One trend that seems to be everywhere lately is the idea of “mindfulness.” It’s an expansive subject with numerous definitions, but here’s a great one: "Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens."
There are so many discussions about mindfulness in everyday life; practicing it at home, in the office, or with your children. But mindfulness can be practiced anywhere – including when you travel. Becoming a more mindful traveler doesn’t just benefit you. It benefits those around you.
If you’re planning a trip, use these eight ways to help you practice mindfulness while visiting your dream destination.
1. Slow Down
Have you ever returned from a vacation and thought, “I need a vacation from my vacation”? You have every intention of relaxing, but there are just so many things to see and do while traveling. You’re non-stop for the entire trip, trying to get ahead of potential FOMO. And while you may see and do a large quantity of activities - do you forget to truly experience them?
It’s okay to slow down and take a morning to wander without a plan. Give yourself the chance to savor your time away. You might see a few less attractions, but you’ll pick the ones that really matter, and actually enjoy them.
2. Put Your Phone Down
This is a hard one in today’s world. Your phone does everything, and it’s extremely beneficial when traveling. You use it for everything from directions to looking up restaurants to getting awesome shots for the ‘gram. But try to put it away for a while. As you travel, take a few photos and then make a conscious effort put your phone in your bag. Immerse yourself in the sights and experiences that traveling brings you. After all, for the majority of history people did all of this without smartphones.
3. Use All of Your Senses
Traveling is obviously a visual experience, but sight is only ⅕ of your senses. What would your experience be like if you used all of them?
Try it. Close your eyes and take in the music playing in the local café. Inhale the aromas of your environment, and taste all of the different spices in the dinner you have at a local restaurant. Touch the rocks as you hike through the mountains. Take a moment to sit down and write some reflections about your day in a journal. Your travels will become more meaningful when you make a conscious effort to use more than just your sense of sight.
4. Discover the Ordinary and the Extraordinary
Whether you travel “by the seat of your pants,” or you’re a “planner” at heart, you should always take time to discover the ordinary and the extraordinary. The extraordinary may be easy to find in your destination – major landmarks and other beautiful tourist attractions will do the trick.
The ordinary may be something that “just happens.” It could be the quiet street you meander down or the time spent sitting in a local pub, or the shopkeeper’s hand you shake. Those ordinary instances can often create some of your most memorable experiences.
5. Connect With Locals
The most profound experiences come from connecting with people who have had a lifetime in the destination you’re seeing with new eyes. Be sure you know a few words in the language of your destination, and use them. Greet the taxi driver, say hello to the woman selling you souvenirs, and thank the waiter who serves you dinner. You might be surprised how these simple ways of engaging can lead to deeper conversations and a greater understanding of the culture you’re visiting.
6. Be Cognizant of Your Impact
Know how your tourist status impacts the location you’re visiting. Be aware of how you are affecting the environment, the economy, and the people. Try to make conscious choices to “leave no trace.” The last thing you want is to embody the stereotype of the loud, oblivious “ugly American.” Ask yourself:
- How can I reduce my carbon footprint when traveling?
- What can I do that will not put a strain on local resources?
- What local restaurants can I enjoy?
- Can I buy souvenirs made by local artisans?
- What is considered polite, and what is considered impolite?
- Can I contribute to local charities that are ethical and helpful to the community?
- Is public transportation available instead of taxis?
7. Practice Gratitude
Practicing gratitude is probably one of the simplest and easiest ways to be a more mindful traveler. By being grateful for all of the things you experience, the people you meet, and the places you see you can bring mindfulness to the forefront of your travels.
8. Start Being Mindful Before You Leave
Do you have a trip planned? Then start being mindful now – before you even take off. Make mindfulness a part of your current life. Because when you look at the tips above, what do you notice? They can all be practiced now. They’re all good habits for your day-to-day life – and when you start with mindfulness now, it will incorporate naturally into your routine, wherever you are.
Anthony Bourdain said, “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” And isn’t that what mindful travel is all about?
If you’re planning a trip to your dream destination and you’d like to be able to speak with the locals as a way of connecting with the culture, check out Fluent City’s courses. We offer conversation classes in many languages that will help you be a more mindful traveler.