How to Be Mindful While Traveling


I don’t know about you, but sometimes my trips turn into a blur. My itinerary dominates the vacation and I start worrying more about where I need to be next and not where I am. One cure for this type of vacation overload is to be mindful during your trip.

What is mindfulness anyway?
There are varying definitions of mindfulness, but I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

(If your interested in learning more, I highly recommend reading How to Train a Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulness. It’s an amazing life-changing book.)

So what does it mean to be mindful while on vacation?

As much as people love travel, it can also be stressful, testing our own beliefs and comfort levels at every step. Travel is about experiencing something new, in a way it is a practice in letting go of what you believe to be true, of what you have come to know and opening up to a new reality. The next time you are feeling a resistance to something when you are traveling, see if you can let go of the resistance. Treat it as an opportunity to be nonjudgemental, to simply observe.

Being mindful on vacation means taking the time to notice what is going on around you. Instead of trying to see 20 things in one day choose one and really, truly experience it. Be purposeful in how you are spending your time. An easy way to do this is to focus on the senses. Spend time noticing what you hear, feel, smell, see and touch. ‘Memorize’ moments by truly witnessing them.

Ten ideas for how to be mindful while you travel

  1. Go on a treasure hunt of the senses – take a journal with you for a day and try to list 5 things you notice for each of the senses (think the smell of flowers, or the sounds of the street performers, how the street feels beneath your feet or how the flavors of something you eat sit on your tongue).
  2. People watch – sit outside at your favorite cafe and watch the people pass by – remember to work on being nonjudgemental – just notice.
  3. Listen to the language – a great way to be mindful is to simply listen to a language you don’t understand. Without meaning, all you can do is notice. Listen to intonations and the rhythm of the words.
  4. Be inquisitive – if something interests you, throw away the plans and explore it. Your interests will lead you toward mindfulness naturally.
  5. Sound-watch – okay, made up word I know, but this is just like people watching. Sit somewhere and close your eyes and listen. Really hear your surroundings.
  6. Notice a color – pick a color for the day and look for it while you are out sightseeing. Even better, take a picture and create a color collage of your day.
  7. What is different? – Take an inventory of what around you is different from your hometown. If you notice yourself judging this, gently remind yourself to simply witness.
  8. Taste test – pick local foods you have never tried before and use it as a chance to really taste your food.
  9. Look down, look up, look left, look right – every once in awhile when you are walking somewhere during your trip stop and look up, down, left and right – do this often
  10. Make a memory – take a moment and memorize your surroundings and how you feel at that moment. The best way I’ve found to do this is just to say to myself I want to remember X, Y, Z (e.g. I want to remember what it feels like to be standing in the middle of this town square in France, the chatter of the crowd and the smell of the soup served at the restaurant nearby)

Have you found ways to be mindful while traveling? Please share!

5 thoughts to “How to Be Mindful While Traveling”

  1. Great post! I wrote something similar a few months ago – I think it’s so important to stay mindful during traveling. I have much more vivid memories from trips during which I kept my myself present compared to ones during which I was over-planning or worrying, etc. I like the idea of focusing on the senses.

  2. This is a very interesting reading and made me think of different ways of being mindful that I never used before, like listing 5 things you notice for each of the senses, I must try to do it every time I am in a new place. Nice one, thanks! 🙂

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