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The Adventure Venture

If you’re looking for a customized travel adventure, one Pepperdine alumnus will book you a flight to your inner self

George Harrison sang, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” But if your journey is one of self-discovery, Michael Bennett (MBA ’06, EdD ’13) would disagree.


While studying for his MBA in Copenhagen, Bennett learned firsthand how personally transformative travel could be. He saw that the Danes never forgot the value of hygge (pronounced hue-guh), their word for all that is friendly and comforting.

Bennett left with a very different understanding of political and social norms and with an appreciation for a more fluid cadence of daily life. He also learned that the soft skills of business—successful team and organizational dynamics—were his passion as a professional. After a few years as a personal growth consultant, he returned to Pepperdine, this time to GSEP with the intention of getting an EdD in personal leadership. He was certain that to help adults grow as business leaders, they needed to release their assumptions about themselves and how the world worked. Because Bennett believed “there was nothing more powerful than travel to get us out of our comfort zone and change what we thought we knew,” he decided to study how travel can serve as a conduit for personal development.

Remarkably, a friend of a friend had abandoned his research into that precise idea and turned his many taped interviews over to Bennett. Bennett selected the most complete and reflective accounts for analysis, and he found that those who had had deeply meaningful, life-changing travel experiences followed the pattern of the traditional hero’s journey identified by Joseph Campbell. They were called to leave home, and they traveled purposefully. They immersed themselves in the foreign culture, the food, and the practices, pushing their physical and experiential limits. They conversed with the residents and shared a commitment to using the trip as a source of personal revelation. Lastly, nearly all of them developed a clear vision of how they wanted to change their lives when the trip was over, and they took deliberate action toward effecting that change.

With a transformational travel template in hand and convinced that most people wanted to get more out of their vacations than some social media clout, Bennett eventually partnered with a Seattle travel company. That business, now called Explorer X, provides travelers with the tools and resources to create their own self-discovery journey. Its offerings are for anyone interested in letting go of an old way of being for a deeper sense of who they are, using Bennett’s research as the framework for the experience.

Unlike most travel agents, one of the last questions Bennett and his co-travel mentors will ask is where you want to go. The trip that they explore is internal: What do you want to get out of the experience? Bennett recently worked with a married mom in her late 30s who wanted to go on a solo vacation. “What’s calling you to this adventure?” he asked. The client tearfully responded that she was on the verge of a divorce and that she needed to not just disconnect from the stress of her home life, but to make a new plan for her future. “I ended up being her life coach throughout her entire trip,” says Bennett. “She’s been back for two months now, and I still talk with her fairly regularly about her discoveries and her vision for her life moving forward.”

Bennett identifies the three pillars of an Explorer X trip as collaboration, conscious itinerary design, and client engagement. Collaboration with clients helps clarify the motivation for, and goal of, the trip. Conscious itinerary design uses that information, along with the traditional “where to” question, to make a plan with the traveler. (According to Bennett, research has shown that a full 50 percent of travelers’ “vacation happiness” derives from planning and anticipating their trip.) The final pillar, client engagement, is undoubtedly the most critical aspect of the experience. “It’s really up to the person,” explains Bennett. “They have to dive into the new environment if they’re going to get a lot from the trip in terms of feeling differently about themselves and their place in the world. It’s about their perspective and not about the experience itself.”

Bennett finds that by seeing the world differently—that is, getting to know who they are without the trappings of their loved ones, possessions, and routines—inspires his clients to live in way that is more expressive of their purpose when they return home. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re from America or Afghanistan, getting outside of your culture and seeing how other people live their lives is going to be a positive experience.”

Tips to Create your own Hero’s Journey

Travel with Purpose

  • Know why you’re going and what you hope to get from the adventure.

Fully Engage

  • If something feels weird or uncomfortable, so what? Go with it!


  • Think, write, and talk about what you’re learning. How can you use it to create a richer life?


  • Implement the new actions and behaviors that express the lessons. And enjoy being a happier, more authentic you.