The Mindfulness of Traveling

As published in The Florida Villager

Put down your phone and get engaged!

In this day and age where mindfulness is a hot topic, how many of you have related it to travel?

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

We travelers typically pick a place of interest, pack our bags and tell our friends we need to “get away.”

Mindfulness is defined by Webster as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

Some people travel once a year for the annual family vacation. Others make travel their avocation. Whichever traveler you are, if you do it mindfully, you will invariably appreciate it more and get the most out of your time away.

As it relates to traveling, how great the experience of the traveler who can slow down and empty their mind so they can fully embrace and experience a moment in time via all their senses. Cutting out mental distractions takes practice. On your journey, be aware of when your thoughts start to drift to things like emails, responsibilities at home and work. When they do start to drift, bring your focus back to the sights, sounds and smells of that particular moment. It is important to not only be mindful during your journey, but also to fully understand the reasons WHY you’re taking this trip in the first place.

There are many reasons people pack their bags and lock the door behind them:

– to commune with nature (like hiking in Yellowstone)

– to have quality time with family (like a cabin on a lake)

– to go inward and self-evaluate (like a spiritual retreat)

– to learn about other cultures (like a visit to Thailand)

– to challenge ourselves and push past fears (like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro)

– to just have fun (like Mardi Gras)

Traveling is good for your psyche. It brings you out of what is familiar and puts you in the unfamiliar where new concepts and thoughts are born and tested. It heightens your self-confidence and gives you a stronger sense of self. It can affect your personality, as well. If you tend to be an introvert, being in a situation where you are forced to interact with strangers can expand your range of comfort. Traveling can create an ease for change you wouldn’t normally feel in your day to day routine. You can gain an appreciation for life you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t get out of your familiar surroundings.

For me, the ability to relax, detach and unplug from my worries and responsibilities is a huge reason I love to travel. Take time to delve into the “whys” of where you want to travel. Go beyond superficial answers like “to get away” or “I’ve always wanted to go there.” Make travel a deep, personal experience; not just itineraries, museum schedules and sightseeing. You will return a changed person in many ways.

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