You’ve finally set off on your big backpacking journey and you are quickly ticking everything off your bucket list, but are you actually taking it all in?
I arrived here in New Zealand on the 18th February and after an amazing induction week with fellow working holiday visa people, I jumped on the Kiwi Experience bus and headed off on an action packed adventure.
Over the next month, I would make my way from Auckland down to the South Island and settling in Queenstown. I added on extra nights to my itinerary and I still feel like I could have slowed things down a bit. To put it into context, here’s all the places I’ve visited in that time:
- Paihia – Bay of Islands
- Hot Water Beach
- River Valley
- Abel Tasman
- Lake Mahinapua
- Franz Josef
- Milford Sound
Yup, all of that in one and a bit months. Don’t get me wrong, it has been unbelievable, but I’m here for a potential 12-months and I feel like I’ve seen and done everything I wanted to do already!
What is mindful travel?
Mindful travel may be a new concept to some of you and it doesn’t just have to come from big adventures like going away for a whole year, it can also apply to those little weekend getaways or 2-week beach holidays.
Mindful travel is simply being more present and in the moment when travelling. Many of us will get over excited and rush to do everything, out of fear of missing out on something. However, all we end up missing out on is the full effect of these amazing experiences.
It wasn’t until I was forced to stop moving around and my brain had time to catch-up, that I realised just how amazing my last month had been. I hadn’t been living in the moment, I’d always been thinking about the next destination, the next bus and getting to somewhere permanent so I could settle down.
Travelling is a luxury, one that not everybody can afford, whether financially or in regards to time. With that in mind, why would you not take things slow and enjoy every second of it? It’s a privilege to be able to take a year out, quit my job and live a whole new life on the other side of the world, but I wasn’t appreciating it as I should.
Choosing to slow things down and take it all in
It is often surprising how difficult practicing mindfulness can be, our brains are wired in a way where we always feel like we need to be switched on and thinking ahead. All it takes is for you to make a conscious decision to want to experience things fully and BAM you are in the present.
How you decide to practice mindful travel is up to you, but here are a few tricks to help you be more present without having to change too much:
- Leave your phone at home when out for a walk
- Don’t listen to music as you go around sightseeing
- Go on a guided tour and chat to others in your group
- Head to your favourite outdoor spot and meditate, or just do a few breathing exercises to help centre yourself
- Get active – go for a run around your hostel or take part in a physical activity like rock climbing, bungee jumping or scuba diving
How you connect with your present self is different for everyone and usually it takes a bit of experimentation to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
How do you know when you are being present?
It’s all well and good me harping on about mindful travel and being present and in the moment, but how do you know you’re actually ‘in the moment‘?
Most of the time we assume we are in the moment because, well, we’re right there living it, but it doesn’t mean we are consciously taking it all in. This is why we have to practice mindfulness and why it doesn’t just come naturally to us.
To help you better recognise when you are living in the present, here are a few ways I notice I’m being mindful:
- My heart rate is slower and steadier
- My breathing is slower
- I feel more relaxed, calmer and happier
- I can sit and do nothing for a long period of time without getting bored
- My conscious thoughts are focused on what I’m doing right then and there
What are the benefits of mindful travel?
By practicing mindful travel, you’ll be able to unlock a whole new way of looking at the world and experiencing new things. You’ll be able to look back on travel pics and videos and have an emotional connection, rather than just a visual reminder of your time away.
Being a mindful traveller means experiencing travel completely, with your mind, body and soul. It’s about being emotionally connected to the experiences you’ve had and the people you’ve met. I know it all sounds very hippy dippy, but the fact is, mindful travel is so much more fulfilling than powering through your bucket list and trying to do everything as fast as possible.
Got questions about mindful travel? Feel free to drop me a message! I love to hear from my readers.