Top tips for being a mindful traveller


What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness. It’s a pretty straightforward word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious.

We’ve had a few queries asking us to explain further our definition of mindful travel and to give some tips for achieving it. As Buddhists it is something that comes naturally to us, but we haven’t been trying to stuff Buddhism or meditation down people’s throats; far from it, our thoughts are merely based on our own experiences of travel, people, different cultures. It’s really all about focus, and having one! So here is our most meaningful quotation from a Buddhist perspective that can apply to life generally:

All states of being are determined by mind, it is mind that leads the way”. Think about it!

Now specifically imagine you are in one of your favourite travel spots, it could be the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, the Roman Forum in Rome, Swayambhu temple in Kathmandu, The Grand Canyon in the US …….. and think like this:

1.Be still

Slow down, take your time over things like the walk to the café, the cup of coffee. Relax in your surroundings, don’t rush to the next sight to see.

2. Be aware

Look around you, take in the details as well as the big picture, the roof tiles, the doors, the ironwork as well as the overall building. 

3.Be non-judgemental

Don’t keep comparing things with the way they are back home, be accepting of the way things are done here, the food, the customs, the language, the people. And don’t judge yourself, stop beating yourself up over things.

4.Be in the here-and-now

Focus on the moment, put yesterday and tomorrow out of your mind, forget work, college, the exam, the project. The only thing that matters is time and place, here and now.

You might also like this short web article What is Mindfulness?

Now here is a small example of one of my many walks up to the top of Swayambhu Hill to the monkey temple on a cool Spring morning in Kathmandu and applying these four facets of mindfulness.

Enlight192“I reached the top of Swayambhu, paid my tourist entrance, then stepped onto the surround of the Buddhist stupa. Turning left I rang the huge bell once, then sat down on the wall overlooking the city far below. I was out of breath and my heart was beating and I needed a few minutes to relax and “be still”, preparing myself for enjoying the next hour or so.”

“I stood up and walked towards the edge of the stupa alongside the prayer wheels beginning my clockwise circulation, each spin of every wheel sending prayers skywards. Past the sellers of incense and turning to the temple of Ajima where Dr C always makes offerings for our late son who died at 22. I pause, I have no option but to “be aware” of all of the Nepali locals acting with similar intent, it intensifies the moment as I consider who are they praying for, what do they hope to achieve?”

“I slowly walk past the monastery, silent at this time of day, past the big bell again, and stopped at the second set of steps to look back at the whole complex. The sun was glinting off the gold leaf of the pinnacle above the stupa though the pigeons were trying hard to whitewash the gold! Beginning my descent to the car park I become aware of a beggar on every other step, some with infants, many with deformities. No matter how many times I come here I have to make a conscious effort to be “non judgemental” especially though I am told by many locals that they are NOT Nepali but Indian immigrants. This is the worst area of the temple complex, beggars, unclean, dogs, monkeys, hawkers, all trying to get something from you. But don’t judge them by your own standards, would you live like this by choice?”

“I grabbed the first taxi and told the driver to take me to Ason Tole, I was meeting Dr C there and her oldest brother’s family. Passing over the Bagmati Bridge I saw that there was still stinking garbage piled high on each river bank, scavengers rooting around in it for anything of value. A woman was washing her clothes in the river and several children were bathing in the grey muddy water. This river is now used for garbage dumping and for homeless communities to set up their shanty towns. We passed over the bridge and towards Thapathali, the shops now comprising the wares of  metal workers, plumbers, carpenters, car mechanics …… my thoughts of the river and shanty towns now lost as I wondered why this road had fostered skilled tradesmen above all others, my mind focused on the “here and now” rather than temples, beggars, scavengers or river pollution.”

Swayambhu 2


If you enjoyed this post you might like to read Mindful In Madrid which explores a day packed with mindfulness.


Categories: Philosophy, Travel Tips

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19 replies

  1. I have visited Nepal many times, firstly in 1983 and at that time it was a very different place. Swayambhu was quieter, less swarming with tourists and more peaceful. But that’s now true of Kathmandu generally which is totally overpopulated with houses of all shapes and sizes being built on any available patch of land. Green spaces have disappeared especially at Tundikhel, and urban sprawl is spreading outwards beyond the ring road like a plague of locusts!


  2. I have been to this place, many years ago and it doesn’t sound much different today. I remember the beggars and how our guide told us not to give to them but in a country with no else ehat choice would a blind disabled person have?
    I can remember much of my wonderful Nepalese trip so clearly as, although I didn’t know it at the time, I was trying to be totally present and mindful. I have lost a little of that purpose at times. Thanks for the post which reminds me to continue to practice mindfulness.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on I want the Zen Life and commented:
    A great read on Mindfulness from the blog which talks about Mindfulness in general, something which which is a topic close to my heart as well. In today’s world we forget to take out some time and really do one thing at a time and focus on our surroundings. Loved reading this piece and hope you do too!


  4. Mindfulness is very important when travelling! A great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post. Thank you for this travelling advice #TheWeeklyPostcard

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree with all of these tips and hope that we are learning to be more mindful travellers over time. Great, inspiring post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love your tips! Living in the now and slowing down seems easy but is hard to do, this is a great reminder to be mind full and live in the now, thanks for that. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    Liked by 1 person

  8. inspiring! #theweeklypostcard

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I wish I had the mindset of 3. when I moved, it would have made the transition much easier for myself, and likely those around me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Being judgemental is such a natural thing, we do it all of the time. If it interest you try looking up Personal Construct Theory and see just how we construct the world around us psychologically

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you so much for this inspiring post. i hope that with practice I can learn to live more in the present.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Good travel advice. I would add to that if I may – WATCH what local people do and where they go. LOOK UP, the best things to see are often above our eye line!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This post of mindfulness is very soulful. I want to practice on living in the moment and be with the self. Thank you for this one and the peek into Nepal. I have a couple of friends and ex-colleague who are from Nepal. Would love to visit some day.

    Liked by 1 person


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