This guide to mindful travel is jammed packed with everything you need to know to enhance your travel experiences.
To help you better immerse, experience the in-between moments, and connect with yourself and others. And to basque in the sunsets, savor the tastes, and absorb the awe-inspiring landscape of the world.
So, come along and expand your travel experiences with a little bit of mindfulness!
Mindfulness, it’s everywhere these days.
As a health educator, it’s something I really became interested in years ago when it started appearing in mainstream wellness & education circles.
As time has passed it’s an approach I’ve adopted in my own life and over time, it has naturally extended to my travel adventures.
It helps me better experience and connect with life. As well as find calm and manage stress.
Thank goodness for that!
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply the practice of paying attention so as to create space for insight.
I find it helpful to think of it as the mental effort to make yourself present in each passing moment.
So, it’s the practice of being completely present in the moment and aware of where you are and what’s happening around you.
And a way of experiencing the present moment exactly as it is, without resistance or judgment.
Mindfulness steadies & grounds us.
Even before travel begins, a mindful mindset can help the planning process. In mindfully asking yourself some wellness questions, you’ll be more successful in planning a day trip, weekend getaway, or vacation you want and need.
Travel has the ability to restore the mind, body, & spirit. It’s one of the many gifts of venturing to new places.
In knowing how powerful mindfulness can be to well-being, I set out to research and put together this guide to mindful travel.
It’s based on the science of mindfulness and the art of how to incorporate it into travel. Think of it as everything you need to know about how to intentionally travel in more mindful ways.
What Is Mindful Travel?
Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment.
So, practicing mindfulness during travel helps you to devote your full attention to each travel experience as it happens.
Travel often brings with it a heightened sense of awareness because of the new sights, sounds, and smells that are all around you.
You know, the smell of pizza in Rome or feeling the ocean breeze on your face in Capri. Mindful travel is about taking that phenomenon a step further by intentionally focusing even more on the present. Ahhhh 😊.
It’s a way of leaving the distractions at the door, so to speak.
That way you’re not ruminating about the past or fretting about the future. And you’re fully present for that pizza or beach walk.
Traveling mindfully is traveling intentionally & conscientiously.
Think of mindful travel as traveling in a way that maximizes your experience of being somewhere else, while also minimizing harm to others and your environment.
In some ways, mindful travel requires a greater awareness of the choices you’re making and the consequences that flow from those choices. But, for just a little bit of effort, it’s a win for everyone!
Mindful travel is about traveling ethically, respectfully, & sustainably to the best of your abilities.
The Benefits of Mindful Travel
According to the American Psychological Association, the benefits of mindfulness include a decrease in stress and emotional reactivity as well as better focus.
Imagine navigating the natural challenges that come with travel a bit more mindfully. Transportation delays, dealing with inconsiderate people, and lost in translation might just be that much easier to take.
And, the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center sites mindfulness can positively impact the brain and enhance positive emotions.
High five to that! Just think, during travel that would allow you to:
- be completely present for the experiences you’re having in a new place
- relax more deeply
- have meaningful interactions with the people you meet in your travels
- minimize the environmental impact of your travel
- let go of distracting thoughts about what might be happening back home or at the office
Sounds like a better way to live and travel, right?! 😉
The Rise of Mindful Travel
The development of smartphones and social media over the last 15 years has created more and more stress.
People are finding it harder and harder to turn off (me included).
To counteract the stress, there’s a growing movement to combine travel with mental decluttering. Where people look to engage with experiences that are tech-free.
One way to experience mindful travel is to dive into an organized activity.
Travel tours that highlight mindful experiences include activities such as foraging for food, doing breathwork, sitting in sweat lodges, doing craftwork, and telling stories by a campfire.
Or your could seek out a more immersive experience like one from The Mindful Travel Company, which offers tours to the Daintree region of Far North Queensland.
With no mobile phone coverage and no electricity grid, visitors completely disconnect with the modern world and immerse themselves in nature, surrounded by rock pools, waterfalls, and the most ancient rainforest in the world.
