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Mindful Travel vs. Mindless Tourism

The art of becoming a mindful traveler when entering 2021

Mindful travel, or conscious travel, is rising in popularity worldwide as people look to have more authentic experiences that leave a positive impact not just on the world, but on themselves as well. Traveling should be exciting and fun, but oftentimes it can be stressful and feel rushed.

How does one reconcile travel with mindfulness — the very act of planning a trip means you’re removed from the present, daydreaming about another place. And often, more thought is given to photographing a moment on holiday than actually experiencing it. Likewise, the term conscious travel seems juxtaposed — like a jet setting hippie or an eco-friendly business class trip. Technology has made it possible for us to fly around the world in a matter of hours — 46 hours to be exact. But this type of traveling comes at the expense of our environment.

Being a mindful and conscious world citizen does not mean we should not travel, but rather that we should give serious thought to where we are going and how we are going to do so. Traveling consciously can be more than skipping that transatlantic flight or boiling your tap water instead of buying bottled water. It can mean respecting your host country and supporting locals where you can. It can mean traveling slowly and with intent, and being a considerate guest. If you’re looking for some inspo, here are some of our favorite ways to cultivate a more respectful and conscious way of traveling.

The trade-off between being reachable and being disconnected

In order to be connected to our experience and the people experiencing it with us, we need to be disconnected from the duty of being “reachable”. By being a fully present traveler you leave positive reverberations with the people you come into contact with. To be truly present, we could consider taking a vacation from our phone or email. After all, unplugging from the stress and speed of daily life is the true expression of a holiday.

Some of you may not have the opportunity to completely disconnect but, don’t worry — you need not throw away your smartphone! Rather find new ways to feel more connected to the present moment. This could mean writing a letter to a loved one by hand or taking in your surroundings with a quick sketch instead of snapping a photo. Why not ask the locals for a restaurant recommendation instead of Googling your next lunch spot, or make a point of trying the quiet local spots and tasting the native dishes. These small changes will help you to stop, breathe, and truly take in where you are and allow you to see the world beyond how it is presented to you on a screen in your pocket.

Slow and conscious wins the race

Now that we are giving more thought to mindful travel, what is conscious travel? I like to believe it begins with the idea of slow travel. Slow travel means appreciating the journey, not just the destination. It means respecting the planet, the country you’re traveling to, and the people that inhabit it. If everyone in the world traveled and gave no thought to it, tourism could destroy our planet! We have a real opportunity to flip the script and travel more sustainably through the choices we make. If you can, consider taking a train instead of flying, or doing a bike tour rather than a road trip. Traveling locally rather than halfway across the world could drastically reduce our carbon footprint and make us more environmentally conscious.

Traveling slowly does not necessarily mean it will take a small eternity to get to your destination — if you have one. It means adjusting your thinking from rushing, to savoring each and every moment, even if something doesn’t go according to plan.

Slowing down means taking the time to learn about the customs of the country you are traveling to. This will ensure a deeper understanding and respect for the country’s people and their culture. If traveling is to benefit us then let this be the start — expanding your horizons, immersing yourself in unfamiliar surroundings, and leaving your comfort zone! There is no better way to learn about humanity than by traveling, and no better way to do it respectfully than by adopting local customs. Learn a few words or phrases in the local language so that you can greet and thank those you meet along the way. Seeing someone smile — or laugh — as you attempt their language is one of life’s precious moments.

Get lost in translation

When experiencing the local sights and sounds, look for a more authentic exchange of cultures on your journey. Bear in mind that this type of exchange may not necessarily be Instagram-worthy or even make sense to you. Sometimes it can be confusing and even a little messy, but learn to embrace the uncertainty of these situations. After all, if we want everything to be neat and predictable on our travels we may as well stay at home.

Make a point of supporting small, local businesses in the town or city you are traveling to. These establishments have been the hardest hit during the global pandemic we are currently experiencing. Supporting them is the single most effective way that you can give back to the community, as these small enterprises are the backbone of their economy. Often, small, local businesses provide more personalized care for their patrons and will bend over backward to help their clients, and this is where real, lasting memories are made. By supporting them, you are stimulating local development and you know that your money will go back into the pockets of the locals. Putting your hard-earned cash towards them instead of big hotel chains and global travel conglomerates can make a real difference in the livelihood of the locals and their families.

Reflection makes the man

Hold onto your travel experiences so you can remember what they felt like, again and again. There are many ways in which you can do this — journaling being the most popular one. It doesn’t matter if you use pen and paper, or the notes app on your phone, or if you want to record yourself on video… the crucial thing is that you do it! Moments can be quickly forgotten otherwise.

A very fun, easy, and personal way to capture moments while traveling is by using the Cookie Jar app! Think of it as a virtual journal with the ability to add voice notes to express your emotions, songs to remember the sensations you had, and photos and videos of the places you visited, so that you can relive them whenever you want. Of course, you can also add the friends you made along the way and let them curate the shared memories with you. If you want to become a mindful traveler, Cookie Jar is the best way to preserve and reflect on beautiful travel experiences and memories. Easy to create, fun to share, and incredible to relive!

To close, let’s remember what it means to be mindful. There can be no mindfulness without appreciation or reflection. Therefore, gratitude is at the very core of what it means to be mindful. The next time you travel, value the opportunity to experience new surroundings. Be thankful for your ability to go out into the world and enjoy life, and for the people and the places that received you. This gratitude will spill over into other areas of your life, long after your journey has come to an end. Practicing gratitude and reflecting on your travels will give you some much-needed perspectiveon humanity, and help you become a better person. Isn’t that what we are all after at the end of the day?

So get out there and start cultivating some perspective, travelers, it’s powerful!

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