The world has been halted. It’s been over 2 months since we’ve been in lockdown. In different countries, this means different levels of social distancing, but for everyone, it has meant that travel plans have been thrown out the window. Until… who knows when. The uncertainty of what travel post-COVID will look like is on the minds of anyone ready for summer holidays. Will we be able to fly? To where? Which countries will have bans? How will we stay safe, healthy…?
As a Mindful Expat and Travel Coach, people have been shooting grins of worry my way as they utter their doubts about what travel will become. Their doubts and fears create mental stories about the future. They’re often shocked by my optimistic response.
I’m not a travel agent or guide, I haven’t studied global pandemics and their effects on tourism and I’m not an expert in global movements, so this is just my opinion, or better yet, my hope. It’s my hope, as a traveler, but even more as a being of this shared planet.
I’m hoping that this situation is what changes all that. This global conundrum could be just what we need to create drastic necessary changes in the travel industry.
Here are my hopes and dreams of what travel post-COVID will look like.
More Mindful Travel
The travel industry, like many areas of our lives, has been taken over by mindless actions. We shop without asking ourselves where to buy, what to buy, or if we even need it. We allow societal norms to dictate how much time with spend on our phones, social media, watching TV, and how much attention and compassion we give to others when we’re with them. Then, once it’s time for holidays, we plan and execute the adventure with our auto-pilot choosing the way.
It’s time that we become more connected and present with the experience of travel or living abroad. This vision I have for post-COVID travel includes conscious travelers who are intimately experiencing each moment of their travels, from the second they decide they want to go, to the moment they’re back in their “regular lives”.
They are aware of what they’re truly seeking from their overseas adventures and consciously take steps to make that happen. They find beauty in every moment of the journey and allow this time abroad to transform them at their core. From there, they bring these transformations into their daily lives to find more joy, inner peace, and fulfillment.
Here are a few aspects of travel that’ll change as we become more mindful travelers:
- Ease at finding joy. No more need to fill each moment of a trip with sights, selfies, elaborate plans, and ticking off places from our bucket list. Instead, more space can be given to just being with the experience. Bringing mindfulness into your travels helps you notice the beauty of simply being with the moment. From here, we become better at finding beauty in simplicity, stillness, and ordinary moments. We need less constant stimulation and throw the FOMO out the window.
- Less is more. As a follow up to the previous point, as we become more mindful in our travels, our need to consume destinations so ravenously gets eliminated. We can plan trips with less stops, less sights, less everything so that our impact is less drastic. The beauty is that we don’t feel any less fulfilled with the experience just because there’s less. In fact, it helps us feel even more empowered by our travels. We can actually take in each moment of an experience because we have the time and space to do so.
- Ditch the beaten path. As you tune into your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and other inner stuff, you become clearer on what you truly want, who you truly are, and what way to go to fulfill your wildest dreams. You notice that the standard way of doing things or common places to go don’t always suit you. You stop. Check-in with yourself. Listen to the voice inside and plan the way forward accordingly. Joy is often found on a different path than where everyone else is going.
- Reflect on the unjust power and privileges created by the travel and tourism industry. How can you, as a traveler, help destroy the structures that keep those dynamics in place? How can you help locals from around the world break free from the subtle (yet drastic) oppression created by the unequal dynamics of tourism?
- Incorporate time for transformation and reflection. Journal, meditate, do yoga, be in nature, or whatever else helps you connect to your core.
- Ditch your expectations. Allow yourself to be surprised by what appears.
There are so many other ways that mindful travel can transform the travel industry. To make it happen, we all have to do our part to become mindful travelers.
More Responsible Travel
Responsible or conscious travel has already started to bloom as a concept. The need for more sustainable tourism practices has become known. We’ve realized the drastic impact that flights, hoards of tourists and global inequalities have on our planet. Some awakened travelers have already been doing wonderful things to lessen their impact and help others do the same.
Hopefully, the return to travel after the threat of coronavirus subsides, will force companies, travelers and local communities to demand more responsible travel practices.
Here are some things we might see happen:
- More local travel. Skip the flight, jet lag, time difference, and wasted time getting to the destination. Explore your local area. Travel is about seeing the world, your backyard should be included in that beautiful exploration. Want to go camping in the Serengeti? Head to a nearby national park to camp instead. Been dying to see the massive cascades of Iguazu Falls? Find some waterfalls nearby that you can get excited about swimming in the lake at the bottom. Find excitement in doing things differently, do a bike trip, visit cute towns within your country, or have a different type of holiday, like a Workaway.
- Take time to understand the culture. This starts before you even leave home. Travel shouldn’t just be about visiting sights while completely disconnected from the people of the region. Bring a holistic approach to planning your travels and allow the joy of exploration to start from home before you go. Watch documentaries, read books or blogs, or connect with local people or companies before the trip starts. Take a few weeks to learn a few words from the local language. Give yourself tools and knowledge to immerse yourself.
- Consume travel-related goods and services consciously. Buy local. Ask to make sure it is produced or offered ethically. Question practices of the company. Do everything you can to become an informed consumer. But more importantly, don’t buy junk you don’t need.
- Avoid places or sights already affected by over-tourism.
- Pick up your trash. Treat foreign lands like you would your backyard.
- Use more sustainable transport. If you’re super keen, do a biking or walking holiday. Avoid flights as much as possible, and get creative with more ecological ways to move around.
This isn’t everything we can do to become more responsible and mindful travelers. It’s just some ideas of the changes I hope to see in the travel industry.
Travel is great. It has revolutionized my life. But we need to become clear with our intentions and reflect on the impact of each step, in travel and also in life. Only by stopping and assessing those elements can we take more conscientious holistic actions that benefit everyone equally. If we travel to see the world without stopping to consider how it affects us, others, and the world as a whole, one day we may not have places left to visit.
How do you see travel post-COVID? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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