
Claire: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Brighde: Yes. So I have known about you for more than a year now because you did a talk at our 2022 Vegan Travel Summit last year, and by the time this goes to air, the summit probably is passed by then, but you are actually doing some little spotlights on the Vegan Travel Summit about transformational travel and that’s gonna be our topic today. But before we get into all of that, would you mind telling us a little bit about who you are, where you are, and what it is that you do in the Vegan travel space because you are vegan yourself actually?
Claire: Yeah, absolutely. So, I am based in Toronto, Canada, and that’s where I grew up. So born and raised here. My business is called Your Travel Analyst. So I come with an educational background in the travel industry and in your travel analyst we do business-to-business work with travel businesses, especially travel disruptors. So people who are really challenging the norm of the travel industry. And I support these kinds of businesses in a research and writing capacity and project capacity as well. Like books, courses, presentations, and things of that nature. And I do a lot of work where I draw inspiration from other industries. So philosophy, psychology, science, art, and history add to really bring in a well-rounded and creative aspect.
Brighde: Wow, that’s really big-picture stuff.
Claire: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, it’s a little bit different.
Brighde: Awesome. And you’ve been Vegan for a while now, is that right?
Claire: I have, it’ll be six years this April, prior to that I was vegetarian for 13 years.
Brighde: Okay. Very similar to my story. I was vegetarian for a long time before I was vegan too.
Hmm. Okay. Alright. So the topic of this podcast is how we can meaningfully elevate our travels, but I’d love to understand a little bit more about transformational travel and what that actually is because I think it will be a new term to a lot of people. I’ve certainly been seeing it popping up in about the past year or so. So for those people that aren’t familiar, would you be able to talk a little bit about it, please?
Claire: Yeah, so transformational travel is a word that I think is floating around the travel space a lot these days, and I think there are a lot of interpretations of what it means. I was certified by the Transformational Travel Council in their transformational travel design program, and so the idea behind this concept is that travel is a really powerful tool that can help us as individuals. So it relies on these three pillars of self, and others on the planet at large.
So it’s really understanding that travel is this holistic, interconnected experience where everything and everyone is affected by it in some way. So it can be this really powerful experience that can help us grow as individuals. It can create positive economic opportunities for the places we visit and it can also be a conduit for powerful change within the planet as a whole. So it’s really just coming from a place, thinking about our travels more thoughtfully and more about the why and how as opposed to the where and what. So shifting the focus from the logistics more to why we wanna get away? How can we be ambassadors for change? It sounds really intense and intimidating for a lot of people, but I think that if we start small and just challenge ourselves and our preconceptions, that can be a good place to start.
Brighde: Okay. Fantastic. Thank you. So basically, you are advocating for a big change in the travel industry as a whole. What is it about the travel industry that you think needs changing actually?
Claire: Yeah, I think for a long time we have treated travel as a retail-oriented product. From a business standpoint, of course, that makes sense, in terms of making money and things like that. But in terms of the actual experience itself and what travelers are saying they’re looking for now in the sort of post-pandemic world. People are really looking for more meaningful, quote-unquote authentic, and even researchers suggesting different experiences that their family and friends have never heard of.
So, Really taking this on board as travel professionals, whether we’re tour operators or we’re travel agents. We need to really be thinking about, first of all, from a business standpoint, how are we standing out and what is our unique offer in this space. And also get our travelers to think differently and think more in-depth about, what is the outcome, what is the transformation or result from they’re looking for as a result of traveling, and why is it that travel can offer that.
This transformation outcome result, et cetera. I think that this can have a really powerful snowball effect in terms of people’s day-to-day lives. If a travel experience is really transformational or powerful for people, the way in which it can impact their mindset and habits and skills, and relationships going forward in their day-to-day lives can be really powerful.
Brighde: Yeah, I think that’s really helpful information and on our trips that we do, people often say that the trip can be life-changing. We have many people that write in that WhatsApp group that, thinking about this trip really change my life. Some people will become really involved in a particular cause that they came across because they were exposed to it during one of our trips, for example, or develop a relationship with somebody that they met on that trip. That could change the life of the person they met on that trip as well as the person on the trip. So I think these things are really interesting and can create more of an impact on the traveler. So how does veganism align with transformational travel?
