Want to stay calm while you travel? Here’s 12 simple tips on mindfulness for travellers, using a technique I call micro-mindfulness.
What is micro micro mindfulness and how can it help you stay mindful while you’re on the go, even when things get chaotic ? Micro mindfulness is a simple technique that helps you use your senses to stay calm and focused. It can even help you slow down and experience a deeper appreciation of the experiences you’re having, which is why it’s such a great tool for mindfulness for travellers.
You don’t need a quiet room or a ton of time to practice micro mindfulness. You can do it anywhere. Yes, anywhere. 12 hours deep into a crowded, smelly bus ride? Yes. Sensory overwhelm visiting the lost city of Petra? Absolutely.
How does micro mindfulness work? The key is small doses. Let’s break this down further.
“Tension is who you think you need to be. Relaxation is who you are.”
~ Chinese proverb
Feel like life’s got you programmed to Power-walk past the buttercups? Never fear! Micro-Mindfulness is here!
How I Got Mindful Even Though My Life Was A Mess
Look, I am by no means a zen master. Latte fueled disaster on wheels, yes. Zen master? No. I have the attention span of a ten-year old high on jelly beans. I’ve been known to get up and walk out of movies, classes, lectures, etc. in the first 5 minutes because I was bored. I have such profound ADD that living in one country is too limiting for me. I hate sitting still. I hate sitting still. Especially if it’s sitting still cross-legged.
Ok, so we’ve established that I’m not exactly the poster child for traditional meditation. What changed?
Facing my life
If you’ve been following my adventures for a while you’ve probably read the story about how I went to yoga school, and how it inspired me to flip my life upside down and move abroad. The thing about living ashram style though is that it’s very easy to be all smug and zen when you’re essentially living on a commune. There’s no phones, no email, no jerky bosses, most people there aren’t even wearing shoes, for flip’s sake.
Once I got back to the dumpster fire of my life and had to face, clean up and move on from my hot mess, things got a little tricker. I had a million things pulling at my attention. I was emotionally drained and exhausted. I didn’t have five minutes to clear my mind and connect with my higher self. I was back to my old tricks and I was miserable. This time, it felt even worse than before because I knew what I could be when I was in a regular mindfulness practice, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it on a regular basis.
Spoiler alert: it still wasn’t smooth sailing
At first, I felt defeated and despaired. Everything I’d worked so hard for was lost.
Then it hit me… mindfulness isn’t about working harder. It’s not about perfection either. It’s about being present in the moment.
Moments? I had tons of those. The key to changing my life turned out to have nothing to do with making time. It had to do with micro-dosing my mindfulness throughout my busy day.
OK, so enough with this hippy crap. You people have places to be. How do you do it?
The world’s so big, and we’re so small. Appreciating the little moments on the shores of the river Tagus in Lisbon, Portugal.
1. Connect With Your Senses to Connect With Mindfulness
Sensory feedback is all around us, why not use it to stay in the moment? This one is a great mindfulness tip for travellers because there is so much to take in when you’re in a new place. If you’re having a meal, slow down and notice the color, the scent, the texture of your food. Savor the flavor of each bite.
If you’re zipping to your next destination on a train, why not take a few moments to notice and appreciate the colors you see whizzing past you out the window? Gently make a note of them in your mind, then practice letting it go. It’s not about noticing every little thing, it’s about appreciating and making room for the things you do notice.
Smells and sounds can also be great senses to work with, as long as you don’t find them too overwhelming. Take a moment to close your eyes and notice the different sounds or scents that surround you. Then, practice letting them go.
Don’t be afraid to listen to your heart…
2. Practice Grounding to be More Mindful When You Travel
It can be as simple as standing still for a moment, gently lifting all ten toes in your shoes, and placing them down again one by one, feeling your connection to the earth. I like to bounce my knees a bit to really feel that connection.
Some people practice grounding ( also known as earthing) by removing their socks and shoes and allowing their bare feet to be in contact with the earth for a new minutes. If this feels right to you, go for it. Spending a few minutes with your bare feel touching grass, soil or sand is said to do wonders to reset your nervous system and calm inflammation.
3. Connect With Your Breath
Start with the basics. The key to micro-mindfulness is keeping it simple.
