Travel is the New Meditation: 5 Tips for Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Next Trip

As travelers, we’re always chasing that ever-elusive feeling of awe and have high expectations for every adventure. We don’t want to merely see the iguanas on the Galapagos Islands or the iconic temple of Angkor Wat, we want to feel fully absorbed in these cherished moments to remember how incredible they felt.

The practice of mindfulness can help us feel more intensely immersed in the ephemeral. One of its essential elements is mindful meditation, the ancient Eastern tradition of sitting quietly while thoroughly and continually focusing on the moment for several minutes at a time. Mindful meditation can help alleviate stress, and now doctors even prescribe it to patients suffering from chronic pain. But it can also be utilized to enrich our travel experiences.

Put simply, practicing mindful meditation involves taking a few minutes out of your day to focus your attention on your breathing. Some people prefer guidance via a meditation app or another recording, but you can also do it on your own. Notice as your mind wanders, and, instead of judging your thoughts, merely refocus each time on your breath. This helps clear any nagging thoughts or other clutter whirling within your mind, and many people find that it helps them reduce negative thoughts. According to researchers, some of the benefits of mindful meditation include:

  • Reducing stress
  • Reducing negative thoughts
  • Improving memory
  • Boosting your immune system
  • Sleeping better
  • Enjoying life more

Taking a moment to breathe helps to dispel stress-inducing thoughts that can detract from the travel experience. But mindfulness is more than the formal practice of meditative breathing. As a concept, it’s about choosing where to focus your attention so that you are entirely in the present moment.

Travel as meditation
Ceramic tile interior, Dome of the Chain/Andrew Shiva

Whether you’re hiking through a fjord, eating delicious cuisine or admiring the beauty of the sea, mindfulness is an excellent traveling tool and can enrich your experiences. Sara Clemence, author of Away & Aware: A Field Guide to Mindful Travel, says that mindfulness, meditation, and travel are complementary and can help you get in tune with your destination. “It’s about truly enjoying your surroundings in a new way,” she tells Silversea.

Clemence suggests five tips that will help you use mindfulness to enrich your next trip and immerse yourself completely in the moment while traveling:

Five Tips for Practicing Mindful Travel

1. Eat More Mindfully

Experiencing the tastes of other cultures is one of the great joys of traveling, but we often rush through eating. “One way to slow down and pay more attention to what’s on your plate is to make eating more challenging,” Clemence says. She will often eat with her non-dominant hand because it forces her to slow down and notice every mouthful. “Try to distinguish the individual ingredients in any particular bite,” she suggests. Chew thoughtfully, breathe slowly, and be fully aware. Savoring your meal in this manner will prompt you to notice and appreciate subtle differences in flavors and textures. You’re guaranteed to enjoy your food even more. It may also help you eat less, if that’s a goal.

Travel as meditation - Marrakech, Morocco
Eating out in Marrakech, Morocco/Lucia Griggi

2. Don’t Try to Cure Jet Lag

“Jet lag is your body’s normal response to traveling faster than a human could on their own. Try thinking of it as a blessing, and a chance to experience these times of day that you otherwise miss out on,” Clemence suggests. She cites a trip she took to Shanghai with her family when she was younger. That first morning, she woke up long before dawn and took a book into the bathroom so she wouldn’t wake anyone else. The streets outside were dark, and there were only a few bicycle bells in the distance. As dawn broke and the sun came up, the bicycle bells in the distance turned into a cacophony of bells as the streets came alive. “Without jet lag, I would have missed that magical moment that was so memorable,” she says.

3. Go Old-School with Photography

If you’re used to snapping pictures with your smartphone, consider going back to basics and carrying a camera with film. “There is a physicality to carrying a camera,” Clemence says. “Plus, with film, you don’t have unlimited storage, so you are more deliberate about the pictures you take.” Working with film forces you to consider the light more carefully, to ponder the angle, and to frame shots. If you don’t want to go cold turkey with your digital camera, then select one day to try the old-school approach. See if it helps you pay more attention to the moment and the experience you’re having as you explore your surroundings.

4. Disconnect From Devices

“Mindful travel is about disconnecting from your devices so that you can connect with your destination,” Clemence says. You don’t have to abandon all technology to be mindful (in fact, you may discover you love using a meditation app), but consider whether technology is making things too predictable. “By using our phones too much, we take the element of surprise out of travel. We look up where to eat or what to see. It removes the element of chance,” Clemence says. Sometimes it’s easier to be present in a moment that hasn’t been over-planned.

Travel as meditation - Treasury, Petra in Jordan
The Treasury at Petra from the Siq, Jordan/Andrew Shiva

5. Carry a Sketch Journal

Even if you don’t think of yourself as an artist, sketching in a journal can help you engage with your surroundings and pay closer attention to details you may have otherwise overlooked. “It’s a different way of thinking about and recording your experiences,” suggests Clemence.