A new way of travelling
There's an expression that goes: ''I need a vacation from my vacation''. A feeling like this probably means that your vacations have lost their shine and you're travelling just because you feel like you have to. If you recognize this (and we certainly did at some point in time) you might want to consider a different approach to travel, as going on a trip should ideally be an enriching and relaxing experience instead of just ticking off a to-do list.
Shift your energy to the here and now
This is where mindfulness comes into play. It's one of those terms being thrown around a lot these days, but mindfulness essentially comes down to achieving a certain mental state by focusing your attention on the present. Mindfulness is completely based on being in the here and now, which we'd say is essential when travelling. Especially when exploring a destination like Thailand, where so much is going on all the time and you might feel overwhelmed by something as simple as finding your way around.
Concentrating on the here and now will not only reduce stress during and after your journey, but you will experience that by being mindful, finding joy in life gets much easier and a lot of your negative thoughts disappear. This sets a snowball process in motion since less stress and worries improve your sleeping while at the same time helping you to ground in the now and make meaningful connections with the world around you instead of always looking ahead to the next big thing.
Don't overdo the planning
You might be wondering how to start working on this. Taking moments for mindfulness and mental well-being is not about just spending time meditating and sitting around doing nothing. It's more about HOW you travel and interact with your surroundings. There are several ways to incorporate mindfulness into your trip. The first and easiest method is by making sure you have enough free time ''scheduled'', so you can wander around your destination and truly take in all that's around you. Move away from your must-see list and open yourself to the unexpected. Believe us, this helps you enjoy your trip (and life!) more, as you are more present in your surroundings.
Digital detox from time to time
Another good way of being in the present is by digitally disconnecting yourself for a few days. Power off your phone and leave your camera behind. If you must have a camera with you at all times, consider an analogue or instant camera so you don't point and shoot at everything, but are making a more conscious choice with your photographs. Not only is it a great exercise in being more grounded in the present, but physical photographs are also the best kind of souvenir we can think of!
We must admit that the destination of your journey also plays a part in whether it is easy or not to have a mindful approach. Spending time in nature removes a lot of the stress that's part of daily life since there's less noise and usually clean air. Enjoying a hike or bike ride is a great way to clear your head and take in everything around you. It also makes it easier to interact with what is around you, since you can just stop/get off and talk to people or take a detour if that's what you feel like. You can't explore every destination by bike, but south-east Asia and in particular Thailand are great options if you want to incorporate some slow days into your schedule.
Escape the stress
But even in the buzzing city of Bangkok, we experienced firsthand how you can escape the hustle and bustle and find peace of mind in this metropolis. Cycling through the city's ''green lung'' we saw a completely unexpected side of the town we know to be hectic and loud. Bang Kachao, which is the true name of this green and smog-free government-protected area, provides an unbelievable contrast with the concrete skyline dominating the other side of the Chao Phraya river. This proves all the more that wherever you are, a mindful moment isn't far away. Even in Bangkok, there's more you can do to make a meaningful connection to what's around you. Take a cooking class, and learn from the locals how to cook a proper five-course Thai meal using ingredients you will find at the local market. Enjoy the process of cutting vegetables, and grinding herbs and spices in a mindful way. It will enrich your journey and you will learn something new to take with you in life. At the same time, it's an easy way to step away from your devices for a day, and just smell, see and taste instead. You won't need a camera OR internet for that, right?
Yoga is another great way to get more out of your trip. It will help you to get through your travels well-rested and fit. When travelling we often get so many impressions from the outside world, it's freeing to tune into your inner self regularly, shutting out all the external buzz and impulses. You might find it hard to find the right place and time to do so, but when you set your mind to it, practising yoga can be done anywhere. If you need a little more help with this, try taking yoga classes abroad. In Thailand, you will find yoga studios all over the place, but finding the motivation to do yoga regularly is A LOT easier when in a place where you can fully relax. The beautiful island of Koh Tao in Chalok Bay is just this. A great home base from where to plan your adventures, as well as enjoy yoga sessions twice a day. It's loved by backpackers since there is a lot to do, but at the same time, there's this calm and relaxing atmosphere. Time just ticks a little slower around here. On Koh Tao, you can try diving, snorkelling, kayaking, hiking, swimming and partying in between the yoga sessions. If you're a newbie to yoga, you're more than welcome to join as well.
After taking your first steps with yoga and mindfulness, it's easy to keep practising while continuing your journey, wherever your feet may take you. Want to know more about our approach to slow travel? Continue reading with our Rookie Guide To Slow Travel!
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