The ultimate goal of travelling is to find adventure, seek new destinations, and to, for once, just switch off from our daily working routines and bring down your stress barometers.
Often, though, travelling can be a stressful and unpleasant experience that leads to anything but relaxing and fantastic holiday memories, especially during these trying times. Reason for that is very commonly our attitude towards visiting a foreign country and our own expectations of how a vacation should ideally be. Unrealistic expectations and overly influenced decision making can ruin the moment and the best way to avoid that and to just take a vacation as it comes, is to start with practicing mindfulness.
Whenever you bring awareness to what you're directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you're being mindful. It s the basic human ability to be fully present and aware of where we are and what we are doing, and to fully engage with the moment we are in right now.
Here are 7 tips on how to experience your next holiday in Namibia with the mindfulness needed to make the most of your time off.
- Reflect on your experience
Hastily packing up and rushing from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund for 2 hours of sightseeing, because you need to be at Palmwag Lodge and Camp the same day – This sounds like a rather unnecessary stressful travel experience. Take your time and plan your trip around staying a day or two at each destination.
This allows you to fully feel and reflect on what you saw, felt, and experienced. Journal your emotions, how it feels to let the sand of the oldest desert in the world rinse through your fingers or take a moment to just breathe in the salty air of the Atlantic Ocean when standing on your balcony at The Delight Swakopmund with a steaming cup of coffee in your hand. Feel Namibia under your bare feet and take time to pause and to let your soul bask in the newly gained perspective on the simple things in life.
Reflection is crucial for development and if you fully embrace each little adventure within the big adventure you will arrive back home with a brand new quality of life.
- Put down your phone
Take a picture of yourself on the throne at Etosha King Nehale, and then put away your phone. Allow yourself for just a moment to soak up what’s happening around you with all of your senses.
Although it seems very difficult, setting boundaries to not always be reachable and on standby 24/7 can be a big mental relieve and will give you the opportunity to fully indulge in the magic of the moment. “Mindfulness is paying attention to our present-moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is,” says Diana Winston, Director of Mindfulness Education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. “After all, real life doesn’t happen on a screen–it’s happening right in front of you. Connect with your travel friends and partners. Of course it is literally impossible to go anywhere without a cell phone, but if we start by putting our phones away during dinner at a restaurant or while wandering through the streets of a well-known tourist town, it is a good start to travel more mindfully in the future.
- Connect with the locals
Whether it is learning how to say Hello in Oshiwambo or engaging in a brand new culinary experience, like tasting Oshikandela, a type of sweetened traditional drinking yoghurt. Try the local way of doing things.
I read the other day, that traveling is like visiting a friend’s house. If their rule is to take off your shoes before you enter the house, you do it out of respect towards the people of the house even if it is not the norm at your house. We need to remain open and inquisitive so that we can learn from other peoples point of views and how there are different approaches to doing things in everyday life. We must learn and abide by the cultural norms of the locals, because we are guests in their home and their country. So connect, engage, and experience traditions. Support local businesses and try to take home something that reminds you to be a little bit kinder every day. Even if it is just a little handmade gift from Damara Mopane Lodge, as a reminder that you supported the life of a hard working Namibian woman and her family.
- Travel lightly
And with this I don’t (only) mean leaving unnecessary things at home. The emphasis is on leaving as little footsteps as possible, wherever you go. Travelling mindfully is about travelling consciously with the environment, nature, wildlife, and people around you in mind. It is about asking questions whether what you purchase was manufactured sustainably, or whether the lodge you stay at treats their employees fairly and honors their humanity.
Try to travel lightly the next time you visit a foreign country. Try to question whether your actions actually benefit local tourism and whether ordering two plates of food at lunch but throwing half of it away is a habit to look into. To visit a destination is to take home memories and making a positive impact and not to step on flowers that took years to finally bloom.
- Travel for a reason
If relaxing and unwinding is your goal during traveling that is perfect. That is what traveling is there for, right? If it is seeking adventure and adrenalin rushes by sky diving in Swakopmund, that is great, too. But have you ever had a sense of intention in mind when thinking of a getaway somewhere far away? You know those movies where people travel through India, all alone, to find themselves and their purpose in life? What is your intention next time you travel? Do you want to become a more compassionate individual? Do you want to tick something of your bucket list like seeing free roaming elephants and hippos near Namushasha River Lodge?
Let us know what your travel intentions are in the comments section below. If you travel for a reason, mindfulness might be an important take-along in order to intentionally and purposefully reach your goal.
- Take the big leap out of your comfort zone
Life is all about doing what you are scared of doing; that is how you grow. I often find myself stuck in my cozy, comfortable safe space, but it keeps me from experiencing the world as it is with all its beautiful possibilities. What has mindfulness to do with being brave? Stepping into the unknown consciously connects you with the transformation process of becoming your ideal self. It sounds like a lot of psychology but this simple yet scary step into the world can and will open up the curtains to everything that was hidden from your life and way of living, before.
NuMondo’s article, “ 7 simple ways to become a mindful traveler” states, that being mindful is to care about yourself and the life around you. You need to believe that it is worth it to be more aware about all the possibilities we are too busy to explore. So go and do it, book your holiday to Namibia and visit Gondwana Collection Namibia for an adventure you know you need right now.
7. Learn from your experiences and say no once in a while
I think the most important thing to keep in mind about mindful travelling and living mindfully in general, is to learn from your experiences and interactions. It would be a waste to discover beneficial day-to-day acts that can make you a better person, but not applying them in your daily routines at home. If you visited Namibia and you noticed that locals always smile and greet each other, maybe take that home and apply it to your daily actions. Smile and greet the people passing you on the street in Europe or America or Australia. If you sat on a hill during a hike at Canyon Lodge and found that the silence soothed your spinning mind, implement that in your morning routine and just take some quiet time out for yourself.
Do what is good for you and if that means that you need to travel across the entire world to learn how to do it, - then do it.
But one last thing I want to send on your way is to never forget that being mindful also means to once in a while say no to everything and everyone, who doesn’t help you become, who you want to be. And if you are not keen to visit a famous place, although everyone is urging you to definitely go see it, then do yourself a favor and be rebellious.
If you are planning your next trip or have a specific travel destinations in mind, regardless of covid-19, or not, I encourage you to keep the above 7 points about travelling mindfully, in mind. If you do, and if you have already done so or have other mindful tips, please share them with us in the comment section. Happy travelling!
Author – Hi! I am Elke, a born and raised German-Namibian. I love to travel around and explore different cultures and places, but my home country always magically draws me back home again. Oh, and if it involves food, count me in on the adventure.