Every year increasing numbers of people journey to far-flung places to renew themselves through travel. In the process they often discover that the best trips are those that affirm something about spirit and self-identity, that deepen connections with others, that provide opportunities for learning, self-expression, or making a contribution to a healthier planet or world community. Together these comprise the elements of mindful travel.
The eminent biologist and natural philosopher, Rupert Sheldrake, was once asked what change he would most like to see come about in the 21st century. His reply: "Change tourism into pilgrimage and tourists into pilgrims." Mindful travel is what he was speaking of--responsible, thoughtful, and attentive to the surrounding wonder.
Consciousness, curiosity, and playfulness lie at heart of mindful travel. Consciousness is reflected in the awareness that our steps and actions leave footprints and generate waste streams. We can no longer afford to ignore these if we care about leaving behind a planet that bears some resemblance to what we experienced in our own short stay on the earth. The great and wonderful creatures that we have been fortunate to share the planet with--giant pandas, black rhinos, pygmy elephants, polar bears, baleen whales, and thousands of others, may no longer be with us if we don't impart, through example, what it means to "travel light and leave shallow footprints."
Curiosity and playfulness are central to Mindful Travel. Both allow us to connect with others, to perceive hidden dramas and to create. Practicing mindfulness during travel can vitalize any trip. You may suddenly discover an ability to draw or paint, solve a long-resistant problem, or maybe just meet the most interesting person. The extraordinary can suddenly become ordinary: turning a street corner in Katmandu, you may run into an old roommate; a mistaken turn in direction may lead you to exactly what you need, but maybe not exactly what you were looking for.
Cheers and Bonne Chance,
Jim Currie, Sydney and all the other critters at Sydney's Thumb, March 2007