Hiking up to the top in search of fresh tracks!
Traveling is a great opportunity to refresh your mindfulness practice, and to find new ways to be awake in the world. Getting away can be so refreshing - allowing space and time to relax, rest, and take a break from our routine.
Currently I’m writing this in a small cafe in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, escaping the cold outside. Karl and I will be in the US for 4 weeks in total this time, skiing here and visiting Austin, Texas. You can find a couple more snaps from our trip on my Instagram, pretty shots of Vail village and all the amazing snow we’ve had.
Leaving the comforts of daily life can also give us a chance to reflect on what we value most, and perhaps reassess how we want to live. This break has allowed me think about what I want to prioritise this year, how I will use my time and which projects to pursue.
It has also provided a break in my mindfulness routine. I’m still meditating every day, but shifting time zones and prioritising skiing have meant finding new ways to work mindfulness into life on holiday mode.
Here are a few ideas for how you can continue, deepen and refresh your practice while you travel.
Keep it simple
“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”
~ Pema Chodron
I’ve written before on the importance of keeping your practice simple. This brain training and learning to live with more awareness doesn’t have to be a chore! There’s no medal for keeping up a strict meditation regime, at the end of the day you do this for yourself - because you want to, because you know it helps you in some way.
My approach to meditation and mindfulness is the same as my approach to exercise - don’t do it to improve who you are, do it to improve how you feel.
With this in mind, why not make it simple and enjoyable? If 20 minutes feels like a chore, try 10. If seated meditation is difficult, how about walking meditation or listening to a guided recording lying down? When you travel this becomes even more important - do things you enjoy, that feel good and make you want to practice. Keep it simple.
Tying in with the above, you might have to adapt your regular routine. At home I sit for 20 minutes every day. This works for me - I like waking up and pulling out my little red cushion to sit down and pay attention for a while. Right now in the US I’m without my cushion, in a different environment and very relaxed routine. So I’m adapting.
Try sitting down at a different time, for a shorter period of practice, or using a guided meditation. Maybe just let your usual practice go for a few days - this might get you out of the habit, but it could also renew your enthusiasm for meditation when you start again.
Perhaps instead of sitting to meditate, you could attend a local yoga class in the area you are visiting? Mindful movement instead of meditation? Or you could take a long walk outside without your headphones in - simply appreciating the environment and the time you have away from your regular life.
Just a few breaths
Maybe meditation in general just feels too onerous while you’re away from home. You can’t be bothered or don’t want to. Oh well! On vacation relaxation is key - hot tubs and that extra glass of wine might just nudge meditation off the schedule on some days.
You can try a more informal practice, stopping every now and then as you go about your day to take a few deep breaths and check in with how you feel. I detailed a lovely short informal practice you can try here otherwise try the STOP approach throughout your day:
S - Stop for a moment T - Take a few breaths O - Observe how you feel P - Proceed with your day
When schedule is replaced by spontaneity, it can help to lean on these informal practices, to simply pause & savour the moment from time to time.
Take it all in
“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.”
~ Pico Iyer
Mindful moments come more naturally when we visit new places and encouter different experiences. Awareness is heightned - to the sights, sounds, smells and climates of each new locale. We can use our time away to deepen our mindfulness practice, or at least keep it going, even without the steady routine of daily meditation.
Move slowly, don’t rush through your list of things to do in any given location - stop to really look around once in a while. Take time to appreciate the space you are in right now, and be grateful that you have the opportunity to travel. Give your experience your full attention, which naturally brings you to a mindful place.
On the plane/train/bus or ferry
Actually traveling between destinations is a great time to practice! Load up a guided meditation or two, get some decent headphones and relax. Here are my favourite free guided meditations available onlline, you could download a few to use while you are away.
“One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.”
~ Edith Wharton
Have you tried loving-kindness meditation before? I’ll write about it properly one day, but here is a good, brief overview. The name makes it sound corny as hell, and it can feel a little weird when you start our but it can actually be a really lovely softening practice. Bonus points for now having evidence to support it’s benefits for us now too.
Travelling is a great time to try an informal compassion practice. Sharon Salzberg made a little video about it, but the basic idea is to work with loving-kindness as you move through the world. For each person you see, or at least a few strangers you encounter, you can take a moment to remember that fundamentally they just want to be happy, be healthy, free of suffering. Of course this happiness and health looks different for everyone, but at the core we all have this same desire - to be free, peaceful, content.
I find this simple appreciation can be profoundly uplifting. It can help you be more compassionate in daily life too - sure, that guy cut you off, but perhaps he is rushing home to a sick partner? Or maybe the person in front of you taking ages at the checkout has just come off two shifts in a row to earn enough for her family. Wherever we travel, all humans share similar problems and similar desires. We aren’t so different after all.
Simple and easy
When we travel, we need to keep it light, simple and easy. The key to staying mindful is to lean more on informal practices - moments resting in attention, aware of what is happening at this very moment.
Stop, breathe, and appreciate the world around you.
On that note, I’m off for a deep breath of fresh mountain air and another cup of tea.