What makes travel so special? Travel allows us to escape our comfort zone and have new experiences. Exploring new regions of the world can be eye-opening. There is a reason why tourism is the main driver of economies around the world.
Travel is an escape, but often times our minds are not truly 100% there, living in the present moment. Furthermore, how much time do we spend thinking about how we, as tourists, impact the places most people visit?
In this article, we explore the world of mindful travel. We cover everything from the benefits to the best places to visit which you can incorporate into your next trip.
Mindful travel is a form of travel focusing on living in the moment while being aware of the impact you have on the world around you. By taking a mindful approach to travel, we feel more immersed in the communities we visit. It is equally important to show respect for cultures and the environment. The book Stop Overthinking is a great resource for someone looking to be mindful in life.
We all need a vacation from our daily lives. This helps refresh our minds, find motivation, and refocus our goals. By practicing mindful travel, you focus on being present, exploring the world around you, and taking it all in. When we aren’t worrying about daily life back home, we can get so much more out of our travels. Perhaps you are in need of a 1 month sabbatical.
Discovering new cultures can teach us a lot. We can learn about art, food, or beliefs shared by groups of people. Learning about cultures is a great way to be present and mindful when traveling abroad. This helps improve communication and understanding of the world, which can benefit our regular life.
Communities benefit from tourism in many ways but also be damaged by them. When tourists visit new places, showing respect & curiosity will help preserve the communities for long-term success. Visiting cultural sites will ensure the local culture is preserved for years to come.
Maintaining the environment is important to long-term stability in many tourist destinations. Tourists often pollute or damage natural sites when they do not respect the places they visit. If the environment is damaged beyond repair, future generations will never have the chance to experience it.
1 – Be curious
Curiosity and mindfulness will help you get the most from your travels. To be curious is to listen without judgment and ask questions relentlessly. When visiting a new country, you have a great opportunity to learn new things and immerse yourself in that culture.
2 – Slow down
It is important to slow down as much as you can when traveling. Slow travel is a form of travel that is catching on recently. You might miss important details or unique experiences if you do not take the time to embrace what is around you.
3 – Pack light
Packing light provides more flexibility and freedom when traveling. Try to keep it to the bare essentials. This travel backpack is a great option for travelers looking to pack light.
4 – Don’t pollute
There is nothing worse than visiting a natural wonder only to find it covered with trash. Places lose their mystery, adventure, and beauty when pollution is common. While you cannot control other travelers, you can certainly not be a part of the problem.
5 – Try local cuisine
There are many benefits to trying local cuisine. Western fast-food franchises often contribute to pollution due to the amount of packaging. Furthermore, supporting a small, local restaurant or café will put money directly into the pockets of the local community, helping them live a better life or pay for their children’s education.
6 – Bring your own water bottle
Having your own water bottle with you will make it easy to avoid single-use plastic water bottles while you travel. There will always be situations where you may have to buy a plastic water bottle, but the fewer you use, the fewer will end up in landfills or on the street, potentially harming local wildlife.
7 – Bring a travel Journal
Bring a travel journal to take notes about your thoughts on a long trip. Journaling is proven to help achieve goals, track progress, and reduce stress. It is also a great way to be mindful and live I’m the moment. There are tons of great travel journals to choose from.
8 – Try Meditation
Meditation is the meditation practice that of gaining more awareness and perspective through deep breathing and clearing the mind. To meditate, find a quiet place (or listen to white noise on these noise-canceling headphones) and sit with your eyes closed for 10-20 minutes.
9 – Research travel companies
Try booking with a locally run tour company when looking to discover a destination and explore the city and local sites. This is a way to support the local economy while learning something new. Locals offer a more grounded perspective and have generations of knowledge that global tour operators may gloss over.
10 – Hire a local guide
Local guides can be extremely helpful and knowledgeable about their homes. While language can sometimes create barriers, it is also an opportunity to discover and learn more about the way of life in the place you are traveling.
11 – Dress appropriately
Learning the customs with regard to what is appropriate to wear in certain countries is highly recommended. Some places are more conservative than others, and while we may not all agree with how things are, it is important to show a high level of respect when traveling abroad.
12 – Don’t feed the wildlife
While the local wildlife can be cute, it is important to never feed them when they are in the wild. Wild animals can become far too comfortable around humans, and you see it far too often.
The Stockholm Archipelago is a cluster of thousands of tiny islands near the Capital of Sweden, Stockholm. This is one of many popular destinations in Scandinavia. Sweden is known for its outstanding natural beauty and is a place where one can escape from nature.
This national park is one of the only UNESCO World Heritage sites in Iceland, and for good reason. Visitors can complete the Golden Circle in this national park, which is a main draw for tourists to the area.
The iSimangaliso Wetlands Park is an ideal destination for travelers. With diverse wildlife and natural beauty, it would be easy to stay here forever. The park itself is well maintained, and accommodations are cozy. This park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one you won’t want to miss.
Rwanda is best known as a destination for Gorilla treks. The rainforests are beautiful, and there are five volcanos in the region. The entire area is a protected conservation site. Perfect for travelers looking to be mindful. Be sure to find locally run tour groups with guides from the community.
