Namaste translates to the light in me honors the light in you. I imagine this applies to all the souls we encounter – souls of people, souls of place, souls of towns, souls of trees.
When I travel, I am keen for adventure, laugh at mishaps, notice the details, actively discover hidden treasures, and talk to strangers. I have a travel mindset.
Like when I rode the Vashon Ferry back to the mainland of Seattle – I met creators of tiny houses on a cross-country tour, and a man who carves wooden toy tops and sells them at farmer’s markets. He saved enough money from selling wooden toys and kitchenware to buy a sailboat, and was preparing to sail up to Alaska. He was off to find a pump for his boat.
I also met a woman, a professor of psychology, and we discussed the impacts of trauma in trying to close the achievement gap for low income youth.
My heart sang from these enriching encounters, these random connections to vibrant souls. I never would have had these conversations if I was in a rush to complete the commute – if I was not open to putting down my phone down, asking questions and really listening.
When I travel I adopt a certain mindset. One of adventure, curiosity, openness, patience (some things will inevitably go wrong), alertness, and with this alertness, a greater presence in each moment. I am ready to drink in new, to bask in novelty.
Further, I am often an ambassador of my country or my skin color or my sex and therefore present my best self, the most recent version of my best self, brand new for the travel world to meet and engage with.
I believe that these qualities – observance, curiosity, openness, adventure, ambassadorship, and so forth – could be powerful if transposed into any environment, particularly one we may have begun to take for granted, such as our workplace or home.
The Yoga Connection
Parallel to yoga, where many teachers say that true practice begins off the mat, as you pause to breathe in sticky situations, become more present in each moment, and accept and experience your emotions without judging them or wishing them away – I believe that the travel mindset could be equally powerful if wielded at home or in familiar settings.
In fact, Asana – or the physical postures and sequences of yoga – is only one of eight limbs of yoga. Perhaps the same is true with travel? The physical act of traveling may only be a fraction of the full transformative experience.
According to Patanjali, the eight limbs of yoga are:
“Yama” — Sanskrit for “moral discipline”
“Niyama” — Sanskrit for “moral observance”
“Asana” — Sanskrit for “body posture”
“Pranayama” — Sanskrit for “breath control”
“Pratyahara” — Sanskrit for “withdrawal of the senses”
“Dharana” — Sanskrit for “concentration”
“Dhyana” — Sanskrit for “meditation”
“Samadhi” — Sanskrit for “bliss”
Bringing the Travel Mindset Home
What if we played tourists in our own cities? Tried new restaurants with the fervor of a traveler? Explored the nooks and crannies of random streets on a mission to discover a new favorite hole in the wall noodle shop? Got up early to see the sunrise in a new place? Talked to strangers with the intent of making friends? Walked, bussed, or drove not with the intent of getting somewhere, but to explore and slow down, and experience the journey step by step?
Most of us spend a majority of our lives within a 15-mile radius of our homes (and a whopping 77% of car accidents occur within the same range – interestingly, and morbidly, according to a claims survey conducted by Progressive Auto Insurance). While there is certainly comfort and safety that comes with knowing a place so well, the way we can get up in the middle of the night and use the bathroom in the dark without banging our shin against the bedpost, as we might in a new place – there are also cautions.
Redundancy can quell our ability to perk up and be present. Malcolm Gladwell discusses the dangers of this rote approach to living, or ‘path dependence’ in his research. I believe novelty helps us drink in the moment, to stop and look around. I also believe that we can intentionally infuse our rat race with gems of that golden new, new.
Applying the Travel Mindset At Home:
- Take the Long Way. Drive a new way to work (or the grocery store, or church, or wherever you are programmed to get to). A new speed will allow you to observe in a new way.
- Change Up Your Transportation. Usually drive? Take the bus, the train, or walk. Usually hop on the underground? Try out an Uber. You will inevitably encounter new characters; new storefronts; new side streets.
- Unplug and Explore… without apps. Leave your Google maps and Yelp tucked safely inside your radioactive sleeping smartphone. Ask some locals about their favorites. Notice the places you usually skip over.
- Wine & Dine Yourself. Go to a new restaurant, alone. Sit at the bar, or share a communal table with a stranger or several. Chat people up. Strike up the conversation. Ask an open ended conversation – then, instead of supplying your own reply – say, “Tell me more.” Or “What did that mean to you?”
- Explore a new neighborhood. Every city or town has multiple neighborhoods each with their own character and charm. Venture out of your typical stomping grounds.
- Look Up the Top 10 Things to Do… in your city on TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, or Google. Have you done them all? Try one! No list on your city or town? Make one for an imaginary audience, then see if there is anything you have never done, or could do again with a new perspective – more awake and inquisitive than before.
- Go on a Walking Tour. (Or house tour, or garden tour) in a neighborhood or nearby town you have never visited before. Imagine what your life would be like if you lived there.
- Try Something You’ve Never Done. Sign up for a painting class, a hip hop dance class, an aerial yoga class, a ballroom dancing lesson with or without a partner, attend an improv class, learn how to use photoshop to enhance your photography, sign up for a language exchange, volunteer for a new cause, take a class at your local community college or university in that subject you could never quite grasp back in high school or college, join a CSA, attend a new church; join a choir, audition for your local theatre; [fill in the blank because the possibilities go on and on]. Putting ourselves into the position of the learner forces us to become observant, vulnerable, and ask questions – as we would in a new country or culture.
- Dare Yourself. What is something you have always wanted to do but haven’t? Take a lesson at the indoor surf park? Do an AirBnB experience to cook a new cuisine or experience your favorite spots with a new crowd? Maybe you feel like you should have a kid in tow to attend that new theme park, or that you have to have a kid in a production to attend the high school spring show, or you think you need a date to go to the weekly salsa dancing at your community center. Dare yourself to let go of these limitations, show up, and let the good times roll.
- Introduce Yourself to Your Neighbors. This goes for at your office or work place or home. Bake some cookies and go door to door. Print some quarter sheet invites and schedule a no-host happy hour close by. Make connections with the people in your daily radius that you have forgotten to notice or are too busy to find out their stories.
Which one speaks to you? What other strategies do you have for changing up your routine? Comment below, I’d love to hear.
If you do even one of these, I have faith that it will awaken a new level of novelty within your daily routine.
Traveling as a state of mind, as a sort of person, without the need to transit afar.