Last Updated on December 13, 2021 by Audrey Scott
Travel is like a good, challenging book: it demands presentness—the ability to live completely in the moment, absorbed in the words or vision of reality before you.– Robert Kaplan
It’s de rigueur to speak of “creating memories,” particularly when it comes to travel. This tendency has only been intensified by and through social media and online sharing. Similarly, we've written about creating a story-filled life, the idea being that experiences rather than material goods are what truly shape who we are. While I still believe that implicit underlying premise to be true, something happened recently that nudged me to consider the idea of creating memories in a different light.
Before sharing that story, two questions occurred to me:
1. What if in our quest to create memories, we inadvertently sell the actual experience short or diminish its importance as it happens? That is, we forsake the experience for the metaphor.
2. How can we be more present during our travels so as to savor those experiences for what they are in the moment while also deepening how we might recall and share the memory of them later?
What if accessing memories isn't an option?
Last month, I returned to the United States to spend time with family, including with my stepfather who now suffers from Lewy Body dementia, an Alzheimer’s-like disease. He's led an incredibly full life, one flush with experiences that span growing up in small town Arkansas to serving as an ambassador in Africa, with all manner of storied twists and turns along the way that were both a function of who he was and also made him whom he came to be. He could fill a room with his stories and presence; he kept everyone laughing, wondering which story might come next.
He’s pretty far along in the disease right now, so it is unclear if he still accesses his memories since he is no longer able to share them.
In spending time with him recently, I realized that in our interaction with one another, what really mattered was what happened in the moment. The experience was about being together, the power of touch, and presence – or perhaps more precisely, presentness. All the while, the world outside of me and my stepfather moved along at pace with its typical rapidity.
As this unfolded, I was struck by the realization: being present is about slowing things down enough to truly feel, experience, and sense them – to grasp them in full. To think of it another way: to slow things down so that life begins to feel a little like one of those film reels where the bullet from the gun is slowed to such a speed that it might be plucked from the air by the human hand.
That kind of attention. That kind of grasp.
In full disclosure, none of this was easy or comfortable for me to process. As I focused on trying to be present with my stepfather, the urge to “escape” the situation by considering my to-do list or pulling out my phone to check my email was difficult to resist.
In this life, it's far too easy to buzz around, to drift into the busy. This racing around grants me the permission to not focus on what’s in front of me. It also provides a retreat from possible productive discomfort, something I must face if I ever hope to sort this world.
This experience caused me to wonder: What if amidst the noise, the din, the speed, we could slow down and be more deliberately present — with our life experience, our travel experience?
Being Present in Travel: Why?
Being present and practicing presentness is hard. So why burn cycles trying to do it, especially while traveling? After all, travel is supposed to be unadulterated bliss, no?
My first answer to this is: “Because it’s a ‘good’ for us, of course.” But I realize that’s not a particularly convincing argument so I dug a little deeper.
Here's my why.
1. To create calm or peace in an overwhelming (too) fast-moving world.
This is one of the reasons why many of us travel in the first place, to get away from the day-to-day “busy-ness” of our lives, to recharge creatively, mentally.
So then what’s the point of “getting away” only to re-create the same circumstances from which you were hoping to escape?
2. To avoid missing the present by constantly pondering the future.
If we are busy “collecting memories,” something inherently future-oriented, are we truly immersed or fully engaged in what is happening around us during the actual experience? Once we begin to measure or capture an experience, we give away fragments of it in exchange for its capture.
Sure, you can make the argument that capturing the experience is in fact part of it. I’ll buy that to a limited degree.
3. To find deeper connections with people and place.
It takes time to fully grasp a place and its people, to push through the confusion and difference and discord that first greets us upon our arrival — all so that we may depart with greater appreciation, connection, empathy and something even stronger: care.
4. To judge less, to be more open.
I’d argue that simply observing and being present actually tones down the rush-to-judgment tendency of the human brain. If we take things in as they come instead of trying to evaluate them all against our preconceived notions and measuring sticks, maybe we'll make more room for others and for ourselves.
5. To deepen our observation, to heighten our awareness.
Being present surfaces previously unseen details. It also exposes the depths. Presentness gives us a chance to connect heart and mind in a way that no photograph, no matter how well composed, can ever capture.
