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The Essentials of Mindful & Meaningful Travel

Erica Boucher
The Essentials of Mindful & Meaningful Travel

Let’s face it, travel is one of the biggest investments we make, outside of our home and vehicles. Which is why, when we travel, it can be easy to want (and expect) everything to be perfect.


But, with travel, that kind of attitude—the need for perfection—sets you up for disappointment, more often than not.


Throughout every aspect of your trip, there are human beings—fallible human beings—doing their best to manage a lot of details. Sometimes, they get it wrong. And, sometimes, through no fault of their own, things go awry.


Like the time my group and I showed up at our hotel on our last night in Iceland. Apparently, there were three groups checking in that night, and somebody made the mistake of confusing our group with a different one, so our rooms ended up being given away to others. While it’s easy to go into finger-pointing and the blame game, in the end, the only thing that mattered was that my group ended up with comfortable, safe rooms for the night.


Thankfully, the hotel had enough available rooms for most of our group. Six of us (in three rooms), however, ended up across the street at what felt like an old, run-down hostel. The rooms were musty and tiny, the bathrooms smaller than those found in most RVs, and the accommodations were super basic. While our initial reaction was one of disappointment, I’m happy (and a little proud, if I’m being honest) to say that all six of us rallied and quickly adjusted our thinking, and it ended up being a funny story we shared over dinner, laughing at the folly of it all.


The point is, we could have let that ruin our last night; or we could roll with it, grateful that we even had a room (regardless of why or how it happened), and see it as part of the adventure of travel.


Because that’s what travel is: an adventure. An opportunity to break out of our monotonous routine and to do and see something new.


On one of my first overseas trips to Europe (I was 27 or 28), I’d planned to be backpacking with three others, traveling by train, and staying in youth hostels. On our 9-hour flight to London, it occurred to me that there could be a high likelihood that some things wouldn’t always run smoothly, or that we would start to get on each other’s nerves, was likely.


So I asked myself what it was I really wanted out of the experience and, what I discovered was, that I was seeking adventure. That was, ultimately, the whole reason I was on that trip.


I started visualizing myself going with the flow and taking in stride whatever happened. I said to myself, "No matter what happens, it’s all part of the adventure.” This became my mantra throughout the flight and the entire trip.


And I kept visualizing myself relaxed, smiling, happy, and at ease.


It worked. There were times we were running to catch the train, or got lost, or got on the wrong bus…


But, because I had prepared myself with the right mindset and attitude, it didn’t matter. I loved all of it. It was fun. It was the adventure I was looking for.


Another time, my husband and I were headed to Paris for 24 hours before meeting up with a group in the South of France for a river cruise. But our connection in Boston ended up being canceled, and we were automatically rebooked on the same flight the next day. Suddenly, we had 24 hours in Boston, NOT in Paris.


We ended up making the most of our time in Boston—a place neither of us had been before. We booked a nearby hotel (which we didn’t stress because we knew we had travel insurance), had lobster omelets for breakfast, walked the Freedom Trail, had lobster poke bowls for dinner, and ended up having a blast.


While we never got to stop and enjoy Paris on that trip, we simply rolled with it, knowing that our experiences are always better when we trust and let go into the flow of life, rather than fight against it kicking and screaming.


The point is, sometimes, the unexpected happens. As long as we’re safe, why not take it all in stride and use it as an opportunity to be the kind of person who is capable of rolling with it, rather than the kind of person who moans and complains, points fingers and casts blames. That doesn’t accomplish much and, rarely, makes us feel better anyway. 


Unless someone willfully set out to ruin your vacation (which is unlikely), it was probably a simple mistake. Human error. A miscommunication. A technological glitch. Why not be compassionate and forgiving and allow the Powers-That-Be to do their best to make things right?


I have found that, when I approach my travels with a sense of adventure and open myself up to the experience the Universe has in mind for me, I usually end up with a unique experience and a fun story to tell.


After all, isn’t that what travel is all about?


Along these lines, a couple of years back some friends of mine (Jon Sumple and Karen Bernhart), interviewed me on their travel podcast (From Sumplace New) about The Essentials of Mindful & Meaningful Travel. It was so much fun sharing some of my travel stories and the attitude and approach it takes to travel the world with grace and ease. (The first five minutes or so is fun banter between this husband and wife traveling duo, but if you'd like to skip ahead to the interview, start listening at 5:43.)

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