Claire: Yeah, I think for a start, people who decide to go vegan already have some of these skills and awareness associated with transformational travel. So they already have a sense of self-awareness where they realize and want to learn more about their impact. I think that’s really aligned with transformational travel. As I said, it’s such an interconnected concept. I also think that just their curiosity and thirst for knowledge and learning more, that vegans are, I think is a really powerful way to also have them engage with the places they visit. That’s really important because we’ve got this foundation of curiosity and coming forth with humility and, a desire to learn more about the places we’re going and who is it that we’re affecting by visiting these places. Because I think a lot of the time in travel, we forget that we are visiting people’s backyards in a lot of ways and it’s not just this extractive concept. It’s something where we need to be thinking about all these layers like tourism leakage, like where our dollars going when we visit a place and things like that. So I think vegans already come with a set of skills and curiosity and personality traits that align really well with transformational and meaningful travel.
Brighde: Absolutely. I’m wondering what are some of the questions that travelers might ask themselves before even they book a trip before they even decide where they’re going to go and what it is that they’re going to do when they get there. What are some things that people could be thinking about?
Claire: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a great question. So one of the things we have to start with is really being honest with ourselves about what we’re willing to sacrifice or commit to when we’re traveling. A lot of the time people claim that they wanna have these experiences that are sustainable or they wanna do good, and really get to the root of, why we want that. I think is important.
People might claim they want, to travel responsibly, but they’re not prepared for what’s involved in that because they’ve been used to this convenient way of traveling before, right? Is it coming from a place of ego, which sometimes that is the case? Is it coming from a place of genuinely wanting to do good? And what are you willing to sacrifice in terms of your habits, mindset, and ideas, in order to travel the way that you want to? So being honest with ourselves, I think is the first thing about what we’re willing to commit to. Then when you’re choosing travel providers, so whether that’s a tour company or a travel agency, really deciding and determining if your values align with theirs and in the case of something like Responsible Travel, not just going on their website and seeing, the words responsible or sustainable, but really going deeper and actually ensuring that there is the proof behind what they’re saying. Because a lot of the time there are these concepts like greenwashing where companies will say that they do A, B, and C, but really they don’t have any proof to back that up.
They’re just using these buzzwords because people are attracted to those at this time. So really doing a bit of homework is important as continually measuring. What you’re learning as you go about the place and about what you wanna do is important too. So thinking about in advance of going to a place, thinking about your preconceptions about the place you’re visiting, and then when you’re on the trip, just taking everything in, when the trip is over, measuring what you learned and using that as a way to ignite conversations with other people and squash any misconceptions. So there are so many ways we can measure. The ways in which travel can impact us and change our opinions, mindsets, and habits. These are just a few ways to do that.
Brighde: Yeah, something that we often try to do and I try to do with my personal travel, but certainly for our travelers as well. We’ll give them, not homework, cuz that sounds tedious, but we’ll invite them to check out some films or some documentaries or some books about the country sometimes we’ll recommend. Just is a way to get people’s background knowledge up a little bit before they go to a destination so that, they’ll know a little bit more about a country and they’ll be able to ask more poignant questions and dig a little bit deeper and obviously trying to continue doing this when they get home as well. In fact, it’s been really lovely. We have a little Rwanda chat. Our Rwanda trip just did, and of course, we went to Rwanda and we had a lot of conversations during the trip about Dian Fossey and the work that she did with mountain gorillas. I think all of us were not idealizing her, but we put her up on this pedestal About who she was. Without a doubt, she did amazing things to conserve the gorillas, but she was quite a flawed human being who as we’ve learned through reading books and documentaries she was quite flawed and a complex, complicated person.
Claire: Yeah, on that note, you bring up something interesting. I think this is something I talk a lot about as well in my business, is this idea of on-the-ground storytellers and who we are. This is something we don’t think about a lot as travelers. Okay, here’s the tour guide, and here’s the tour, and off we go and it’s an experience for us. Again, this is coming back to this idea of travel being a bit extractive and it’s not necessarily something that we intentionally think about or do on purpose, but it just is the way.
And so when we’re thinking about, storytellers and people on the ground that we’re working with or hiring to show us around a place, thinking about, who is this person telling these stories. Not necessarily qualifications, but what is their tie to these stories that are being told? A really good example, there are a couple of companies, one of which is called, Invisible Cities, and they run tours, that are led by people who have been affected by homelessness.
