How to bring mindfulness into your travels

March 13, 2019

Between catching planes and trains, navigating new cultures (and languages!), and following itineraries, travelling can bring moments of stress and anxiety alongside the excitement and discovery. But mindfulness practises can keep you calm and better connected with your surroundings. By bringing more awareness to the unique sights and sounds around you, you’ll have richer memories to take back home. Here are a few tips for incorporating mindfulness practises into your next travel experience.

A long-haul flight

If you’ve been cursed with the dreaded middle seat for a 14-hour flight, finding moments of peace and calm can be challenging. Once you’ve cycled through all the new releases in the in-flight entertainment system, give meditation a try. Being seated without any distractions is an excellent opportunity to practise the art of stillness. If you’re new to meditation, download an app like Headspace or Calm. (Make sure to download individual guided meditations in advance if you won't have WiFi access mid-flight.) Practise a few sessions prior to flying so that it’s easier to get into the groove when you need it. Some airlines like Virgin Australia have even incorporated meditation apps like Smiling Mind into their in-flight entertainment systems.

Aside from guided meditations, you might find soothing sounds like singing bowls, nature sounds, and gong baths can help you relax and meditate independently. Download a soundtrack before you leave for access anytime. And while you might look a little dorky wearing it on a flight, tech devices like the Muse Headband can help to settle your mind. It works by tracking brain activity and playing weather sounds to help you better focus on meditating.

Reaching the summit of a long hike or climb

Bucket list achievements like reaching the peak of Mt Kilimanjaro or Machu Picchu by sunrise are moments you’ll want to relive again and again. One way relish these accomplishments is to activate all of your senses. Here are a few guiding questions to consider once you’re at your destination. For all senses except sight (naturally), try closing your eyes to tune into those other senses.

Sight: What do you see? Look up and look down. Instead of thinking about or naming the objects and shapes you see, simply let the light enter your eyes. How does the sunlight illuminate the objects around you?

Touch: How does the earth feel beneath your feet? How does the air feel on your face? If permitted to touch, what do other surfaces feel like on your fingertips?

Smell: Take a deep, full breath. What can you smell? Are there discernible scents like the aromas of food or the freshness of plant matter? Or simply enjoy the clean, fresh air you’re inhaling.

Sounds: What can you hear? Are there other travellers nearby? What about the bustle of traffic or the sounds of nature? If you don’t hear anything, savour the silence of the moment.

Navigating busy crowds

The Sistine Chapel, the Grand Canyon, a bustling souk, a popular pizza joint: crowded attractions are an inevitability for many travellers. Waiting in line for a revered slice of ‘za or to glimpse Michelangelo’s artwork in real life can aggravate the most patient of us. But deep breathing exercises are a powerful tool for facing busy crowds. One method to try here is box breathing, also known as square breathing. Simply inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and hold your breath for another count of four before repeating the process all over again. Some find it helpful to picture a box as each step of breathing and holding represents one side of the square.

A gratitude practise can also be handy for getting through stressful moments. Think of why you are where you are now and how lucky you are to have travelled to a different part of the world. Be grateful for the opportunity to experience something new, exciting, and previously unknown to you. Be thankful for all the people that have gotten you to the place you are at now: your CEO for leading you to an exciting attraction, maintenance staff that keep the grounds orderly for your enjoyment, a pilot or driver for getting you to your destination, maybe even a government that’s recently opened their borders for visitors to witness its awesome landscapes, cultures, and sights. The possibilities here are endless!

Savouring a delicious meal

As tempting as it can be to Instagram every moment of your food experience, try to keep these snap-happy moments to a minimum to better enjoy the meal. Put your nose close to the dish or bowl and take a deep breath. What can you smell? Chew slowly and deliberately to really take in all that you’re tasting. Think about textures too: how the food feels on your tongue and between your teeth. Is it crunchy? Smooth? Silky? If there are different elements to the dish, like sauces and garnishes, try a bit of each individually to appreciate how the flavours come together in one bite.

Getting there

If you need some help finding moments of stillness while travelling, G Adventures’ Wellness tours accomplish just that. With a slower pace of travel and activities like mountaintop meditations and beachside yoga sessions, Wellness tours help you appreciate each and every moment away from home.

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