Are you wondering how to be a mindful traveler in 2023?
Then this guide will share everything you need to know! Here are the 30 best ways to practice mindfulness travel.
While anyone can travel to a new country, being a mindful traveler doesn’t come easy to everyone.
Being mindful requires a bigger passion and appreciation of the country you’re in.
The good news is that being a more mindful traveler can be accomplished in many different ways!
You don’t have to do all of them to make an impact, but the more you do, the more ethical you can be as you travel all corners of the globe.
How to be a mindful traveler?
Being a mindful traveler is easier said than done. You may need to change many of your habits and live more in the moment.
While it can take time to transform into a more mindful traveler, here are some of the most simple things you can start doing.
The best part is that some of the easiest ways to practice mindfulness on vacation are free!
1. Connect with the locals
Meeting the locals while traveling is by far the best way to learn more about the destination you are visiting.
Not only can you practice your language skills, but you can also learn about the locals and their views on life.
Connecting and talking with the locals gives you an opportunity to experience authentic life, and learn about their culture.
Locals in many countries are willing to talk to travelers as they have life experiences they want to share. Furthermore, they want to hear about your life experiences too!
2. Explore the local community
Most major tourist destinations have key attractions that travelers flock to in their thousands.
Places like museums, art galleries, and historical monuments are important to see while traveling.
However, you should also include lesser-known landmarks on your itinerary.
Try renting an Airbnb in a less touristy neighborhood. You can also consider dining at restaurants with locals instead of popular places in the ex-pat community.
If you need some tips on where to go, ask the receptionist at your hotel or the owner of your Airbnb.
They usually have plenty of suggestions and are happy to share their recommendations so you can experience more of their culture.
Asking the locals you meet for recommendations is also a fantastic way to find some hidden gems!
3. Enjoy quiet walks at your destination
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city center and go for a quiet walk.
You can head to the park, search for a walking trail or consider going for a hike if there are places nearby.
The evening is often a nice time to go for a walk since the weather is cooler (if you’re in a hot destination).
If you choose to walk in the evening, just make sure you are aware of your surroundings.
You might also want to research your destination to ensure that walking at night is safe.
4. Break out of your comfort zone and be open to new experiences
Going to a new country will inevitably give you a different experience compared to what you are used to back home.
While in a new place, try to get out of your comfort zone and see what the destination has to offer.
Try some of the local food, even if it’s not something that you would usually try.
You could also try a few adventurous activities such as zip lining, snorkeling, or bungee jumping.
The activities on offer will vary depending on where you are in the world.
5. Minimize your use of electronic devices
It can be tempting to put your entire vacation on social media.
While it’s okay to post photos of your trip or share tips, consider only using your device when you’re back at the hotel.
Limiting the use of your electronics allows you to be in the moment more. You will be more aware of what’s going on around you.
Without the distractions of social media and emails, you can take in the smells, sights, and sounds that surround you.
If you still want to document your travels, consider using a dedicated camera rather than the one on your phone.
Using your phone camera is inexpensive, but you will be tempted to check social media and other apps while doing so.
6. Be grateful
Even if your trip doesn’t go as planned, always be grateful for the opportunity to experience new places.
Not everyone is able to travel and being able to do so freely is a privilege.
Plus, remembering to practice gratitude is one of the best ways to be a mindful traveler!
7. Appreciate small things
While traveling, pay attention to the small things around you. Notice the different languages being spoken and how the city sounds and smells.
Take your time as you eat and notice the different flavors within the meal.
Sometimes these simple things will be what you truly remember about the destination in the years to come.
Another thing you should remember to appreciate is the kindness of strangers. In many countries, you will find the residents to be extremely friendly!
Always appreciate how thoughtful the locals are and remember to be kind.
8. Let yourself be spontaneous
Many people like to have itineraries for their trips. Having planned activities for each day is sometimes warranted if you need to purchase tickets and make reservations.
However, try not to plan each day down to the hour. This makes it hard to engage in spontaneous activities.
Sometimes you can miss out on opportunities if you become attached to a schedule. Leave a few days open in your itinerary to just go with the flow and see where the trip takes you.
Sometimes the new things you find while traveling can change the course of your life forever.
9. Pack lightly and bring only what’s necessary
Less is always more when it comes to packing. Almost every place you go to will have laundry facilities. Some places can even wash your clothes by hand for an extra fee.
