Weekly Journal

Mindful Travel: 6 Tips for Experiencing the World

Kaila Krayewski
Rachel Markowitz
22nd May 2018
In a world saturated with tourism, it’s becoming increasingly important to consider the impacts of our adventures. It is nearly impossible to have no effect on those who we visit as we roam around the globe, but as mindful representatives of our own home or culture, we can set a collective goal to share our virtues instead of our vices. Although at times, it may seem as though a crude western culture has left no small community untainted, through mindful and meaningful interactions, we better integrate into our new environments, leave a minimal footprint and spread positivity to those around us.
If you are planning to embark on a new journey, kindly consider these tips for finding and sharing meaning along the way.
The content castle

1. Learn Before You Go

When you plan to visit a new community, begin by researching a few basics regarding its language and customs. Having an idea of how objects and ideas are communicated provides valuable insight into the philosophy of a country or culture and, in general, shows that you care about your surroundings. Obviously, it is neither feasible nor practical for an avid traveller to learn every tradition or dialect along his or her path. It is indeed helpful, however, to learn at least a few phrases (a good starting point includes hello, thank you, I’m sorry and excuse me).

This goes for unspoken language as well. Did you know that in much of Latin America, people point with their lips instead of their fingers, that it’s incredibly rude to blow your nose in public in China or that a peace sign is not indeed universal (and is actually quite insulting in some countries)? In order to travel mindfully, it’s useful to be aware of commonly used gestures, cultural faux pas and an area’s religious and political history. If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry; these are all things that you will learn naturally along the way.

Lounge area at the content castle koh samui
Hanoi – Matt P.

2. Connect with Locals

Although meeting other travellers is a cultural experience of its own, it is difficult to get a feel of a place while traveling from one tourist destination to another. Fortunately, regardless of whether your travels are short-term or never-ending, there are always opportunities to interact socially or professionally in a new place. A quick internet search will provide an abundance of databases for volunteer opportunities, work-abroad placements and community development projects around the world. If you’re not in the mood for a working holiday, arranged homestays also offer an opportunity to share with others, a glimpse of the local lifestyle and oftentimes delicious home-cooked meals.

For a less formal cultural immersion, community facebook pages and websites like Couchsurfing offer a forum for forming connections based on common interests. Not only will you make new friends, but once you are outside of the typical tourist helix, you can better get to know a place and its people.

Lounge area at the content castle koh samui

3. Leave Your Comfort Zone

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to new situations, we become open to friendships, conversations and adventures that we would not otherwise experience. By leaving your routine behind and approaching the world with a clear, non-judgemental mind, it becomes possible to learn about the world while discovering more about yourself. Next time you travel, set the intention to do something that is not typically “you.” Trying something new—whether it’s salsa-dancing or a strange-looking appetizer—acts as a catalyst which lets you step outside your everyday experiences and flow with the unpredictability of life as it unfolds before you.
Lounge area at the content castle koh samui
The 3 Hampis, Karnataka, India

4. Respect (and Embrace!) Cultural Differences

If the whole world was exactly the same, there wouldn’t be much use in exploring it. Keep in mind that as a traveller, you become a visitor in someone else’s home; if your host wants you to remove your shoes, remove them (either figuratively or literally). Even if you don’t agree with the traditional lifestyle or beliefs of a place or culture, attempting to see the world through the eyes of others forges a human connection despite of differences. Especially when visiting small or rural communities, it is common that locals will consider us to be representative of our culture or country as a whole. Be respectful of cultural and philosophical differences and grateful that you are privileged enough to experience a perspective other than your own. At the very least, you’ll learn something.
Lounge area at the content castle koh samui
Fisherman’s House Cafe and Gallery – Fisherman’s Village, Bophut

5. Move Slowly with Room to Wiggle

If your plans allow for it, spending a longer amount of time in a few places enables you to delve into the nuances of your destination. Although it may be enticing to hop around from city to city or country to country, most long-term travellers find it more rewarding to genuinely get to know a place and its community. Although there is indeed a time and a place for visiting tourist destinations, oftentimes, the most meaningful parts of a trip abroad include natural beauty, moments of silence and time spent cultivating connections with others. When you don’t rush to see sights and allow for flexibility in your plans, you allow yourself time to reflect on your travels as they are happening, to take in the smells and sounds of a new place and to appreciate the present moment.

6. Be Your Best Self

Don’t be afraid to show others who you are as a unique, creative and caring individual. If you sing, share your songs; if you paint, share your art. Welcome opportunities to show photos of your family, cook a recipe that you love, share a snack from home or listen to a recording of your favorite song with others. We spread joy through experiences that make us smile or laugh, and since music, art and food speak universally without words, they allow us to form meaningful cross-cultural connections. Furthermore, when we let our passions shine through, we inspire others to do the same.

Best wishes for your journey—May it be incredible and life-changing!

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