A New Way Of Thinking About Traveling With Purpose

It is not how many places you visit, but how deep you go in each place you visit. It is not just traveling, it is a transformational experience on the inside that reflects on the outside.

A New Way Of Thinking About Traveling With Purpose

About 4 months ago, Taran and I came across each other. Our journeys intercepted in Thailand, at The Mindfulness Project, one of the most insightful and enriching adventures during my travels so far. The invite to write this guest post came at our last day at the project, which was coincidently the same, when I asked him to sign my MLA flag I carry along the way, where all of those I cross paths with leave their mark.

Now you may wonder, as everyone else does, what is a MLA? And that is the reason I am writing this post today, to introduce you a new concept of traveling with purpose.

But before I get there, let me give you a bit of background on how it started. For years I had been living on autopilot. Most of my decisions were more of a reflection of society, family and friends, rather than what I truly wanted for myself. Basically, I was mostly doing what I should, rather than what I wanted, not paying much attention to my intuition and inner voice. Decisions went from the area of study I chose, the universities I applied for, the master I finished, to the first and only company I worked for. And all those years I kept feeling something was not quite right, something was missing, there was no sense of realization, and there were only very few moments of true happiness, which kept being delayed to a distant future. Fortunately, almost 3 years ago I started questioning myself. I wanted more. I wanted to be happy at every moment of my life. And that, I believed, I would find by living fully by my purpose in the now. I listed a few options. Change jobs, change company, go back to study or… travel! I did apply for other jobs and other companies, I did check different PhD’s and also MBA’s. But none of them were appealing enough, neither had I thought they would bring me an answer to my quest. So, I was left with traveling. However, just traveling by itself was
also not attractive enough. So I slept on it. And one night the idea came. I am going to do a MLA, ie. a Master in Life Adventures.

The idea is simple: to travel the world whilst developing new skills and competencies and exploring and leveraging passions and talents. Whereas when studying I would have to fit the program, when doing a MLA the program would fit me, my desires, my needs, my questions and my objectives. The MLA would be fully owned by me and, therefore completely tailored to myself. An amazing opportunity to get inspired, to learn and develop and to meet people all over the world. And a little, or actually big hand in finding my purpose.

And, because of the stigma that still exists about traveling for long periods of time, especially in my home country, I wanted to show the world how beneficial, how enriching and how important traveling with purpose can be. That is why my dream is to transform the MLA concept into a certification, available to all. A certification that comprises of quality and that gives confidence to people wanting to travel with purpose, empowering them to fly and to flourish. This idea is work in progress at the moment and, for now, I am trying to prove the concept by being the first to officially do a MLA!

So, 8 months ago I finally quit my job. I didn't ask for a sabbatical, which I could have done. I just quit. I wanted to have time and space to explore. I wanted to go back to play, like when you are a child. I wanted the same flexibility, the same freedom. I wanted not to know what I was going to do next (the most frequently asked question I get). I wanted to allow any new opportunities that could come along.

I started by listing the adventures I always wanted to live but had never had the chance, the skills and competencies I wanted to develop and the countries I had always dreamed of visiting. And then, in January this year, I bought the tickets and in March I was taking off to India to begin my adventures with a 2 week yoga and meditation retreat at the Phool Chatti Ashram in Rishikesh. Breaking out of my auto-pilot and getting grounded were the objectives. I had never done yoga before, in fact, for years, I thought I hated it... I used to say out loud I was not interested in slow sports, as I would ignorantly characterize yoga. But I was willing to give it a chance with my MLA and it actually sounded like a good start. Far was I from realizing I would fall in love with the science behind yoga and make it a daily practice throughout the rest of my trip. Something I would have never realized without my MLA.