If you find you’re running low on something, don’t worry! It’s often easy to pick it up at your destination.
That way, you won’t need to cram it into your bag that’s likely already full to the brim!
10. Plan a trip with the lowest possible carbon footprint
It’s no secret that traveling in any way can contribute to climate change due to the use of fuel.
Some airlines have started sustainability initiatives with fuel efficiency programs, recycling programs, and biofuels that mindful travelers can get involved with
You can also fly direct which uses less fuel when compared to catching several connecting flights. With some destinations though, layovers are necessary.
At your destination, try to walk or cycle when possible instead of using public transport.
You can also pack reusable items like water bottles and storage containers to limit single-use plastic.
11. Learn about your destination before traveling
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not learning about your destination before traveling.
Before heading to the airport, make sure you know about the language, currency, and religion of the place you’re going to.
Learning a few phrases in the local language can also help you get around and make it easier to chat with local residents.
12. Respect cultural norms
Make sure to research the local cultures of the country you are visiting. It’s important to know how people greet one another so that you can be friendly and respectful.
Certain dress codes may be required in some countries. For example, covering the knees and shoulders is a common expectation in Muslim countries.
If you’re considering how to be a mindful traveler, respecting the cultures, traditions and religions of different countries is a must!
13. Book a cheaper, off-season trip and help lessen the impact on local communities
This is a win-win for everyone involved. You get to have a cheaper vacation and the local community gets a chance to make money year-round.
Some countries and cities only see tourists for a few months each year. This means the economy struggles outside of peak season.
You can support the economy all year round by visiting in the off-season.
Some countries are so heavily reliant on tourism that this is a great way to be a mindful traveler as you travel across the globe.
14. Help the community by engaging with local businesses
Just like in your home country, the locals in the destinations you travel to might be struggling to keep their businesses open.
There are always cheaper big-name alternatives.
However, buying from huge corporations makes it harder for local people to make a living.
Consider shopping locally while traveling. You can also consider getting to know the business owners or working as a volunteer for a few weeks if possible.
15. Buy only necessary items from eco-friendly companies
Avoid wasting money by making a list of things that are necessary for your trip.
Instead of buying a new wardrobe, just buy a few things from an eco-friendly company.
While these items might be more expensive, they often last longer so you can travel with them for many years to come.
16. Relax, travel slower, and stay in your destination longer
One of the biggest mistakes people make while traveling is jumping from one place to the next without really enjoying the time they have in each city.
Remember to take it slow and be in the moment instead of constantly being in a rush!
Quick trips are sometimes necessary if you have limited time off work. If possible though, try to spend a little extra time in each place.
This allows you to really get to know the area.
The longer you stay in the same place, the bigger chance you get to meet locals and make new friendships.
Enjoy every bus ride, train ride, and moments you have in between destinations. It’s all part of the journey!
17. Connect with nature outside of major cities
Major cities are what draw people to different countries. The larger cities also have more attractions and things to do.
However, there is much more to explore than a country’s capital city. In each place you go, try to get out of the city for a few days to connect more with nature.
You can spend a few nights in a rural village or go hiking in a nearby national park.
You can also book a few day trips that get you out of the city and into lesser-known destinations.
18. Learn the purpose of your trip and enjoy your pursuit of it
While some trips are just for fun, there are some that have a deeper meaning. Maybe you’re volunteering with baby turtles or going on a meditation retreat.
Think about the reason why you’re traveling and find a deeper purpose in it.
Once you know the real purpose of your trip, try to ensure that every activity you do moves you closer to that purpose.
19. Fill your bucket list with emotional, mental, or more holistic goals
Consider adding goals focused on mental and emotional well-being.
Here are some examples to consider:
👉🏻 Spend more time outside while on holiday
👉🏻 Get to know a local
👉🏻 Reconnect with yourself while in a foreign country
👉🏻 Journal about your experiences more
👉🏻 Consider joining a cooking class
👉🏻 Learn to let go when things don’t go your way
👉🏻 Control anger and other negative emotions while away from home
👉🏻 Remember to be grateful
👉🏻 Embrace who you really are
Some people also try to meditate more while traveling so they can focus on the present moment.
Learning to focus on the present is important as it allows you to truly appreciate your destination.
20. Take and share pictures respectfully
Taking photos is one of the best ways to remember your trips and share your experiences with others.
However, before taking pictures of people, remember to ask them if it’s okay.
