“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
When your travelling, it is important to travel mindfully so that you can enjoy every moment all the more and create deeper and more meaningful memories. I have put together some tips to help you make the most out of every moment of your travels or even to use in your day to day life.
- Keep A Journal of Positive and Lovely Things
Simple but effective, I am now in the habit of taking a notebook, diary and a pen with me whenever I travel (even if it’s just to work), in order to write down the small things that make me smile. A painting in an art gallery; that first sight of a new city or piece of country side; or soft hotel bed sheets, it is these small things that make up your day, your trip, and ultimately your entire experience of a place. Keeping a travel diary can hugely help to keep memories alive when you return. Don’t be afraid of maintaining a journal; noting down just a few sentences while the adventures are fresh in your brain is enough to help you develop a happier and more peaceful mind.
- Escaping Social Media
Usually, within sixty seconds of arriving of your destination, phones are immediately turned on, texts are sent and Facebook statuses updated. Home is not so much a distant land, but a tiny, ever-present distraction, sitting irritatingly within your mobile phone. To stop holidays slipping away unnoticed, turn off your mobile!
- Put down your camera.
Constantly trying to record your moments instead of experiencing them takes you out of the present and into your ego. Not exactly the best way to travel in a mindful, meaningful way. Of course, taking photos for your photo albums of memories and experience are important but stop using your camera or camera phone as a barrier to the present, or as a way of validating and ‘proving’ your experiences. Think about what your photographing and soak up what you’re seeing… You’ll never know what you’re missing when you’re always positioning yourself as the spectator on your travels and it could lead to even better photos.
People who know me know how much I love to eat. But my biggest downfall is often how quickly I devour my food. By now, many people would have heard of ‘mindful eating’ and is something I hope to practice more. The theory goes that if you slow down and appreciate the flavors and textures of your food, not only will you enjoy it more, but you will eat less.
- Keep an open mind.
When travelling, it is important to travel with no judgment of anything. Even when required… Sometimes abroad, it is easy to race to a judgment about how some things are crazy, unsafe, unsanitary, stupid or don’t make sense. For every un-refrigerated chicken, there is a life lesson to be learned. For every family on a moped and spearfished shark, there is a lesson.
- Embrace everything.
I think it is important to try every food, talk to every person and embrace every amazing travel opportunity. You shouldn’t take it for granted and avoid saying ‘I hate this place’ or ‘If only the had… If you wish it was different, then you might as well go home. Accept everything for what it is. Seek out the beauty and freedom in every moment and embrace the unique opportunity.
- Adventure every day.
Every day the sun is shining. Well, even when it’s not, be thankful for the clouds and rain. Every day a new adventure awaits: a new country, new people, new places, new food, new random conditions. Don’t sit around on WiFi. Don’t lay around and get high all day or mope about missing McDonald’s. Get up, go on an adventure and take ever last drop in.
- Make local friends.
Locals can show you different way of life with different cultures, activities and perspectives on the world. If you don’t do this, then you don’t really travel because the people of a nation are its life. Open your mind and your heart.
- Take advantage of the freedom.
There is a beauty in leaving home, in being away, in another land. It is the beauty of independence, self-regulation and right choices. The freedom to think and believe and do and achieve, whatever you want, without being herded and molded and restricted.
- Seek out life lessons.
Every day while abroad, make sure to live consciously in order to gain the necessary life lessons that you can to learn that day. Every challenge, every palm leaf, bike ride, atoll trek, bead of sweat, cockroach, beach cabana, coconut, remote island, sun ray, rain drop, grain of sand, sunrise, sunset, new friendship and old memory. It all happens for a reason. Every day is a life lesson.
- Do one thing at a time.
On your next train ride, don’t do anything else, just ride the train. Don’t read. Don’t listen to your iPod. These are distractions from the moment. Single-task, don’t multi-task. The train ride is not a multi-hour annoyance until you arrive at your next destination. The ride is an experience unto itself.
- Do it slowly and deliberately.
Just because something may seem mundane does not mean it should be rushed.Be slow and deliberate in your travels.In the short-term, you’ll find that you forget and lose fewer things. In the long-term, you’ll enjoy each destination more if you travel slowly and deliberately, rather than rushing through four destinations in a week.
- Do less and put space between things.
