When I was in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, a couple of months ago for a short vacation, I found myself sitting on a bench trying to catch my breath. Do not be mistaken; I wasn't jogging or running after somebody. I was just wandering around the city, but I was exhausted from thinking about all the work that should be done when I get back to the office and all the chores waiting for me at home.
If you are living in a big city and working at an office trying to get things done on a daily basis, it is very possible that you feel the same way on vacation. There are times you cannot take your eyes off your phone, checking your email or answering a thousand messages on WhatsApp, despite lying under the sun on the beach. Nowadays with all the devices that connect you to the internet, it is hard even when you are trying to get away from the city to have some fun and relax. As this is the case, there is a new holiday trend to save the miserable white-collar workers: mindful travel.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, mindfulness is: "A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique." Mindfulness helps you look at these things objectively, without labeling them. They aren't "bad" things that happened "to you." They simply happened. And this is a perfect way to look at a relaxing holiday, starting with the planning process to the time you get back home.
Although planning a trip abroad or a vacation by the beach seems exciting at first, scheduling your calendar, buying the plane tickets and finding a hotel to suit your needs best is actually hard work. After some time, this whole planning process becomes a chore itself, making the trip a sort of hell before it even starts.
Then comes the actual holiday. If the weather changes unexpectedly, you begin to worry if you packed the right clothes or how to find the time to sightsee all the top destinations in time. For instance, I always make a list of the must-see places before setting off to discover a new city, and I always fall behind the schedule and miss some of the places on my list. Even not being able to catch up with my plans exhausts me, let alone dealing with the constant mail and message flow coming to my smart phone.
The concept of mindful travel aims to put all these worries behind while on holiday, and to put it simply, to help you "seize the day." Mindful travel involves being completely present for the experiences you're having in a new place - without distracting yourself with your daily worries back home. By devoting your full attention to each travel experience, you can find yourself more relaxed and educated by all the things you see and all the things you experience. By being a more present, grounded and mindful traveler, you can also put all your anxiety behind, feeling more relaxed, happy and satisfied.
How to be a mindful traveler
Don't over think the planning process: When you decide to take a trip, do not put a lot of weight on your shoulders. Accidents might happen and there is always something that will not go according to your plan. But as long as you have your plane tickets that will take you to the place you want to go, everything will turn out great.
Pack light: Packing is always a nightmare. However, there will be always something you might forget to pack or clothes that would suit the sudden weather change. It is always a good idea to pack light. Take the things that you need only. With fewer clothes to choose from, you won't waste time each morning trying to put together the perfect outfit. With minimal products for things like hair care and cosmetics, you'll save precious space in your bag and create less waste. Also, if you travel light, you can move from one place to another more freely!
Put your phone down: Let's admit this — it is hard to stay away from your phone or your computer but when you are on a trip, try to put away all the devices that remind you of deadlines, chores, schedules and the news. Use the time sightseeing and engaging with the local people. Moreover, do not worry yourself about taking the best shots for your social media. Sometimes finding the right angle for your selfie is more exhausting than jogging for an hour. It is always best to make memories that you remember for the rest of your life instead of few digital photos that might lost from your phone in time.
Make time to observe your surroundings: When you are discovering a place that you have never been before, it is important to give extra attention to your surroundings. It is always a good idea to find a favorite spot, make yourself comfortable and watch how the daily life goes by at the place. Sometimes, all you need is to order yourself a coffee and inhale the soul of the city.
Record your experience: Mindful travel is all about being present. Never forget that the experience you have on the trip will stay with you forever. But sometimes, you might forget how that certain experience has made you feel. Hence, it is entertaining to keep a journal with few lines and sketches that will make you remember your trip anytime you open the cover.
Slow down: You do not need to rush yourself from place to place or from one museum to another. One cannot observe all the things that a new place offers in just few days. Instead of being anxious about keeping up with a schedule, just go with the flow and enjoy the moment!