Confession time: I’m a travel planning addict and an Airbnb binger.
Some people binge on tubs of Ben & Jerry’s while watching 10 straight hours of “13 Reasons Why.”
I spend countless hours staring at my iPhone Airbnb app, clicking through photos of available yurts featuring llamas in New Mexico, or purportedly haunted castles I could book in Transylvania for a future Halloween.
In a sea of travel apps designed to lure our every vacation fantasy and hook our bank accounts in one quick click of the little red Book button, how can we stay mindful and grounded in the present moment as we plan our next escape?
At work when we’re on the clock, at home while procrastinating chores, at the laundromat waiting for the dryer cycle to finish—we spend so much time waiting for things to be over. In these waiting moments, who hasn’t daydreamed of being elsewhere? The weekend, the afternoon off, plans for a holiday break, an escape with friends or a partner: we build up these future moments in our minds to take the edge off of common boredom and vexation.
Thanks to our smartphones, laptops, and tablets, guess who’s watching us while we daydream and scroll?
Companies like Airbnb, Trip Advisor, Home Away, and Booking.com have been successfully capitalizing on our escape and adventure fantasies to the tune of $93 million in profits on $2.6 billion of revenue for Airbnb in 2017, with projected profits of $3 billion by 2020. How much of this is truly money well-spent for us consumers?
When we’re attempting to live mindfully, bringing greater awareness to the impact of our purchases and behaviors, how do we avoid mindlessly clicking through photos on apps like Airbnb and ending up in rental that doesn’t quite match our lifestyle? Could we instead tailor our choices and tourist dollars so that they align with our deepest values?
If we’re able to bring greater awareness to the highly addictive pursuit of future travel gratification, we’ll end up saving time and money and supporting like-minded people, rather than getting baited by business owners who may not be eco-friendly, green, pet friendly, or even particularly thoughtful human beings.
Although travel planning puts our mental focus on a future event, there are methods to stay present and intentionally embodied as we browse through those tantalizing photos.
Below, I’ve created a list of five mindful guidelines to follow while booking your next getaway:
1. Set an intentional time and space for your travel booking session:
We’re more likely to make hasty, careless decisions when surrounded by needless distractions and facing inopportune time pressures. Don’t try to plan your getaways in the in-between times you are waiting around on other people or things.
Supermarket checkout lines, boring conference calls, and your nephew’s little league games aren’t the best moments to book on Airbnb. Set a time you’ll be relatively free of distractions and do your travel browsing in a comfortable space that makes sense given the task at hand.
2. Mindfully choose your browsing device:
Some of us do a lot of careful and high level work on our phones. Others tend to drunk text and tweet at 3:00 a.m. All joking aside, if you’re someone who has to end all your emails with the signature, “Siri has a mind of her own,” you may not be a person who makes reliable decisions using a smartphone.
Using your desktop or laptop rather than a tablet or smaller device is often a good way to curb impulse travel bookings. This tip I gleaned from personal experience (not everyone wants a bedside composting toilet for a romantic couples getaway).
3. Stay connected to your breath and how your body feels as you browse:
“Your mind has a longing to be in synch with your body” ~ Linda Lewis
In the Buddhist and yoga traditions, we learn that our breathing and bodily sensations show us the condition of the mind. Yet often, we fail to make this connection and we follow our minds on ill-conceived tangents while our bodies are sending up red flags.
If you’re excited about photos of the most beautiful mountain house you’ve ever seen, your heart rate goes up a little, you feel a smile at the corners of your mouth, and maybe you’re bouncing around on your chair just a bit. But when you see the nightly rental cost and you’re still excited but your breath becomes short and your jaw muscles are tensing, that’s probably something to notice. Take the time to connect to your body and breath before you start browsing and keep that awareness throughout the process; don’t click the red button if you’re feeling disconnected.
4. Find and use the mindfulness tools within the listing:
Each listing on Airbnb contains information gems to help us decide whether or not to book. Descriptive text about the property and its owners, house rules, and cancellation policies must be carefully read if we’re mindfully Airbn’ being (present)!
Make full use of these parts of the listing to find out who the owners are and what they’re about, important details about the property easily missed from only clicking through the photos, restrictions on what guests can and cannot do while staying on the property, and finally, if something falls through, what the time limits and conditions are for full or partial refunds of the booking fees. Giving each of these items full consideration takes extra time and effort, but it’s entirely unmindful to go into a travel booking without this knowledge in hand.
Services like Airbnb, Home Away, and VBRO have one more feature I like to call a mindfulness tool: the favorites list.
While browsing through listings, instead of booking the first one that produces an adrenaline rush, use the favorites feature and heart or checkmark the most enticing choices, thereby delaying the final decision until each best option is fully considered.
5. Practice “the pause” throughout the process:
From the moment you start thinking about your next fun getaway until you click the booking button, periodically re-anchor yourself to the present moment by practicing what we meditation and yoga types like to call the pause: stop, come back to your breath, notice your body and your surroundings, exhale, then carry on.
May you experience only mindful, safe, joyous, and enlightening travel adventures!