6. To build patience for learning and reward.
If you’ve ever tried yoga or experienced very slow movements of the body in physiotherapy, maybe you’ve understood how coming to terms with a little pain or discomfort is necessary to make progress. It’s also not surprising that exceptionally slow body movements can paradoxically make us feel disoriented or even ill. Same thing applies with slowing down the world around us. It forces us into a different mode of operation and to deal with new and sometimes uncomfortable data and circumstances.
4 Ways to be Present in Travel
If you're still with us (and we’ve hopefully convinced you of the benefits of being present), here are some ways that may practically help you put this all into play while you travel.
1. Just sit, be and observe for a while.
Be perfectly still — for at least five minutes, taking in all that is around you. Don’t try to judge or make sense of what you’re seeing, but notice and appreciate the details, the once insignificant.
Let it go by.
In urban areas, I like to find a bench in a park or busy city street. Or I’ll lean against a street corner wall of a market to watch without attracting attention. Like being in the middle of it without being the center of anyone's attention. Perhaps like a fly on the wall.
Later I engage and I find that my engagement is more informed, more connected.
If I feel over-stimulated by a place (e.g., the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh or Mumbai, India) I find that this approach helps me to to better take in the big picture so I’m not as overwhelmed by the action, the sensory overload that comes with immersion.
In nature, this means finding a spot to sit. Give this one at least 15 minutes, longer if you like. All day even. You may be overwhelmed not only by the greater range of sights, smells, and sounds available to you, but also their intensity. Why? Because you’ve begun to notice and pay attention to what has always been there, yet was somehow deprived of your attention.
2. Have a destination in mind to allow “productive” wandering.
This may sound like an oxymoron, but stick with me on this one. Choose a destination (e.g., bakery, cafe, temple, sight, etc.), but free yourself from the expectation that you must actually arrive.
I find that some of our best experiences are the unexpected ones, ones that happen when en route we’ve allowed ourselves to stop, get lost, follow our curiosity and in some cases, granted ourselves the freedom to never even arrive.
However, while setting off to wander without purpose may work for some, for others it can result in a feeling of pointlessness. Having some destination in mind, even if loosely, allows us to focus less on where we’re going and enjoy a little more of what’s around us.
During our recent trip to Strasbourg, we found that some of our most satisfying moments of exploration and immersion occurred en route (usually to something food-related), in the little things.
3. Put down the device, for a few minutes.
Don’t get me wrong, photographing and documenting a place, an experience is important to many of us. If anyone can appreciate that need, that impulse, we can. Very much so. Consuming an image-memory is also satisfying.
However there's a difference between taking things in from behind the lens and engaging with them barrier-free with our senses only. Recognizing that difference seems crucial to our maintaining our humanity, our human-ness.
Blink. Take a photo with your mind. What you observe will be more, different.
When we were invited to an evening Ramadan gathering in Kyrgyzstan, we resisted the urge to pull out our camera and take photos, despite the spectacular uniqueness of our circumstance: a gritty, candlelight meal in a yurt. We aimed not to break the atmosphere of our welcome and treatment as one-part honored guest, another part family. There were many unusual moments during that meal, including being handed the jawbone of a goat to gnaw on, but enjoying the experience without escape delivered a deeper connection with the place and the people around us.
Furthermore, if you embrace this, you just might find your photos appearing strangely three-dimensional when you view them later. That other dimension? It was formed and informed by the depth of your connection to the experience.
4. Go light on the itinerary.
I’ve found that in most parts of my life, the concept “less is more” reaffirms itself with each new experience. In travel, definitely so. The flip side: this one is strenuously difficult to put into practice.
In the face of limited time and resources, it's tempting to try and pack it all in, to shoehorn the Top 10 list from your favorite guidebook into your itinerary — because it's what you ought to do to maximize your experience. Been there, done that. While checking the boxes may provide some satisfaction and a series of photo ops, the question you might consider asking yourself: Will I really come away feeling refreshed, recharged, exhilarated, renewed?
And: What is my unique story to have emerged from all this?
Our advice, just as it is with packing: put everything you want to do on a list and then prioritize the top half. Then begin to let go of even more. Try to plan only a visit or two a day and leave room for those in-between times lounging at a café, sitting on a park bench, diving into an unexpected conversation. Take in the people and place, the living history around you.
