One reason we travel is to get out of our comfort zones. We go into the unknown, hoping to reconnect with the world around us and become inspired by all the ways we are different and the same. This change of pace is exactly what we are looking for when we book a trip but it’s also exactly the kind of thing that can throw off our mindfulness practice.
Our schedules, our diet, our sleep, for example, all become out of our control and change from our usual routine. Suddenly, it could be very hard to stick to a yoga practice when you aren’t near your studio or if you’re in a country that doesn’t speak your language. It could be hard to continue with your morning meditation when you are waking up at new times, jet-lagged and rushing to a tour. But that doesn’t mean that you will lose your mindfulness practice altogether.
Here are some simple mindfulness practices you can do anywhere, even on a bus or in a hostel while you travel abroad.
Arguably one of the most frequently practiced forms of meditation, mindfulness meditation doesn’t require a specific seat, timeframe, breathwork, or anything at all. It’s as simple and as difficult as returning to the present moment over and over again.
On your trip, set aside 20 minutes a day, any time of day, any place you are, and begin to notice the moment. You may find some structure helpful, such as moving through each of the senses and noticing what you see, hear, taste, feel, smell. Bodily sensations, breath in the body, or mantras may also be used as an anchor to return to the present whenever you notice you’ve drifted.
One of the most fun things to do when you travel is to dive into the local cuisine. Mindful eating can be an overall approach to eating, noticing satiety and hunger or quality of ingredients, or it can be its own meditation.
One meal per day, take the time to really sit and notice what you’re eating. Note the colors, textures, ingredients. Feel the food as you chew and notice the physical and emotional sensations it evokes. Appreciate every person, vehicle, and process necessary to bring you this meal in front of you. Establish gratitude and complete presence with your food.
No studio, no mat, no YouTube yogi to lead you? No problem! Yoga isn’t the only form of mindful movement. While on your trip, why don’t you try mindful walking, hiking, dancing, or swimming? All it takes is a shift of attention.
The next time you’re walking for hours in a new city, try mindful walking. Like mindfulness meditation, drop into the present moment using your senses or your breath. Begin to notice any people around you, the architecture of the buildings, and the feeling throughout your body as you walk. Notice the sensations in the physical body and in your mind as you focus your attention to the present moment. Use this time to establish a deeper connection to your physical body and the gift of your exploration.
At the end of each long day of travel, begin a diary entry. It could be helpful to have a goal set for each day such as noting three things you are grateful for that day, but don’t restrict yourself to a gratitude journal or a journal that is purely a break-down of what you did that day.
Start each entry as a free-write in which you write down whatever is on your mind. Whether it is a specific moment in your day that was memorable, bullet points of new things you’ve noticed, the names of the people in your tour group, or anything at all. You’ll find that this less disciplined form of writing can spark all kinds of creative inspiration. Songs, poems, stories, bios, detailed snippets of local history – these are all ways you can become completely immersed in your trip.
Lastly, mindfulness doesn’t have to be an internal practice. Karma yoga, “yoga of action,” is the concept of selflessness in service of others. As tourists, we have a huge influence on the places we visit. Namely: our wallet. The things we choose to engage with, buy, and share are the things that will continue to prosper. So, become mindful of where you’re investing your time and money. If you can – and you might be surprised how often the opportunity arises – at some point during your trip, contribute to a local cause you want to support. Donating to a museum or a conservation effort, volunteering time to help local schools, supporting local industries, even seeking out a mom-and-pop store for souvenirs, all of these things can become an act of karma yoga.
When we travel we are given the incredible opportunity to become more deeply connected to the world around us. Traveling itself is a yoga, of sorts, because you unify yourself with the larger “whole” of the earth. While you’re traveling the world and fostering these deep connections, there are many simple and powerful ways you can continue your mindfulness practice. How will you choose to be mindful? Do you have experience with mindful travel?
Learn more about Teresa at calmseekers.com