Young woman lying in a hammock with laptop

As travel guru Rick Steves says, good travel is thoughtful travel.

Today the world is wide open, and nowadays you can afford to see it on nearly any budget, which means more travelers than ever before are publishing posts and pics from every end of the planet. Google your next potential travel destination and see: countless travel blogs across the web are putting out posts on the best hotels and restaurants, inspiring you over Instagram with super-saturated beachside sunsets, and helping you figure out how to get from A to B. But out there floating among the sea of destination guides and trip reviews, a handful of particularly thoughtful travel blogs stand out for combining gripping storytelling, evocative photography, and a dose of critical reflection to consistently put out thoughtful posts contemplating the world and our place in it.

Thoughtful travel is exploring with an engaged mind, asking why and how, and connecting the dots between here and there, between now and then, or between Us and Them. It’s how you upgrade a vacant-minded vacation to a thought experiment and an exercise in global citizenship. Here are five of the best blogs out there doing just that, and how they’re inspiring readers to be more thoughtful travelers.

 

Green Global Travel

Running a travel blog with a purpose is striking a delicate balance between raising awareness and maintaining reader interest. Green Global Travel strikes that balance expertly with its practical and informative blog that aims to “spread the sustainable philosophies of ecotourism and conservation” through sustainable travel.

Dow Edwards of the Mohawk Hunters tribe, participating in a 'Spy Boy Standoff' on Super Sunday in New Orleans. Photo by Bret Love and Mary Gabbett, courtesy of Green Global Travel[http://greenglobaltravel.com/2015/12/06/treme-new-orleans-birthplace-of-american-culture/].

Dow Edwards of the Mohawk Hunters tribe, participating in a ‘Spy Boy Standoff’ on Super Sunday in New Orleans. Photo by Bret Love and Mary Gabbett, courtesy of Green Global Travel.

The entire blog is full of informative articles for travelers interested in minimizing their ecological footprints, with posts on simple ways to save water or the ethical issues with taking animal selfies[]. But it’s the deeper cultural investigations that stand out, like blog creator Bret’s investigation of the influence of New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood on mainstream American culture.

 

Heart My Backpack

Silvia is an American-Norwegian backpacker bouncing around familiar locales like Norway and Japan, as well as places many of us still know little about, like Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Kosovo. No matter where she finds herself on or far off the backpacker trail, Silvia always opens her mind up to her readers on Heart My Backpack, sharing her thoughts on travel, local culture, life, or other speculations fueled and inspired by her current surroundings.

Silvia hanging out with her Iranian Couchsurfing host in Tehran during her solo backpacking trip across the country. Photo courtesy of Heart My Backpack[http://www.heartmybackpack.com/heart/backpacking-solo-through-iran/].

Silvia hanging out with her Iranian Couchsurfing host in Tehran during her solo backpacking trip across the country. Photo courtesy of Heart My Backpack.

Unmoved by the negative media images of this country or that one, Silvia treks off solo backpacking through countries like Iran, where the common wisdom tells us it’s too dangerous for such a thing. These glimpses into and curious engagements with the realities of places like Afghanistan, Burma, Kyrgyzstan, or her home base Norway help to correct our often flawed images of parts of the world that seem far away or distant.

Uncornered Market

Audrey and Dan at Uncornered Market are the writers behind one of the most thought-provoking travel blogs on the web, with the self-described goal of creating “a movement of respectful travelers who live at the intersection of adventure, deep travel experiences and caring for our planet and its people.”

Audrey with a local Turkmen woman in 'dangerous' Turkmenistan. Photo courtesy of Uncornered Market[http://uncorneredmarket.com/danger-map-world-fear-awareness/].

Audrey with a local Turkmen woman in ‘dangerous’ Turkmenistan. Photo courtesy of Uncornered Market.

Uncornered Market approaches traditional travel topics by asking us to think about them in a new way. The popular post “The Danger Map of the World: Fear vs. Awareness” is typical of the blog in its rehashing of the idea of “safety” on the road. In exchange for the continuous critical thought and contemplation asked of the reader, the post employs continuously engaging writing and super readable design to guide us through big ideas and concrete actionable tips alike.
Refine your thinking about everything from ethical spending to keeping the peace while traveling with your partner at Uncornered Market.

 

Inside the Travel Lab

Inside the Travel Lab overtly dedicates itself to more thoughtful travel in its challenge to readers to “think and dream as we travel the world”. While first and foremost envisioned as a blog about thoughtful and responsible luxury travel, writer Abi’s posts often delve deeper into the historical contexts and real-world concerns contextualizing her travels.

The blog’s landing page is handily organized into categories like “Make Me Think” and “Inspire Me“, through which you can discover contemplative stories like “The Quest for the Blue Footed Booby” that balance an alluring glimpse of the Galapagos with considerations of the islands’ place in the world’s heritage. Crafting alluring narratives that pull us into the author’s thoughts and reflections, Inside the Travel Lab is a refreshing look at the thoughts and dreams that thoughtful travel can inspire in all of us.

 

Not a Ballerina: The Thoughtful Travel Podcast

It says it on Amanda Kendle’s About page as well as her site header: “I’m not a ballerina. I’m a traveller and a thinker.”

Not a Ballerina is a travel blog that strives to provide fun and meaningful content for travelers in the hopes that they’ll learn more from their travel experiences. Author Amanda writes thoughtfully about topics like reverse culture shock and keeping an interest log, but one of the best resources the blog has to offer engaged travelers is its Thoughtful Travel Podcast, in which she and other travelers and thinkers discuss topics like breaking through stereotypes and navigating your fears on the road.

 

A weekend in a luxury hotel or a meditation retreat is a tempting way to relax and recharge the batteries, but as these bloggers often point out, luxury and relaxation aren’t incompatible with mindfulness and reflection. When you’re busy planning your next trip, take some tips from these bloggers on how to engage with the destinations you visit and learn more about the people with whom you share the world while you explore all it has to offer.