You may have heard of mindful meditation, mindful reading and even mindful dating, well now you can add mindful travel to the list. To do something mindfully is to do it with awareness and travelling is another opportunity to choose what can be a more rewarding way to experience the world. Yes, we may take a holiday to escape our daily routines but why not shift our thinking to see it as less of a week away to ‘do’ things and tick of lists, and more of a way to ‘be’ in these new experiences.
To be a mindful traveller is to be aware of the inside and the out. It is not only immersing yourself in the present moment and pausing to recognise the sensations that come with each experience; it is to be aware of your surroundings – the people, cultures, and landscapes that you encounter along your journey. It’s the subtle difference between just visiting and perhaps ‘cherry-picking’ the supposed best tourist experiences of a place before leaving again, and having an appreciation that the places we go are homes to other beings – cultures with long histories, animals, plants, all living out their lives in that particular place. It’s also having an appreciation that as a visitor, we have an effect on these cultural and natural ecosystems – that we do leave a footprint. If we’re mindful of that, we can make informed decisions about our impact on others. With mindfulness, travelling can be such a great opportunity to engage not only with our own thoughts, emotions and travel goals, but to engage with others in a more enriching experience for both the traveller and the people and places we visit.
Mindful travel can be as easy as closing your eyes during a moment of bliss and appreciating the moment for what it is … freeing yourself from any preconceived notions of things you “have” to do or see when travelling. Just because tik-tok said it’s a “place you must visit” doesn’t literally mean you have to. Ditch the itinerary and chase the sunset. The best nights out can often be the ones that you don’t plan. They can’t fall short of your expectations if you didn’t have any to begin with. From this, packing light goes without saying. It’s hard to be spontaneous when you’ve got 3 suitcases, a carry on and enough clothes to sponsor Zara just for your short trip away. Backpackers are the beacons of mindful travel – think like them and think light. The less you have, the more you can do, the lighter your footprint.
The little opportunities to be a mindful traveller can add up – bringing a reusable water bottle that saves on landfill and preserves local waterways; carbon offsetting your flights, or pausing to appreciate the history, enterprises and socio-economic circumstances about the local cultures you’re visiting – and finding ways to respectfully engage in these communities. They key to mindful travel is thinking about leaving a place you’ve visited, in some way better off because you’ve been there. There are a million and one ways towards becoming a mindful traveller – enjoy exploring the many paths and enjoy the trip!