How to travel mindfully.

Jun 21, 2018

Two weeks ago my beau and I travelled to Barcelona. It was an absolutely lovely trip! Not only because Barcelona is such a wonderful city, but also because I felt like I could enjoy it more thanks to everything I've been reading/picking up around the web about buddhism and mindfulness. On former journeys I could sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed by it all, or I would get dissapointed because things didn't look as perfect as they did on Pinterest. Sound familiar?

1. Let go of what you can't control.

My first advice springs from a lesson I learned while on this Barcelona trip. That is, we hadn't even actually left yet, we had been sitting on the plane for over an hour, without moving but an inch from the ground. I was hot, because I was wearing way too many layers so as to be able to cram all my outfits in a small hand luggage carry-on. My book was in that same carry-on in the luggage department above the head of the passengers sitting two rows in front of us, because our cabin was already full by the time we boarded. And I was starting to get hungry, because while we should have lifted off at 9.45 a.m. we were now slowly approaching lunch hour (okay, not quite yet, but I have a very fast metabolism, okay?!). At that point the pilot first announced that the delay was caused by a storm in Barcelona, so he couldn't guarantee a safe landing. He hoped we the storm would pass quickly and that we could leave in half an hour or so. An hour later he announced that we were heading back to the gate and disembarking and about 15 mins after that he suddenly said that the storm had gone down. About half an hour later, we actually took off.

For the first half of this pantomine I had been nagging, sighing, grunting, posting angry selfies on my insta stories and all in all not dealing very well. But at a certain point, I finally realised that all I was achieving with this was ruining my own mood. It was not going to get us there any faster. So I might just as well try to let go of the bad vibes. I took off my jacket and hat, closed my eyes, smiled, thought of happy memories and times when I laughed really hard, people I loved and that I could send some happy vibes and so on. And let me tell you, the second half of the endeavour passed much more quickly!

When you're on a journey chances always are that something goes wrong or at least not as planned, but if you can't do anything about it? Just let go! Some things that I thought of later on that could have helped me to get there sooner are: a sleeping mask, a neck pillow, earphones and a guided meditation or some relaxing music on my phone. Definitely taking all of the above with me the next time I get on plane! Even if it's short distance, because you never know when a 2 hour flight might turn into a 5 hour one.

2. Come prepared, but expect nothing

I honestly think that doing some research about your travel destination is so important. I even made a little travel itenerary in my bullet journal, mapping out what areas and attractions we were gonna visit when, I already made reservations for the Sagrada familia and Park Güell and wrote down several suggestions of where we could grab a bite or go for a drink. Coming prepared gives me a feeling of safety and direction. I remember that when we were in Vienna for instance I felt that I hadn't researched and planned quite enough, so that we had to come up with things to do, when we were already feeling a bit tired or uninsprired, and that just really didn't work for me.

Now the pitfall of looking into things in advance, might be that you're already building up loads of expectations about how it's gonna be out there. I experienced this when we travelled to Santorini a few years ago. It really is the Pinterest perfect destination, with all its lovely beaches and pretty pastel houses. But when I got there, the beaches were all way more crowded than I expected, the food was not as good as the one we had on Lesbos a few years earlier and for all the pretty views you had to get in line behind loads of loud American tourists. And the crazy thing is, when I look back now at the pictures I took there, I think: God, wasn't that the most beautiful vacay ever?! But at that time I just remember not being able to appreciate it fully, because it didn't completely live up to my expectations.

So now I made sure I had some stuff planned, but I didn't look around on Pinterest all too much, so that the city's beautiful views and architecture could really blow me away at first sight.

3. Savour every moment.

Get off your phone. Look around. Look up! Don't let your thoughts wander off and stay present. Take it all in. It's a constant excersise for me, because I'm  a dreamer and a worrier and I'm easily distracted or thinking more about how to get the perfect shot instead of looking at what's in front of me. So it's a matter of constantly checking in with yourself and reminding yourself to feel the sun on your skin and taste every bite of food that you take, but when you manage to really do that, it's amazing.

4. Leave room for idle wandering.

And at last something that is a bit linked to N°2: don't overplan and don't be afraid to change your plans if the moment requiers it. If you're to hungry to walk another 20 mins to go have luch at the hipster coffee bar you found online, just walk into the first restaurant that crosses your way and you might be pleasantly surprised! That's how we had a delicious 3 course lunch for €12 at Levante, a glass of wine included. It'll probably be one of the most precious memories that I'm taking away from this trip!

And now that we're on the subject: another one of my favourite moments was when we were aimlessly wandering around the streets of the Gracia neighbourhood, discovering one ethical fashion store after another, bumping into the most cosy little squares and sitting down on a bench in the street to eat some fruit while people watching. So what I think I'm trying to say is, between visiting musea, cathedrals and architectural landmarks, make time for doing nothing much, and then discover how enjoyable that can be.

Do you have any pointers for travelling more mindful? Spill 'em down below!