Sure sounds like travel bliss to me!
But just remember, mindful travel is not something you can only do in an organized tour. You can take always take mindful travel with your wherever you go!
Tips for Mindful Travel
Mindful travel really involves three kinds of mindfulness.
- Bringing yourself into the present moment so as to immerse yourself in the travel experience.
- Being mindful of how you relate to others who you encounter in your travels.
- Being mindful of the impact that your travel has on the environment.
1. Mindfulness for Yourself
Mindfulness is promoted by certain practices and activities.
Just like other pieces of self-care that add happiness & positivity to the day, there are lots of avenues to work mindfulness into your travels. Here are a few ideas for how to do it when you’re on the road.
KICK-OFF WITH INTENT
Starting with intent means making time and space for things that we value.
By recognizing what we want, we can travel on our own terms, instead of living on autopilot.
Brainstorm your vision for the trip, and what kind of experiences might align with that vision. Then begin planning a trip around those needs & interests.
START A MINDFULNESS PRACTICE AT HOME
To practice mindful travel, it helps if you already have a mindfulness practice at home. Perhaps you already do yoga or enjoy nature walks.
If you don’t have a home practice, here are a few simple ideas to get you started.
- Breathe consciously & intentionally (be aware of your body)
- Identify a mindfulness technique you enjoy and build it into your travels
- When things don’t go as planned, simply observe your emotional and physical reactions
TRAVEL LIGHT (PACK ONLY WHAT YOU NEED)
This is such a simple idea, yet it can a noticeable difference in where you focus your energy & attention.
For example, taking fewer clothes means less time making decisions about what to wear. This means more time drinking coffee, hiking, or whatever else you love to do!
Packing fewer valuable also means less time worrying about security, and we all need a bit less worrying these days.
In addition, less carry-on luggage means no excess baggage fees and less time spent at luggage carousels. And, less luggage means it easier to take public transport. A win-win!
LET GO OF LISTS
Sometimes lists of things “to do” can get in the way of spontaneity, and that’s part of what makes travel so engaging.
Checking things off “the list” prevents you from being in the moment, so don’t let this happen! Instead, simply relax and go with the flow.
Find the balance that will allow you to travel with intention, yet leave space for the unexpected.
USE YOUR SENSES
Often times we live life on autopilot. Hurriedly rushing from one thing to the next. But, by using sensory awareness, we can bring our attention back into the present moment
This can be as simple as making time to sit and observe.
Or try to replace thinking with your senses & instead:
- feel the breeze on your cheek
- notice the colors of the mountains
- pay attention to the smells & try to identify them
- or listen to the sounds of voices speaking a foreign language
Immerse yourself in the moment, you will never have it again!
Travel is an ideal time to slow the pace and relax.
This is where a few simple strategies can make a big difference to your daily pace.
You could go to fewer places and spend more time in each one. (Which I highly recommend if you are planning a trip to Italy!) Or take public transport instead of the hassle of renting a car.
If you’re looking for a practical self-care tool, try using the STOP acronym:
S = stop
T = take a breath
O = observe
P = practice mindfulness
Don’t let your travel experience be interrupted by a constant stream of smartphone chimes and notifications!
Let’s face it, time spent on the screen while traveling is time that you don’t spend meeting locals and being in your new environment. 😞
Do whatever you need to do to be present.
So, turn on “out of office” settings for email, turn the phone on airplane mode for a while, or go one further and choose destinations that have no signal or connectivity.
Your brain will thank you for the break!
TAKE FEWER PHOTOS
I know, I know! The keyword here is fewer.
The thing is, taking photos means looking at your surroundings through a lens instead of experiencing it fully. Think about it for a minute.
Perhaps sometimes, we take photos to impress others, but the main purpose of mindful travel is to be present and experience your travel firsthand.
It’s really about practicing mindful photography instead. (One of my favorite pastimes & a creative tool for well-being).
INCORPORATE MINDFUL MOVEMENT
Mindful movement will leave you feeling restored.
