Booked a holiday recently? Can’t wait to put your ‘out of office’ on and visit somewhere new?
We talk frequently about the importance of ditching digital distractions and the pressure of our always-on culture at home. Now, it’s time to get serious about the practice of being present when we’re travelling.
Read on to discover our list of mindful travel tips to help you switch-off and make the most of your trip.
1. Slow Down
Annual leave is precious. If we’re on a city break, we’ll peruse Tripadvisor to find the must-visit sites in that place. Then, we’ll pack them into our few-day stint in the city. We race from place to place, ticking off each attraction as a story ready to relay back home. It’s exhausting. One of the first mindful travel tips is to slow down and enjoy each and every activity.
This goes for food too. Instead of seeing lunch as an inevitable fuel-up before an afternoon of more sites and queues, enjoy the tastes and scents of the local dishes. After all, food is as big a part of a nation’s culture as the history and language.
2. Take Meaningful Photos
The permanence of the film camera has been replaced by almost limitless digital photography. We take photos of everything. We don’t need to carefully choose where and when to use our scared shots, we just point and shoot. Some of us are probably guilty of spending just as much time, or even more, taking photos of somewhere as we are enjoying it through our own eyes. And many of us probably never do anything with the hundreds of photos taken.
Limit the number of digital photos you take and try a film or instant camera. You’ll become more in touch with what you’re photographing and spend more time just enjoying the view.
3. Don’t Over-Rely On Your Phone
In an interview with Afar, Sara Clemence, author of Away & Aware: A Field Guide to Mindful Travel, said, “Doing stuff on your phone can be really efficient. You can figure out how to get from place A to place B quickly or find a restaurant. But “most efficient” doesn’t always mean “best.” If you don’t use your phone to figure out public transportation, it will take longer. But this is a vacation, not a commute. Who cares?”
Part of getting to know a place is doing as the locals do. It’s puzzling over the transport system, asking for directions and enjoying the journey. While useful and now more accessible than ever after roaming charges were abolished in the EU, smartphones can also be a barrier to interacting with locals on our trips. We move around cities like independent entities, shielded by the comfort of Google at our fingertips. There’s no need to interact with the culture around us, or even get to know street names and memorise routes. To be more mindful of where you are going and what’s around you, try using a paper map before turning instinctively to your phone.
4. Switch Off From Social Media and Email
In the same interview, Sara Clemence added, “We spend half of our vacations figuring out how we’re going to portray our vacation.” Rather than taking in the present moment, many of us are often guilty of thinking ahead to what photos we’ll share online and the witty captions that will accompany them. Switch off from social media and stop thinking about what people will think of your holiday. Instead, ask yourself, what do you think of your trip? It’s ok to not to have had an Instagram-worthy day.
In the same sense, checking what’s going on back home on social media, replying to messages and keeping in touch with work creates a barrier to enjoying the here and now. 60% of people say a traditional holiday doesn’t relieve their stress because they don’t fully disconnect from their job. You’ve worked hard to book a holiday away from the norm, so why not allow yourself to completely switch off from it?
5. Make Time To Observe and People Watch
Most attractions are topping Tripadvisor for a reason – they’re probably oozing culture, history and/or heavy sponsorship. They are worth visiting, appreciating and remembering. But, when it comes to mindful travel, the places you are supposed to tick off your must-see list are only part of the story. One of the most important tips for mindful travel is leaving time in your itinerary to get a sense of local life. Walk away from the main sites, sit in local cafes and just observe normal people going about their normal business. If a place is packed with locals, ask the waiter what the most popular dish or drink is, preferably in the local lingo; even if you can only string a sentence or two together!
Mindful travel is similar to deep travel, it’s about getting to know the world and its people, not just ‘seeing’ the sites and ticking a destination off your list. Sound good? On your next break, why not put down your phone and give mindful travel a try?