May 19, 2018

How Traveling can be a Practice in Presence, Mindfulness & Joy.


Several years ago, I was bitten by the travel bug.

Ever since, I have given into the fever that the travel bug induces, continually jetting off every six months or so on some new adventure in a faraway land.

These wanderings are what I live for; the thrill of being thousands of miles from home and out of the comfort zone, the satiating of the desire for new knowledge and experiences, the joy of connecting with people from another culture in a different corner of the planet.

I have found that when I am traveling, I am usually at my happiest and in the best version of myself. And with this recognition, I decided it was time to ask myself: “y tho?”

Why is it that I experience such contentment, growth, and joy when I travel? What is it about travel that pulls out the best in me? Why does travel seem to be a form of meditation? And not just for me; many other travelers I have met out on the road have expressed the same sentiments.

I pondered all of this during my most recent journey to Holland (from which I have just returned and am severely jet lagged as I write this). What I discovered is that travel is so wonderful for us humans because it is a practice in mindfulness and presence.

Traveling forces us to stop meandering over the past and imagine the future. Instead, it urges us to become present in the moment as we see the new stimuli right in front of us.

The historical and iconic sites, the varied cityscapes and landscapes, the diverse people and foods. There is so much new to take in during the present moment that it seems the human mind decides it needs to reside in the present more than ever. And in the present, there is opportunity to learn, to grow, to make new connections, and to fully experience, which, at least for me, brings great joy.

Furthermore, traveling removes us from the grinds of our daily lives.

When we are removed from our normal lives, we are more likely to stop thinking about all the demands and stipulations we place upon ourselves—which often take us out of the present—and instead, embrace where we are at.

When we travel, we get a much needed break from the creating and doing of task lists, a break from runs to the grocery store, and trying to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour, a break from counting every calorie we put in our bodies, a break from wondering about what the hell we are going to do for retirement.

We may still think about some of these parts of our lives while traveling, but it appears to be the case that while traveling we are better at pushing these stressors out of our minds. This allows space to be observant and present.

While traveling, we are more likely to discard the binds we normally place on ourselves and release the filters through which we normally look at life, and in doing so we become more open to experiencing, connecting, learning, growing, and ultimately enjoying all the world has to offer us in the moment.

We tend to look at the beautiful sites with fresh and wide open eyes, we mindfully taste the foods that are new to our palettes, and we may even be more open to speaking with and befriending those who we meet along the way.

Lastly, I truly feel that while traveling, we often find the truest versions of ourselves.

When we are far away from our homes and our responsibilities, we are able to let go of the different characters we play in our day-to-day lives until the only character that is left is not a character at all, but our true selves. And when the true self is allowed to shine, it relishes in the moment and all that the moment has to offer, and it is there that the happiness can be found.

And there we have it: when we travel, we find presence, mindfulness, and connection to something powerful within.

How can we find this same presence, mindfulness, and connection to our true selves while at home? What changes can we make to really be present in our homes experiencing, learning, growing, and enjoying?

It’s not a question I have the ultimate answer to yet, nor do I think it is one that will come to me overnight. But what I do know is this:

We should always be working to become more present and traveling often teaches us how to do that. For that reason, I am going to keep traveling and I am going to keep bringing my learnings back home with me every time I return.

So now, where to next?


Author: Johnny Newnes
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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