Much of our travels is glutted with benignity that’s more profoundly impactful than we realize because we seldom pause our lives to meditate on it. Likewise, all too many of those who rarely leave the cities of their comfort are plagued with a sense of disquietude about the world, but only fail to see beauty because they fail to look introspectively and purify their own minds.
Meditation makes mindful travelers of the keenly curious and the willful. And because I preach quenching wanderlust with an open mind, I collaborated with Manhattan’s MNDFL studios to meditate on my own intentions for travel. MNDFL “exists to enable humans to feel good,” and the Intentions class fosters consciousness because “the more we live with intention, the happier we are.” Similarly, the more we travel with intention, the more fulfilled we are.
In travel, free spirits are indispensable. But traveling with intentions neither means traveling with expectations nor traveling with itineraries. Rather, I’m advocating for the acknowledgement of how it is we’re personally fulfilled, an acute awareness of how the experiences we cultivate are or are not fulfilling us and the conscious intention to make choices that ensure they do.
I woke up earlier than usual on a Saturday morning for a 10 o’clock class with Adreanna Limbach in MNDFL’s Greenwich Village location—a revitalizing start to my weekend. It was my first time meditating, and I was immediately put to ease by both the warm staff and the friendly group of attendees. I poured a complimentary mug of matcha tea and took my seat on a gomden cushion in the sun-swathed studio perfused with the rejuvenating aroma of eucalyptus plants. And I spent the next 30 minutes lost in internal isolation.
To follow are takeaways from what ensued—and how to apply the same mindfulness to traveling.
Acknowledge and accept your thoughts.
Adreanna’s first lesson: It’s okay to have dancing thoughts. During meditation—especially for first-timers—the mind can tend to wander; that’s what the mind does in muse. Likewise, you’re often flooded with excitement, apprehension, fear, confusion, culture shock when you’re in unchartered territory. Every fluttering thought serves a purpose simply because it’s occurred to you; acknowledging each of their existences but not dwelling on them will help you grapple with the experience at hand.
Be honest with yourself.
To live mindfully means to be cognitive of your own self and your surroundings. To do so, you must be true to yourself with regards to your comforts and discomforts, abilities and disabilities. Safety takes precedence in travel, second only to pleasure in its many forms. This means deciphering legitimized apprehension from irrational fear. It means having an awareness of what is going on around you and trusting your gut to step away from a situation or, on the contrary, seize an experience despite cold feet.
Realize your intentions for being there.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all there is to explore in unmapped cities, but don’t do things merely because everyone else does. Remember what allured you to the place you’re digesting and why. Go places because you’re imbued with their history and intend to learn. Engage in customs because you’re consumed with curiosity and intend to familiarize. Follow untrodden roads because you’ve always intended to walk them. If you travel with intention, and still welcome spontaneity, you’ll always find fulfillment.
Build relationships that foster your intentions.
Maybe you’re seeking a sun-soaked respite from an intense work week in the concrete jungle, or maybe you’re hungry for an adventure that’ll push you to the brink of your limits. Maybe you’re traveling solo to be social or maybe you’re traveling solo to learn yourself. Regardless, be conscious of your intentions and surround yourself with new people who empower you in those respects.
Don’t just see; soak.
Meditation, I’ve learned, is very much about embracing the present and the space in which you occupy. In travel, be mindful of your place because you’re the foreigner. And take it all in—the way the weather feels on your skin, the sounds of the clamoring traffic or the deafening silence or the breaking waves surrounding you. People watch—the city’s inhabitants, where they eat, what they read. Be there, wholly. Doing so will help you find personal meaning on a trip so many vagabonds have taken before you.
Listen to your body.
Nothing revives childlike wonder like being in a place where you’re ignorant of almost everything, can’t speak the language and are equipped with only the most rudimentary sense of how things work. But both adrenaline and exhaustion are exacerbated when you’re alone, foreign to a place and its people. Follow your breath; feel your muscles; listen to your body, as Adreanna said. Exhaustion manifests physically and, because none of us are immune to it, slow down when it inevitably does.
Take the time to thank yourself.
Adreanna asked us to thank ourselves that Saturday morning, and I’m glad she reminded me. We seldom do things for ourselves and even less frequently show appreciation for the times when we do. Traveling is as much about learning yourself as is it about learning a place—it’s something we do for ourselves. Mindful travelers, moreover, taste life twice: once in reality and again in retrospect. Travel with intention, reflect and thank yourself.