Experiences,  Personal

How to practice mindful travel – and why!

Mindful travel is an integral part of the Slow Travel approach. This new approach to travel focuses on quality of the experience over quantity. It emphasized a connection to the people, the culture and the food of the place you are visiting. Mindful travel simply means bringing more awareness to your experience and paying close attention to what you experience. This is not only a more friendly approach to the communities you will be visiting, but is even said to have mental health benefits for yourself. This post is about exploring ideas on how to travel more mindfully.

To learn more about my journey towards mindful travel check About Sabrina.

Table of Contents

With great power comes great responsibility

Being able to travel is not something most people in this world can say about themselves. Everyone who has the means to travel abroad and visit different places can consider themselves very lucky. But this great gift also bears responsibilities. Nowadays, people tend to forget that their vacation is not only about them, but that they are actually visiting someone else’s home.

Other people in less fortunate places have to work very hard and are being exploited, to make the stay for foreign tourists with money more appealing. Mass tourism is destroying great works of art and culture all over the world. People stand in line for 3 hours just to snap one quick photo in front of a tourist attraction.

Traveling is something that I love very much. Yet, it makes me sad to see locals disrespected and nature destroyed for entertainment. So I decided to choose a more sustainable way of traveling. This does not mean that you can never visit any “famous” destinations at all anymore – this simply means to pay more attention during your trip. To the locals, to your fellow travelers as well as to yourself. And in the end, everyone can benefit from looking out more for each other and practicing mindful travel.

Looking at the concept of mindful travel overall, we can clearly identify two dimensions. One is directed towards the community that you are visiting, of being respectful and paying attention to sustainability. The other aspect is about yourself, and being present in your journey, to fully absorb and cherish the moments you experience. To learn more about Slow Travel, head over to this blog post!

What are the perks of mindful travel?

The perks of mindful travel for the community you are visiting are pretty obvious. Their home and their culture gets respected, appreciated and not destroyed. But the benefits of mindful travel for yourself are far less obvious.

The biggest perk of mindful travel is an enrichment of your experience. Your special moments abroad will feel even better if you fully immerse yourself into them, and actually pay attention. Some people might even take the chance and reconnect with themselves. Others learn a new skill they can use in their everyday life. Others feel very grateful about the home and things they took for granted. Personally, I don’t only get a great sense of relaxation from my travels, but also rushes of happiness when I think back to all the lovely memories I made.

Mindfulness on vacation tips

  1. Take enough time for your trip. There is no point in rushing from A to B just to see as many sights as possible if you don’t fully enjoy them. Pick out a couple of things that you would really like to see, and visit them with intention. My perfect example of this is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Many people I know rush to Paris, hop off their tour bus, take a photo with the Eiffel Tower and leave. Why not sitting down in a café with a view over the tower, enjoying a delicious croissant while glancing at the architecture? I’d say the Eiffel Tower is even more beautiful if you catch a glimpse of it while wandering the streets of the 7th arrondissement. The time you spend standing in line waiting for one or the other tourist attraction you could better invest in exploring by foot, observing the locals and enjoying your surroundings.
  2. Watch what you eat. Fully enjoy different meals and flavors. Ask about local recipes or bring a local cookbook home as a souvenir. Appreciate tasting and trying new things and enriching your palate. Resist the urge of quickly stuffing something in along the way but rather sit down and take your time.
  3. Be mindful about souvenirs. I totally understand why you wanna take something home to remind yourself of the trip, or bring as a gift to family and friends. However, make sure to not buy hundreds of China-factored figurines of famous sights that do nothing but catch dust at home. If the figurine gives you genuine happiness, then go for it. If you just wanna buy it for the sake of it, think twice. Great ideas for mindful souvenirs are things from local artists, such as pottery, or local food and wine. I also love bringing cookbooks with recipes from the country i visit.
  4. Be kind to your fellow travelers. This is such a big part of mindful travel, but many people do not pay attention to this. It’s not only vital to respect the locals, but also other tourists and travelers that spend a lot of their hard earned money and time to be there. This also applies to employees on public transportation and security. However tired you may be, everyone is just doing their best. Being respectful and kind can go a long way. Too many times I have sat in planes and have been absolutely baffled by how little people care for one another. Be kind and kindness will come back to you!
  5. Do not trespass, not even for a picture. Many tourists go into peoples homes or on peoples properties just to take a great picture. Imagine if someone went in to your home – how you would feel about that.
  6. Book local-guided tours in small groups. I am not a fan of tours with 10 + people! Even less if the tour guide is only giving me facts I can find on the internet. However, many platforms offer tours with locals. We did an amazing tour with a retired man from Santorini that did the tour for fun. This is such an easy way to learn about the live there, ask in depth questions and see some hidden away spots.
  7. Book wine or food tasting events – or cooking classes. Nothing is as much fun as tasting your way through your vacation destination. If you have the chance, take the opportunity and learn how to prepare the dishes yourself!
  8. Try opting for locally- and family-owned businesses as much as you can. I am not against buying from chains from time to time. But I have always felt the happiest when interacting with a small business owner that was excited about his products or his hotel. This does not mean you can not have a meaningful experience in a hotel chain, however. One of the most touching experiences I had was in the lobby of a Marriott Hotel in North Dakota. There we met a super inspiring group of firefighters from Canada. If you are mindful of your surroundings, you can have a meaningful travel experience, no matter where you stay. Ultimately though, many smaller businesses could really use the income. It can be hard to compete with foreign mass-tourism brands.
  9. Disconnect your phone from the internet. I totally understand why you would bring it anywhere ! Especially in case of emergencies and to take some nice photos as a memory it can be super useful. However, I find it nice to put it in airplane mode and only catch up with life at home for half an hour per day in the hotel. This, for me is a great part of mindful travel.
  10. Lastly, watch the sunset – always!

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  • Avatar for simplyjolayne


    I have a post with similar ideas. One tip that I would add is to be a courteous tourist. Whatever country you come from, leave the locals thinking, “That Canadian, American, Chilean, etc. was so nice.”

  • Avatar for Sanika


    I love this! Having grown up in country where I’ve witnessed environment destruction and mistreatment of culture for the sake of an Instagram post, I appreciate travellers who travel with a sustainable and caring mindset. There is so much we can do to care for our surroundings while also having a great time😊

    • Avatar for shadesofsummr


      Wow, this always shocks me to hear that these things happen so often! I really hope this will change in the future and I am happy to spread the word!

  • Avatar for Kelly


    These are fantastic tips and all of which we should practice every day. I especially agree with taking the time to get to know the locals. This is how we learn different cultures which is the beauty of travel.