Mindful Travel with Soothed in The City
What is Mindful Travel? Paula Gardner of http://www.soothedinthecity.com, a blog that focuses on chilled destinations and restful places to stay, says it is a richer way to travel, “capturing the moment and the essence of a place, experiencing it in all its richness, and not ticking things off a checklist or tight itinerary.”
Paula, whose blog Soothed in The City http://www.soothedinthecity.com, was mentioned by National Geographic Traveller as being one of their favourite blogs, says “It’s also about learning to put everything else to one side – your work worries, relationship anxieties, and sense of obligation – and being truly present. It’s about creating memories that will stay with you. They may not always be beautiful holiday brochure memories, but at least you will be able to look back and say, truly, ‘I was there.’”
But, of course, all that is easier said than done. Here are Paula’s tips to help you on the journey towards mindful travel.
1. Keep your Schedule Flexible
Build in time for detours, distractions and mindful lingering. Jam-packing your itinerary from dawn until dusk will just tire you out.
2. Use Your Senses
Regularly stop to really look, listen, smell, touch and taste. One of my favourite sounds is that of cicadas, and I love the way they can all stop and start together, instantaneously. It’s very magical. Likewise, I adore that post rain smell, especially in the early morning when you know it’s going to be hot later. Markets are a great way to indulge your senses. Don’t be afraid to stop, close your eyes and tune into your other senses too.
3. Look at the Locals
Try and take your cue from them. If you’re travelling somewhere where a siesta is the norm, get into their rhythm. Try to eat where they eat, and look for local dishes and drinks that can give you more of a sense of the region you are visiting and what it produces.
4. Journal Your Journey
You don’t have to write, but creating a chronicle of your trip is a lovely way to become fully present. You could make it a visual journey, full of photos that mean something to you (the wing of that beautiful butterfly that came and sat on your beer glass), not just snaps of tourist locations. If you’re writing, don’t worry about making it literary, just play around with whatever you fancy. It could be visual descriptions of people you see as you sit and write, or even a chronicle of your emotional state and your reaction to the things you are coming across.
5. Dress to Fit In
No designer gear (even if you know it’s fake, they may not) or flash clothing. Dressing like the locals means that you’re more likely to fit in and, by buying your gear there you are buying the right clothes for the weather as well as supporting the local economy.
6. Spend Time Alone
Even if you are travelling with others, a walk on your own will help you really experience what’s going on around you without having to worry about what the other person is thinking/meaning/moaning about.
That way, if you want to spend ten minutes watching the bees collect pollen from the lavender, there is no one else to disturb you.
Spending time alone also means that you can’t rely on someone else. It’s only you who has to negotiate local transport and do your own ordering at the bar or restaurant – lovely ways to interact and really get the feel of a location.
7. Keep up Your Routine
If you regularly meditate or practise yoga, make an effort to keep this up as this will help you feel grounded and open to what may come up. If you don’t then this could be a great time to start, or at least practise counting your breath for ten minutes a day. This is wonderfully restorative and calming. Just sit still and counting your exhalations. Every time you lose count, start again at the beginning. You don’t need to be anywhere special to do this. You can indulge on your hotel balcony or in a crowded Metro, it will work.
8. Frequent the Same Places
While it seems obvious that you should go to as many different bars or restaurants as possible to vary your experience, the opposite may help you get a much deeper one. By visiting the same cafe for lunch every day, you’ll get to know the locals and staff who are more likely to engage with you and let you into their lives. Likewise, engage with people you see every day. Ask your receptionist what part of the city they live in, their favourite places to eat and drink, rather than the suggestions tourists normally want.
Practise watching, and stay with that, rather than rushing to make sense of a situation or even worse, make judgements. Absorb.
10. Be Patient
Delays are a natural part of travel; they come with the territory. Yes, losing yourself in a podcast or novel will make them go a lot quicker, but do also use it as an opportunity to sit and watch what’s going on. These are the little moments that make up our lives. Notice them.
Paula Gardner writes about Mindful Travel at http://www.soothedinthecity.com.