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When I travel with family and friends, my awareness and appreciation of my travel experiences are somewhat compromised.
Decisions are made collaboratively. Responsibilities are shared. You do this, I’ll do that. I find that my memories of such trips are incomplete.
But, traveling solo, it’s all up to me. I plan and navigate everything myself. I remember more clearly the places I visit and the routes I take. As I travel solo I am not only more aware of my experiences but also of how I relate to my destination, its culture, environment, and people.
I find that solo travel is more mindful travel.
It is travel with more intent because the only motivation under consideration is my own. It is travel with more awareness as my attention is not diverted by travel companions.
10 Tips for Mindful Travel
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment.” While I enjoy seeing iconic sights, architecture and the occasional museum, I know that my best travel experiences, the ones that turn into stories that are told and retold, result from being in the moment and receptive to the opportunities presented. Here are some tips to help you travel mindfully.
- Choose your destination with Intent. You can start traveling more mindfully simply by better understanding why you want to go where you want to go. Dig down. The initial inspiration may come from a book you read or a movie you watched, but surely there's more to the story. Understand your intent, what's drawing you to the destination, and you'll have a more mindful experience when you're there.
- Plan with experiences in mind. Mindful travel focuses on experiences that affect your physical, emotional, mental and intellectual wellbeing. Plan for experiences that enrich you in these ways rather than in materialistic ways.
- Visualize the necessities but no more. Traveling solo does require attention to details. Visualizing how the practical aspects of your trip fit together, from departure to transfers to accommodation, help you travel with less stress. But stop imagining what the trip will be like at that point.
- Travel with an open mind. It's impossible to travel without any expectations of a destination. However, the less you are driven by specific expectations, the more open you can be to all travel's possibilities and the freer you will be to travel in the moment.
- Act spontaneously. Traveling alone I am more aware of my energy and interests plus I'm flexible. When a surprising opportunity arises, I can choose whether to act on it or not. And because I’ve done my research, I know what the impact of that change will be to my plans.
- Slow it down. You can't move quickly and also be mindful. Slow down. Take the time to absorb the experience. Take note of how you feel in your destination. Sit on a bench and watch how people live their lives.
- Stay local, buy local, meet locals. By planning well you will have a better understanding of how to be supportive of the local economy. Buy local crafts, eat local food, stay in locally-owned accommodation so that the profits don't leave the country. And as you do all of this, connect with locals. This will give you much on which to reflect.
- Know that every experience has value. Sometimes things go right, very right. Sometimes they go wrong. And sometimes they are somewhere in between. Whatever the case, know that every experience has value. It may offer practical knowledge to make future travel easier, insights that might alter your worldview or simply a great story to share. Know that everything that happens as you travel is interesting.
- Take a break from technology. It's pretty hard to stay in the moment when you're trying to share that moment with the world via social media or by calling home all the time. A break from screens and technology, both of which can be incredibly addictive, promotes mindfulness.
- Find your routine and treat it with care. A routine doesn't have to be something that you do by rote. It can be something to relish and it can support mindfulness. Obviously, a meditation or yoga practice would make an ideal mindfulness routine but even enjoying a morning coffee in the same place, whether it involves watching a sunrise or watching laundry blowing in a breeze, can be a wonderful, mindful experience.