What is Mindful Travel and Why Do We Need It?

Meg Mitchell
24.01.2020
What is Mindful Travel and Why Do We Need It?
Author: Meg Mitchell
24.01.2020 16:41PM

In a world that is as loud and as busy as it is, we’re slowly learning that we need regular breaks from all the noise.

If we don’t take the breaks our minds and bodies need, we will end up unable to cope with the day-to-day stresses as and when they come. We are so connected and so switched on all the time. We always have a million and one things to do, sometimes all at the same time. We are exposed to every bit of news, good, bad or indifferent. We have no break from anything. The external chatter tends to drown out that of our internal monologue.

It’s no secret that it’s starting to take its toll on our minds and it has been reported that as of 2017 more people are being diagnosed with stress, anxiety and other mental health conditions than ever before. The majority of these are young people, who are more connected by technology than other generation in human history.

Yet, these external noises are no different when we’re travelling, either. In fact, more and more of us are using travelling and holidays as a way to have a break from the constant pressures of everyday life, but sometimes travelling has its own challenges. You’re most likely travelling to have fulfilling life experiences and you aren’t going to get that by constantly being stressed out by things that can be easily avoided.

Travelling is something you will want to remember for a lifetime. The experience and memories you get from travelling can change you and being mindful of this will go a long way. If you give yourself some time to reflect and soak in the things you've accomplished and the places you've seen, you’ll find that your mindful travel adventure to be that much more fulfilling.

But what actually is mindfulness and how does it combat the above?

“It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through”. - Mindful.org

So that’s exactly what it needs to be, no matter what you’re doing. Be present and be grateful of the moment. If you apply these to actions related to your wellbeing whilst travelling, you can get the most from it. Sarah from Smarter Travel states it best by saying: "Mindful travel involves being completely present for the experiences you’re having in a new place”.

So we are giving you some tips and tricks to help provide balance on your mindful travels. Travel in itself is illuminating and can provide clarity like little else, but it has its own speed bumps and we want to help you prevent these from affecting your trip.

Mindful travel tip 1: Eat healthy, well and appreciate new flavours

For us, travelling is about experiencing the local cuisine and for most, it’s the only time we aren’t very restrictive with what we eat because we’re in ‘holiday’ mode.

We don’t like to advocate restriction, instead, we just say it is still important that we fuel our bodies with nutritious food. Fuelling your body is essential to give it the energy to keep up with the trip we have planned. It can be difficult to keep to a specific diet when on holiday i.e. vegan, vegetarian, lactose or gluten-free, but there are ways you can make it easier for yourself and take the stress of food out of your trip. For example, if you book a self-catering apartment, you can cook for yourself with local ingredients.

Tip - Be sure to check out the local markets and local businesses as well as they will usually have really fresh and high-quality ingredients to sample. Shop local and even try a local specialty dish (maybe even attempt to cook one yourself!). Take your time to enjoy the meal, its flavours and the environment you’re lucky enough to find yourself in.

Mindful travel tip 2: Exercise in new places and focusing on each movement

If you usually exercise, allow yourself time for it while you’re away. It will keep your body in a routine and it’s time to just move and stretch away from the busy schedule you probably have planned on your travels. There are obvious physiological benefits, but it’s impact on mental wellbeing cannot be underestimated.

It’s also a great way to see the town/city you’re staying in, you might even spot some restaurants you want to try while you’re on a walk or a run. If you’re a gym-goer, try a brand new gym on a day pass and compare it to your own. The very movements of physical activity require you to be present and focused, so use this time wisely and you’ll feel fantastic afterwards.

Tip - Download an app like Strava and keep your running logged each time you go somewhere new. It’s a fun form of self-development seeing your progress and all the new areas you’ve explored on your quest for fitness.

Mindful travel tip 3: Self care and doing what's fun for you

Self-care is something we should always make time for.

Self-care can be whatever it means to you. It could be a pamper night involving a long shower or an early night. It could just be the act of taking some alone time to yourself. It could be reconnecting with family and friends at home. It could be switching back on to take care of any responsibilities at home for a couple of hours. Whatever form self-care takes to you, do it. We guarantee you’ll feel refreshed and relaxed, ready to carry on with your exploring.

Tip - People often mistake self-care for a bit of lazy pamper session, yet it can be the complete opposite. If going ski-diving is something that makes you happy, or even treating yourself to watching a show, then do it. Check out the likes of Groupon, where it displays all local deals, and you could end up finding something that’s absolutely perfect for you in that moment.

Mindful travel tip 4: Saying NO at times and enjoying your own company

This is something we probably all struggle with while we are away.

We want to see everything, do everything, go everywhere. The hard fact is, we will self-combust if we try to do everything. You also don’t have to do everything. Don’t feel like you can’t have a night or even a day, in the hotel. If you were at home, you wouldn’t be out every day and night doing things, you’d be exhausted and if you do, it’s probably the reason you’ve come on holiday in the first place. Bottom line, it’s okay to say no to things if you really just want to sit in the hotel room, order room service and watch Netflix. No one will judge you.

Tip - Having some sort of entertainment, which can be in the form of a book or even Netflix, is great. But don’t feel that you always have to fill your mind. Try emptying it instead. There are loads of apps that teach the basic fundamentals of Yoga or meditation, so maybe give embracing peacefulness a go.

Mindful travel tip 5: Have an itinerary but leave room to breathe

Having an idea of what you want to do in each place on your trip will most likely save you a lot of time when you’re there.

Our biggest piece of advice is don’t pack too much in and give yourself plenty of time to get to and from each place. Make sure you take into consideration, train and bus times, airport waiting times and if you’re going during a busy season, plan for queues at the hot tourist spots.

The last thing, don't worry if you don't do everything on your itinerary, plan for the absolute must do’s and if you have extra time, then you can always squeeze in a couple more things while you’re there.

Tip - The likes of Booking.com or Hostelworld sometimes (make sure you check before booking!) offer free cancellations, which allows you greater flexibility in your travel plan. You may love somewhere so much you just need an extra few days!

Mindful travel tip 6: Putting down your phone, being present and appreciative of the moment

We’re all incredibly connected online, but are you as connected in person?

Likes, follows, mentions, notifications. They all swirl around on a daily basis and as such, it’s meant our phones have become intertwined with us as people. Ask yourself, how often do you check your phone a day? Do you really need to? Screen Time on the iPhone has put into stark reality for many, how much time is spent on our handheld lives. Imagine what could be gained if we invested that into our real-life instead?

Tip - If you’re going out with friends, do your best to leave your phone in your pocket for the entire night. Keep it on you, sure, as they’re important mediums for safety, navigation and communication. But immerse yourself deeply in a conversation, really listen to what people are saying to you and appreciate the face to face value of human communication.

Mindfulness isn’t just being present in the moment, it’s being aware of yourself and your needs. It’s about eating well, saying no, being prepared, and giving yourself the space to have a bad day, even when you’re travelling. Making those changes, listening to what you need and allowing yourself those things, will help you be more present. You will be more present at home and while you’re on holiday.

In the end, you’ll be getting the best you possibly can out of your experiences with day to day life and travel.

Want new travel guides sent directly to your inbox?

Subscribe to the Smaller Earth Newsletter.

Get in Touch