Many European cities have countless grandiose churches, but do you need to see all of them? Every city has a myriad of options from tourist sites to local hot spots. Pick the few that are the most important or interesting to you and focus on them. Instead of rushing through the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort before dinner, spend an entire day walking the grounds of one. See every detail. Find interesting vantages for photographs. Meet other people sharing the same experience.Don’t over-schedule. Letting go of control can be difficult, but, once you do, you’ll realize that you’ve also saved yourself plenty of stress and aggravation too.
- Spend at least 10 minutes each day doing nothing.
When you put space between things, you’ll find the small spaces in the day in which to reflect or even do nothing. Our attention is constantly being demanded from friends, the internet, and advertisers. As time becomes more scarce, every minute you can reclaim becomes even more rewarding. Travel means your usual schedule is turned upside, so maintaining your regular mindfulness routine can be difficult. I plan to make sure I set time aside every day for meditation exercises; just ten minutes first thing in the morning, or just before bed, can maintain your mental well-being while away.
- Stop worrying about the future – focus on the present.
We’ve all been guilty of discounting the present because we’re looking forward to some moment in the future. Anticipation can be fun, but the more pressure we put on the future, the more likely it is to disappoint.Instead, treasure the current moment. The future will still be there even if you forget about it long enough to enjoy the present.
- When you’re talking to someone, be present.
People have much more to teach us about a place and culture than a museum or architecture does. Take advantage of the learning opportunity. We’ve all heard the stereotypes of every culture, but being present in a conversation with a local will reveal far more of the truth.
- Don’t do things just because you’re ‘supposed to’.
“Oh, if you’re in New York, you simply MUST visit the Statue of Liberty!” “Oh, if you’re in Rome, you HAVE to go to the Colosseum.” Screw that. If climbing to the top of a crowded building with 5000 other tourists does not float your boat, don’t do it.If you’re way more interested in modern art than ancient ruins, do that instead. The world of travel is filled with lots of opinions and advice. But doing what everybody else does just because it’s the ‘done thing’ – especially when it doesn’t actually interest you a whole lot – is a recipe for boredom and frustration. If you’re much more interested in visiting a vineyard than a Van Gogh, own your passion and pursue it guilt free. Your experience will be a whole lot more meaningful to you, and that’s what matters most. Look at your surroundings with a beginner’s mind.
There’s a flipside to the above point: don’t dismiss things out of hand because they don’t straight away seem like your cup of tea. Never been interested in sculpture before? Perhaps you’ve just never seen one that truly stirs your soul. A trip to the Accademia in Florence to see David in the (marble) flesh may just awaken something in you that you never realised was there.
- Looking at the world with a beginner’s mind
Be free from preconceived notions, open to new ideas, and without judgement. This will ill crack you open to amazing experiences you might otherwise have closed yourself off from.
- Stop with the souvenirs.
The souvenir industry is massive. So many of us, with the best of intentions, feel the intense need to buy a special something that will perfectly capture the feeling of a city and commemorate the trip. But that Balinese bowl or Turkish rug never seems quite as cool when you get it home, does it? We also feel the need to pick up little trinkets for the people back home – magnets and coasters and figurines that are destined to collect dust in the backs of closets. We want to show our loved ones we haven’t forgotten them, while sharing a little of the wanderlust-magic we felt during our globetrotting. But when it comes to souvenirs, here’s the truth: no souvenir will ever capture the vibe of a city. Seriously. No object will ever evoke the magic of your trip more meaningfully than your own memories. So save yourself some money and clutter (and help the environment at the same time) by saying no to souvenirs.
- Let go of the need to control and release your expectations
Part of the joy of travel is stepping outside our comfort zones – newness is everywhere. Yet the tension of uncertainty can also cause us to seize up and grip on tightly to the things we think we can influence, in order to have some semblance of normality or control. Which, in turn, leads to anxiety and aggravation.Instead of letting the uncertainty of travel rub you the wrong way, use it as an opportunity for self-growth and discovery. Unclench your grip, relax into the uncertainty, and really feel whatever comes up.Expectations are a real killer when it comes to enjoying your travel in a mindful, meaningful way. No matter how carefully you plot and plan, things will never turn out exactly how you want. And trying to force them to will just upset you and leave you wide open for disappointment.Hold your expectations and your plans loosely in your mind. Allow room for flexibility and unforeseen occurrences. And accept the reality of what is without attachment or angst.