6 Mindful Travel Tips for Stress-Free Adventures

Travel has been forever changed since the Covid-19 pandemic, in some ways making it more difficult to plan, prepare and trust that it's all going to go smoothly. Chances are, something beyond your control is going to disrupt your carefully laid plans. But it is possible to not allow those disruptions stress you out.

At Run Wild Retreats + Wellness, we want to prepare you to have the best possible travel experience, which is why we've put a lot of time and resources into providing you with tools, tips and resources to travel mindfully. Since it's impossible to plan for every contingency, committing to being mindful of how you respond when something does go awry will make your travels much less stressful.

We don't want modern travel inconveniences to detract from an experience that could change you forever. 

Travel is your opportunity to step out of your usual routine, get a new perspective on your life and reconnect with your values. But of course, this doesn't just happen automatically. It is more likely to happen when you travel mindfully. The first step in practicing mindfulness is to be aware of the engrained stories, biases and assumptions about yourself and the world around you and how those things influence how you respond to the world around you. Traveling to a new place is a powerful opportunity to see yourself--and the world around you--in a whole new light. 

The second step of mindfulness is to interact with the world in a way that is true to your values and who you truly are. This includes replacing snap judgements, knee-jerk reactions and habitual behaviors with thoughtful responses, genuine curiosity and open-minded conversations.

Here are our steps to travel mindfully.

Step 1. Set an Intention for Your Trip

Setting an intention is the process of reflecting on what’s really important you, then making a pledge to embody those values through your actions and choices, even when it means sacrificing what could be a special moment for you.

For example, say you’re passionate about protecting endangered wildlife species, and make a point of donating to your favorite wildlife conservation fund ever year. But then when visiting a national park, you spot a Grizzly bear on the side of the highway, you pull your car over and step out to get a ‘gram-worthy photo of this magnificent animal. But is admiring this animal in its natural habitat traveling mindfully? You could be putting the bear at risk, not to mention yourself.

It’s unmindful to stop the car and approach the bear.
It’s mindful to leave it in peace, even though you want so badly to get that great photo.

In this example, your intention might be: “I intend to keep a respectful distance from all wildlife and resist the urge to protect or feed any animals I may encounter (even the cute ones!).”

Step 2. Check your Expectations Before You Leave for the Retreat (Are they Realistic?)

It's only natural that when visiting a place for the first time, your imagination will create an image of what you think it will be like, based on past experiences, things you've read online or watched on TV. Beware these expectations, which may have been shaped by unconscious biases, assumptions, misinformation or outdated stories. Chances are, the reality of the place, people and culture is nothing like what you could have expected, and that's going to make you feel uncomfortable. But that feeling will subside as the unfamiliar becomes a little more familiar. 

Do you expect everything to go exactly as you planned? Especially these days, when flight cancellations and trip interruptions of all kinds are the norm, your travels will be far less stressful if you release the need for everything to go perfectly. That way, you may be delighted when your driver shows up on time or pleasantly surprised when you score the last available table at the best restaurant in town.

Step 3. Slow Down; Be Present

The first few days of any trip feel hectic. It takes a while to adjust to a different pace when you’re on the road and adjust your energy and biorhythms to a new time zone, mode of being and daily routine. To help you adjust to a slower pace, go for a mindful walk or run outside so that you can start to connect with the new environment and climate. Make this activity mindful by not listening to any music or podcasts so you can hear the sound of your breath and tapping of your footsteps. Embrace the silence! And take long, slow, deep breaths, even if you’re running, as this helps you run at more efficient and relaxed pace.

Step 4. Be Open to New and Different Experiences

This step sounds simple, but actually takes a great deal of self-awareness. Humans are creatures of habit, and traveling isn’t conducive to doing things like we do at home. It may make you really uncomfortable to try something new, but it’s in that discomfort that something really amazing and potentially transformational–could occur. For example, at home I never run in the rain. But the first time I went to Iceland, it rained torrentially every single day, soaking me to the bone despite donning waterproof rain jacket and pants.

And yet, I loved every minute of it because the rain made the experience of running in Iceland even more memorable and distinct from my usual runs at home. So to travel mindfully, take a page from Zen Buddhist and say “yes!” to new experiences with a “beginner’s mind," which refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.

Step 5. Practice Compassion with Strangers

When you’re in a new place, often things just don’t operate in ways that make sense. This cognitive dissonance can create mental and emotional stress that can trigger you to behave in ways that are unmindful. Even if you're normally a very patient and respectful person, travel has a way of triggering people to treat strangers in ways they'd never treat a friend. Be aware of how you interact with every ticket agent, restaurant server, door man and security guard. It's common to only think of the people you encounter in terms of the role they are fulfilling in that moment, but remember that they are people, too, just trying to do their best. Treating people only in terms of how they are there to serve you reduces their humanity--and yours.

The Buddhist practice of lovingkindness begins with yourself and expands out to everyone around you. Even when far from home, to travel mindfully means you behave in alignment with your values--those beliefs that shape your life and how you show up in the world--with everyone, no matter how fleeting the interaction. 

Step 6. Journal After the Trip Ends

You know that incredible feeling you get only after having just completed the most amazing, transformational trip of your life? It's a high that fills you with energy, sparks your imagination and ignites your motivation to make new goals, plan more travel, or go do something .. . amazing! But on the way home, fatigue sets in and it occurs to you that it may be difficult to sustain such and intense natural high.

The simplest and most effective way to channel all that good mojo into positive life actions is to organize your thoughts and explore your feelings through journaling. This is one of the reasons why we encourage all retreat participants to add the Transformational Travel Journal to their retreat package, as this journal is tailor-made to help travelers integrate the experiences and insights that impacted them so deeply. The Transformational Travel Journal's writing prompts, beautifully designed pages and wise quotes are ideal for processing the layers of meaning and purpose you gained from your travels for weeks and months after returning home.

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