We optimize. We maximize. We strategize. No matter where we’re traveling — city or country, north or south, international or domestic – we load up our days with experiences. All the meals. All the tours. We always want it all.
It’s how we’re wired. But what if we can get more out of doing less? Specifically, what if we embrace mindfulness — (no training required) — to better appreciate our time? “In our culture, we’re basically constantly on the go. We want to pack in as much as possible, and that tends to carry over into our vacation and travel time,” says Brenda Ramos, a meditation teacher and founder of Authentic Whole Self Living.
As an alternative, Ramos suggests something simple: Slowing down. Specifically, she has 7 ways that we can all be just a bit more mindful while traveling. This enhances the experience and lets us savor each moment. Ramos clarifies that these should not be thought of as a checklist — we have enough checklists — but just “something to keep in mind.”
1. Set intentions
“Mindfulness starts before the trip,” says Ramos, who speaks in a slow, soothing voice. When the trip is still just a glimmer in your eye, think about what you want out of it. Set an intention. “Decide what kind of trip you want it to be.” Is it to relax? To spend time with your partner? To explore? To binge on gnocchi? There are no wrong answers — just focus on what you want.
“Make sure you’re vaccinated, that you’ve got your shots, that you know where you’re staying,” says Ramos. Once you’ve knocked out the logistics, take comfort that you’re already on your glide-path to Zen.
3. Pause often
“Really take the time to immerse yourself in the area you’re in,” says Ramos. Pay attention to your surroundings. And when the mind naturally wanders off and thinks about your luggage or the bus schedule, gently bring it back. “Notice when your mind is taking you away from your senses, acknowledge that it’s doing its job, and then come back to your body,” says Ramos.
This can happen as soon as you wake up. “Open your eyes and start savoring,” says Ramos. “Feel the sheets. Feel the temperature of the room.” Embrace all five of your senses. “What are you smelling? What are the fragrances in the area? What do you notice when you look out the window? What’s the ceiling like?”
This can mean connecting to your traveling partner, connecting to new friends, or connecting to the locals. If you want to go on an adventure or find a new restaurant? Try connecting with humans before you google. “Talk to someone at the local cafe, and ask what they recommend,” says Ramos.
6. Find balance
“Balance adventure with relaxation,” suggests Ramos, or “if you’re traveling with a group, spend an afternoon solo.”
7. Practice gratitude
“Traveling is a privilege for many,” says Ramos, adding something that’s probably useful for all of us to keep in mind: “One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to realize how lucky you are.”