Woman painted nails standing on sand, stones, beach

Mindful travel: 14 ways to have a more meaningful trip

Jul 24, 2023
Reading time: 14 minutes

Mindful travel is an increasingly popular form of travel as folks everywhere are eager to hush the noise and connect with the environment, other people, and their inner world. We suggest 14 ways to make your travels more meaningful through mindfulness.

If you know anything about mindfulness, you know that mindful travel is having a moment.

Naturally, more mindful people means more people wanting to engage in mindful travel.

With that in mind, here are 14 simple ways to incorporate mindfulness into your next trip and so have a more meaningful experience.

1. Practise mindful habits ahead of your trip

There are three things you can do at home, before you even leave on your trip, to make it more mindful.

The first is to practise mindful habits, because mindfulness is a muscle that needs to be developed. If you've never practised mindfulness before in your daily life, it's less likely you'll manage it on a trip, where you're outside of your comfort zone and there are many possible distractions.

We encourage you to practise mindfulness when you're on your balcony or in your garden, and when you're next out and about doing your errands. Pause in the busyness of the day to take in your environment – what do you see, smell, hear?

Close up of an ant on a beautiful white flower bloom

How often do we really study familiar nature to find the unfamiliar?

Some other ideas to incorporate into your daily routine are to slip off your shoes in the garden or park and walk on the grass. Take time to touch a leaf, smell a flower, watch a beetle. And when you bump into someone you know, try to focus on them fully when you chat, even if it's just for a couple of minutes.

2. Set your mindfulness intention

Next, decide that you want a mindful holiday, and set that as your intention. We make all sorts of other plans for a trip, so why not also plan to slow down and be more mindful in the way you engage with people and your environment?

Depending on where you're going, you could even look into pre-arranging a mindful activity or two.

  • Is there an outdoor stretching, yoga or pilates class you could join?
  • Could you take a class to learn a traditional dance or how to cook a local dish?
  • Could you volunteer to plant a tree or help teach a lesson in computer literacy with a local NGO?
  • Is there a safe trail you could walk by yourself for a moment of solitude if you're travelling in a group?
  • Is there something special about the environment to be visited (like a rare plant or endangered species or historic building) that you can research beforehand so that when you're there you can more fully appreciate the encounter?

Find something that you know will help you to enter a more mindful head space, and then factor it into your travel plans and preparation.

3. Pack light

Travelling with just a few essential belongings is a great way to set yourself up for a mindful trip.

Woman in mask at airport with luggage looking at flights


Firstly, packing light frees you from any worries relating to possessions (starting with wondering if your luggage will even appear on the airport's conveyor belt!). Remember: what you own, owns you.

When you travel light and carry little of importance, you don't need to keep an eagle eye on anything. So leave expensive gadgets, kicks or jewellery at home. And then if your luggage gets delayed or lost? No real biggie – your excited travel mood is still in tact!

Here's another thought: If you're someone who's sensitive to fashion and trends, this could be a chance to have a break from that – to not think of what matches, but to just pull on the one outfit you have for this weather, and fly out of the door into the adventure outside.

When you bring only the essentials, there's also no vague sense of frustration that you need to get around to wearing or using x because you carted it half way around the world.

Close up of girl in denim skirt leaning on tan suitcase, seated on ground

Packing light helps us to travel with a light mind, as it were

Finally, we've all had that realisation when we travel of how little we actually need, right? It's an illuminating experience, highlighting what's really important and needful to us. This is a great chance to slim down the items you surround yourself with on a daily basis, and just focus on having experiences and connecting with your inner life.

4. Silence your devices

While on your trip, make the choice to disconnect from the internet and social apps. It's hard to be mindful when you're receiving notifications, or thinking about how you'll curate the moment to share on social media.

Most of us spend more time on our smartphones and other devices than we like. But those apps are designed to draw you in, so of course we struggle to temper our digital habits even when the desire is there.

Know yourself, and remove the temptation for stretches of your trip. Disconnecting from the online world can be for the whole trip, or even just for a part of it – for a day here and there, or at least a few hours at a time.

Make a conscious decision to disconnect from the digital world in order to free you up to live more fully in the present moment.

