Hi Travelers! Do you ever arrive at your destination after planning, saving and researching for months… only to think about the next place you’ll go? Do you ever find yourself walking down the street of some far flung location, planning the next time you’ll come back to the SAME EXACT PLACE? What is this craziness? If you’ve found yourself participating in this madness, read on for some tips on how to stay present when you travel... because you deserve to enjoy your vacation, do you not? (Yes, you do!)
If You Like to Plan, Then Plan
If you are a go-with-the-flow type of person, go ahead and skip ahead to the following tip. If you are like me though, a Type A lister-supreme obsessive, you’ll need to hear me out on this. If you are a planner, you MUST PLAN. When you have this need inside of you and it goes unmet, your fun little planner brain will make sure it gets its planning pleasure somehow, some way. Are you on the train in India, enjoying some tea and looking out at the countryside? Too bad, time to plan your next stop! Are you hiking the sacred Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? So sorry! You’ll need to figure out which restaurant you’ll be eating at when you reach Aguas Calientes.
You must be yourself- and if you don’t, your self will surely find a way to pop up. Embrace your inner organizer! Plan your trip ahead of time. Even if it is just a rough outline of stops and major sights (yeah right) a plan will take some of the pressure off of getting it all in. Ignore the crazy fools who say just to roll with it. Plans rock! Plans for President! When you are a planner, plans help you stay present.
Let Your Five Senses Take Over
When you are in a familiar space, something happens with your brain. When it doesn’t see or experience anything new that it needs to process for you, it kind of goes into sleepy-time mode. Have you ever been driving to work and “woken up” halfway there? Had a moment of “holy crap, I don’t remember being present for this drive in any way whatsoever?” Scary, right?
But when we travel, everything is new! Our brains wake up to all of the new sights, smells, sounds and experiences, and so we are automatically more awake than we are in our day to day lives (unless you are on that deeper path, trying to find presence in every moment. In which case, I applaud you friend). However, even with all of that snazzy newness we are experiencing, it can all get too exciting and our brain becomes like a five year-old kid at Disney.
Kid: “What ride are we going to next?”
You: “Why aren’t you enjoying Space Mountain right now?!? We’ve been waiting in line for five hours and I’ve spent $90 on refreshments!”
When your brain jumps ahead to the next best thing, slow down by giving the power over to your five senses. What do you see in this moment? What are the colors, the shapes? What is happening with the negative space created by these new objects? How is the sunlight playing off the water in the streets? What do you smell? What new herbs could be used in the food here? What animals are nearby? What do the flowers smell like? What do you hear? Is it noisy where you are, somewhere busy? Or are you wrapped in silence with only the wind rustling the trees? Etc. You get it. Go all poetic on your Disney kid brain.
Pro tip: After you do this, write about it in your travel journal. You’ll come back years later and be transported to this magical place that lives only within your words.
Repeat a Mantra
If mantras are not a part of your life, this will feel silly at first. But do them- they will keep you present on your fabulous trip, and in all parts of your life!
I use mantras even when I’m not traveling if I notice that my mind has really drifted somewhere else. Here’s what I do: I repeat my name, the date, and where I am. For example, “I’m Charlotte, it is May 5, 2017, I’m in CVS.” Or, you can keep it simple and just repeat where you are. “I’m in Munich. I’m in Munich. I’m in Munich!” Say your mantra a few times, and I would bet you’ll start to get even more excited about being there! Again, this may feel ridiculous. But when your mind floats off to the future or into an unsavory moment in the past, this mantra will bring you back to your present. You may be presently in CVS, or you may be on a vineyard in Tuscany! Either way, you should be where you are.
Keep a Reminder
You could get “Be Here Now” tattooed on your wrist, or, you could go the easier (and less painful) route and get a personalized bracelet, like this one. Or, you could keep a small stone in your pocket or card in your wallet. I wore a necklace that said ‘Abundance’ on it for years, until an attitude of gratitude became my every day. However you choose to remind yourself, a physical object can be so helpful in getting you back to the present moment.
A Note About Worry
As in regular life, there are always things to worry about when traveling to your dream destination. All you need to do is plant that seed of negativity for your mind to start watering that baby and letting it sprout its life-sucking tentacles all over you. Do not let this happen ever, but especially don’t let this happen while traveling. Mishaps and uh-ohs and bad weather and delays happen. You can worry about them and let the mere possibility of them ruin your trip (life) or you can choose to believe that things will be awesome.
Need an activity for this? Go back to your mantras: “My flight will arrive on time, and my luggage will be there waiting for me.” “The weather will be perfect, and I will know exactly what to pack to be comfortable.” “I am safe and taken care of when I make informed decisions about where I go when I’m alone.” Etc. What you think, what you speak, and what you believe will be your truth. So put the positive stuff out there- leave the negative stuff… nowhere. Just drop it altogether.
At the end of the day, you could ignore all of these other tips and just: breathe. Breathe when you are happy, breathe when you’re sad. Breathe when you’re stressed, breathe when you’re mad. Take a moment to take several deep breaths, and then start again. Your breath will bring you back to this moment, to the trip you’ve been planning and dreaming about. Your breath is the way to do it, my friends.