And Mindful Travel, Too

posted in: Mindfulness | 0

Spring is here and summer travel plans are underway. So, as a mindfulness guide, I had to ask myself: Can we make travel more enjoyable by practicing mindfulness?

Let me preface this by saying, travel is often not very environmentally friendly, so the environmentalist in me is at odds with the part of me that loves to travel, that believes travel broadens your mind and makes you more compassionate. To my fellow environmentalists, I will endeavor to include ways to make any kind of travel less impactful.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. I’m on vacation, stop with the mindfulness already! Mindfulness is all about living in the present moment, and what better way to experience travel than that? It opens you up to new adventures, new possibilities and helps you let go of the inevitable travel snafus that happen on any trip. So really, traveling mindfully allows you to enjoy your vacation even more!

Here are some ideas to help you travel mindfully (while being kind to the environment):

Travel light
My #1 rule for traveling is to pack lightly and this is an ongoing debate in our house. On a recent business trip, my husband brought 14 shirts for a three day conference. FOURTEEN! I have no idea why he would need to change his shirt four+ times a day, but that’s how he rolls. Me? I challenge myself to take the least amount I can get away with, taking mix and match clothing and items that are versatile. I’m proud to say, I can take a ten day trip with carry on luggage. Packing less stuff means you don’t have heavy bags to lug around, you don’t have to pay baggage fees, you don’t have to spend too much time deciding what to wear and you have less worries about lost luggage. I also learned the hard way (see Plan Less below)  that if the inconceivable happens and it ends up permanently lost or (gasp) stolen, you’re out less of your favorite things.

Stay close to home
One of the key tenets of mindful travel is sustainable travel. There is so much to see right near your home, and as a general rule, the shorter the distance you travel the kinder it is to the environment.

Fly greener
There are times when you must travel by air. My daughter lives over 12 hours away by car and about 20 by train, adding a minimum of three entire days to the trip. For someone who works, that’s just not practical. So when traveling by air, be sure to select an airline that is mindful of the heavy carbon footprint of air travel and endeavors to reduce their impact. Here is an article with more information, including a list of The 6 Most Sustainable Airlines for Flying Green in 2022. However you travel, be sure to practice low-waste by taking your own environmentally friendly toiletries and other items.

Stay Greener
While planning your accommodations, be sure the hotel, lodge or resort you’re staying at is using sustainable practices. Beyond Green is a website dedicated to sustainable tourism – check them out. And where ever you stay, do you really need housekeeping to bring you new towels everyday?

Connect with a new culture
Immersing myself in the local culture is always in my plans. My favorite travel stories always involve local people, whether it’s in Haiti where we stay a someone’s home, or the lovely couple we met in Australia, or when we spent a crazy week in Calgary (but that’s a whole ‘nother story).

Plan less
Once, when traveling cross-country with a friend, our car was broken into and everything we had was stolen. That’s certainly not anything we planned for, but because we had a very loose itinerary, we were able to pull it together and had the best time ever. I’m not saying don’t plan any excursions or special days. What I am saying is to leave a lot of time open. You might decide you just want to lounge near the pool, or you might get invited to music on the beach by your new local friends. This allows you to be flexible.

Get out in nature
Ah, nature. And whether that’s in New York’s Central Park, or somewhere in the Amazon, spending quiet time in nature is a lovely way to start your day.

Keep a semi-normal routine
Don’t change your eating habits up too much or it may lead to upset stomach. However, be open to local cuisine and take your time to eat it mindfully – you’ll enjoy it more! Try to establish some sort of night time routine to help encourage a restful sleep. Meditation can help quiet your mind at the end of a full day.

Try new things
That might be a zip line in the Costa Rican jungle, local cuisine at a Scottish pub, sitting on the edge of an active volcano, attending a cultural celebration or Forest Bathing in the Sierra. There are so many options to choose from, so step out of your comfort zone a bit and be fully present for new adventures. Just be safe!

Some of the best adventures I’ve been on have been Rotary International humanitarian trips – repairing schools in Mexico, delivering wheelchairs in Peru or teaching summer school in Haiti. If you’re not a Rotarian (and you should be), there are travel companies out there that specialize in humanitarian travel. For a list of some companies, try this article on 9 Awesome Volunteer Based Travel Companies. You don’t have to travel far. There are some opportunities right here in the United States.

Being fully present when you travel helps you to enjoy the moment and makes travel more meaningful and memorable. Live fully and create stories, that’s what it’s all about. Which reminds me of a travel story that involves the Hokey Pokey …

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