5 ways travel helps us to live in the present moment
Apr 6, 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes
Travel has a way of gifting us with a present-mindedness that many of us struggle to achieve in our everyday lives. Here are five ways that travel helps us to live in the present moment and benefit from truly mindful experiences ...
If you know anything about mindfulness, you know that it's all about doing your best to give the present moment your full attention, free of judgement and expectation. The idea is that by living in the present moment we are more fully alive, and reap all sorts of rewards, such as a deeper connection with the environment, others and ourselves, and a greater sense of calm and well-being.
As we discuss in Mindful travel: 14 ways to have a more meaningful trip, travel is wonderfully suited to mindful habits and experiences. Some take some forethought or a bit of effort. But others come almost naturally, without us thinking about it. These are the five ways that travel helps us to live in the present moment, and we chat about them below ...
1. Our senses draw us to the present moment
When we travel, we encounter new faces, landscapes, tastes, sounds, smells, sensations ... All of these new things arrest our attention and so help us to live in the present moment as we marvel, query and digest what we sense around us.
This is especially the case when we're in nature, as here our senses are heightened by all the natural stimuli.
Picture the resounding thunder you hear when you stand near the base of a powerful waterfall, along with the cool spray on your face, the sight of so much water hurtling over the edge, and perhaps the smell of lush vegetation ... our senses are fully alive in such moments and this helps to draw us into the present moment. Indeed, it would be hard to live in any other moment at times like this!
2. We disconnect from the online world
Some travellers possibly spend more time on their phones than they do at home. But if you truly engage with your surroundings while on holiday – as often happens on active holidays like adventure trips or when on a guided tour – then you get to enjoy quality time away from your devices and the online world.
Spending time away from the internet, social media, emails and even family just wanting to know where or how you are frees us up to naturally and easily engage with the present moment.
It's hard at home to break away from addictive online habits, but on a vacation you may lose internet connectivity, need to leave your phone behind for spells, or simply forget about it. In such moments you become wrapped up in the present and in making truly wonderful memories.
3. We forget about the past
Travelling helps us to focus on the moment at hand – indeed, at times it demands that we do so. You can't cross a busy street, order a coffee in another language or navigate a rocky footpath when you're thinking about what your frenemy said at the office, or how you messed up an exciting opportunity.
For those of us who live too much in our heads, and especially in the sometimes unsettling land of the past, travel is a gift. It draws us into the present and helps teach us to focus again on the very real present moment, where trajectories are still undecided.
When travelling, we also discover another side to ourselves, or are reminded of an aspect of our personality or character that was forgotten. We learn about who we are right now, versus being hung up on the past. In this way travel can actually be healing.
4. We aren't thinking about the future
Many live with fear or anxiety about the future, sometimes with solid causes and sometimes as a result of unhealthy thought patterns. Either way, it can be exhausting. Our bodies and minds need rest, and engaging fully with the present moment is a fantastic way to do this.
When we travel, we're inviting ourselves to be caught up in the current moment and happenings. We give ourselves a rest from striving and doing. This is especially true when physically travelling, like sitting on a plane or in a train or car. We can't do much beyond read a book or watch the scenery, so all to-do lists and thinking about all we must accomplish are put on hold. We're forced into the present and have an opportunity to practise 'just being'.
5. We try to make the most of every moment
Often trips come about after much dreaming, saving and planning, and so we're more likely to realise the specialness of the moment and try to be fully present in mind and body. It's easy to take the things around you at home for granted, and not really lean into the small magical moments, like the first flower of the season on your balcony, or a picnic with a friend.
But when you're in a completely new place, you tend to be more than usually aware of all that's around you. You have a heightened sense of the unusualness of the time and place, and also the people who are with you.
Again, this natural inclination to make the most of every moment while on a holiday is a gift, and we encourage you to accept it gratefully by sinking into moments with your senses turned on, your mind open to new experiences and ideas, and your heart lightened with gratitude.