The Art of Mindful Travel + Tips for Mindful Travel

It seems like just yesterday I was wandering around Paris with my €20 burner phone, paper map and digital camera in hand, soaking in every detail of the historic streets and the Parisian culture so I could write about it on my blog or in my journal when I got home.

Today, there is much more to contend with. If you didn’t Snapchat, Facebook, Boomerang, Instagram or Instastory it, did it really happen?

In the past few weeks, I’ve been on two trips—one to the Berkshires and one to London—but you probably didn’t know that since I didn’t publicize them too much.

Call me old-fashioned, but I cannot possibly enjoy or fully appreciate a location if I’m focused on my phone and how many things I can Instastory in a day. I believe that travel should be something you do when you’re fully present. It should be walking around taking in everything and everyone you come across. In short, I believe in mindful travel.

What is mindful travel?

According to Cambridge Dictionary, mindfulness itself is “the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment.”

What, then, is mindful travel? It is simply practicing mindfulness while traveling.

There is no official definition of mindful travel. In fact, I’m not even sure I can sum it up in words. To me, mindful travel is slower travel. It is stopping to observe, taking time to really feel and listen and see what is around you. Mindful travel is letting yourself get immersed in a location, no matter how short or long your stay is. It is paying attention to your surroundings and reflecting on them. It is turning your devices off and your mind on.

Unfortunately in this day in age, it is hard to practice mindfulness with social media distractions everywhere in addition to the need to visit the most instagrammable and “cool” places. For some, who travel for a living, it is almost impossible. (This is also probably why I could never be a successful travel blogger.)

Next time you’re on vacation, try to be mindful. Try some of the below tips for mindful travel and see if they affect your time off in any way.

regents park london

Tips for mindful travel

Phone down

This is something I think we all struggle with given how phones are used for everything, but give it a try! Keep your phone in your purse or pocket and instead of focusing on what you’ll add to your next insta-story, focus on everything around you. Think about how your surroundings make you think and feel.

If you do need to work on social media during your time off, set aside a certain time of day to check and update your accounts instead of checking them at random times throughout the day.

Sit and observe + people watch

When traveling to new places, I feel like most everyone, including myself, is all go, go, go, trying to see as much as possible. Unless you’re in a small town (and even then), you’re not going to see everything in a destination unless you live there. Once you’ve hit a wall, find a bench or a restaurant or a cafe and just sit and observe. Whare are locals doing? What are tourists doing? What’s the weather like? Sitting and observing, even if it just for 10 or 15 minutes will give you a different perspective on the place you’re visiting and give your mind a chance to catch up with your body.

berkshires

Be open-minded and open to change or setbacks

Another hard one for me—historically I’m not flexible and I’m prone to break down at small travel setbacks. Missed train? Day is ruined. Bad morning? Bad rest of the day. That was the old Alex! I think living in New York has made me learn to be more flexible with setbacks and even learn to embrace them. Maybe a missed train will allow you to see a new part of town or mixed up plans will let you stay longer in one place than you thought you had. Being open-minded to travel setbacks can bring about completely new travel experiences.

Put the map GPS away

Whether you use Google Maps on airplane mode (lifesaver) or keep your eyes glued to an old-fashioned paper map, hear me out. If you’re too focused on the exact street to turn on, you’re missing all that’s going on around you. Find out where your destination is and, if you’re not pressed for time, just head off in that general direction. You’ll stumble upon some amazing places and learn a lot more about the place you’re visiting.

Don’t feel pressured to visit certain places just because you’re “supposed to”

“Oh, you’re in Paris! You must go to these 10 most Instagrammable locations!” “You’re in NYC? You need to visit Times Square and the Statue of Liberty!”

primrose hill london

When people tell me to do something I tend to want to do the opposite, so I have no problem saying no to the supposed to’s. But it can be difficult. When you plan a trip, choose the things that will bring you (and the people you’re traveling with) the most happiness. Maybe that’s spending a lot of time in parks. Maybe it’s wandering aimlessly around the city with no destination in mind. Maybe it actually is visiting Times Square (it shouldn’t). Whatever it is, make it something you choose.

Don’t try to do everything

One of my vices is trying to see too much when I travel. I don’t like missing out on things, especially if it’s in one of my favourite places or when I don’t have that much time to explore. But, after traveling through several countries and cities, I’ve learnt that the more you rush through a city to check off stuff to see, the less you appreciate and enjoy a trip.

Would you rather be grumpy and tired after a long day of shuffling from one tourist destination to another? Or, would you rather feel refreshed and revived after a day walking around a certain neighborhood? I’d opt for the latter.

Wander

kensington gardens london

Given the title of this blog, you don’t have to tell me this twice. I am the queen of wandering and, much to my mom’s chagrin, I can wander all day without stopping for more than an occasional bathroom and pastry break. I love the things I discover when wandering around a destination, whether it’s a hidden street or a famous store or a gorgeous park. I’m almost always caught by surprise by what I discover and find that I am focused much more on my surroundings and immediate present than on some sort of travel checklist.

