Mindful travel offers explorers and adventurers the opportunity to unplug, experience new places more deeply while being fully present, and find joy in the little things. Traveling in a way that is intentional and purposeful and promotes fulfilling and transformational experiences that leave you changed for the better and also a better citizen to and for the world around you.
Travel has the power to positively impact your happiness and well-being and make a positive difference in the world, but just the act of travel alone is not a guarantee to experience the powerful benefits. Mindful travel holds the key!
What is Mindful Travel?
In modern-day society, we are becoming more and more disconnected from the world around us. We are overstimulated, highly stressed, and often live lives that are far removed from the natural world. With this can come a lack of knowledge and understanding of the world and our impact on it, a lack of connection to others as part of a global society, and a lack of ability to support our well-being by utilizing what nature has to offer.
Mindful travel offers benefits for you as a traveler and for the planet. Done intentionally, it helps you to slow down and fully immerse yourself in each place you visit, savor and appreciate each new adventure, and lean into opportunities for growth. You’ll also broaden your perspectives with curiosity and openness and walk away more connected to the places you went and the people you met.
Zach and I set intentions to infuse mindfulness into the way we live, travel, and work. We have experienced some amazing benefits for our health, happiness, and how fulfilled we feel. This article breaks down how to practice mindful travel so that you can reap the benefits for yourself in a way that is good for the planet as well.
What is Mindfulness & How Does It Relate To Mindful Travel?
Mindfulness can be described in many ways. We like to describe it as a nonjudgmental state of awareness grounded in the present moment. Life is filled with competition, comparison, and the constant push toward the next best thing or big accomplishment. It can be easy to become highly reactive or self-critical and feel the need to be always on or plugged in. With this, you can become entrapped in thoughts of the future (or past), far away from the present moment in which we all live and exist.
We ourselves have felt the impact of mindfulness meditation practices. They leave us feeling more grounded, centered, and at peace in the midst of our hectic day-to-day lives. It’s not about making the thoughts go away or having a totally quiet mind. Rather it’s about being aware of thoughts, sensations, and our present experiences without judgment. Allowing these sensations and thoughts to appear and pass, without attaching to them or regarding them as wholly true or requiring action.
Mindfulness infused into travel can look like practicing presence to fully immerse in new places, maintaining a sense of curiosity of how you might feel if you step outside your comfort zone, or taking a few moments to unplug from your devices and just breathe and be in the moment.
It is the intention and the “why” you bring to your travels that allow those experiences to be more fulfilling and transformative. There is a lot vying for our attention and this is a skill just like anything else that can be built and improved with practice. These tools will help you get started with mindful travel in a way that can transform your life.
Benefits of Mindfulness & Mindful Travel
- Increased flexibility and resilience for when things don’t go as planned
- Improved happiness
- Decreased Stress
- Improved immune functioning
- More feelings of fulfillment and increased ability to find meaning in your experiences
- Potential to have a positive impact on others or nature (which is also great for well-being)
- Broaden your perspectives & expand your comfort zone
What Does Mindful Travel Look Like In Practice?
TRAVEL WITH INTENTION & PURPOSE:
Mindful travel is aiming to be conscious about where you are exploring and your “why” for traveling to each new place. What do you hope to learn? How do you hope to grow or change? How can you contribute in a positive way?
As full-time travelers, we don’t want to feel like we are rushing from place to place to simply check it off the list. Our goal is to truly experience what each new place has to offer and derive as much meaning as we can from those experiences.
A good way to bring intention and purpose to your travels is to slow down and enjoy each place you visit with as much presence as possible. Aim to learn more about the place you go, the people you meet, and yourself with each experience.
Tip: When planning your next trip, think about what your intentions are and what you would find most meaningful. Use that as a guide when determining how much time you plan to spend in each place and what you plan to do. If you want a truly immersive and fulfilling experience, less is often more.
UNPLUG FROM DEVICES:
Strive to fully immerse yourself in the moment-to-moment experiences in each new place. Try putting away phones or distractions outside of what you use for navigating.