You could actually consider carrying only an old phone that doesn't connect to the internet, but still offers the safety of being able to make phone calls. Or if you're in a group, have just one person carry a phone each day. Also consider bringing a camera along so you don't need to use the camera function on your phone.

5. Use all of your senses

We're mostly very good at keeping our eyes wide open in a new place. But be sure to also listen carefully.

Also touch some of the natural objects around you. Yes, often we know what things feel like, but adopt the curiosity of a child and be open to a fresh revelation of the roughness of a tree trunk, or the cold smoothness of frozen water. And does that thick petal have a velvety touch? You'll only know if you stop and touch it.

Man in bush hat squatting in woods, wintry landscape, snow


Be sure to also smell things, not just taste them. The scents of a new place are a core thread in the fabric of a travel experience. Really smell that coffee, tea or cocktail before taking a sip. When visiting a market, lean in to really appreciate the smell of unknown foods, herbs and spices.

When you tap into all of your senses, you make space for your inner child's sense of wonder.

6. Ditch the to-do (or to-see) list

Many travellers have a frenetic energy about them, as they're blasting through sites and activities in a drive to do and see as much as possible.

But how much can you really get out of an experience when you're rushed? It's better to see and do less, we believe, but to really savour those moments. When you deeply connect with a person or place, the experience is more profound.

If you know you're geared towards a less mindful approach to travel, perhaps pop a few "Slow down" notes in strategic places, like in your wallet, to help remind you of your intention to travel more mindfully.

7. Eat more mindfully

Mindful eating refers to both what goes on your plate as well as how you approach the act of eating. We encourage you to be curious about the local cuisine and try new things. Eating local, seasonal food is not only a sustainable way of eating, it also offers a deeper travel experience.

When actually having meals, try to be present in the moment. Don't look at your phone, don't even read a book. Really focus on the smell of the food, its texture, its taste. If in company, enjoy the food while also really just appreciating the people around you. It's unlikely you'll be in that space, with those particular people, ever again. Cherish and honour the uniqueness of the situation by giving it your full attention.

8. Take fewer photos

Photos are lovely, and we all enjoy looking at them and reliving the adventure. But if you take too many photos, your holiday memories will be of you taking snaps!

The joy of travelling is that for once you don't need to see certain things and places on a screen. So be sure to remove the device between you and the view, and simply take it in with your own eyes.

Man taking a photograph of a mountain gorilla busy eating


Remember that often our very best memories are of moments when we felt fully alive or truly connected to another. These moments don't happen when posing for a photo or fiddling with a lens. Instead, such beautiful memories have no pictures to go with them, and are simply imprinted in our mind's eye.

Life's best moments don't happen with a camera in hand.

Another idea for a more mindful trip is to take a separate camera with you so that you can sometimes leave your phone (and its attendant distractions) at your accommodation.

Even better, why not take a spool-based camera, as it makes you more deliberate in your photo choices? You also then get to enjoy the old-school charm of developing your photos after the trip to see how they came out (instead of being sucked into checking on the quality of your pics when you could be present in the moment).

Blonde girl looking into camera holding up a camera


A final idea: if you really like having lots of photos to scroll through at the end of a trip, why not split the photo-taking 'duties' between yourself and your fellow travellers? For instance, each of you takes a turn to be responsible for taking photos for a day. After all, you don't need to have what's essentially the same photo on everyone's phone – rather, you just take that one snap and then it's shared with everyone else later on.

Remember, just because you don't have a photo of something, doesn't mean it didn't happen! 😉

9. Give others your full attention

We encourage you to be open to the conversations and interactions you have with locals on your travels in order to make your trip more meaningful.

When talking with someone, give them your full attention. And give your best, most positive energy even to the conversations hampered by a language barrier.

Don't be too eager to receive the answer to a question and then move on. Is there more forthcoming? Does the person perhaps want to share some further insight? Or do they want to tell you a story? You might be the one person willing to give a little listening time, which could mean so much to them.