Mindful walking at a pace slower than your normal gait provides a heightened sense of awareness and is the perfect fit for nature.
Other activities like yoga and tai chi focus on the sensations of the body. This kind of active mindfulness is beneficial because it helps to regulate the nervous system, allowing you to experience more calm. Ahhhhh!
KEEP A JOURNAL
A notebook and a pen are a great addition to your travel self-care toolkit! That’s because the daily act of writing about your travels will help bring you back into the present.
Taking notes about your surroundings strengthens your powers of observation, helps you to pay attention to what’s going on around you, and builds a stronger connection with the place you are in at that moment.
Journaling can give you a better sense of overall well-being.
2. Mindfulness for Others
RESPECT CULTURAL CUSTOMS
A little common sense goes a long way when we find ourselves in foreign lands. Really, it just comes down to remembering to be respectful.
You know, remembering to do things like:
- Be mindful of the cultural norms of the palace you are traveling (for example, make sure your clothing doesn’t offend local values)
- Use appropriate greetings
- Observe local table manners
- Trying not to impose your values or world view on the people you meet in your travels
TRY TO LEARN SOME OF THE LANGUAGE
One way to respect locals and connect with them is to learn some of the local language.
It’s truly the doorway to better understanding people and their cultures.
People will appreciate that you have made an effort to learn their language and you might just make a few new friends along the way!
AVOID EXPLOITATION OF PEOPLE OR ANIMALS
Certainly, we’d all like to empower & support the communities we visit when we travel.
That starts by being aware that travel brings people from rich countries into poor countries, so do what you can to avoid exploitation.
For example, some local tour operators underpay guides & porters. So, try to avoid these kinds of activities.
When participating in a curated tourism experience, make sure it is ethical.
Ask questions if you aren’t sure.
In addition, since animals are often involved in tourism experiences (elephant rides, camel rides, horse riding, etc.), make sure the animals are not being mistreated.
BE MINDFUL OF OTHERS WHEN TAKING PICTURES
It’s always good to be considerate of others when capturing moments.
This seems like common sense, but we’ve all encountered individuals who seem to be oblivious to others when they are taking photos. It’s so, well… not mindful!
Here are a few things to remember:
- Make sure your photos of local people respect their human dignity
- Remember that people are not exhibits in a zoo (so to speak)
- Only take photos of people if they agree to it
- Don’t share travel photos that perpetuate negative stereotypes
- Avoid ‘poverty porn’ (or media that exploits the poor’s condition to generate sympathy), instead make photos & build relationships with those you meet
3. Mindfulness for the Environment
Our way of living and style of life can either harm or honor the planet. So mindful expression during travel is a way to honor our connection with the earth. Choose to…
- Take with you reusable items (water bottles, cruelty, grocery bags, etc.)
- Take water purifiers with you instead of plastic water bottles
- If you are offered a straw, decline
OFFSET YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
By now, we are probably all aware that travel uses large amounts of natural resources and creates a large carbon footprint.
One way to offset the environmental impact of your travel is to travel slowly & spend more time in fewer places.
Also, you could take fewer flights and opt for ground transportation (buses, trains, etc.) where possible.
Even exploring more on foot can help, because every little bit matters.
Mindful Travel Resources
No guide would be complete without some tools for the road!
And don’t hesitate to share this with anyone you know who’d love to travel in more mindful ways.
Mindful Travel Photography
Mindful photography is something I’ve been practicing for years, long before the the term was coined. Or I even realized it was a mindful practice!
One of the reasons I have always been drawn to photography is because it brings me into the present moment.
Everything else in life melts away and flow appears.
To get a sense of how you can practice mindful travel walks, here are a few experiences to check out.
Mindful Travel Apps
All of these apps have abundant relaxation techniques for anytime, anywhere!
Mindful Travel Books
Now get out there and plan your next mindful adventure.The world is waiting!
until the next time…
…live well – travel well – be well
Share, Connect, & Inspire!