After such a long spell without travel, today is a good moment to assess the way we explore the world and travel in a way that can go beyond simply seeing new places. Travel should go beyond individual enjoyment. Travel should be a means to bring people together, to inspire understanding and tolerance of other cultures, to simply make us better people.
In this blog, we’ll outline how mindful travel can help you get the most out of your adventures, and how it benefits not just your experience, but the people you visit, the communities you immerse yourself in, and the natural environment we dearly need to protect.
What is Mindful Travel?
To answer the question of what mindful travel actually is, as well as discussing the benefits of mindful travel, it’s useful to first understand the concept of mindfulness.
The NHS describes mindfulness as
“Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you”
Essentially, it’s the practice of taking the time to slow down, rather than living in the constant rush life can become. It’s about checking in with yourself and your surroundings, rather than being carried away by your thoughts and “living in your head”.
By appreciating the present moment more frequently, you can improve your mental health, and stave off anxieties about past or future events you have no control over.
But how does mindfulness relate to the world of travel?
When we travel, it’s important to slow down, live in the present and make the best out of each moment. By travelling in a way that helps you really appreciate where you are, what you’re doing, and what you’re experiencing, you need to travel mindfully.
Rather than rushing from place to place, always thinking of the next plan, where you’re heading next, what you need to do when you get home, travel in way where you slow down, and really appreciate your experience. By travelling mindfully, you will bring benefits not just to yourself as you travel, but also to the people around you and the natural environment.
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How can you benefit from Mindful Travel?
Mindful travel can make your entire experience in another country richer, more rewarding, and more fulfilling. By focusing on the present and being truly aware of your surroundings, you can discover more, experience real, authentic cultures and return home having not simply visited a country and got some photos, but having enriched yourself with experiences you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
1. Get Off the Beaten Track
When you travel mindfully, you can often discover more than if you have your mind on a strict itinerary or when you’re not living in the moment.
Travelling always with your next destination in mind, looking ahead to what is to come, whether that’s a meal, a sight or a place to stay, means you can often miss the hidden gems that crop up when you are entirely focused on the moment.
By appreciating your surroundings and the present moment, you are often more inclined to do things that may take you out of your comfort zone, things that may be a little spontaneous, as you recognise the fact that where you are right now is a place you may never return to, so you need to make the most of it.
Travelling mindfully can inspire this type of behaviour, and help you discover the local secrets and unique experiences that make your trip unforgettable.
2. Discover Authentic Cuisine
As we’ve just mentioned, one of the great benefits of mindful travel is that you understand and appreciate how brief your time in a new country is, providing the motivation to try new things you could only do there.
The same applies to eating. Rather than simply thinking ahead to the next hotel breakfast or grabbing something familiar, by travelling mindfully you would be conscious that you need to seek out the very best local cuisine, the sort of food you won’t find back home.
You’re far more likely to remember that home-cooked meal made for you in a homestay in Vietnam than the McDonald’s in Hanoi, and you’ll also be benefiting yourself by broadening your horizons, establishing real connections with the local cuisine, culture and people.
3. Broaden Your Horizons
By travelling slowly and mindfully, and recognising that you have this limited time to explore another country and culture, you automatically seek out authentic experiences you could only have in this new destination.
This means that you experience new, different cultures and ways of life, and meet people with vastly different life experiences to you. All this helps us to better understand each other, to empathise, and to see the world through the eyes of other people.
And this is where we feel the real reason for travel lies. Travel can breed tolerance, understanding, empathy, and make us all round better people, especially when we decide to travel mindfully and really notice where we are, rather than rushing to see the next big monument. Take time to learn and understand a new culture, connect with people and come away feeling like you’ve had an enriching experience.
How can Mindful Travel benefit others?
On the topic of establishing connections with local people, one of the great benefits of mindful travel is that, when it’s done properly, it brings about huge benefits to local people, businesses and communities.
At Not In The Guidebooks, we hold the core belief that travel needs to benefit everyone – not just the traveller, and travelling in a mindful fashion can help you take a huge step in realising this goal.
1. Support Local Business
As you travel mindfully, you are more likely to make ethical decisions about where your money goes as you travel. By being conscious of your actions and living in the moment, you’ll be aware of the impact your travelling has on the local people.
For example, instead of staying in a huge chain hotel with a brand you recognise, take a little more time and be mindful of where your money is going. By staying conscious of your travel experience, and selecting small homestays or lodges run by local, independent people, you spread more money around the local economy you are visiting and have a greater benefit on the community as you pass through.
You’re only in each location you may visit for a short time, and being aware of this fact can help you make decisions that maximises the benefit for the local people who have made you so welcome in their home.
In fact, another positive of travelling slowly and mindfully is that you often stay in a location longer at a time. Rather than hopping on a coach tour, jumping off to take pictures of a village or landmark, maybe quickly buying a snack or a souvenir before driving off again, take your time and explore places fully, and as you remain in that spot, you ensure you have a better economic impact on the local community.
2. Protect the Environment
When we really pay attention to our actions, we can take steps to limit our impact on the environment. Particularly when you travel somewhere wild or naturally beautiful, when you’re mindful of your surroundings, you are more aware than ever of the fact that it is our duty to protect such delicately balanced areas.
For example, when visiting a coral reef, be careful not to touch anything, or when on a pristine beach in Costa Rica, ensure you leave no litter behind you when you leave.
As well as this, travelling slowly in itself is often good for the environment. Taking the train rather than flying cross-country, cycling rather than taxiing, drink in a country slowly and get more out of it for yourself, whilst simultaneously helping to keep the world an incredible place to visit for future generations by helping tourism combat climate change.
Here at Not In The Guidebooks, we are always looking at ways to make travel benefit everyone. We believe travel can genuinely help to improve the world, and bring people closer together. When done right, mindful travel is an incredible tool for broadening your own horizons, supporting local economies and helping to promote tolerance of other cultures and nationalities.
With Not In The Guidebooks, we will put you in touch with local people who will help you to travel mindfully and slowly, by helping you to appreciate the little quirks and hidden gems that make their home so special.