If you plan on putting the photo online, you should also ask for permission.
When approaching someone to take a photo, always be polite.
It’s also helpful if you ask them in their language so they know exactly what you are saying.
Some destinations across the globe also have certain buildings where photos are not allowed.
If you see signs prohibiting photos, don’t go against the country’s laws. Be respectful of all local customs and respect their traditions.
21. Beware of tourist activities that exploit people, animals, or nature
Unfortunately, there are many countries around the world that exploit people and animals.
While the place might be a popular tourist attraction, always do some research before giving them money and engaging in their activities.
Animal tourism is one of the most common ways that animals are mistreated.
Any place that uses animals for entertainment and takes them away from their natural habitat should be avoided.
So for example avoid riding camels or elephants or swimming with dolphins or orcas. They should be free in the wild where they belong instead of entertaining humans.
Unfortunately, there are also many places worldwide that do not pay their employees fairly despite expecting them to work endless hours.
For example, when I hiked Kilimanjaro I was not aware that porters are usually paid so poorly for the amount of work they do and the responsibility they have.
So in this case make sure you choose an ethical company that pays fairly.
This is why traveling ethically is extremely important as you never want to support a business that is exploiting their country’s resources, people, or animals.
22. Pack a water purifier to avoid buying disposable water bottles
Many countries around the world do not have access to clean water. This means you will have to buy bottled water.
Rather than constantly buying water bottles, consider bringing a small water purifier.
Many of the best water purifiers for travel are small enough to fit in your pocket or backpack.
There are many different types of water purifiers including UV purifiers, purifying straws, and purifying cartridges that fit inside reusable water bottles.
23. Try to leave no waste
The best way to leave no waste while traveling is to bring your own reusable items.
Consider bringing your own water bottle so you don’t have to use plastic bottles or cups.
If you plan to go to local markets, bring a reusable bag for your fruits and vegetables. If you drink coffee or tea, bring your favorite thermos or reusable coffee cup.
Other countries also charge extra fees when ordering takeaway because of the costs of the containers.
You can bring your own storage containers from home to cut back on waste and save money.
Most reusable items are small enough to fit into your luggage making them easy to bring along with you!
24. Take care of where you’re staying
Wherever you decide to stay, ensure you take good care of the place.
Make conscious energy and water choices by not leaving the lights and water on when they are not needed.
Try using appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine as little as possible.
Make sure you’re treating all furniture with care by not getting them dirty or spilling food.
Only some hotels and rental properties allow pets, so don’t bring along your furry friend unless you get prior approval.
Furthermore, many countries don’t have air conditioning.
However, if they do, make sure you avoid waste and only use it when you’re in the room.
25. Eat more slowly and appreciate your food more
Unfortunately, many people live in a world where they have short lunch breaks or eat while sitting at their desks.
It’s hard not to follow habits formed at home while on vacation. However, you should make a conscious effort to do so. ( and me too 🙂 )
Part of traveling is experiencing amazing cuisine from around the world.
Rather than eating it in just a few minutes, take the time to savor each bite and truly appreciate the local dishes.
Ask the waiter about the ingredients and methods they use to make it. Traveling is a perfect time to learn about food and flavors.
You may never have a moment to experience food like that again, so make sure to take all the time in the world to enjoy it.
26. Journal your experiences
While sharing your experiences with others is a great way to remember all the places you’ve been to, journaling is by far the best way to be mindful and remember the details of your vacation.
Before heading to your next destination, pick up a journal that will fit easily in your suitcase or backpack.
You can also buy some special pens or markers if they will encourage you to journal while on the road.
The best time to journal is at the end of every day so you can remember everything that happened.
You don’t have to journal for hours or do anything special.
Some people find that journaling for just a few minutes at the end of each day is enough.
If you’re artistic, you might also want to journal with paintings or drawings. There is no right or wrong way when it comes to journaling.
Just do whatever makes the most sense for you.
27. Bring your learnings home
One of the worst things you can do while traveling is learning a great life lesson than not keeping it in your mind once you land back home.
Your trip might have really changed you but then you go get back home and continue your life as normal.
Try to relive your trip and share the memories with as many people as possible. This keeps the lessons you learned fresh in your mind so you can pass on insight to others.
Sometimes it’s also nice to buy a souvenir to help you remember the things you learned.
Each time you look at it, you will be reminded of those memories.
