On Mindful Travel

On mindful travel 

Lucia Cockcroft of Satvada Retreats ponders how to make travel worthwhile

I have always loved to travel; that seductive moment of arriving in a new place, every sense alive, the world suddenly painted new. It is all too easy as an adult who has naturally accumulated life experience and ‘baggage’ to become jaded by the grind and demands of everyday routine. Spending time in a different place throws a fresh perspective on everything and, as we take in cultural and scenic differences, brings the mundane into a sharp, fresh focus.

Travelling also re-ignites our innate and precious human curiosity that we can quickly lose when our ‘auto pilot’ mode takes over. As Pico Iyer said, ‘Travel is like love: a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.’

The process of getting from A to B has become increasingly trying, of course. Travelling by plane – as most of us do, most of the time – has become more convoluted and stressful than ever, with all the old romance of flying drained away by endless security checks, insidious luggage allowance penalties and the cattle-market nature of the Ryanair experience.

It never used to be this way. In the days before flying and get-me-there-quick package holidays – or even before the arrival of now-ubiquitous budget airlines – the process of travelling was an integral part of travelling. But in the modern rush to get places, something essential has been lost. Perhaps this is why a lot of us are drawn to using trains now rather than planes, and to ‘wellbeing breaks’ in the widest sense. From spa breaks to cruising, walking holidays to yoga and meditation retreats, there’s an increasing range of ‘slow holidays’ on offer that allow us the luxury of not being in a hurry, with no particular place to be.

Time to slow down a few gears with a book, or watch the sun set, or feel the nervous system calming during a long Savasana (relaxation pose) at the end of an al fresco yoga class. These apparently little moments are anything but inconsequential. In fact, they are everything; the precious, unrepeated minutiae of our lives, unfolding.

In my experience of reviewing yoga and meditation retreats the motivation for choosing this kind of trip is simple: generally, people are stressed-out and mentally pushed to the limit, often without being aware of this. As human beings in our speed-obsessed culture, people go away on a wellbeing holiday to re-claim time; where, for a week or weekend at least, our days no longer disappear in an exhausting medley of firefighting texts, emails, facebook messages, an endless to-do list.

By carving out the time (and finding the money) to travel away from our usual surroundings, our perspective widens, our perceived troubles loosen their grip, and we re-gain an appreciation of the newness of each moment and each experience. To ensure you reach your wellbeing venue in a stress-free state, I’m including a handy mindfulness exercise for travel below. Happy Journey.

 A mindfulness exercise for travel:

  • The main reason we experience high stress levels when travelling is because of the gap between expectation and reality.
  • So, you learn that your plane has been delayed by two hours and immediately fall into negative mental narrative: ‘I can’t believe I’m losing two hours of my holiday’; or ‘I knew this would happen’.
  • If you do find yourself delayed, remind yourself there is nothing you can do about this situation –  the only sensible, stress-reducing approach to take is one of acceptance.
  • Use this precious, new-found time to enjoy more pages of your book; have a telephone conversation with a loved one; or simply watch the world go by from a coffee shop.

Regardless of the circumstances, these are moments of our life we will never get back.

Explore mindfulness more

Yoga and mindfulness teacher Lucia Cockcroft of Satvada Retreats organises brilliant, accessible mindfulness and yoga retreats around the world. Find out more about them or contact Lucia directly from our reviews on Satvada Retreats in England and Morocco. You can also read Lucia’s thoughts on being mindful, on learning to meditate, on technology and on embracing resistance in our Journal.

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