Travel. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear this word? Beaches, palm trees and the blue ocean sky? Yes, it does the trick for us too. But do you realise that travelling, instead of it becoming an exhilarating process, becomes more of a monotonous schedule of catching buses, running to terminals and crossing off our bucket list?
One of the ways to avoid getting into the monotony trap is to practice mindful travel when abroad.
What is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in a way that creates space for insight.” -Sharon Salzberg
It requires paying attention to the present moment and experiences with openness, a curiosity, and a will to do that. It is the capacity of our mind to not be lost in any other time but the present, to be less resistant or judgemental and to be more accepting of the current situation. Mindfulness teaches us acceptance of what is.
A mindful traveller is receptive and curious, respects the culture rather than imposing their own culture and is willing to experience through a beginner’s eyes rather than coming into it with expectations.
The Benefits of Mindful Travel
“Connect with people, learn their stories, and consider their perspectives. Bring purpose and intention to every experience.”
Mindful travel involves completely being present during the experiences of visiting a new place without any distracting thoughts of what may be happening back at work or whether you will get that picture for your Instagram or not. Don’t worry about that landmark you haven’t gotten a photo of yet or that restaurant you just need to try.
By devoting your full attention to each travel experience, you will be more open to your senses and your inner and outer experiences instead of living your life on autopilot.
“One of the most mindful things you can do when you’re travelling is to let go—to give up the big sense of purpose, the kind of thing that probably drives you in your regular life. It’s time to break free and just be..”
So how do you actually travel mindfully? We’ve narrowed down a few ways to practice this art! Read on!
- Travel light
This may need some extra consideration during packing, but we assure you, it will be worth it. Carry only what you need for the trip rather than the ‘what if I need this too’. With less time wasting on what to wear, you’ll save precious space in your bag and be mindful of what you have. This also means less worrying over losing any valuables, no excess baggage and easily carrying your bags in public transport. Oh, life is just better when travelling light.
Not to forget the mental baggage too! Think of the mind as having hand baggage and stowed baggage – only bring what you really need.
“Be flexible when planning your itinerary and make room for spontaneity – there can be as much pleasure in coming across hidden gems as following the well-beaten track.”
- Forget using your phone
Limit the amount of time you spend on your phones or social media check-ins so that you don’t miss out on countless opportunities and precious moments. Connect with the surroundings and the locals to break the phone addiction. This will help you notice the delightful little details that make any city special. The irony is that through our mobiles, we feel as though we’re connected to the world when in reality, we’re becoming more detached.
- Make time to simply sit and observe
“If you’re eating food, really taste it. If you’re listening to someone, give them your full attention. If you’re looking at a sunrise, don’t think of it only as something on Instagram. Touch the magic of now-ness.”
No matter where we all are from, we share the same dreams and needs. We all need to eat, love someone, like to relax and enjoy our life.
One of our favourite ways to practice mindfulness is to observe. And by that mean not just during travelling but everywhere. Travelling opens more doors to this as we get to see new things, places and culture. One way you can do this is by sitting in a popular area like a central plaza, a café with a sidewalk, be comfortable and watch the world go by.
- Connect with the locals
It wouldn’t be a mindful journey if we didn’t engage with the people we meet. To truly understand a place we visit, it is important to get to know the locals that inhabit it. It’s a good practice to abide by their cultural norms are we are guests in their home. You wouldn’t go to someone’s house and refuse to take your shoes off just because you don’t do that in your home. Apply the same line of thought process during travelling.
- Keep a journal
Writing a journal is a great therapeutic way of understanding ourselves. If you wish to remember your observations long after your travel is over, jot down your key moments and how they made you feel. This also helps you pay more attention to your surroundings and keeps you present in the moment.
If you’re not much of a writer, you can sketch or use any other art form to journal down your experience. The goal is to simply immerse yourself in a moment instead of letting it just pass through. That’s how stronger connections are made.
“It’s a good idea to pay attention and to savour what’s happening in the moment, because any time you’re actually present for what you’re experiencing, life is that much richer.”
What are some of the mindful ways you practice while travelling? Let us know in the comments section below!
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