Admiring the Ganges River from Phool Chatti Ashram, Rishikesh, India

Getting certified in yoga and meditation from Phool Chatti Ashram, Rishikesh, India

Visiting The Beatles Ashram, Rishikesh, India

After one month in India, stopping at New Delhi, Rishikesh, Agra and Varanasi, I headed to Nepal to learn construction skills with All Hands Volunteers, helping to rebuild schools after the earthquake. Soon I realized heavy construction was not my thing. And the MLA is also that, trial and error, sense checking, answering questions. But I still loved the experience and getting to know the amazing people dedicating their time to such a great cause. Also because, for me, what matters the most are not the things you do, but whom you do them with.

Working day at All Hands Volunteers, Thulo Packar, Nepal

Resting day at All Hands Volunteers, Thulo Packar, Nepal

Exploring the local culture, Backtapur, Nepal



After 1 month in Nepal, stopping at Kathmandu, Thulo Packar, Backtapur, Patna and Pockara, I headed to Thailand to get immersed in permaculture and Buddhism at The Mindfulness Project. There, I would be developing different skills such as gardening, cooking, natural products making, teaching, yoga and meditation. And, again, getting to know beautiful people, from all over the world, with very different backgrounds and inspiring life stories to share.

Teaching English with The Mindfulness Project, Khon Kaen, Thailand

Saying farewell to The Mindfulness Project community, Khon Kaen, Thailand

After 3 weeks in Thailand, stopping at Bangkok, Hua Hin and Khon Khaen, I headed to Myanmar. This time, just for the purpose of visiting and getting inspired by the breathtaking landscapes and local culture. The MLA is also that, allowing the time and space to explore and get inspired by the beautiful places our earth has to offer.

Exploring hundreds of temples, Bagan, Myanmar

Getting inspired with painting like landscapes, Inle Lake, Myanmar

After 12 days in Myanmar, stopping at Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangoon, I headed to Bali, Indonesia. There, I used Work Away to find a hospitality volunteer job, where I could learn about the business, for which I always had an interest but never had the opportunity to experience. For 2 months I volunteered at an eco-guesthouse and yoga studio in Canggu, working directly with the general manager, supporting in strategy, marketing and human resources. I had the unique opportunity to dive into the business and to see most of my recommendations being implemented while I was still there. My remaining time in Bali was used for traveling around the island, exploring the delicious cafes, surfing and practicing yoga and meditation.

Shooting at the most photogenic beach in the world, Pandawa Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Going for a board meeting, Canggu, Bali, Indonesia

Fueling my working day, Cafe Organic, Canggu, Bali, Indonesia

Celebrating life through practice, The Practice, Canggu, Bali, Indonesia

After living for 3 months in Bali, stopping at Canggu, Uluwatu and Ubud, I headed to Australia, where I am traveling at the moment along the New South Wales coast!

Celebrating Father’s Day with one of my host families, Sydney, Australia

Overlooking the Opera House, Sydney, Australia

Petting a kangaroo for the first time, Pambula, Australia

Overlooking one of the thousand beautiful beaches along the coast, Newcastle, Australia

Making it to the most easterly point of the Australian mainland, Byron Bay, Australia


"It is not how many places you visit, but how deep you go in each place you visit."

For the past 6 months, by developing different skills and competencies, by exploring and leveraging my passions and talents and by meeting so many extraordinary and inspiring people, I see myself closer to realize my purpose. And, because of that, I have shifted around my itinerary and, instead of literally going round the world as initially planned, I will return to the places which will support me the most in that mission. Because the MLA is not structure, it is flexibility. It is not rules, it is freedom. It is not a collection of adventures, it is a journey. It is not how many places you visit, but how deep you go in each place you visit. It is not just traveling, it is a transformational experience on the inside that reflects on the outside.

Thank you for reading and I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about the MLA concept so, together, we can bring it to life.

You can follow my MLA journey at www.masterinlifeadventures.com
@catarinaholstein and @mla.haveyounoticed.


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Thanks for reading!

Taran here, owner of Nomad'er How Far. I'm fond of psychedelic rock, photography & videography, anything to do with space and I'm also partial to the odd gaming session. Oh and I love to travel :P Get to know me here!

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