Finca Luna Nueva Lodge is an Eco-lodge not far from La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano, both massive tourist attractions in the region. There are plenty of free activities for visitors, and you can relax in the natural hot springs at the end of your trip after a long day.
The Ganges River in northern India is of great historical and cultural significance to the region. It is a sacred river for the Hindus, who use it for religious and spiritual ceremonies. The main urban center is Varanasi, where many tourists go to visit the river. Nearly 400 Million people live along the banks of the Ganges, making it one of the most polluted in the world. However, it is still home to freshwater dolphins and you may be lucky enough to spot them.
Ubud is on the Island of Bali in Indonesia. It contains many holy sites and includes many well-known tourist attractions. Yoga is popular all over the town, and the sacred monkey rainforest is home to hundreds of monkeys. There are plenty of great local restaurants worth a try. Ubud could be the perfect place for a spiritual sabbatical.
Located near Waitomo (village) on the North Island of New Zealand, these caves are a must-see destination when visiting the area. Accessible only by boat, visitors can book a tour with a local tour company. The major attraction is the presence of glow worms. Thousands of glow worms light up the caves making for an otherworldly experience.
Chile is a unique country when it comes to topography and landscapes. Torres del Paine National Park is a protected region known among travelers for its screen-saver-like views. Visitors typically opt for a multi-day trek that lasts for 4 days. It could be one of the most stunning places on the planet.
The Galapagos Islands need no introduction, they are one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. Located off the coast of Ecuador, the islands are known for their wildlife preservation and the great care they took to ensure no damage to local ecosystems.
Here are a few more options for off-the-grid travel to popular holiday destinations.
Incorporating mindfulness into your travels may mean being in the company of others. While travel can often be a journey of self-discovery, we are rarely alone when we travel. You will share a lot of time with others, whether that person is a travel companion or someone you just met. To be mindful in the company of others means being present at any given moment. That means giving others your full attention and not being distracted. It also means letting go of expectations, living in the moment, and being open to new things and experiences.
Mindful traveling means respecting local customs. How you dress when traveling is your choice. Keep in mind that some choices could be offensive to locals. Try to dress more conservatively if you are unsure exactly what to wear.
Learn the language
You, of course, don’t need to be able to hold a full-on conversation, but by learning some of the local greetings and pleasantries, you are showing respect to the residents. This will be appreciated, and they would try to do the same for you if positions were reversed.
Keep it local
Eating local is a good place to start. International chains often have few benefits for communities. You will show a ton of respect for the communities by enjoying their cuisine and other customs they are willing to share with visitors.
When trying to have a positive impact while traveling, try to avoid causing pollution or litter. There is nothing worse than visiting a place covered with pollution. Not all pollution is caused by tourists, but when a tourist site is covered in garbage, it losses its appeal. You can only control what you do. To respect the environment, don’t pollute.
Bring a water bottle with you everywhere you go. This will help cut down on single-use plastics that could end up as garbage. A reusable water bottle will help you stay hydrated and show you respect for the place you are visiting.
The amount of waste created by large international chains vastly outnumbers that of a small, local restaurant. This is an easy way to respect the local community and the local environment.
Join a volunteer group if one is available. Especially if they are out there to help clean up the environment by collecting and recycling trash. Volunteering can help you have a more mindful experience in the places you visit.
If others in your travel group are not respecting their surroundings or the environment, say something. It’s not worth getting in a fight with people you don’t know, but if you can influence the attitude of those you travel with, it can help reduce the overall damage.
Don’t feed animals
Feeding animals causes more harm than good. Feeding wild animals can cause them to become comfortable around people and dependent on them for food. Try not to unless you are at a sanctuary that allows you to feed animals.
When it comes to dressing appropriately, the majority of the guidelines are directed toward women. Some of the customs include covering shoulders, covering hair, and covering cleavage or not wearing short skirts or dresses. Easy ways to know how to dress appropriately are by doing a little research ahead of time. There are tons of resources on the internet. If you are unsure, take a conservative approach to be safe or try to be aware of your surroundings.
1) Patagonia Backpack
2) Merrell Hiking Shoes
3) Nalgene Water Bottle
4) Earth Hero Yoga Mat
6) Solar Phone Charger
7) The Organic Pharmacy SPF 50 Sunscreen
8) Eco-Friendly Travel Mugs
9) Travel Journal
10) Scrubba Laundry Bag
1) Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
2) Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit
3) The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
4) Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World
5) Travel the World Without Worries: An Inspirational Guide to Budget and Adventure Travel
6) The Flightless Traveler: 50 Modern adventures by land, river and sea
7) Go Lightly: How to Travel without hurting the Planet
8) The Art of Slow Travel: See the World and Savor the Journey on a Budget
9) The Mindful Traveler: A Guide to Journaling and Transformative Travel
10) Mindful Traveling: Journeying the world, discovering yourself
Mindful travel is about the personal travel experience someone has in the place they are going. It focuses on the emotional side of the travel experience while being a responsible citizen of the world. This is very similar to responsible travel as it encompasses all of the same attributes. However, it takes things one step further as it seeks to experience the culture, learn from local people, and live in the moment.
A responsible traveler might choose to take a train or bus vs. flying. They will choose destinations and experiences that benefit the local population. They won’t pollute and generally care about sustainability and the environment. Hopefully, what you have learned will benefit you on your next trip.