There will always be several things vying for your attention and your attention is a limited resource. Lean into your current surroundings and allow yourself to be where your feet are.
STRIVE FOR BALANCE:
Work time is work time and time for exploring is time to explore. Just because you are on a trip, doesn’t mean you won’t need some downtime. Give yourself permission to schedule time for rest! Setting boundaries will help you to be more present and find that balance that works for you. This will also help you to avoid travel fatigue or travel burnout.
HAVE AN OPEN MIND & BE FLEXIBLE:
Fear is a major factor that can hold people back (ourselves included). Embracing the new experiences and ever-changing landscapes of full-time RV travel can be stressful, but so rewarding. It has allowed us the opportunity to expand our comfort zone and practice being flexible and adaptable, never knowing what each new destination might bring.
By embracing each new experience and the thoughts, emotions, and sensations associated with them mindfully and without judgment, you can learn to better sit with change and challenges with less reactivity. This comes in handy, as travel does not always go as planned.
Try your best to embrace each new place or experience for what it is, rather than going into it with specific expectations. This will help you to appreciate your travels as they come while building resilience to better manage life’s stressors for more rewarding and fulfilling travel experiences.
REFLECT & SAVOR:
Reflection offers the opportunity to explore, grow, improve, and savor the positive experiences you have during your travels. A great way to practice mindful travel is to keep a notebook or journal with you. Take time to jot down gratitude for your experiences, the people you met, or what you learned about yourself in the hard moments.
What are the memories you want to carry with you? What are you proud of? Taking time to write those down can help you boost optimism and happiness and help you continue to train a mindful mindset as you stay on the lookout for all that your experiences entail. Use all of your senses and make those stories you record as lively and specific as possible!
If you are interested in ways to travel mindfully that are focused on sustainability, here are some additional tips:
- Support local businesses (we love visiting small shops, restaurants, tours, etc. when traveling to help give back to local communities)
- Consider traveling during the off-season. You will be treated with smaller crowds and unique experiences and also can ease the effects of high traffic during peak season while also supporting communities during tougher seasons when tourism is low
- Consider your transportation needs and shoot for carbon-neutral options when possible
Bring The Benefits of Mindful Travel Home
Your travel and vacation time may be limited, but the benefits don’t have to be. Extend the benefits of mindful travel by bringing those same practices home.
We encourage you to start to tune in when you feel most connected to the present moment.
- What types of things are you doing and how does it feel?
- How could you start to create more opportunities for this in your life or travels?
- Think about how it might look to bring more mindful moments to your life outside of travel and how that might impact how you feel in your day-to-day life. Or how that might impact your relationship with others or the planet.
Whether it is prioritizing a short walk to simply listen to the birds, feeling the fresh air entering your nose and the wind on your face, or a moment to simply sit and notice your thoughts without judgment; even the smallest actions can create meaningful change when compounded over time.
In addition, you might typically think of travel as larger trips to somewhere exotic or new, but there are often plenty of places to explore not far from our own backyards! Consider traveling more often in your own neck of the woods to continue to have those immersive experiences and foster that connection to your own community.
Mindful Travel Overall
Mindful travel is a skill that can be practiced and improved just like anything else. It is an imperfect practice for us that we are ever striving to incorporate into our lifestyle. There really is no “perfect” when it comes to the art of being mindful!
Sometimes work and concerns about life bleed into our time in nature. Sometimes we are not as mindful as we might like to be. It can be really tough to lean into challenges or unpleasant thoughts or experiences that might come up. That is okay and we try not to judge ourselves for that.
Mindful travel is about the journey! By aiming to be intentional, remain present, and search for meaning and purpose you are giving yourself the opportunity to walk away changed for the better and more fulfilled.
Interested in learning more about mindfulness or trying out a guided practice? Here are some resources to help get you started:
- Explore free guided meditations from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center
- Learn about mindfulness, such as through Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Learn more about incorporating mindful moments in nature