Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword lately. There’s mindful eating, mindful drinking, mindful parenting, even mindful walking. A lot of people toss the word around but, ironically enough, few people really stop to think about what ‘mindfulness’ actually means. The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”
But how does mindfulness look in practice? Mindfulness is slowing down enough to become aware of the present-moment experiences. When you’re mindful you’re not worried about that make-or-break business meeting next month, or that embarrassing incident when you were ten. You are solidly in the present, accepting your current experience with openness and curiosity.
The Benefits of Mindful Travel
Traveling, no matter where you go, is a gift. Not everyone has the resources to travel. So, if you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity, you’ll want to get the most out of it. Mindful travel can help you do just that. Practice mindful travel means being able to savor the new experiences and create lasting memories. Being open while in a foreign land pushes you out of your comfort zone in a great way.
9 Mindful Travel Tips for your Next Trip
Be Intentional about Your Itinerary
Every amazing mindful travel experience starts with a purposeful itinerary. Take time to do your research and really think about the things you want to see and do. Consider the things you value most and make sure your itinerary aligns with that. For example, if you care about animal rights, make sure the places you go– whether they be elephant sanctuaries in Phuket or zoos in San Diego– really do treat their animals humanely.
Make Room for Spontaneity
When you’re so focused on getting from point A to point B, you’re not truly in the moment.
If you’re not fully present you can miss out on some amazing opportunities to interact with the locals or experience something unexpectedly awesome.
Say you’re in Italy trying to get to the Colosseum, the next stop on your itinerary, when you come across a street fair. Instead of rushing through all the sights, sounds and smells around you, to keep your itinerary on track, why not slow down? Allow yourself to really experience the smell of truly fresh mozzarella, the festive sounds of the organetto, and the joy on people’s faces as they peruse the handmade goods of each vender. After all, as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Colosseum will be there tomorrow.
Remember to Breathe
When you feel yourself getting stressed out about what’s waiting for you back at home, remember to stop and breathe deeply. Inhale the fresh new air, feel your toes in your shoes and the sun at your back and reconnect with the present. Whether you’re in a country that’s been on your bucket list for a long time or doing business in an exciting new town, you may never get the chance to be there again. Try not to waste time worrying about the future.
Engage the Senses
From daily commutes and attending Zoom meetings while trying to negotiate with a two-year-old to managing finances and getting the groceries, day-to-day life can get pretty hectic. It’s so easy to get stuck in your head about things that have to get done and decisions that have to get made.
It’s no wonder why we’re not always aware of what we’re seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling. This is one reason travel is so important. Without the workaday stress of “real life,” we’ve got a chance to slow down and engage our senses in a new place far away from the responsibilities we face at home.
If you’re in Spain, don’t just swig the sangria or scarf the paella, savor it. If you’re visiting Kyoto during cherry blossom season, don’t just casually pass through. Stop and get up close to the blooms. See the details in the petals and take a good sniff of their sweet, subtle fragrance.
Ditch the Devices
Okay, so don’t exactly ditch your devices. We all know how crucial our smartphones can be when it comes to traveling. But you don’t always have to be connected.
According to Psychology Today, “Being plugged into your smartphone creates a state of ‘online vigilance’ where one’s mind is automatically monitoring communications like email, texts, or phone notifications.”
For example, as helpful as our phones can be, they can make it harder to stay in the moment. When you’re standing before the Grand Canyon or in the middle of Turkey’s Grand Bazaar for the first time, you don’t want to be fixated on your emails and Slack messages.
We’ve kind of hinted at this one throughout this post, but it really deserves its own section. When it comes to mindfulness, it’s so important to feel gratitude.
When you travel, be grateful for the opportunities that come your way, the expected, but especially the unexpected. Not everyone gets to see the Egyptian pyramids in person or enjoy an impromptu home-cooked meal in Prague.
These are gifts, and when you travel mindfully you’re showing your appreciation.
Get Curiouser & Curiouser
Treat every new city or country like it’s your own personal wonderland. Don’t just exist in a new place, learn from it. Mindful tourism involves being open and curious. We all have our ideas about what it’s like to live in Germany but traveling mindfully will get us closer to the real story. If you’re in Munich for Oktoberfest, take a break from the party and seek out parts and people unknown. Ask the locals about their favorite things to do and see in their city. Let them get hometown proud. You’ll realize pretty quickly that life in Germany is much richer than just schnitzels and bier.
Unsurprisingly, the most comprehensive definition of sustainable travel comes to us from the UN’s World Tourism Organization. “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts.” Mindful traveling requires people to be aware of their impact.
There may not be a way to travel green completely, but both airlines and cruise lines are making efforts to reduce their ecological footprint. Find out what your airline is doing to keep flights as eco-friendly as possible.
When you make it to your destination, be mindful about how you interact with the local communities and their ecosystems. Remember, you are a guest in their homeland.
Want more information on eco-tourism? We’ve got you.
Get Peace of Mind with Travel Insurance
While it may not seem like the most obvious choice for this list, hear us out. Travel insurance protects you from the unexpected. When you think about your next vacation, what do you picture? Digging your toes in the pink sands of Bermuda or taking in the view at the top of Machu Picchu? Odds are we’re not too focused on things that could go wrong– like being stranded at Heathrow after a canceled flight, losing luggage in New York, or getting bitten by a snake in Athens. But those are just the kinds of things travel insurance is designed to help cover.
If you’re traveling abroad and suffer an injury or contract an illness like Covid, travel medical insurance coverage can help. The insurance helps you get urgent medical care without the crushing debt. This is especially important for visitors to countries like the United States, where medical costs are very high.
Whether you’re traveling the globe or keeping trips closer to home, travel insurance makes it easier to stay relaxed and in the moment. And that’s exactly what mindful travel is all about.