By Tanner Saunders
December 07, 2018
Zooey Deschanel
Credit: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Zooey Deschanel isn’t new to travel. In fact, the New Girl star has been around the world a time or two.

She’s not new to working towards making the world a happier, healthier, and all around better place, either. From starting The Farm Project, an organization tasked with helping people better understand the food they eat and where it comes from, to speaking out about feminist issues and raising money for The Innocence Project, Deschanel has given a helping hand.

So it only made sense that the “Elf” star teamed up with Capital One for a new initiative, The Purpose Project, to help start a conversation about purposeful travel and how seeing the world helps us to better understand it. According to a study conducted by Capital One, 87 percent of Americans desire a sense of discovery when they travel. To help people make their own discoveries, Travel + Leisure sat down with Deschanel ​to talk about California, food, and purposeful travel.

Travel + Leisure: What does it mean to travel with purpose?

Zooey Deschanel: “More and more people are interested in experiences rather than collecting things. These are the things that enrich our lives and inspire us. And you know when you travel with purpose you can come back to your life and be more productive and happier and more inspired.”

How do you translate those trips and experiences after the fact?

“I usually think of my years in terms of the trips that I take. I think every year, ‘Where did I go on vacation? Where did I spend Thanksgiving? Where did I go over the summer?’ and those things define and frame your life.’”

Where is your favorite place to recommend people to travel?

“California is my favorite state because it’s where I’m from and there’s so much beautiful scenery and there are so many amazing places to visit. I feel like a California road trip is such a classic, and always a wonderful choice for a vacation. I’ve done it many, many times.”

What’s the perfect California road trip?

“There are so many places, that’s why a road trip is great. You’ve got to hit a lot of spots: San Diego, L.A., of course. Go to a desert place like Palm Springs or Death Valley or something like that. Joshua Tree. Santa Barbara. Monterey. Carmel, that area. And you have to go to the wine country. So Napa, Sonoma, St. Helena to the Bay Area and then up to the Redwoods.”

That’s sounds like a really solid road trip. California’s greatest hits?

“And I’d recommend Eureka.”

Eureka probably isn’t on too many people’s radars, right?

“Oh you have to go. It’s so beautiful. It’s amazing forests and hiking and it’s absolutely magical.”

I heard you’re going to Sonoma to film a series with Tastemade and Capital One about purposeful travel. Why Sonoma?

“I love Sonoma. I love the food culture there. I love the farm-to-table culture and you know I love the wine. I went for my birthday the year before last and it was just such a great trip.”

Going back to being purposeful, so many people are inspired by your initiatives to make the world a better place. What advice do you have for anyone looking to change the world?

“I think picking one thing that you’re passionate about — that can make such a difference. If you just sort of focus on one thing that you’re really passionate about, that affect can trickle down to other things. I’m really passionate about sustainable food, that’s so connected with our issues of health and the environment and climate change. It’s all so intertwined with food. There are other things that are important to me that definitely go hand-in-hand with the food thing. So I can focus on one thing and also deliver other messages as well. My message would be no thing is too small if you’re passionate about it and you have positive feelings and you want to share them."

Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.