MINDFUL TRAVELING – HOW TO STAY PRESENT WHILE ON THE ROAD

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When we are traveling, it’s easy to get lost in the future. Always planning the next destination. The next guesthouse. The next dinner. Meanwhile we forget to live in the moment. To be truly mindful of where we are.

BY DEFINITION MINDFULNESS IS THE CAPACITY TO BE FULLY PRESENT TO WHAT IS ARISING, ON AS MANY LEVELS AS POSSIBLE, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, IN THIS MOMENT.

I’m guilty of this too. Right now I’m in the sea town Kep in Cambodia, a short trip from Kampot for a day away at the beach. And all I’ve been thinking about this morning is my next destination Thailand – checking out apartments on AirBnB, looking for flights, pictures of Ko Phangan beaches…

But then I stepped outside my bungalow and heard the birds singing and watched the morning light over the sea. It was such a beautiful morning and – it made me stop. This small moment of mindfulness instantaneously reset me, brought me back to the present moment. Sometimes these small moments help us. But we can also practice mindfulness consciously. Pursue it.

It’s an unconscious urge we have to get going, to get to the future, to escape anxiety in some way. The ability to imagine the future is a very powerful attribute of the human mind. Did you know that the reptilian mind only knows the present? It lives as alertly as it can in the moment and responds from instinct. But we are no happy geckos chasing mosquitoes. We have evolved the capacity to live in a way that can barely touch the present, spending our time between past memories and future projections. The practice of mindfulness is a constant reminder to remain present throughout all aspects of our lives.

Here are a few tips that help me stay mindful when I’m traveling:

1. Meditation

I meditate every day – between 20 and 30 minutes in the morning right after waking up and sometimes in the evening too. It slowly changed the way I live my days in so many ways. If you’ve never meditated before, I recommend to start with 5 minutes day. Try to keep that up for one month and then slowly increase the time.

2. Breathing

Focusing on the breath keeps us present, calms the mind, and allows us to develop awareness. This applies not only in our yoga practice but also in normal daily life. When you are stressed or anxious, a few moments up deep breathing will calm you and bring you back to the moment.

3. Being in nature

Walking at a beach or through a forest, or even just in a park, is one of the best things to help you get calm and grounded again. This is especially true when traveling. Hug a tree (seriously – try it) and feel the power of mother earth bringing you back into the moment.

4. Cooking

Mostly when we are traveling we don’t have the opportunity to cook for ourselves. But when I don’t have access to a kitchen for a longer period I get really restless. For me preparing and cooking a meal is incredibly grounding, even if it is just a simple breakfast. When I’m cooking I’m totally focused and right in the moment.

5. Move your body

Yoga of course, but also running, tennis, SUP, sailing – move your body. Have fun and forget everything else. Focus on what’s going on in your body and stay as mindful as you can.

Remember that it is a practice, meaning that we continuously work and aim for balance and more mindfulness. Mindfulness is not something that shows up one day and is suddenly here to stay; it’s the result of creating moments of mindfulness throughout your day. Go with the flow of life and take every moment as it comes.

BECAUSE LIFE NEVER HAPPENS IN THE FUTURE, IT CAN ONLY UNFOLD IN THE PRESENT MOMENT, IN THE NOW.

 

Here is a short mindfulness meditation that I love:

Find a comfortable seat, resting your hands onto your knees, sitting nice and tall. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply in and out. Keep your face soft, and your shoulders relaxed.

Notice your breath. Do you breath deeply into your belly. Can you feel your breath moving throughout your body on your inhale and exhale.

Notice the sounds around you. You may listen to the birds, the traffic, doors closing. Its quite a symphony, and constantly changing. One sound arises and then fades while others come and go.

Now notice the movement of thoughts in your mind. As best you can, observe all of these as a silent but curious witness and let them go.

Bring your awareness back to your breath. Notice your breath moving from your belly, to your back, your chest, your collarbone. And out. Deep inhales and exhales.

Take this awareness and attention with you for the rest of the day.