Just as it’s easy to find ways to be busy in our day-to-day lives, a similar temptation exists while traveling. Despite all our own travel experiences, Dan and I continue to struggle with this.
It's difficult to fully be where we are and to appreciate the simplicity of the moment. There’s fear of missing out (FOMO). Ironically, this fear may stand in the way of some of the most rewarding experiences travel has to offer.
Being present is not only key to accessing experience and memory creation, but it's also an end in itself.
How do you remain present in your travels?
58 thoughts on “Being Present in Travel: 6 Reasons Why, 4 Ways How”
@Roxanne: Love the last line of your comment “to capture the intangibles.” Being present — in travel and in life — is much harder than it sounds when one gets down to trying to deliberately practice it. I agree that as a blogger and writer, especially when on assignment or on a project, it’s difficult not to get swept up in trying to do and document it all. It’s always a difficult balance.
Super post and I love your expression “productive wandering”. I think we’re all at least sometimes guilty of trying to pack in too many experiences – especially those of us who are travel writers/bloggers. Sometimes we need time and space just to absorb and reflect, to capture the intangibles.
Being present is my greatest challenge in life. I love your tips in this post!
Thank you! Love this post. Being present is key Everywhere. Agreed to slowing down to wandering which leads to Wondering. 🙂
I mostly travel solo taking in what’s around me, stopping, sitting, observing; that not in a hurry energy is felt by others & it’s led to amazing connections and situations. “Plans are merely suggestions has served me well; I learned that from other travelers. 🙂 I’ve been in many situations where taking photos is frowned upon so often take photos with my eyes only; that’s also led to beautiful connections in the moment; as you say Human-ness. 🙂
@Andi: I think it’s a big challenge for most of us, especially today with all of the distractions we have. Glad you found the tips useful!
@Kristen: Like the idea of wandering leading to wondering and “plans are merely suggestions” 🙂 When taking photos of people it’s so important to be respectful and ask. Sometimes people are proud that you asked and in other situations it’s frowned upon like you describe. Either way, focus on the connection in the moment.
@Siobhan: Glad you could relate to this and that the tips were useful. It’s easy to live in the future and to be thinking of the next thing. That’s what makes it so important to consciously try to remain in the present like you’re doing now.
@Ivana: Great advice on how to explore on that first day without any devices. It really helps to take it all in with the eyes rather than from behind the lens. And then you can return to the places you want to photograph later. Getting lost is usually fun…that is, unless we have an appointment somewhere 🙂
I relate so well to this post. I’m the sort of person who always lives in the future. On our current trip I’m very conscious of trying to remain present. Great tips – they’re all things I try to put into practice. You’ve covered it all very well and I really enjoyed reading it.
An inspiring reminder, Audrey!
We keep staying present by walking at the new places without any ‘disturbing’ devices for the first day. By doing this, our pace slows down, we stopped when something captures our attention without rushing anywhere. We prefer to do this without map or any guidebook’s suggestions of the best place to eat, too. And yes, getting lost is the tastiest ‘cherry’ on he top of a ‘travel cake’!
Lovely, lovely post and something to have in mind in my work life as well as my holiday time. It is easy to forget how inspired you can be, when you step back and look around without following the rule book. As a photographer, I usually take the least photographs in any of our travel groups, because I know I need the real memories & feelings to match to those images on my return for it to mean so much more to me personally. My best travel memories and those that I can feel again like it was yesterday and I often only have one or no photographs of those moments, because I was busy with the reality of it. Glad I took time out to read this today x
What a wonderful post. You’re so right about the fact that it’s important to remain present, though I would add it’s important in everyday life not just in travel. Thanks for the tips on how to do it as well, very practical 🙂
How#2 is actually the defining idea of most of my travel days! I always try to set off with some theoretical end goal, but usually know as well that I can always get there tomorrow if something more interesting comes up along the way.
I would disagree to an extent with How#3, though. Often the act of taking a photo forces me to look more deeply at the scene and what makes it beautiful/interesting, and that deeper understanding opens up a more fulfilling engagement once the camera is put away.
