Study: Millennials Swap Selfies For Self-Improvement

INTERNATIONAL REPORT—A new global study, “Generation Travel” from, has uncovered the “Intrepid Improver,” a new type of millennial traveler shunning sun, sea and all-inclusives for vacations that promise to deliver better versions of themselves.

These self-improvement-seeking travelers make up 75% of U.S. millennial explorers, who claim they now travel to enrich their mental or physical health, broaden their horizons or learn new skills.

Intrepid Improvers are more interested in learning-based holidays and mental health and well-being improvement retreats (42%) than their boomer counterparts (24%). One-third (31%) state these types of getaways are now their main trip of the year, while one in five say they make a last-minute trip when they need it most.

This desire to improve is serious business. Nearly two-thirds (63%) would pay more for a holiday that they feel benefits them mentally, physically or emotionally and seven in 10 (71%) are willing to fork out up to 50% more. Furthermore, 36% are prepared to give up the internet, makeup or grooming (34%), social media (28%) and alcohol (27%) in order to reap the rewards of a self-improvement trip.

For almost a quarter of these travelers, the quest for self-betterment is about maintaining or improving their mental health (24%). For others, it’s about improving themselves (32%), staying healthy (27%) or gaining inspiration (23%). Just 7% are in it for social media bragging rights.

More 20- to 30-somethings also say they would like to improve mental health (30%), learn a new skill (29%) or get fitter (24%) than find love (12%) in 2020. Additionally, four in 10 say that, when returning home from any holiday, they would be more likely to boast about a new understanding of another culture or an enriching experience (32%), than about a vacation romance (26%).

Intrepid Improvers favor sharing the experience of bettering themselves abroad with a partner (37%), over family (20%), friends (20%) or going it alone (4%)—and more than one-third (36%) are considering a relationship retreat for their next trip.

Millennials’ eagerness to experience new things is set to bring more unconventional forms of vacations and retreats into the mainstream. While dancing (33%), language courses (31%), photography pursuits (30%) and cooking trips (28%) all ranked highest overall, Intrepid Improvers are also exploring more unusual routes to enhancement.

Young travelers are exploring mindful sexuality retreats (28%) and taking their rehydration game to the next level by embracing the healing powers of water, sinking into Onsen therapy (16%), which involves soaking in hot springs or mineral baths to boost blood flow, circulation and metabolism.

Even more nature-inspired activities top the “yes, I’d try that” list, including forest bathing (25%)—an activity involving getting up close and personal with the forest—and activities that tap into your inner self, like primal scream therapy (23%) and crying therapy (18%).

Others also list life-coaching retreats (36%), laughter camps (25%) or color therapy (22%) as options to finding their better selves.

A further 18% looking to nurture their mental health say they would be open to a monastery stay or shaman-led retreat, or even “champing” (church-camping, 14%), while one-quarter of fitness fans would like to attend a surfing camp, flex themselves at a fitness festival or take a mountaineering vacation.

According to these travelers, the benefits far outweigh some of the unorthodox methods. More than one-third (36%) of Intrepid Improvers who have been on these types of holidays claim to have finally found inner peace, and learned to relax, while 35% state to have grown in confidence and self-esteem.

These alternative holidays are also inspiring positive change, with more than one-third (35%) claiming to have overhauled their daily routine after a self-improvement trip. More than eight in 10 (82%) made a career change or started their own business, 44% started a new hobby, 39% got a new look and more than half (57%) dumped a toxic partner or friend.