Traveling is one of the most rewarding life experiences.
Experiencing new places, trying new things, and meeting people who are different than you enriches life by giving you a broader perspective.
With benefits like this, it’s easy to expect travel to be perfect, all of the time.
But reality shows us that travel also comes with a host of unpleasant experiences.
Travel dramatically shakes up your routine, and exposes you to new scenarios that might not turn out how you think they will.
Expecting travels to be perfect is a recipe for dissatisfaction. But if you hold reality in mind, (that travel is filled with surprises,) it gives you the opportunity to navigate challenges in a mindful manner.
Putting your mindfulness practice into action deepens the rewarding aspects of travel, while taming it’s potential drawbacks.
Here are a few ways to make the most of your travels by approaching them mindfully.
9 Ways Mindfulness Can Help You Make the Most of Your Travels
1. Trade Your Expectations for Acceptance
In anticipation of your travels, avoid the temptation to build expectations of what might be. Travel often doesn’t unfold as expected, so expectations breed dissatisfaction.
Instead of attaching yourself to expectations, let go, and prepare yourself to accept whatever comes your way.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
― Lao Tzu
2. Know What’s in Your Control, and What Isn’t
When a challenge arises, don’t resist the fact that it’s there. Accept it for what it is, and ask yourself: is there something I can do about this?
You’ll either be able to take action to improve the situation, or you won’t.
If it’s out of your control, embrace reality for what it is, and keep moving. There’s no point to arguing with reality!
[Related reading: One Simple Rule to Stop Wasting Your Time and Attention]
For example, if your flight is delayed, there’s nothing you can do to change that. Accept the new reality, and make the most of it!
3. Meditate Through Discomfort
Between cramped airplane seats, sudden weather changes, and interactions with challenging people, you never know when a trip will throw discomfort your way.
Use these uncomfortable moments as an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Instead of resisting the discomfort, accept that it’s there, acknowledge that it’s temporary, and breathe your way through it.
4. Fill Downtime by Getting Present
Whether you’re traveling long distances, or just waiting for dinner reservations, you’re bound to experience downtime during your travels.
Use these in-between moments (like waiting) to get present, and pay close attention to your senses.
This could be…
- Observing the movement of people and things around you
- Closing your eyes and listening closely to the sounds of your environment
- Doing a guided meditation on the go
- Breathing deeply, and doing a quick body-scan to check-in with yourself
5. Practice Mindful Eating
Traveling usually means a change in diet.
When trying new foods, or indulging in delicious treats that you don’t normally enjoy at home, take time to slow down.
Practice eating mindfully by…
- Taking smaller bites
- Chewing your food more slowly
- Savoring it
- Paying attention to how the flavors and textures develop and change as you chew
6. Celebrate the Attempt
When you try something new, and you don’t enjoy it, diffuse any negative emotions by getting curious.
What aspects of the experience don’t resonate with you, and why? Although it might not be your favorite, have you learned and grown by trying this new thing?
Choose to celebrate your attempt at something new, and be grateful for the deeper self-understanding you’ve created for yourself.
“you should view each new travel frustration—sickness, fear, loneliness, boredom, conflict—as just another curious facet in [your] adventure.”
― Rolf Potts
7. Stay Present to Your Trip
If your travels are meant to be a break from your work, give yourself permission to let it be a proper break!
If you’re always checking email, and thinking about work challenges, you don’t create the space to properly get away in order to come back to your work with a fresh perspective.
One way to do this: Turn off notifications on your email app. (Or delete the app altogether for the duration of your trip. You can reinstall it after you return!)
Avoiding work might mean there’s more to do when you return, but the additional rest and rejuvenation you experience will be well worth it.
8. Maintain Good Habits
Travel and vacations are a great opportunity to “let loose” and get outside of your usual routines. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon *all* of the habits that help you live well in your normal life!
In the past, I would give myself a “free-pass” to skip good habits like journaling, exercise, and meditation while on vacation. But I’ve come to realize that these good habits help me get even more from my travel experiences. It’s always worth it to prioritize them. (And it prevents feelings of guilt after the trip is over.)
What good habits do you want to keep in place while traveling? Make note of this, and don’t let yourself off the hook!
9. Get Your Rest
Travel can mess with your sleep by shaking up your timezone, sleep environment, waking hours, and bedtime routine.
But a quality night’s sleep is essential to make the most of your travels, and be present to whatever comes your way.
To transition yourself from a day of activity into a night of rejuvenating sleep, try doing a short 5-10 minute meditation before going to bed.
Additionally, don’t underestimate the value of mid-day rejuvenating breaks. Power-naps and meditations can give you the extra clarity and energy you need to make the most of the rest of your day.
Make the Most of Every Moment
Approaching daily moments mindfully helps you make the most of whatever experience comes your way.
It sets you up to navigate challenges with a clear and peaceful mind. And it helps you deepen the experience of everything pleasant.
So, the next time you find yourself on the road, take time to breathe, and appreciate each step of the journey.
(And although these tips apply specifically to travel, they are just as applicable in day-to-day life!)