Great thought provoking post Audrey. I agree with most of what you wrote. I have a few ways of being present when I travel. One is to not spend all of my time behind my camera. Another making sure I have enough time to not just see the things I want to see but also time to just get lost wandering.
@Joanne: So glad you enjoyed this piece and thank you for the thoughtful comment from the perspective of a professional photographer. I still find it hard to balance putting down the camera to really experience in the moment and not having any images to remind me of a place. I’m working on it!
@Catherine: Yes, this is true in everyday life. With most of our articles in the category of personal growth, we use the lens of travel but the lessons apply to life in general. Glad you enjoyed it!
@Stephen: For some people perhaps the act of photographing does help you discover the details more and it sounds like you’ve found the right balance that you do eventually put the camera away to engage in the experience. I find that sometimes people focus so much on taking photos and documenting a place that they never stop to be still and feel it.
@Jen: Making sure that there is enough empty time in the schedule to get lost wandering is so great. Not always easy to do, but usually results in some unexpected experiences that you sometimes remember most.
@Sarah: Thank you!! So glad you enjoyed this!
*sigh* so inspiring, love reading your material 🙂
I LOVE this post, Audrey! It’s well written and eloquently expresses some of the thoughts I had in mind (but cannot put down in words). Having a “productive wandering” day really resonates with me. I read your (Dan’s?) Strasbourg post and kept it in mind when I was in Chicago this past weekend. While day 1 and 2 were packed with things to do, I left day 3 free from any obligation. I had a destination to go to (Lincoln Park Zoo), but I didn’t HAVE to arrive there. It felt so liberating to just wander and observe. I’m now going through some Chicago withdrawal… Any advice on how to combat those? Hee.
Audrey, your post resonates with me, too. This is exactly why I named my travelogue “My Present Life” – to remind me to be present in the moment, and not lose myself in electronic devices or fear (of missing out and of taking on too much at once).
I just discovered your blog recently, and am looking forward to reading more of your well-written insights. 🙂
I often wonder when I see people walking and filming the entire experience, rather than actually experiencing it right then and there and processing it later. Do they go home and watch it on video and tell friends this is what I saw. Well, no you actually didn’t anything really as you were too busy adjusting your focus. Like you, we try and keep our itinerary pretty slim – we have no desire to do 30 countries in 30 days – there is little point. Nor do we try and do everything that a place has to offer. We like to walk and to talk and to watch. That for me is what memories and experiences are made of. Interestingly, Gordon and I can be sitting at the same place or talking to the same people and we each see or interpret things differently. This is a not a bad thing at all and undoubtedly due to our own differences. It actually enriches our travels.
Great post and a lot to think about. Thank you
Wonderful post, Audrey. Beautifully written and so true. Thank you!
Your post captures the affection for and addiction to travel many of us feel as a vehicle to connect with different people, cultures, and situations while growing, learning, and embracing the differences and similarities. Once you experience this, the wanderlust will never end.
I think about these things often. It is so easy to allow the texture and joy of life fade into a daily grind, and yes, travel most definitely forces us into a position that it’s easy to enjoy the moment, often because of sheer confusion and inability to find the stability necessary to create habits.
We stopped traveling about 3 years ago, because we found we were creating habits in our travel that made it hard to see beyond. Not to mention, life was becoming so chaotic with the constant picking up and going that I never had time to actually commit to anything.
Now I’m in one place and will be for at least a little while. I try very hard to maintain these 6 things while being still. It’s not always easy.
Lovely piece. Lovely writing. As always!
wonderful post…Love your photos
Thanks for your nice report about Iran. I invite Americans to visit Iran.
Beautifully said! So often we miss the best moments in life by planning our next move, our next day’s “Be Here Now” is a healthy way to live and to live in the moment. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
@Pauline: So glad the concept of â€œproductive wanderingâ€ resonated and you tried it out on your recent trip to Chicago (a place I have yet to visit!!). As for combatting Chicago withdrawal, that might be a bit more difficult to advise on. One idea is to think of the things that you really liked about Chicago and see if there might be similarities in your home town (e.g., events, neighborhoods, restaurants, music, etc.). Not quite the same but this helps to keep your â€œtravelerâ€™s eyeâ€ open and active while home.
@Patricia: Given the name of your travelogue it sounds like youâ€™ve been focused on this for a while 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoy exploring more of our site – thereâ€™s a group of articles similar to this under the .
