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What Does it Mean to Travel Mindfully?

“Mindfulness” has become somewhat of a buzzword these days. And while it might conjure up images of yogis sitting in meditation for hours or zen monks, it’s much simpler than that. Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment and coming back to the moment when your mind inevitably begins to wander. Whether you’re talking to a friend or writing an email or taking a walk, you can practice mindfulness.

When it comes to traveling mindfully, we can apply that same principle. It’s not about going on a yoga or meditation retreat (although it could), it’s more about being in the moment and experiencing what’s going on around you. It’s the “joy of being present,” says Frank Castro of Conscious Adventurist. “It’s just a vehicle to get people to be really present—to connect with each other and themselves,” he explains.

Traveling mindfully means getting away from work and email and just enjoying the trip you’re on. “In an age where we are addicted to technology, and we are connected, there is something powerful about unplugging and getting present with nature. Getting present is the key to joy and happiness. There are many, many forms to get present, but the idea is that we don’t let our mind take over with stories of the past and ‘what if’ future thought that keeps us locked in our patterns,” explains Castro. “Get present and tune into your surroundings, acknowledge your life, and get into a spirit of gratitude and take in how people live outside of your own world. Step into some discomfort.”

Unplug and try to get to know the place and the people where you are visiting.

William Rouse

Traveling mindfully means actively participating in the communities you are visiting. Based on Castro’s years of experience as a travel guide and director of several adventure travel companies, he’s found that “most adventurous trips head into landscapes where people live in a rural setting, and it’s here that people authentically connect. Most people return transformed because they took the time to be present in a setting that is not the norm.”

In a typical day, most people aren’t spending much time in nature or really being aware of their surroundings. We have meetings to run and kids to pick up and dinner to make and clothes to wash and so on. Taking time away can have a significant impact on your psyche. If you have limited time, an excellent place to start is a weekend trip, but if you have a week or more, you’ll really reap the benefits.

[Conscious Adventurist]( is one company that offers such trips. “Sitting on the beach is amazing, but it’s very different than a point-to-point trek,” Castro says. “Most trips we run involve hikes, and people are able to verbally get out what’s on their mind, which is key to release emotions, resentments, anger, sadness, etc.—it feels good to release stuck energy.”

Being More Mindful When You Travel

Don’t pack your schedule too full. Make sure you leave time to find hidden gems along the way.

Štefan Štefančík

Whether you’re going on a guided trip or setting out on your own, there are a few ways that you can travel mindfully, no matter where you’re going:

Unplug. Not that you shouldn’t share your adventure on social media, but limit it as much as possible so you can truly disconnect from your phone. Castro advises, “some people never return to the same place twice, so really soak it in!”

Keep a travel journal. Take notes throughout the day or at the end of each day to recall everything you did and saw. This will help you connect with your experiences.

Don’t pack your schedule. Of course, you’ll want to make time to see the big sights at your destination, but leave room for spontaneity. Give yourself time to sit at the cafe and people watch instead of just eating and going, going, going right away. Castro believes that’s where the magic happens.

Support the local culture. Being aware of how you spend your money also can be a mindful practice. “Give as much as you can in terms of support, many local artisans and similar rely on tourism to help them,” Castro suggests. “Support their endeavors, as a Western culture we are so blessed for having the basics in life and the opportunity to create income, some people are struggling day-to-day.”

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Being in a new environment can be stressful, and it is challenging to completely unplug and be in the moment when you’re traveling. If you find yourself getting flustered or upset, or just checking in on that one work thing again, that’s OK. Do what you need to do and then reset yourself and try again. It’s an ongoing practice.

Start at home. Take a walk. Turn off your phone after 8 p.m. Just hang out with your kids or dogs with no agenda other than spending time with each other. See if you can practice being present at home, even if it’s just for a couple minutes a day.

Written by Abbie Mood for Matcha in partnership with Conscious Adventurist and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

Featured image provided by Kalen Emsley