The Art of Being in the Moment
It can be easy, whether travelling or not, to think ten steps ahead and not be grounded in the present moment. I am guilty of this all the time. Being fully present is nothing short of an art in my eyes, and it's something I have to consistently work on and practice - which I’m sure totally defeats the purpose, but let’s not dwell on that.
Often when I am faced with a new situation, completely out of my control, I am consumed by my stress and anxiety about all the little details, and not at all focused on the experience. This doesn’t happen all the time, but often enough for me to notice and want to take action.
Upon reflection, once I’m out of the stressful situation, I am determined not to let it control me. I want to experience life fully, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Simple right?
Here are some steps I have taken to help me be present and more mindful when travelling and jumping from new experience to new experience.
Adjust Your Trip Pace
Over the past few years, I have drastically adjusted the way I plan trips. For example, one change would be how I plan an itinerary. I have had a major mind shift when it comes to how much I think I can fit in an itinerary. In the past I would jam pack my days, jumping from attraction to attraction, sometimes seeing multiple cities (that’s right - CITIES in the same day), never wanting to miss a thing. It was too much. Too stressful. Not only on me but on my travel companions too.
I have learned the hard way that I need to slow down my pace and breathe.
When I don’t and I push it too hard, there are real-life consequences:
- Bickering and stressful days with my husband. What starts off as a beautiful walk through Rome, becomes a race against time to make it to every possible piazza before our dinner reservation. Not at all worth it to see that extra museum at the expense of our relationship.
- Physical illness. I mean it. When I push that schedule to the limit, I too am pushed to the limit. Colds and flu have notoriously plagued me when we travel. Getting sick while travelling is a fate worse than death (not to be dramatic) especially when you’re already stressed about trying to see everything on your list. Slowing down and taking a beat has helped mitigate those crashes.
Make time for downtime when you’re travelling. There are lots of places you can see and things you can do while travelling that actually force you to slow down.
Here are a handful of activities that force you to take it slow:
- A group tour of a historic site that forces you to meander along with the group and move at a more relaxed pace.
- A boat cruise along the main waterway of the city you’re in. Sit relax and soak in your surroundings.
- A Hop On Hop Off bus that allows you to bask in the sunshine on the upper deck while still taking in the sites and maybe even learning something.
Don’t stress about passing that slow-moving family on the sidewalk walking shoulder to shoulder (argh). Take a breath and slow your pace. Look around and take in the quiet street you’re on the sounds of people chatting at cafes, the bakery air wafting onto the street. You might just find that these moments turn out to be some of the best.
Say “No” When You Need To
People love to make recommendations of things you should check out during your trip. Whether it’s a cool gin bar, an amazing pizza place, or a perfect city viewpoint, people love to share their best discoveries from their own travels. I love it. Getting feedback from people who have been to a place I haven’t is amazing and restaurant and sightseeing tips are always welcome. With these recommendations, comes the feeling of pressure to see and do all the things people recommended.
“What if they ask if I saw that, or ate there?. Will they be annoyed or think I didn’t care about their suggestion if I don’t go?!”
No? Just me. Thought so.
That feeling of pressure to see and do it all and not let people down can be overwhelming, especially when you have a long list of recommendations. You have to learn to say to yourself “No. I won’t have time to see X, Y, Z. I can’t fit that in unless I want to jeopardize my trip”. The friends who recommended places will understand. And when the friend asks if you got to see that thing, you say: No. We couldn’t fit it in but really appreciated your suggestion. It is your trip, after all, so see what you want to see and don’t worry about the noise.
Fight the FOMO
It’s okay to not see it all. I have been to London 3 times and STILL have not seen it all. People I know who live in foreign cities barely have time to see attractions and they are there 24/7. I’ve never even been to the Canadian Mint and I’m from Ottawa!
Give yourself a break and realize that seeing everything is impossible. Not to mention, these cities and countries are constantly evolving and changing. They will be different every time you visit, just like YOU will be different.
So what’s the major instigator of my FOMO? Instagram, Instagram, Instagram. No app on my phone makes me feel more behind the crowd. I look at photos of cities I am in and see places I haven’t checked out yet, and it stresses me out. Like I’m in a race against, I don’t know, the entire planet, to get the best picture of a froyo from that place down the street, in front of that brick wall with all the cool graffiti.
It’s hard not to feel trapped, or like you’re missing out, even when you’re doing something really cool at that moment.
Sometimes it means closing your phone and just being in the moment. Some days it’s easier than others, but the first step is admitting it right?
Keeping Your Feet on the Ground
As I have been travelling more and more times per year and for longer durations, I have noticed this frantic, frenzied feeling has gotten much better.
I think because we are in each place for longer, we are able to slow down a little. Nonetheless, on our next short trip I will try and practice what I preach in this post: Take my time, plan lighter days, and smell the roses.
How do you schedule your trips? Do you schedule 8 hours of activities every day, or are you more go with the flow? Let me know in the comments.