July 1, 2014

How Mindfulness Can Change The Way You Travel. ~ Sam Wright

James Wheleer

I used to see mindfulness as an antidote to the strains of everyday life.

When I travelled, those strains would get left behind—and so would meditation. I’ve been speaking to experts to find out how exactly mindfulness can turn any trip into a journey.

When I’m at home or at work, mindfulness is a big part of my life. It’s one of the few good habits I’ve taken time to cultivate. If I’m feeling unmotivated, foggy-headed, drained or overwhelmed, I know I can take a few seconds to ground myself in the here-and-now.

Yet, for some reason, that all used to go out the window when I travelled. I didn’t “need” mindfulness in the same way I did when I was at home. Meditation was a rescue remedy, and when I travelled, I didn’t see any reason to bring it with me.

What it comes down to, I think, is the fact that it’s much easier to be mindful when you’re experiencing negative feelings and emotions. When something exciting happens, or you have something positive to focus on, it’s easy to get caught up in your joy. You’re not grounded. You don’t want to be grounded. You’re having an incredible time—why would you want to stop and think about it?

 Or at least, that’s how I used to feel.

I had an argument with my cousin on a night-train in Germany. We’d been traveling for over a week, packing far too much into our trip and barely stopping to sleep. We were both so tired that we’d ceased to enjoy ourselves, and it took a tearful fight and an hour’s meditation to make me realize that I’d stopped having fun four days ago.

Being mindful revealed that what I’d interpreted as “having a good time” was, when broken down into smaller parts, a mixture of excitement, self-imposed pressure to enjoy myself, and too much coffee and alcohol. This feeling I’d accepted as fact was not actually real.

This happens all the time with negative emotions, so it only makes sense that it holds true for positive ones, too. “Sometimes we bundle difficult or similar emotions together,” according to counsellor Adrian Francis. “What we perceive as, say, stress is often a combination of emotions that we haven’t properly examined. Mindfulness allows us to unpick these emotions and work out what is bothering us.”

Nowadays, I approach travel as an exercise in mindfulness. I am growing deliberately, rather than incidentally. I travel much lighter now—both emotionally and physically (if you pack mindfully, you don’t tend to take as much stuff. Who knew?).

Waiting at an airport doesn’t have to be an inconvenience. It’s a chance to “check in” emotionally, and ground yourself before you take off. We absorb so much information when we travel, but without mindfulness, all that information comes from outside of ourselves. Travel is an opportunity to grow, and if we’re not being mindful, we’re not making the most of that opportunity.

Travel can bring merciful relief to the daily grind, enabling a resuscitation of ‘present’ living and mental rebooting, ” says psychologist Emma Kenny. But if we’re “rebooting” without mindfulness, we’re not really rebooting at all.

But it’s easy for me, as a recreational traveller, to talk about the benefits of mindful travel. I’d always imagined it would be different for people who travelled for work rather than for fun.

According to Matt Davies, director of Direct Rail, you can make the most of any journey. “I spend a lot of time talking about travel as an industry, but if I thought that way every time I got on a plane, it would ruin the experience. As with anything else in life, your journeys are defined by your mindset.”

So, next time you take a trip, think more carefully about what you bring along. You don’t need all those clean shirts, you don’t need two types of suncream, and you don’t need that self-imposed pressure to enjoy yourself. All you need is mindfulness.




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Apprentice Editor: Sarvasmarana Ma Nithya/ Editor:

 Photo: Pixoto/James Wheeler

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