Reflect

Travel is great. Seeing new places is special. But what’s the point of it all if you don’t reflect on your experiences? You don’t have to have a proper journal, but sit down at night and reflect on how your day affected your mood, mental state or perhaps even life. Maybe you write about it, blog or vlog about it, maybe you don’t.

~

I’m no mindfulness expert and I certainly still have difficulty practicing these mindful travel tips whenever I visit a new place. However, I find that whenever I consciously practice mindfulness during my travels, I am in a better mood and get more out of my days.

Do you travel mindfully?

The Art of Mindful Travel: In this day in age, it's hard to imagine traveling without putting every moment on social media. To me, that makes travel less meaningful. Follow these tips for mindful travel to get more out of your travel experiences.

London, Musings, Travel Tips, Travels
previous post
next post

16 Comments

  • Reply
    Kathleen
    26 January 2018 at 21:49

    Great post. I think we get so caught up in the digital world that we forget the real world. It creates a lot of problems in the world.

    • Reply
      almathews
      26 January 2018 at 21:52

      I couldn’t agree more! It’s hard to remember to “be in the moment” when we travel because there’s so much to share with the world, but I find that if I remind myself to focus on the present I enjoy my travels so much more!

  • Reply
    Alyse
    26 January 2018 at 21:57

    I absolutely agree with you here, on all points! I especially despise the “Instagrammable” locations that I often see floating around social media – these locations have been around much longer than Instagram has (and there’s much more to them than just a quick selfie out the front). I’ve seen the way people travel has changed so much over the last 10 years and I feel as though these days a majority of people visit a destination for the “likes” and sake of sharing everything on their social media accounts. It’s a real shame as travelling means so much more than that, as you have perfectly summed up here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one out there who thinks this way :)

    • Reply
      almathews
      26 January 2018 at 23:10

      I’m SO glad I’m not the only person who feels this way! I 100% agree with what you’re saying – it’s crazy how much travel has evolved in such a small amount of time. On the one hand I love that it has made more of the world accessible and less of a mystery to others but on the other hand, people become focused on the “like” and “popularity” aspects of travel which I think not only takes away from their experiences but also takes something away from the destinations themselves!

  • Reply
    Ruth
    26 January 2018 at 22:56

    Enjoyed reading your post! I have tried not to get that into the different social media channels. When I travel, I keep social media to a minimum. Also, I do not pay for an international data and voice plan. In that way, I keep distractions away and try to enjoy my time at a destination.

    • Reply
      almathews
      26 January 2018 at 23:04

      Thank you! I like keeping social media to a minimum as well and usually don’t have international data plans and keep my phone on airplane mode. If I really needed it, I could always find wifi or something but I find that I’m more focused on what’s around me when I don’t have a phone that does more than take pictures!

  • Reply
    Miranda Menelaws
    27 January 2018 at 00:38

    Yes! Love this and couldn’t agree more. I love not having my phone/camera out too much while travelling so I can soak it all in and experience – not just capture.

    The only problem is when I want to write a blog post about my experience and can’t find any accompanying photos!

    • Reply
      almathews
      28 January 2018 at 17:44

      So glad I’m not the only one! I agree, it’s hard to find that balance between capturing things for the blog and just being there in the moment! I try to think about the shots I need or want to get before I head out that way I can spend more time soaking everything in.

  • Reply
    Harmony, Momma To Go
    27 January 2018 at 08:55

    Im away from home right now. trying to balance this (phone down, in the moment) with writing and working on my blog, which i do enjoy!

    • Reply
      almathews
      28 January 2018 at 17:45

      It’s hard to find balance but once you do I feel like everything falls into place!

  • Reply
    Lynne Nieman
    27 January 2018 at 16:31

    So much love for this post, Alex. As a personal travel planner with a business called Wander Your Way…I’m firm believer in all this post says. You need to truly be present. Not be worried about ticking places off a list. And you need to take what I call “unplanned detours”…getting a bit lost. Mindful travel is the best way to travel. Thanks for this wonderful post!

    • Reply
      almathews
      28 January 2018 at 17:46

      Aww, thank you so much, Lynne! I’m so glad you agree. Unplanned detours are the BEST part of travel! Some of the best parts of my trips are the result of them. Mindful travel definitely is the best way to travel!

  • Reply
    Suz
    27 January 2018 at 18:32

    This is such a perfect post. I wish I could live full time without social media! Life needs it so much that it is hard to be without it totally but I try. I love just wandering through my travels. A great way to be!

    • Reply
      almathews
      28 January 2018 at 17:48

      Oh my gosh, I completely agree! I’m still working on finding that balance between being in the moment and being on social media. It’s hard but I’ve found it to get easier over time (especially when algorithms make things less enjoyable ;) ). But wandering is the best way to travel :)

  • Reply
    Christabel
    28 January 2018 at 06:19

    What a wonderful post – I meditate every day and practice mindfulness whenever I travel. It’s changed my life for the better, and love recommending it to friends and family. What a difference putting down your phone and enjoying your surroundings and the people you’re with can be!

    • Reply
      almathews
      28 January 2018 at 17:53

      Yes! I try to meditate every day and I’m getting better about incorporating mindfulness into my daily life and travels! Putting down your phone and looking up and around makes all the difference :)

    Leave a Reply