This is not a story about lighter luggage or embracing minimalism.
While traveling with less stuff is great, I’ll be honest: my husband, daughter, and I are moving across borders with three stuffed suitcases, two backpacks, and a couple of handbags.
The past almost-three months have been beautiful and challenging, exciting and exhausting. We’ve explored new places, reconnected with old friends, celebrated the holidays in new ways, and redefined our day-to-day routines.
A solid six weeks of the trip was spent in my husband’s hometown in Colombia. We hadn’t been there in over four years. Back then, our then toddler daughter was walking but not yet talking.
This time around, we celebrated her sixth birthday with a very pink, Hello Kitty-themed party thrown by her adoring relatives.
At birthday parties in Colombia, a photo is taken of every guest with the birthday girl or boy after the candle is blown out and before the cake is cut. After the cake, each guest is served a plate piled with popcorn, a couple of boiled potatoes, and a chunk of pork, along with a tiny plastic cup of soda. I offer these details as a tiny sample of how far from my comfort zone I, a mostly-vegetarian, earthy, yoga mama had traversed.
Of course, it wasn’t just the birthday parties that challenged my norms and prompted me to be more open-minded, accepting, and flexible—it was just about every aspect of every day.
This is the amazing thing about travel: we learn that we can adapt to anything. We are free to redefine our boundaries and recreate our ways of being in a novel setting.
Here are a few helpful ways to travel lighter—while letting our inner light shine. May they be of benefit!
1. Eat what you’re served, with gratitude.
“The purity that we long for is not found in perfecting the world. True purity is found in the heart that can touch all things, enfold all things, and include all things in its compassion.” ~ Jack Kornfield
At home, our kitchen is meat-free. On the road, however, whether in Texas, Mexico, or Colombia, we’ve gotten rather lax in the diet department.
On our previous trip to South America, we politely refused to eat chicken or red meat, and so were served an exorbitant amount of canned tuna fish or scrambled eggs as a protein replacement. We kindly opted for tea instead of coffee most days.
Early on in this trip, I declared that I was going to eat whatever was served, much to my mother-in-law’s delight. I even ate a roasted ant. Yes, I am excited to get home and chow down on tofu, falafel, miso soup, and hummus. Nevertheless, I stand by my choice to adapt my diet to the local culture. It was the easiest way to show respect and gratitude to our hosts and the food they lovingly prepared for us.
Now, as for getting over my coffee and sweetbread addiction, that is another story.
2. See others as yourself.
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” ~ Longfellow
We are all dealing with our own struggles, dictated by our situation, conditioning, childhood, and culture. Instead of judging the different choices, modes of operation, opinions, and behaviors of other people, why not recall our similarities and celebrate our diversity?
We all have fears and preoccupations, obsessions and aversions, strengths and weaknesses. We share the same broad emotions of happiness, melancholy, surprise, and boredom. When someone stares at me because I am different from them, instead of feeling offended, I try to look back at them, make eye contact, perhaps even say “hola,” and remember that we are all human beings on the planet trying our best to live in harmony and love one another.
People just want to be heard. So listen to them! Don’t search around the room for something else to do or someone else to talk to. Hear what they have to say. Smile, even if you disagree. Before you get up on a soapbox, think: will this matter two days from now? Or a year from now? If not, skip the discourse.
3. Maintain a spiritual practice on the road.
“At first you will think of practice as a limited part of your life. In time you will realize that everything you do is part of your practice.” ~ Ram Dass
It’s easy to let frequent changes in location and the upheaval of our typical routine get in the way of our formal practice while traveling.
Please, for the sake of yourself and everyone around you: don’t stop practicing. Modify if you must, but keep at it.
For me, this meant connecting with a small but eager group of Colombian yoginis. We practiced together most days, even over the chaotic holiday season. Each morning, a simple session of conscious breathing, stretching, chanting, and relaxation set the tone of inner peace, patience, and mindfulness for the rest of the day.
Shine your light from within. This is not just about practicing on vacation or while traveling. It’s about how we move through our moments and days—all of them, without exception. It’s about how we shape our entire lives into our practice.
May we all remember to breathe, smile, and enjoy the journey.