Mindful Travel: Peace in a Noisy World
We’re slowly learning to disconnect from our digital devices and reconnect with ourselves. In the digital age, it’s getting more and more difficult to tap into our inner voices. An endless onslaught of information and screens drown out what we’re feeling. In our efforts to connect globally, we’ve become unhinged from being. Instead of making our world simpler, technology has only complicated our lives. We’ve got more things to do, consume, and worry about than ever before. It’s no secret that all of this external noise wears on us. Travel used to offer an escape. Before technology, when travelers embarked on a journey, they were unreachable. In a new world, they’d escape from their routines and daily lives, along with all the stress and responsibility. Now, with the rise of the digital nomad, remote working, and global teams, technology is influencing how and why we travel. Here’s the problem: when you’re constantly receiving updates, reminders, and communication from home, you’re interfering with your ability to have fulfilling travel experiences. When traveling connected to the present moment, your experiences shape you. Giving yourself the time and mental space to soak in the places you’ve been will ensure your travel memories stay with you for a lifetime.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a very simple concept that is difficult in practice. It means being aware, in-tuned with yourself, and present within your surroundings. You’re probably thinking, “Of course, I’m present.” To illustrate the difference, think about the last time you had coffee, tea, or another beverage you enjoyed. Did you take the time to smell the beans or tea leaves while the kettle was on? Did you sit on the porch with the steaming mug in your hand and sip in silence as the sun rose? Were you in awe of the orange, red, and pinks streaking across the sky? Birds chirping, car doors opening and slamming, your neighbor’s dog barking to be let out for a walk, all of the sounds of your neighborhood jostling into wakefulness – did you savor them? Or, was your takeout coffee balanced in between your cell phone and an egg sandwich on your lap while driving to work? This is the difference between performing an activity mindfully or going through the motions. In life, we all have to go through the motions on occasion. But, being aware of the difference can open you up to richer and more fulfilling experiences.
Why is Mindfulness Important to Travel?
If we return to the coffee example, think about how those two different scenarios affect your day. How different would these two days be: beginning the day with enjoying your coffee on the porch versus swallowing it down in the car. Perhaps those few minutes on the porch would refresh and renew you. The rest of your day would fall in line easily because you were calm, focused, and stress-free. Eating, drinking, and driving to work could leave you frazzled and stressed, setting you up to stay that way. I’m sure you’re familiar with how getting your day off on the “wrong foot” can greatly affect your mood, productivity, emotional status, and perception. Now, if such a small action done mindfully could have such a big impact on the day, imagine how traveling mindfully could affect your life. When we absorb ourselves in a new place, culture, surrounded by strangers, we’re forced to look within. Only by being in the present moment, can we extract the full experience of travel.
Six Mindful Travel Tips
No matter what you are doing, being present and grateful for the moment at hand is going to improve your experience. Travel illuminates our inner light and provides clarity on what’s important to us. Applying a mindfulness practice while traveling will help you get the most of it. Here are some tips to apply mindfulness techniques to your travel experience:
Mindful Travel Tip #1 Savor New Flavors
Travel is all about new experiences. Instead of relying on imported or packages familiar food, focus on trying local cuisine. If you have time, take a tour of the local markets or try a cooking class (or both!). You’ll get insight into how the locals fill their days (and stomachs). Bon appétit!
Mindful Travel Trip #2 Step Outside and Explore
Although it can be anxiety-inducing to break away from your exercise routine, while you’re traveling is not the time to spend trapped in a gym. Instead of hopping in a taxi, hit the streets in your new locale. Not only will you get some exercise, you’ll be able to people watch and get discover the place in a new way. If the weather is not amenable to walking outside, see if you can score local dance lessons or group exercises like yoga. Connecting with locals and comparing your experience to “back home” will enlighten your perspective and potentially broaden your social circle.
Mindful Travel Tip #3 Rest and Relax
Even if the spa, beauty parlor, or barbershop isn’t your thing, taking care of yourself while traveling is important. At a loss for ideas? Massage is a great way to unwind and techniques vary across cultures. Try a new form of massage or another special spa treatment. For example, spas across Asia offer fish spa pedicures in which the small fish eat dead skin and tickle your feet! In North Africa and the Middle East, visitors and locals can experience a hammam, or a steam bath and scrub with artisanal soap. All cultures have special ways to relax and pamper themselves. And besides, if you’re fully rested, you will have more energy to do other things. You don’t want to miss out!
Mindful Travel Tip #4 Brave It Alone
It’s tempting to want to say yes to every social invitation that comes along but resist the temptation. Every so often, block off some time for yourself. If you’re traveling with someone, schedule time to explore without each other. Not only does it mean that you do not have to agree on your entire itinerary, it means that you’ll be able to fully focus on what’s unfolding.
Mindful Travel Tip #5 Avoid Overscheduling
It’s always great to do your research and to plan ahead for many parts of your journey. However, if you overschedule your trip, there won’t be room for any of those special surprises along the way. Leave an afternoon or morning open for wandering. How else will you be able to discover places not listed in any guidebooks?
Mindful Travel Tip #6 Toss the Phone
One of the most important things you can do to be present in any experience is to put your phone away. Whether you keep it in your bag or pocket, the phone is only there for emergencies. Engage your senses: taste, smell, sight, sound, and touch. You can scroll your social media feed when you’re back home.
Mindful traveling isn’t just about engaging in the present. It’s being aware of your surroundings, self, and the magic of travel that’s transforming you. While you’re traveling, listen to yourself and slow down. Savor it. In the end, the present moment is all we have.
About Iconic Backpacker Stories
When we started Iconic Backpackers Stories, we wanted to do more than share iconic adventures. We wanted to build a community of current and former backpackers. A place to re-immerse into life on the road in faraway beautiful places. Somewhere to share stories with those that know the thrill of wandering. We created a space to remember, record, engage, re-live, and reconnect with the parts of ourselves best found through travel. Everyone’s backpacking story is sacred. Want to be a profiled traveler? Click here.