Taking time out of everyday life to meditate and mindfully reflect gives the opportunity to be conscious of what makes our present experience so meaningful.
When the opportunity to travel is either planned or presents itself, the traveler is expected to want to make the absolute most of the trip. Time is spent talking to others for recommendations on and researching the best natural sights to see, historic places to visit, hotels to book, and restaurants at which to eat. When the traveler arrives at the destination, he or she is ready to see and do as much as the twenty four hour day will allow. Whether visiting somewhere new either across the state or across the world, it is expected that one would want to extract as many experiences possible from the trip.
Yet, is creating a packed agenda the best way to value time away from home?
Rushing around a foreign place is surely exhilarating, but it is easy to get caught up in sticking to a plan. Sometimes, it is important to explore freely to get the best sense of how the culture functions and how the locals live; letting spontaneity lead the way can open doors to unlikely adventures, maybe along the lines of discovering a local surf shop in Cape Town, a quaint café in Paris, or an art installment on public display in Boston. In the words of avid traveler Wendy Worrall Redal, “Rather than try to fit in every sight, explore fewer things in greater depth.”
This idea of doing less may seem unproductive, however doing less on a trip actually leaves more time to be mindful of the activities in which the traveler takes part. Immersing one’s self in the paintings hung in Madrid’s Museo Nacional del Prado or savoring a meal in the in middle of Dubai’s desert with full attention allows one to be mindful of every aspect that makes the new experience unique. Additionally, making free time allows the opportunity to reflect on the trip. Whether things went off without a hitch, or construction delayed transportation time, record feelings that arose in the memorable moments, and recognize how that affected the overall excursion. It is not important to record everything, whether that be through writing words in a journal or posting edited pictures on Facebook, but simply what is most important to the traveler.
Travel writer Pico Iyer advocates for such quiet time in his TED Talk “The Art of Stillness.” He speaks about how traveling experiences can be perceived in any way possible, but it is up to the traveler to use his or her mindset to realize the best in them, which comes by way of taking time to sit still. Getting in the habit of being still and recognizing mindfulness is a great way to remove one’s self from the busyness a trip will induce, and realize the wonderful opportunity it is to be visiting a new, sometimes unfamiliar place.
For help getting started on such a mindful mission while traveling, a service called Slow Travel is available. Slow Travel advocates for travelers to almost emulate the life of a local in destinations across North America, Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean. The service finds travelers vacation rentals, and encourages the exploration of the surrounding area in-depth: Buy groceries at the local market, check out what the streets have to offer that day, and interact with full-time residents. Pretend you live there. Slow Travel also asks its travelers to share their unique stories, favorite memories, and original pictures on their website. The hope is to inspire others to live like a local while traveling and share knowledge on where to go and what to do to fully enjoy the trip.
Another service, Slow Food, is in support of being mindful of experiencing new foods in travel. A non-profit organization, Slow Food encourages practicing local food traditions with the best and most natural ingredients. It recognizes diverse and delicious foods around the globe, thus, taking the time to mindfully eat meals made from of the land would promote the Slow Food mission.
Thinking of what the world has to offer, I’m tempted right now to book a trip anywhere to mindfully take the time to slowly immerse myself in a different culture through sights, local life, and food. Applying everyday mindfulness – taking time to meditate and consciously recognizing the positives in my surroundings – while traveling emphasizes the benefits of a constant mindful lifestyle. Hopefully the next trip I take, whether it be a short weekend in a nearby city or a long cruise to the Virgin Islands, I look forward to continually practicing mindfulness to get the most out of the present experience.