Traveling can bring out the best in us, opening our horizons and inspiring our lives. We can become more authentic versions of ourselves through the experiences that come from stepping outside of our busy lives. But travel can also bring out the worst in us. Interrupted sleep, new food, language barriers, transportation delays, and simply being out of our routines can make our trips feel interminable. If you have ever felt like you are rushing or suffering through your sacred journey retreat when you are supposed to be enjoying it, you have experienced the negative effects of travel stress.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a contemporary distillation of traditional meditation practices. Usually meditation is thought of as something one only does sitting down in front of an altar in a perfectly serene environment. But mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, at any time. It is not so much a particular thing that we do, as a way of being.
Sometimes when we are traveling it can be hard or impossible to do our seated meditation practices, unless we are on a meditation or yoga retreat. But mindfulness is always available, and it helps us bring peace to every moment. Mindfulness is the continual art of bringing our full attention to the present moment, wherever we are and whatever we happen to be doing. It is an active acceptance, releasing our expectations, judgments, and cravings, and opening to the fullness of present reality.
How Can Mindfulness Improve Traveling?
We can apply the principles of mindfulness to traveling in a variety of ways. The first is before we even leave home. We can support mindful travel by setting a clear intention for our journeys, understanding why we are going to that healing retreat or other destination. Then we can allow spaciousness is our schedule for us to enjoy the trip, without planning it so that we are on the go every moment of every day. Schedule in down-time and days off. This will provide a buffer in case of transportation delays, as well as allow integration time and time to simply be.
Practicing mindfulness is especially useful if you have a major travel hiccup. Letting stress and overwhelm run the show will just make any undesirable situation worse. If your world is spinning out of control, the last thing you want is to get mentally and emotionally caught in the storm. When you are able to practice mindfulness, you are much less likely to exacerbate challenging situations with your own negative thinking. It can also help you see ways out of difficult situations, allowing you to see windows where normally you might only see walls. And even if you are unable to alter the predicament, mindfulness can help you accept what is happening with more grace and ease.
And when things are going well, mindful travel helps us actually feel the soul of a place. Rather than just checking things off our “to-see” list, when we are traveling with mindful attention we can experience more of the depth and beauty each place we visit has to offer.
And lastly, mindfulness while traveling helps us actually be where we are – rather than still in the office. Many people miss their vacations because they are unable to stop worrying about their home or work lives. Mindfulness helps us be in the moment, so we can actually experience our journeys.
How to Practice Mindfulness While Traveling
While a mindfulness retreat can help you really dive in and embody mindful living, you can start on your own at any time.The first step in mindfulness is conscious observation. Bringing your attention to the present moment, and noticing what sights, sounds, and sensations you are experiencing. Then focus on breathing deeply, using diaphragmatic breathing to relax the mind and nervous system. Then engage all of your attention in the present moment. This means noticing the sensations in your body, what is happening in the world around you, and any activity you might be engaged in, with allowance, acceptance, and appreciation. That’s it, simple to explain and yet it can take a lifetime to master. But every moment we do our best to practice mindfulness is another moment fully lived.
Travel can be challenging and stressful, and often not at all what we expect. But practicing mindfulness can help us enjoy our journeys with more presence and clarity. Then, however far you may be outside your comfort zone or how wildly the world may be spinning, you can remain connected to your calm center and appreciate the moment.