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You can’t take material things with you. Experiences matter the most, and mindful travel helps you wring the most out of every moment. It grounds you firmly in the present, letting you engage all of your senses and savor the highs and lows.
However, many of us have experienced returning from a vacation only to wonder where the time went. Sometimes, you engage in behaviors that numb you, such as drinking to excess. Other times, you may simply spend so much time worrying about things at the office or fretting over how to make every upcoming event “perfect” that you miss out on what’s happening now.
Americans get woefully little vacation time compared to people in other countries. Making the most of your limited escape is vital. Here are five tips for mindful travel that will help you wring every last bit of enjoyment out of your holiday.
1. Bring a Travel Journal
Imagine sitting in a Parisian cafe, a glass of cabernet in your left hand and a pen in your right. Before you lies a gorgeous view of the Eiffel Tower, while all around you, the hustle and bustle of the city sing with life. Imagine how inspired you’d feel to capture the sights, sounds and smells of your journey.
Writing is one of the most mindful activities you can do. There’s a constant awareness of your flow of thought, from bursts of inspiration to the quiet stillness where your unconscious speaks. It also creates a permanent snapshot of your mental state as you explore your destination, lending valuable insight into how your experiences change you and how you interpret things differently over time.
Perhaps one day, your travel journal will inspire your kids or grandkids to follow in your wandering footsteps. It might even encourage strangers if you later publish your memoirs. However, keeping a travel journal and writing in it daily serves as a powerful reminder to savor each experience, allowing you to relive precious moments while they remain fresh in your memory.
2. Take a Mindfulness Walk Around Your Destination
You could take a tour bus or drive from sight to sight. However, this mode of transportation makes you miss out on some of your destination’s best authentic local flavors and cultural vibes. You’ll feel much more a part of things when you take your time wandering city streets on foot, stopping into tempting curio shops to explore their souvenir offerings and slaking your thirst at random watering holes you encounter as you stroll.
Make your travels a mindfulness walk to immerse yourself in the local experience. As you stroll, engage your senses — what can you see, hear and smell? How does the vibe of the city play on your skin, and how does the climate affect your mood and energy levels? Do the unique rustic cobblestones beneath your feet make your outing more pleasurable?
3. Savor Those Dining Experiences
Perhaps you’ve heard of the mindfulness activity where you slowly unwrap and observe a piece of chocolate before sniffing it, nibbling it and eventually letting it melt on your tongue. You can extend these principles to your entire journey and enjoy more mindful travel every time you dine.
One of the best parts of any journey is exploring new restaurants. To truly immerse yourself in the culture, skip the big-name offerings you see in many travel guides. Instead, seek out local establishments — you’ll save money and savor more authentic flavor with spicy food and regional delicacies.
Pick restaurants with great ambiance that cater to senses other than taste. Take your time conversing with your server and learn about the various ingredients in your meal. Consider their recommendations — they know their house specialties and want to delight you.
4. Choose Activities That Engage Your Senses
Laying on the beach can be a mindfulness activity. For example, close your eyes and savor the sensation of the sun on your skin and the mingled aromas of saltwater and sunblock. Watch the tide roll in and roll back out again, marveling at how small each human being is in the greater scheme of things.
However, you want to fill your vacation with multiple memories. When seeking things to do, look for activities that engage all your senses. For example, scuba diving puts you in a whole new underwater world. What does it feel like to swim with the dolphins, swooping and diving through the water like a bird in the air?
Do you savor activities that get your adrenaline pumping? If you go beachside, why not take a parasailing adventure — you can see the earth’s curvature if you soar high enough. Alternatively, book a deep-sea fishing expedition and challenge your full-body strength when pulling in the big haul. Some tuna can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, requiring several hardy individuals to bring in the catch. How do your muscles feel as they work?
5. Focus on Experiences
You’ll probably want a souvenir or two to remember your trip. However, there’s no need to waste valuable time shopping. Instead, why not go for a sunrise beach stroll and gather the most beautiful seashells you can find? When you get home, you can make them into a shadowbox that serves as an artistic visual reminder of your journey — and assembling it is a mindful travel activity.
Strike a balance between mindless relaxation and mindful excursions. You don’t want to exhaust yourself to the point that you feel like if it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium. However, try to plan two or three memorable moments each day — a fine meal, a mindful walking tour or a zipline adventure through the treetops.
It’s not unusual to return from a holiday wondering where the time went. However, it’s vital to savor each moment of your vacation by mindfully engaging your senses.
Follow the mindful travel tips above to make the most of each moment of your next journey. You’ll return feeling refreshed, renewed and satisfied that you have wrung every last bit of enjoyment out of your time.
Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.