Mindfulness is a practice that we can take with us wherever we go. By doing so, we experience much more of our new surroundings and in a profounder way. We can find ourselves enjoying our inner nature, breaking open our Higher Self and giving our minds and bodies space for nourishment.
While traveling can be a meaningful break from the hectic pace of daily life, it can also be fraught with stress, expectations, travel complications, and much more. Instead of rushing, and wanting to visit as many places as possible during our trip, we take the chance to slow down, to really slow down, and are more observant with what we are taking in. Instead of worrying about not having enough time, it makes us appreciate the time we have and gives us a mental energy boost.
Mindful travel has been growing in significance as a global travel trend and refers to journeys that are purposeful. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, mindfulness itself is “the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment.” Unfortunately in this day in age, it is hard to practice mindfulness with social media distractions everywhere in addition to the need to visit the most instagrammable and “cool” places.
But what exactly is behind mindful travel?
There actually exists no official definition of mindful travel. To me, mindful travel is being present during each moment of your journey, enjoying the here and now. It is about observing, taking the time to really feel and listen and see what is around you. Mindful travel is letting yourself get immersed in a location, no matter how short or long your stay is. It is paying attention to your surroundings and reflecting on them. It is turning your mind off and feeling each sensation to the fullest.
Staying present is a key skill for any traveller to develop.
For example, just taking a moment to breathe helps to dispel stress-inducing thoughts and is an easy way to improve your travel experience. But mindfulness is more than the formal practice of meditative breathing. As a concept, it is about choosing where to focus your attention so that you are entirely in the present moment.
Here are a few ways to enrich your personal travel experience, creating a mindful journey for your body, mind and soul.
1. Let Go Of Expectations
It is normal that we build up our expectations of a destination. Often we wish to experience the same things as friends have told us, or have seen lots of beautiful Instagram travel posts - and when our personal experience is different, we tend to be disappointed. Instead of forming expectations of how a place should be, or what the food should taste like, learn to let go. Be prepared for what is about to come and you might just have the surprise of your life.
2. Disconnect From Devices
Mindful travel is about disconnecting from your devices so that you can connect with your destination, the new culture and yourself. You don’t have to abandon all technology to be mindful, but try at least to reduce your consumption. By using our phones too much, we take the element of surprise out of travel. We look up where to eat or what to see. Stop looking up every detail on your phone, and just walk along the street. Be aware of your surroundings and choose the place you like the most. Be adventurous and curious!
3. Eat More Mindfully
Trying new culinary delights is definitely part of traveling, but we often rush through eating. When you explore local markets or order a dish at a restaurant, slow down and pay more attention to what is on your plate. Enjoy every single bite, chew thoughtfully, breathe slowly, and be fully aware of each flavour and sensation. You will appreciate the differences in flavours and textures. You are guaranteed to enjoy your food even more; it is a completely new experience!
4. Feel Each Moment
Since mindfulness is all about paying attention, you need to slow yourself down and observe each sensation of your surroundings. Most travellers want to cross so many things off their list that they fail to fully enjoy their trip, rushing from one place to another. Instead of putting a time limit on your adventures, try to get a deeper feeling for each place and moment. By using sensory awareness, you can bring your attention back into the present moment. Feel the breeze on your cheek, notice the colours of the mountains, pay attention to the smells and sounds, and just relax.
Spending time in nature has healing and restorative power; and is the perfect opportunity to embrace your awareness. Being outdoors increases well-being, helps alleviate stress and anxiety, promotes creativity, and engages your senses. During your next hike, make the effort to stop along the way and bring conscious awareness to every sensation you perceive. There are plenty of possibilities to combine mindful activities with a trek, for example the Spiritual Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.
5. Show Gratitude
In the Andean culture, the aspect of expressing and showing gratitude is one of the most important ones. Be grateful for yourself, for having this opportunity to explore the world, for everything Mother Nature has been giving to you, and for all the good and bad experiences that teach you along your life journey. Remember that being able to travel is already something to be grateful for, as many people never get a chance to do the same. Be thankful for every day and every moment that you get to have an adventure.
6. Practice Meditation
By being mindful, you accept everything around you without any judgment and without getting distracted by thoughts of the past or future. It involves paying close attention to the present moment — especially our own thoughts, emotions and sensations — whatever it is that is happening. Having a meditation practice can really help you to be more mindful, especially when you are getting started. There are lots of different ways to integrate mindfulness into your next journey. For your spirit and mind it helps to do spiritual practices that embrace your connection with your inner world. It is good to be in a peaceful environment, to take walks in nature, to meditate, to practice yoga or breathwork, and more.
There are many retreats and travel experiences with the purpose of empowering people and embracing their awareness. When planning your next journey, dare to experience a mindful experience for your body and mind! Participate in a mindful retreat, include yoga and meditation into your journey, or just live each moment to the fullest.
If you want to learn more about how to embrace your self awareness during your next journey or retreat, feel free to discover the spiritual travel inspirations of Travel and Healing, or read my last blog article about my personal experience with the healing powers of the Inca plant medicine Ayahuasca.