I am packing my bags, folding my clothes to take up the least possible space so I can take a book with me that I won’t have time to read. I am making lists of the places I need to see and crossing out a few already in my mind, as I will trade them for sitting in a beach café, looking at the waves, absorbing the city by osmosis, inhaling the salty air — so it can cleanse my mind and body and soul.
I am slowing down, breathing more evenly, the journey is touching me and embracing me. I don’t mind that I will sleep only two hours and I will need to wake up. I don’t mind that I can never sleep on the plane for I am always trembling with anticipation.
I am off to Barcelona, in less than 4 hours. The city I fell in love with awaits and I can’t wait to embrace it and devour it bite after bite, gulp after gulp until I become the city and it becomes me.
Travelling reminds me of how life should be.
We are moving through life in a rush, absorbed by a never-ending craving to create and consume, to do more, be more, get more, have more in order to live more, feel more, love more. We are chasing our dreams so much that each night we collapse into a dreamless, soulless sleep — not even having the time to question whether we still have our eyes on the prize or is it just the weight of the momentum that keeps us going forward.
We live and love in a routine, ticking off checkboxes, creating another mental list to follow when in doubt, we go through the same motions and we search routinely for the same kind of extraordinary — to tick off our planned out-of-the-box experience for the week.
We are moving through life in a fog that we create around ourselves, we go at such speed that the trees blur into the sky, the people we pass by becoming a colourful pattern, the events of our days and weeks become just stepping stones — leading us toward an imagined future, a dream that we painted for ourselves so long ago, that we don’t even remember why it was important in the first place.
There is always more. There is always somewhere higher, something bigger and better coming along our way. There is always someone who dreamt a bigger dream and they are on their way of doing it, or even they have already done it and now they are onto a new challenge. There is always a new finish line, another hoop to jump through, another mountain to climb, another impossible challenge to conquer.
And it’s not only tiring, but it is also heart-wrenching to see that we should be doing even more to meet our ever-increasing expectations, the ones that we set for ourselves, that ones that we pull on ourselves from the outer world, the ones that are forced on us for existential reasons.
In our obsessive wish to arrive, we often forget the most important thing, which is the journey. — Paulo Coelho
It’s not the destination, it’s the journey that makes it worth going forward.
Travelling is mindfulness on the go.
Our life is a journey. An endless trip, where we are navigating from one place to another, one state of mind to another. Life is giving us new paths, new destinations, making us reroute and reschedule, making us learn and grow as we go. There are bends on the road, sometimes we hit dead-ends, sometimes the path seems to vanish below our feet, but we keep going — as there is nothing else for us, but to go.
When was the last time that you stopped to marvel at your life, instead of rushing through it, waiting for Friday starting on Monday, waiting for summer, for Christmas, for a holiday, for a project end, for a time when you can finally breathe? When was it that you took your eyes off your next goal and lifted your nose up from the map that is supposed to get you there?
What if you could regularly take a day off from the rat race, and looked at your life while doing your everyday things with the same mindset that you have when you are travelling?
Wake up looking forward to your day
The best thing about travelling that you have a different mindset. Of course, you are still you, you have the same problems, the same conflicts but for a short time, you decide to leave them behind. Who said you cannot adopt traveller’s mindset at home every once in a while? How about waking up with anticipation, looking forward to what the day could bring, being open and curious, just like you would be as on a trip to a new city. It doesn’t matter if you are staying at home, it’s your frame of mind that matters — how you tackle your issues, how you look at conflicts, how you manage to get on top of everything.
Tackle your problems with a traveller’s mindset
Don’t kid yourself, travelling has its own conflicts and issues too — getting around in a new city, not speaking the local language, having a hotel room way below your expectations. These are problems to solve — yet while you are travelling you simply decide not to be put off by them. How is that different from everyday problem-solving?
Why couldn’t you wake up tomorrow, deciding that you are not going to be bothered by the problems that usually weigh you down? You can still deal with them or postpone dealing with them, the point here is not to be bothered by them.
Insert some unusual or unexpected in your routine
When you are travelling, you expect the unexpected, you even look for it and create it. Because that’s the spice of life, that what makes life interesting and bearable. When facing our days, going in circles in the very same routine every day can be tiring. You need something that snaps you out, to give you new inspirations, to light that spark in your eyes, to make you believe that life is interesting and worth living. But you need to look for it — it doesn’t knock on your door; you need to be open and you need to welcome some extraordinary every day.
Stop to notice the little things
When discovering a new city we stop marvelling at buildings and squares and benches and street signs. We walk slowly, we look around, we look up, we look. We are there to absorb the city through osmosis, by inhaling it and letting it seep through our pores. We allow it to enchant us, we want to be mesmerised, we want to see, hear, taste and feel it. We let ourselves be devoured by its whole. We take pictures of things that talk to us, that touch us in some way. Why wouldn’t be things and places or faces in our own city that we could let in and allow to sweep us off our feet?
When did you last stop on your own street to look for something that would be worthy of a photograph? No matter how small it is, no matter how insignificant, a puddle reflecting a fragment of the sky can be just as magnificent — if you’d only stop to notice. There are brilliant photo challenges and apps to make you stop and snap a picture with your phone — not to become the best photographer ever, but to stop and notice things that you wouldn’t any other way.
Treat yourself with nice food
Who doesn’t eat local food when travelling? It’s an absolute must to try out something that you wouldn’t have access to at home. It is a must to eat sea-food when you are near the sea, try some Italian pizza when in Italy or eat some tapas when in Spain. But the point is not only in trying out the food and blending into the culture one bite at a time. It is more about giving yourself the opportunity to sit down, order, eat, taste, look around. It is about giving yourself enough time to appreciate the food that you are having.
At home, it’s not unusual to fork some cold leftovers in your mouth standing at the open fridge door. To take a couple of bites, chugging it down with some coffee — strictly to-go. Or to have only the kids sit down while munching on a half sandwich standing up, hovering over their heads — as it is impossible not to run around to cater to everyone’s needs.
How about sitting down, eating slowly, appreciating each bite? How about eating for the sake of the taste, not just for the calorie to keep us going? How about chewing every bite, waiting a few seconds, and taking the next bite only when our mouth is empty again? How about making a meal last at least twenty minutes, instead of two?
Count your blessings
When travelling, we take pictures, we take notes, we send text messages to our friends and family, telling everyone about all the nice places we visited, all the great food that we had, all the nice people we met. We are documenting our lives, we are counting and considering all the things that are meaningful. It’s almost like an organic gratitude journal, without the cliché of it. At home, our days are blurring together, we don’t even know what to notice, we don’t even know how good we are having it. Some people are more conscious about it, practising mindfulness and gratitude, but some are letting their lives passing them by without acknowledging how good they are.
Gratitude and mindfulness start with noticing things and being present in those moments of noticing them. Being grateful is easy once you recognise the good things in front of you and force yourself to realise that you shouldn’t take anything granted.
Life is about the journey, not the destination. It is about making the journey as pleasant as possible, slowing down, stopping, observing.
This is what helps us grow and this is what makes us fall in love with our lives — over and over again.