Being a more mindful traveller

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It was the moment I’d been waiting for all afternoon. As I stood poised, camera at the ready, the humpback whale slowly began to rise from the deep waters just off the coast of Victoria Island, sending out a spurt of air. Peeking up for just a moment, he dropped back again from sight, flicking his huge tail in a perfect arc, scattering droplets of water into the sea. It was a magical image and a once in a lifetime opportunity. I could almost feel the wildlife photographer of the year award in my sweaty palms.

It was at this precise moment that my camera battery died.

To make matters worse, I didn’t have any spares on me. With a sickening feeling, I realised that I would not be able to take one photograph of this incredible one-off experience.

Without doubt this was one of the most annoying things that has ever happened on my travels. Yet at the same time it was also one of the best. Why? Because for the rest of the boat trip, I simply sat there and watched in awe as these majestic creatures surfaced right in front of us and playfully flicked their tails. It was like watching a wildlife documentary unfolding right in front of me. And for once, I was experiencing it all first hand, rather than through the lens of a camera.

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It dawned on me that during so many of my previous travel experiences I’d been so focused on trying to get great pictures that I wasn’t fully experiencing what was in front of me. I remember watching dolphins leaping playfully around us during a boat trip in Gibraltar, yet the whole time I was desperate to get the perfect photo to show everyone back home. As I reached the end of the Inca Trail, after four long days of trekking, and stood at the Sun Gate, all I could think about what how disappointing it was that Machu Picchu was shrouded in clouds, ruining my photo opportunity.

Well not any more. I’ve decided to become a more mindful traveller, who pays more attention to the things she sees and lives in the moment rather than trying to capture that moment for posterity.

No longer will I stand in front of a temple, furiously clicking away on my camera or, worse still, updating my Facebook status about what I’ve just seen. Here’s what I’m going to do instead:

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Appreciate the moment
I used to be guilty of taking dozens of photos whilst on holiday and then struggling to remember where they were taken or what they were showing. Now, I’m going to appreciate the view and find out more about what I’m seeing before mindlessly clicking away.

Stop the work worries
As you may have guessed from this blog, travelling is one of my favourite things in life, but like most people I have to fit it in around work and other worries. Often while I’m travelling I find my thoughts turning to the future, and I start fretting about projects I’ll be working on when I get back. Or, worse still, worrying whether I left the gas on or the back door open. This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is the practice of living in the present moment – not allowing your thoughts to drift to the past or the future. Just being right in the moment and enjoying every second of the experience. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but I’m trying my best.

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Put the iPhone away
Another bad travel habit I have is sending texts or tweets to friends and family back home, telling them about my experiences. Often this is during the precise time that I should be enjoying the experience rather than harping on about it. Now, I make a conscious effort to wait until I’m back at the hotel and I can send an email with my news. I think it’s important to have an allotted time where you post your updates and that this should either be at the beginning or end of the day. After all, there’s plenty of time to catch up with friends, but it’s not every day that you get to go whale watching or on safari is it?

So, these are my thoughts on how to be a more mindful traveller. What do you think about this? Are you guilty of some of the same things as me? Do you have any other suggestions? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

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