Claire: Yeah, it’s offering this lens of a place seen through the eyes of, someone in a minority. So I think these are really important things to consider and also what are the stories being told? Are we going to a place and just hearing a dominant narrative, the stereotypical or overarching story that we all associate with the place, or are we hearing different types of stories that kind of reflect how multi-dimensional places are? Because when we think about our own countries and cities and towns, they’re not just one story, right? They’re sort of this interconnected, woven tapestry of stories and it’s important to get different perspectives and hear different stories so we can really fully understand a place that much better.
Brighde: Awesome. So it really seems a lot of what we are talking about is really being mindful when we are traveling and this is something that I think a lot about. I have a mindfulness practice, which I’m fairly consistent with when I’m at home, but I will say that it often does not work out when I’m leading tours, even though that’s probably the time that I should be doing it more than ever. But it really does feel like we’re trying to be as in the moment and mindful as possible when we are traveling. So do you see a crossover here about mindfulness generally, or meditation for being in the present moment and what we’re talking about here?
Claire: Yeah, absolutely. I think the mindfulness space is so interesting, especially in the context of travel, and this is where I pull aspects from other industries, like psychology. Another kind of pillar of my business is really getting people to utilize the five senses to practice mindfulness and travel. So things like conscious souvenir purchasing or just different tools we can use to really be in the moment and then we can look back, we can utilize those tools after the fact and remember our trips and our experiences. I’ll give you some examples from my own trips. So in terms of auditory or music, I remember I went on a Contiki tour about eight years ago, and it was through the UK and Ireland, and they always had this sort of pump-up song at the beginning of every day. Now looking back and listening to that song, it reminds you of all those feelings and that excitement. So things like that are really powerful. That’s something you could do from a listening perspective maybe choosing a couple of songs and having them be something you associate with that trip and helping you stay in the moment.
Another one, I remember I lived in Sydney, Australia a couple of years back, and I would sit on the beach and listen to this one song. Now whenever I hear that song, I think of, sitting on the beach and really taking in that time to absorb the moment and to really just embrace the moment. We recognize that travel is such a, time-limited thing, right? We’re investing a lot of time and money in the travel experience, but at the same time, people get really stressed out about making sure they’re making the most of that time. So I think when we can actually pause, we can enjoy and embrace the experience that much more instead of getting burnt out on thinking there are so many things that we need to do. There are other sensory things like, whether it’s like a perfume or, I remember in Peru there was this alcohol that they were selling and it was to help alleviate altitude sickness and it was like scented. So I bought some of that and when I bring it home, I think now with that experience. So there are so many ways we can really embrace mindfulness and have it be something that’s prolonged after the trip is over.
Brighde: Yeah. That’s all. Fantastic. We did something interesting on our last Cape Town Botswana trip that I think was really powerful basically we were going out in Safari Jeeps and we had four Jeeps, and I decided to designate one of these Jeeps as a mindfulness jeep Which sounds a little bit strange and anyone who came into the mindfulness Jeep that of course, everyone was welcome, but I was very clear about explaining like what that meant. When we’re in this vehicle, we can still ask questions of the guide, but we should try to keep it really low and be mindful about if and when, and how we speak to the group or to the guide, and to just keep things really quiet. Try to just be in the present moment as much as possible for when you are seeing these incredible animals, which is amazing to think about.
It was an amazing experience because as we were seeing these incredible animal experiences, but because we were quiet, our guide was actually able to hear a very faint, far away lion’s roar that, had we just been chatting, he would not have heard and we would’ve missed out on what ended up being a really incredible experience watching these Lions do some very interesting things that I won’t go into. But just be, trying to be mindful was a really amazing experience. And after each time I would say to these little group that was in here, like, how was that experience? Would you like to do that again or what was something that you noticed while it was going on and it was really positive? I definitely would like to offer that as an opportunity for our travelers moving forward cuz it was really awesome.
Claire: Yeah, I love that. I think that’s fantastic. And again, it shows that when we do take that time to slow down and take everything in, these little things can come up that are unexpected or are really intimate experiences and really powerful experiences. Because I think there are, things like social media and wanting to get the shot and then okay, take the picture post on Instagram, and off we go to the next landmark. It’s interesting you bring that up because I had that experience on my most recent trip to San Francisco. California has been badly affected by statewide flooding. So I was going to San Francisco and anxious about the flooding and okay, I’ll make the most of the experience but still worried about it a little bit. But I remember landing there on Tuesday and it was actually nice weather. There was no rain at all. We had some sun. It was great and I remember putting on my running shoes and zipping around the city as fast as I could. Okay. Gotta get everything that I wanna do before it starts raining again. I remember going up to the painted ladies and looking at them. Some people offered to take my photo. It was a solo trip, so some kind of people offered to take my picture. Then I started rushing off to the next spot that I wanted to see and also the sun was setting, so it was a race against time. I remember stopping halfway on this hill as I walked away from the painted ladies.
