We live in a world of connected people. We’re plugged in and tuned out. If we want to visit the great Pyramids of Giza or the sprawling plains of the Serengeti, we can be there in nanoseconds. Even the world’s most distant lands are accessible in a couple of clicks.
The world is literally at our fingertips. We’re surrounded by ratings, likes, shares, followers and screens full of other people’s stories and adventures.
Setting off on our travels, most of us are hell-bent on snapping at least one picture-perfect moment. We can be so fixated with the winning shot that we forget to just stop, breathe and enjoy. Often we’re sizing up angles and wrestling other tourists for the best vantage point, only to assess the beauty before us through a lens or screen.
It’s hard to put aside distractions but, while most of us are excellent multi-taskers, we don’t fly around the world to scale mountains and trek through rainforests, only to experience the delights of our fascinating planet half-heartedly.
According to Scott R. Bishop from the school of Positive Psychology, mindfulness “begins by bringing awareness to the current experience – observing and attending to the changing field of thoughts, feelings and sensations from moment to moment.”[related_articles]40806,23056,51695[/related_articles]
Bishop’s “Attention Regulation” concept is all about, “being fully present and alive in the moment” and developing a sense of curiosity and general open-mindedness. As nomads and citizens of the world, we’re a naturally inquisitive bunch, but, sometimes, we need a bit of practice navigating away from the mayhem of everyday life to really get the most from our adventures.
Fortunately, there are ways to travel more mindfully. As is often the case: less is more. The less you’re doing and thinking, the less you’re preoccupied and distracted, and the easier it is to focus.
Imagine a giant windscreen wiper erasing raindrops from a window and revealing a clear, vivid view. (In this case, raindrops are the millions of thoughts and distractions and the windscreen wiper is your mindful self temporarily obliterating them). Imagine you’re soaking in the scenery, from say, a coastal lookout. Find the magic in every tiny detail – the feel of the breeze, the taste of ocean spray, the overwhelming peacefulness of it all.
There are plenty of ways to make small, mindful changes when you’re travelling:
#1 Anticipation Over Expectation
Resist the urge to Google too many images of your upcoming trip. Research is vital, but seeing a sight for the first time, without expectation, is priceless.
#2 Switch Off
Download an app that disables certain phone functions for an hour or so (they exist!).
#3 Throw It Back
Pack an old school film or Polaroid camera — you won’t waste time analysing, tweaking and applying filters to your shots.
#4 Just Breathe
Any time you feel yourself becoming distracted or overwhelmed, bring your attention back to the simple act of breathing. Observe your breath moving in and out of your body for a few seconds or a few minutes (placing your hand on your belly can help you to visualise this moment) — you’ll be amazed by how much more present you feel.
By all means, keep snapping and sharing – just remember to stop for a moment to take it all in. Snapchats and Instagram stories will no doubt impress and inspire your pals, your experiences are all yours, and you deserve to enjoy them, too.
(Lead image: Kalen Emsley)