If you’re anything like me, the first that happens when you get stressed is you forget to breathe. This is where micro mindfulness can be a real superstar. Once you’ve cultivated this practice, all it can take is a few breaths to regulate your nervous system again.
There’s all sorts of different breaths you can practice to stay grounded and give yourself a little micro-zen moment. Anything works as long as it works for you.
If you’re new to breath work, keep it simple. I like to begin by becoming aware of my breath, without trying to direct it or change it. Then I put my palm on my belly and take a breath in through my nose, feeling it fill my belly. I pause for a moment when I’m “full,” then slowly exhale, pausing again when I’m empty. You can keep it there, or you can focus on making your inhales and exhales equal. As you do this, perhaps imagine letting go of any pesky intrusive thoughts with your exhale. Return to this practice as needed.
Breath is also an excellent anchor practice you can mix with ANY other mindfulness practice to steady yourself and deepen it.
4. Try a Mantra to Stay Mindful While You Travel
Pausing to appreciate the moment, and this tiny snail I met on a fence in Bern, Switzerland.
A mantra is just a simple statement you can repeat to yourself.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed when I travel. How will capture all these amazing moments I’m experiencing and bring them with me? What if I miss something?
It’s then that my favorite mantras come in handy:
Hello Moment, I Am Here (Great for when you feel like you’re up in your head instead of in the present).
I Trust Myself to Navigate Whatever Unfolds. (Great when something unexpected pops up).
I Am Big Enough to Hold this Experience. (Great when I’m having all the feels!)
Pair with your favorite breath or sensory micro mindfulness technique and repeat as needed.
Of course, you can create your own. The key is to keep it simple and phrase it as if it is already the truth.
Want more travel mantra ideas? Here’s a few more of mine!
5. Try A Walking Meditation
Walking meditation is the ideal mindfulness practice for travellers. Take a turn down a quiet street, stroll down a beach, or just decide you’re not going to be in beast mode at the airport. With each step you take, take a breath and be present. As a real Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh would say, “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” Be present to the feel of the wind on your cheeks, the sounds, sights and smells around you, without categorizing them, judging them or your reactions to them, or documenting them.
6. Practice Gratitude
It rained every day on our trip to Glencoe, which makes this moment of spectacular sunshine (and rainbows!) even more wonderful.
When it comes to mindfulness, sometimes the simplest practices can be the most powerful. I practice gratitude at night as I drift off to sleep. I know it sounds dorky, but I go through my day moment by moment, and think of the things I’m most grateful for. The most interesting part of this for me was realizing that some of the simplest things in my days were the things I appreciated the most.
Some days my gratefuls include things like, “I made my train,” “I petted a cute dog,” “I cooked and ate a healthy dinner.” Gratitude helps me realize that my life is full of awesome moments, even when life is mundane. When I’m travelling, my gratitude practice helps me embrace imperfection and go with the flow.
7. Do Less
Sometimes bucket lists can hold us back. To travel more mindfully, take a look at your to do list. Why is that activity there? Because all the other cool travellers have done it? Because it would make a good Instagram post? Or because it’s something you’re truly invested in doing?
When I’m on the road, there are some days when I choose one morning activity and one evening activity. That’s it! Or I may choose to spend an afternoon in a cafe watching the world go by, or in a park with a good book. I even occasionally (gasp!) sleep in! Those experiences are no less vaild than ticking off major tourists attractions.
Your travel is for you. Nobody else. Give yourself permission to focus on what feels most genuine to you and let go of the rest.
8. Keep Up With Your Self Care to stay Mindful While Travelling
Especially when travel gets bumpy, you’ll be glad you kept up with your self-care.
Travel takes us beyond our comfort zones in a lot of healthy ways. Sometimes though, we push ourselves too far and end up crashing. This is where keeping your self care routine dialed in can really help you travel mindfully. Don’t scrimp on sleep. Remember to stash some healthy, portable snacks in your carry on , my go-tos are dried fruit and trail mix.
If you take vitamins, don’t skip them while you’re away. Travelling can lower your immune system and leave you vulnerable to bugs. Bring your vitamins and supplements along in a handy little travel case. I totally believe that giving yourself small gifts, like your daily vitamins, are a true micro-mindfulness practice.
When I arrive at my destination, I spend some time grounding myself by getting into some sunlight or having a cup of calming tea. I also set up my bedside similarly to how I have it at home, with my sleep mask, earplugs and water bottle close at hand. I have comfy PJs to change into and try to spend a few minutes before bed and in the morning doing some light stretching, breath work or gratitude practice.