If you’re wondering “How to be more mindful?” one of the best things you can do is meditate.
While some people think meditation is just sitting on the floor for hours, it’s much more than that.
The main goal of mediation is to achieve total peace within your mind.
If you’re new to meditation, start by doing some breathing exercises.
Focus on each breath and the way you feel while inhaling and exhaling.
Focusing on your breathing is one of the best ways to be in the present and to focus on the current moment.
Meditating and focused breathing also give you a chance to unwind from a busy day and get ready for the next day of travel.
What does it mean to be mindful?
If you’re asking yourself “How can I be a more mindful traveler?” you might be wondering what it means to be mindful in general.
The basic definition of mindfulness is that you are fully present in the things around you.
Rather than focusing on what’s next or what might have already happened, you are concentrating only on the moments surrounding you right now.
Part of being more mindful is being less stressed and anxious.
When you are obsessively thinking about other things in life, it’s impossible to be mindful of what is happening.
This can really rob you of experiencing your travels to the fullest.
Another important part of being mindful is that you are less likely to become overwhelmed or anxious about things that happen as you travel.
However, this is easier said than done when you are in a foreign country.
The more you can just enjoy the moment and be less stressed about all the details, the more you can be mindful of your travels.
Learning to enjoy the day as it comes and concentrating more on the present moments is one of the best things you can do not only for traveling but in all areas of your life.
Benefits of Mindful Traveling
Now you know the best ways to practice mindful traveling, but why is it so important?
There are many fantastic benefits to being more mindful as you travel.
👍 One of the biggest benefits is that you can get off the beaten path. Traveling to less touristy destinations allows you to experience authentic life and food in a new country.
👍 You can also broaden the way you think about things. Having a new viewpoint about life and the world around you can oftentimes give you the push you need to start on a new path.
👍 Mindful traveling doesn’t just benefit you though. It also benefits locals. This is because people who practice mindfulness during travel support local businesses more often and only engage in activities that protect animals, people, and nature.
Mindful traveling is one of the best things you can do for yourself, the planet, and local residents across the globe.
Ethical challenges of traveling
There are many ethical challenges to traveling and some are much more obvious than others. Some challenges you might not even think about.
For example, many people stay in hotels and hostels that are owned by large foreign companies. Often (but not always) they exploit their workers and take away from the local economy.
However, some foreign-owned establishments give jobs to locals and can stimulate the economy as a whole.
You just need to look at the bigger picture and determine if staying at that particular place is ethical or not.
Other ethical challenges include:
✔️ Taking photos of local traditions and customs.
You might be spreading awareness of their culture but you’re also benefiting from photos of them where they are getting nothing.
✔️ Giving money to child beggars. It’s important to consider where this money really goes when you’re giving to children.
Often, they don’t get to keep it themselves. If they do get to keep it, they are likely to beg instead of attending school.
If you come across a child begging, it’s because he/she’s been exploited by their parents to soften the hearts of tourists before a poor sweet child.
If you give them money you play their game and they will keep doing it instead of sending their kids where they belong, to school or to play.
✔️ Traveling to countries with human rights issues.
Some people support this as it allows them to see what’s going on and help the locals.
Other travelers are firmly against this because it gives money to an unethical government. Whatever you decide to do, be mindful of that.
As with all things, you need to be mindful of these ethical challenges and determine how to help without crossing the line.
Conclusion: How to be a mindful traveler?
Knowing how to be a mindful traveler can drastically change the way you experience the world around you.
Although you might be focused on the way mindful travel benefits you, the truth is mindful traveling is also ethical.
By choosing to be a mindful traveler, you are also helping the people, environment, and animals of the destination you’re traveling to.
If you’re ready to be fully present and mindful while you travel, consider using the tips shared in this guide to mindfulness travel!
Disclaimer: Although I wrote this guide to travel in a mindful way, it doesn’t mean I manage to follow these guidelines all the time.
Writing this post has also helped me to put my thoughts in order and to remind myself about the best practices while traveling. I hope it will be useful for you as well.
About the Author, Founder & Editor
Hello there! This is Isabella, the author of this blog, and a cat lover. I am an Italian expatriate with a Mexican permanent Residence. After 7 years of living in Cancun, I have decided to leave my job and explore my beloved Mexico and the rest of this beautiful world, starting from South America, while sharing my travel stories and offering useful travel tips about traveling as a solo female traveler and digital nomad.