Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.-Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle
How many times have you come back from vacation only to feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? So many tourists rush around trying to see all the sites at their destination that they completely miss what the place they have traveled to is really about. One museum or temple starts to look like all the others, and they even start to forget where they are.
I used to be this type of tourist, but I have learned from experience that it is much more enjoyable when I travel the world with mindfulness. I started to realize that I wasn’t even fully using my senses when I traveled. I would watch a sunset, but my mind would be so involved thinking about what my plans were for later that night or for the next day, that I didn’t fully see the sun that was setting. The first time I truly watched a sunset without letting my thoughts get in the way, I cried. For I didn’t just see the sunset, but I felt the sunset. I felt the beauty of the whole world, and I decided I would travel more mindfully from that point on.
I would make it a point to fully engage with a place. I would look at the expressions of the people who I passed on the street. I would say hello as I walked by. I would smile instead of remaining lost in my own thoughts. I would truly feel the waves as their salt washed over my skin. I would pay attention to the clouds and the shade of blue that lie in between the clouds. I would taste deeply the new flavors that I ate. Instead of just the spice, I would taste the underlying flavors of chocolate and earth. I would feel the cold of the ice cream on my tongue, not just taste it’s buttery burnt caramel flavor. I would not just snap pictures at random. I would look closely at what I was taking a picture of before taking it. I would no longer try to plan every last second of my travels, but instead, I would feel the moment, and let myself be shaped by what happened along the way.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.-Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad
Here are some ways to travel the world with mindfulness:
1. Start with where you are and go on a walk. Don’t take a map. Don’t try to figure out where you are. Get hopelessly lost. Notice everything around you. The colors of the buildings. The dogs. The cats. The trees. Send your mind on vacation, and use all of your senses on this walk. Take a taxi back to your hotel or ask for directions to get back when you are done.
2. Eat something strange. Find a street vendor and order the food they are making. Don’t worry if you don’t know what it is. Be adventurous and try it anyway. If possible, eat it with your hands. Feel the texture of the food, eat slowly, and notice the flavors, and the way it makes you feel.
3. Buy some local music. Go back to your hotel, and close your eyes. Really listen to the music. Don’t do anything else, but hear the sounds.
4. Have a conversation with a stranger and really listen. Ask them questions about their culture, about their day-to-day lives, about their private dreams. And really listen. Try not to make the conversation about you. Practice active listening and repeat back to them some of the things that they tell you. Try to see the world from their point of view.
5. Throw away your Lonely Planet. Just for a day. You will learn more about the place you are in by actually experiencing it rather than by what you’ve read or planned. Really, it’s OK. Not every moment of your trip has to be planned. Meet some strangers and go with them wherever they are going. Don’t worry, they won’t think you are stalking them. Or strike out on your own and go where whimsy takes you. Stop at the café that intrigues you, not at the one where you read all the reviews on TripAdvisor. See what captures your attention; listen to what calls to your soul to experience the richness of the world.
Try and travel the world with the eyes of the spirit wide open, and not too much factual information. To tune in, without reverence, idly — but with real inward attention. It is to be had for the feeling, that mysterious sense of rapport, of identity with the ground. You can extract the essence of a place once you know how. If you just get as still as a needle you’ll be there.- Lawrence Durrell, Travel Reader
I usually cry when I leave the places that I travel to. They move me that deeply. I know that I will never see the same combinations of the things that I experienced again and when I return, things will be different. Being there in that particular moment allowed me to be present with that particular medley which will never be present in the same way again. Somehow, travel allows me to be more present than I tend to be in my everyday life. But travel has taught me to be more mindful in my daily life as well, so that every day truly feels like vacation. May we all see this moment for the gift that it really is, may we be mindful of it, and live it to its fullest.
Those who visit foreign nations, but who associate only with their own countrymen, change their climate, but not their customs; they … return home with travelled bodies, but untraveled minds.-Charles Caleb Colton
What are some ways that you travel the world with mindfulness? Let me know in the comments below!