9. Allow Yourself to Be Surprised
There’s an old saying, comparison is the thief of joy. I think the same thing goes for expectations. A carefully planned itinerary is nice, but once you’re there, try and let go of your expectations about what you’ve planned. Sometimes, something you thought was going to be the highlight of your trip is underwhelming. Other times, something unexpected completely knocks your socks off. You can roll with these moments by trying some micro mindfulness techniques like sensory awareness, grounding or perhaps even a simple mantra.
10. Stay Mindful by Letting Go of Needing to Document Every Little Thing
Getting lost can sometimes mean discovering new things. Like this strange little hut in Glencoe.
This shutterbug is guilty of it too. The truth is though, no matter how much you love snapping photos, some moments are just better when you’re not behind the lens. Instead of constantly snapping pictures, get mindful by putting your phone away and grounding yourself in the moment. Take a pause to practice gratitude for your experience. You may even find that writing a brief journal entry in the moment is a powerful way to practice mindfulness.
11. Let Someone Else Be Your Mindfulness Guide
Sometimes, it’s just easier to let someone else take the wheel for a moment. Headspace is an excellent App that offers an intro to meditation as well as hundreds of other themed meditations focused on things such as grief, stress and self esteem. Pretty cool! Or if something more no bullshit is your style, try F*ck That: An Honest Meditation.
12. Practice Radical Acceptance
I remember one of my biggest travel disappointments so clearly. I was on my way to meet my friends for an epic girl’s trip to Iceland. My connecting flight got cancelled so the airline send me to Norway, without my luggage. Instead of spending my first night of the trip in Rekjavik, watching the Northern lights with my friends, I was alone in an airport hotel in Oslo wearing an oversized men’s T shirt issued to me by the airline, watching cable TV in Norwegian. I was absolutely heartbroken that this once in a lifetime trip my friends and I had planned for months was “ruined.”
What I didn’t realize then was that this was just a bump in the road. I arrived in Rekjavik the next day, and shortly afterwards, so did my luggage. Now when I look back on that trip, all I remember are the memories made with my loved ones. Getting stranded in Oslo is just a weird footnote. No matter what happens when you’re o the road, accept that very few things in life go completely to plan.
No mud, no lotus! Some days it’s a struggle, some days it comes naturally. On all days, be gentle with yourself.
Micro mindfulness doesn’t take much effort once you get started with it, but it yields incredible rewards. I now use these techniques everyday, whether I’m home or on the road . I find myself stressing less, enjoying life more and feeling more thankful for what I’ve got. Hopefully, you’ll find something to take away from my experiences that will help you too.
Do you use micro mindfulness in your life? Which techniques are your favorites?
Read Up!: Want to take mindfulness even deeper into your life? Check out my favorite books on mindfulness.
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10 thoughts on “12 Micro Mindfulness Tips For Travellers”
“It can help create a deeper connection with the world around us.” This is definitely what pushes me to sit. Thanks for sharing.
Yes! I’m glad I’m not the only one. Thanks for stopping by.
I have just returned from a trip to visit my friends in Australia, an unexpected trip of a lifetime after months of illness. Here I was thinking that I did not actually consciously meditate whilst I was there. Except having read this I realise instead that I took micro moments in time, just to breathe, take in the beauty of my surroundings, stick toes in the sand and listen to the waves coming in on the beach. Walk in beautiful landscapes. Sit quietly with a coffee listening to nothing but the birdsong. Celebrate the wonderful flowers and wildlife I have seen and the blessing of just being there, surrounded by love. I have returned home relaxed, rejuvenated and happy. Those moments are now memories I can return to when feeling stressed, my personal inner zen and happy place.
What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing and thanks for stopping by!
Taking deep breaths is how I take my micro moments. I notice my breaths are shallow when I’m stressed or tense. Sometimes I’m even holding my breath! By the way, I love Thich Nhat Hahn! He has great guided meditations you can find on YouTube. One of them is just about the breath. Really enjoyed reading your post😊
Great suggestions, Irene! Thanks for stopping by.
This is MARVELOUS. Thank you for this practical-yet-inspiring post.
Thank you so much!!!!!
loved this! real-life zen 🙂
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