Have you ever been on holiday, in a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by wonderful people and exciting experiences, and yet found yourself consciously worried about something back home, anxious about an upcoming event or dwelling mournfully on something in the past?
If you have, I imagine it frustrated you as much as it did me. I kept wondering why I was thinking about something so dull when there was so much vibrancy surrounding me.
I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been off enjoying some adventures in Asia before settling down into a new job back in London. Its been the most wonderful experience, and I still have two weeks left and two new cities to explore! I’ve been able to make some wonderful memories and immerse myself in cultures very different from my own.
After a month away, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to travel mindfully. There’s been many points on my trip when I’ve definitely been very mindful, but also some moments where I have certainly been the opposite.
Why is it sometimes hard to be in the moment when travelling?
It should be easy, right! We’re somewhere new, doing something really cool, yet we’re thinking about something else unimportant or irrelevant.
In those moments you wonder why you are choosing to focus on things back home when you’ve purposely come away, like we all do, on a break.
The thing to remember is, we don’t choose to think these negative or disheartening thoughts. Our minds find it so tricky to focus on the present because we always remember scenarios or, alternatively, predict scenarios much more strongly than we can perceive the present. Those past or future thoughts weigh on our minds more heavily simply because they are more vivid. This is the case even when the present is so amazing, or something so exciting.
So even though we say we’re going away on holiday for an escape from reality, whether it’s just for a weekend away, or a longer trip like mine right now, our minds cannot just automatically switch off from the concerns we had at home. The holiday activities might be distractions, sure, but those worries and annoyances could still easily pop up.
What can you do about it?
The number one thing is to not get annoyed at yourself. Accept the thought when it comes and observe it from a place of calm. Imagine you’re stood on a station bridge looking over the trains pulling in and out of the platforms. Your thoughts are those trains, and you are not your thoughts. Watch it come and then feel it go.
You can do this by reminding yourself where you are and what you’re doing – by practising a kind of gratitude for the fact that you’re doing something so special.
Sometimes you really do have some big concerns back home, or there are things you’ve got coming up that are definitely bringing you down. Again, it’s impossible to expect being away to make those concerns and responsibilities instantly disappear.
However, you can minimise the effect they have on your mindset whilst travelling by simply telling yourself when these worries come up, that you can deal with everything when you’re back, that you’ve earned this break.
If there is something important you do have to deal with whilst away, work out how long it should take, allocate the amount of time in the morning to do it so it’s out of the way and you can enjoy your day.
Tips for travelling mindfully:
Holidays can get stressful for a number of reasons, and being away from our home comforts and things we know can annoy us sometimes in ways we weren’t expecting.
However long your trip is, and wherever you are going, bear these things in mind:
- Plan your travel with people you can get along with, have fun with, and who want the same things out of the trip. There’s no fun in going away with someone you’re just going to argue with, or who wants to do a different type of holiday from the one you wanted.
- Keep a journal. Even if you just write two lines a day or just use it for doodling, take one with you. If you don’t have time to write down everything you did, at least write the weather, best meal of the day, and a favourite sight or quote here and there. Journalling is a much deserved moment to yourself.
- Incorporate some nature. On a big city break, find yourself some parks or squares where you can sit or walk and enjoy the greenery. Too much concrete never was a good holiday.
- Check in with yourself after each activity or sight. Did it make you feel free, relaxed, happy? Did it push you out of your comfort zone? Was it what you were expecting? This kind of self evaluation is great for appreciating each experience as it happens, and stops you from getting distracted with trivial things.
- Disconnect! If you’ve gone abroad, you probably can’t use your data plan anyway, so embrace that. Sure, free WiFi is great for when you need to get in touch with someone, but when you’re out and about, enjoy the fact that you are disconnected from instant messages, emails, updates. It’s so rare that this happens at home, so let this digital freedom fuel your mindfulness!
I’ve still got a few weeks of holiday left, and I’m going to continue being mindful on my travels using these tips, and simply being grateful for this opportunity to see so much of the world that I have never before experienced! I feel so grateful to have the chance to have such an adventure, as we all are when we get the opportunity to break away, just for a bit.
Next time you get the chance to go somewhere awesome, I hope this post helps you feel less guilty and more understanding if you can’t instantly switch off, and that the tips help you to be mindful during your travels to maximise the experience to the fullest!