I turned around and looked at them again. Cause I thought to myself, I don’t know if I’m ever gonna come back here again. This is the only chance I’ll get to see them. I just spent two minutes, taking a picture and then walking away. So really kind of trying to just take a moment to pause because there’s always going to be time to pause, and it’s a matter of whether or not you actually take that time and embrace that time, because again, I think there’s so much pressure around traveling where you wanna get everything in and fit everything in, but I think that by trying to squeeze everything in, we can get burnt out and don’t fully embrace the experience. It kind of puts a damper on the quality of the experience when we rush around. So I think that there’s always time to slow down and it’s just a matter of savoring.
Brighde: Yeah, I agree. There was another experience when we were in the mindfulness Jeep as well, where I just suggested to the group, it was morning, so the birds were going nuts. I said, let’s just be completely silent for 90 seconds and see if we can make out how many birds songs we can actually make out just for 90 seconds. So that’s what we did and we identified lots of birds and of course, our guides were able to identify all of them just by their song cuz they’re amazing. So several people commented that 90 seconds felt really long and that’s what happens when you are being mindful, is you are in that present moment and it lasts longer because you’re actually fully experiencing it.
I dunno whether any of the listeners who are listening to this podcast are like, what the heck is all of that mindfulness stuff that they’re talking about? I really invite people to go onto Amazon and find the book, Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and just download the opening chapter and just read the first two pages. I imagine that if you were to read those two pages, you will probably think. Yeah, mindfulness is something that I would like to incorporate into my life, and then of course you can buy the book. But this was absolutely life-changing for me when I realized this kind of information and it’s helping me in all areas of my life, whether it’s travel and working with people and generally keeping a handle on my anxiety and all of these kinds of things. It’s really helpful.
Claire: Yeah, absolutely and I love that you incorporate that into your experiences, cuz that just is a perfect example of personalization in the travel space especially. It’s things that aren’t even that hard. It’s what tour operators, travel agents, and people can do, to really customize and personalize the experience. These things like offering mindfulness and just different ways for people to fully embrace and experience. I think that’s something that people are really gonna gravitate towards companies that do these kinds of things because people want these experiences that are really well-rounded and personalized.
Brighde: Yeah, we are going back on Safari in March, and I think what I’m gonna try to do is, a couple of mornings, it’ll mean getting up even earlier, but trying to offer just play a recording of an eight-minute guided meditation and just to try to get people, this is what being in the present moment feels like. I’m gonna try to bring this throughout the safari. I’m definitely gonna try to do that.
Claire, if you don’t mind, would you be able to introduce to us some of the services that you offer for people and to the travel industry and as well as how people can find you online?
Claire: Yeah, for sure. So at Your Travel Analyst, we offer a number of services, one of which is a project specialty. So meaning that I can help with research and writing for any projects that your travel business is working on. So again, whether it’s books, courses, presentations, or things like that, I also work with the Travel Coach Network as their virtual assistant and brand growth manager. So, travel coaching is something I can consult on, as well as talk about. I also do numerous things in the support space. So whether it is, supporting you on your big business ideas, I’m happy to help with those things as well. In terms of where you can find me, my website is yourtravelanalyst.com. I’m active on LinkedIn as well as on my personal page, just to Claire Burt. I’m on Instagram as well @yourtravelanalyst.
Brighde: Wonderful. And do you work with people or companies outside of Canada?
Claire: I do, yep. I work with companies globally.
Brighde: Amazing. So Claire, thank you so much for being on The World Vegan Travel Podcast. I really invite everybody who is listening to go to the show notes and check out Claire and what she’s doing. I really invite listeners to try to implement some of the tips that she has shared today to try to make your travel experience more meaningful, more life-changing, and more impactful for the traveler and for the places where you go. Thank you so much, Claire, for joining me.
Claire: Thanks for having me. Great to chat with you.