Annapurna village with trek guide discussing map


Sometimes just being open to genuine conversation can lead to really lovely, deeper encounters. And while we're not suggesting that this be your goal, you might find that you end up being invited into someone's day in a really wonderful way. Perhaps you're invited to share a coffee with them and look at each other's family photos, or walk around the person's farm, or see behind the store curtain to where the magic happens ...

When you invest time and attention in others, you just never know what lovely or important experience might arise.

10. Keep your eyes open for mindful activities

A good way to have a mindful trip is to do things that will help you to be present in the moment, appreciate where you are, and unwind. While we mentioned earlier that you could pre-arrange some of these things, also be open to ones that suggest themselves to you while you're on the trip.

Here are some ideas, which you could tweak to suit you:

  • If you're feeling like you need to slow down for a moment, then spend some time in the morning breathing deeply, meditating or praying.
  • Step outside and walk barefoot on grass, earth or sand. Close yours eyes and focus on what your other senses are noticing.
  • Go for a stroll and observe what's around you. Perhaps look for pretty shells or interesting stones. Are there patterns in the architecture or nature that you missed?
  • Sit in a café, really savour your drink, and observe the street life.

11. Be curious and try something new

Blessed are the curious for they will have adventures.

Part of being a mindful traveller is being open to new things – new experiences, new people, new foods, new anythings.

Try to adopt the attitude of a child during your travel. Children are generally more open to new things, rather than being nervous or suspicious of the unknown. A strange-looking fruit could be a moment away from becoming your new favourite treat! And a dour-looking stranger could break out into a smile and be ever so helpful when approached with a greeting in their language.

If you have a tour guide, be sure to make the most of this great opportunity to chat at length with a local – ask lots of questions and learn as much as you can about the region's culture, history, customs, landscape and more.

12. Write or draw in a journal

Seneca wrote:

Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind.

We learn a lot while travelling. And while occasionally something is so profound that it stays with us forever, other revelations and insights can easily be forgotten. Even when we think they won't! So why not record your thoughts in a journal to ensure you can enjoy them again and again?

Man hands writing in a journal journalling diary


If a journal is too daunting (and not everyone is a journaller, which is 100% okay), perhaps just take down a few bullet points? Or maybe poetry is more your thing, and you could pen some lines each day?

Alternatively, do another form of craft that works for you. Sketch the scene in front of you. Or paint it. Or take a photo with an instant camera, and stick the picture into a journal and write a caption for it. Or pick the odd fallen leaf or flower and press it into your journal.

The idea is not to burden yourself with a daily chore. Rather, look for a medium that suits you and that you know will add to the meaningfulness and rhythm of your trip.

13. Take time to pause

The mindful traveller knows that it's worthwhile to pause regularly in the midst of a trip to take stock of the moment.

  • If you're trekking, for instance, be sure to pause not just for water and a rest, but to also really look around you and appreciate where you are. Maybe take time to thank or celebrate your body for getting you to that spot.
  • If rock climbing, lean back into your harness and really see the view that few others ever do.
  • If touring a museum, perhaps take off the headphones or step away from the group to really look at an artwork that evokes a response in you.

Whatever it is you're doing, work in the odd pause to help you appreciate the experience on another level.

Note that pausing while on a holiday isn't about setting an alarm to ensure you stop what you're doing and be mindful, darnit! Rather, it's about developing a habit that gifts you quiet moments amidst the adrenalin, chatter or other excitement. You want these moments precisely because you know that they're so often truly revitalising, personal and special.

14. Let go of expectations

We've all been to see a movie that has rave reviews only to come out disappointed. We expected the moon and stars, and it couldn't deliver.

couple sitting on beach


While we naturally need to make plans for a trip to make it as nice as it can be, try to then be open-minded when you actually go on your trip. Don't cling too tightly to what you think should happen or – perhaps more importantly – what you think you should feel.

Expectations are lethal. They rob you of the joy of what is because you're hung up on what you thought should be.

Mindful travel is about opening yourself up to the vagaries of travel, from a turn in the weather to a change in itinerary. If we set our hearts too fixedly on something, we can be too upset when it doesn't happen to embrace what has taken its place.

So what do you think? Are you inspired to plan and enjoy mindful travel on your next trip? We hope so!

We wish you a beautiful, mindful trip that's full of meaning and connection.