@Paula: Itâ€™s interesting what you wrote about you and Gordon being in the same place but observing and interpreting different things. Thatâ€™s the same for Dan and myself. Itâ€™s fun to compare what each of us took in or interpreted from a situation and I also think it makes for more rich description and writing later on.
@Katrin: Thank you!
@Lindsay: All that you write about travel being a vehicle for connection and learning is so true. But, Iâ€™d also argue that itâ€™s possible to travel without any of those things if you move too fast or donâ€™t make the effort to connect. Itâ€™s not always easy, but usually rewarding.
@Leigh: It took us a little longer than you, but we also slowed down recently 🙂 It was not only to create some stability, but also to be able to connect deeper to a place and people here in Berlin. This base also helps us really appreciate the time we do have when traveling and to slow down and notice the details. But I can tell you that itâ€™s easier to write and think on this than to actively practice it day in and day out, especially when it feels like the world is swirling around and is â€œbusy.â€
@Ali: Thank you.
@Deborah: Glad you enjoyed this! I also find it hard to balance the need for organizing and planning things in the future so that life doesnâ€™t drift by without creating anything, but still staying present during those experiences.
@Silvia: I can definitely imagine having several situations in Iran where you wondered about pulling out the camera. It’s really a tough balance. When we were invited into homes or had these personal experiences in Iran we often would ask for a photo at the very end of the evening to remember the experience (and send people the images afterwards), but this didn’t disrupt the heart of the experience.
Can definitely can relate to your story about being squished in the mashrutka and thinking about the future (e.g., a warm, comfortable bed at the end) to get through the uncomfortable present! Afterwards you’ll be able to laugh at the situation, but it’s certainly not pleasant going through it!
Thanks also for your wishes about my step-father. It’s such a difficult disease, for everyone involved.
This is so beautifully written, Audrey, and incredibly thought-provoking. I love the story of you setting aside the camera in the Kyrgyz yurt. I just had several of those moments in Iran, where I decided to forego photos so as not to break the atmosphere, but afterwards I wasn’t sure if it was the right decision. Now I feel better about it!
What you said about forsaking the experience for the metaphor is also really interesting to me, and I think almost always a good point. There are times, however, when traveling gets really uncomfortable (like being crammed in a marshrutka for 12 hours) when thinking about the future memory is actually a really helpful tool for getting through the experience! (Also, wishing your stepfather all the best!!)
I agree completely. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling and one of the things I noticed early on was that I was rarely actually present on my day to day travels. It’s something I made a conscious effort to change and have since found more enjoyment, better connections and an all around better trip when I remain in the ‘present moment’.
Thank you for your excellent article.
My travel philosophy is much like yours. Sometimes I just take a day off, or an hour off, and sit in a park or stow my maps and guidebooks and just wander to see what I can see.
One of your best suggestions is to put the camera away for a time.
You reminded me of my visit to the Jain temple Ranakpur in Rajasthan. Here is what I wrote at the time:
“Ranakpur is a shock. I enter the main building and I am stunned. I select a new strategy. I stow my camera. I decide to walk, and to look, and to absorb, and to react. There will time later for the distraction of photography.”
Thank you again. Best to Dan.
Dearest audrey, you spoke from the bottom of my heart and I wish all students abroad in their rush to “do it all” would stop & listen to your wisdom…talk to that audience, pls!!! Anyway, we seem to be dealing with the same issue with our dad’s fading, and I wonder how you embrace your being present with someone who is already far away…did you feel you could bring in your dad into the sharing or was it more one sided encounter? And if so, how does that impact the theory? Does our own pressumtion of our presence in a moment draw in others? You seem to think so, if I read you correctly…can you talk about examples of that…
Excellent post Audrey! These are issues that I am constantly fighting with. It’s also so much harder when you’re a blogger – trying to be fully immersed in the places and experience, and the same time fighting off the urge to take that amazing picture. I always try to be present, but sometimes so difficult if you don’t slow down. Limitiing my itinerary is always a challenge for me too. Have serious FOMO issues. Thanks again for this post, and the reminder to take in the details, the small things and to just be.
Beautiful post! It seems so many people are planning the next stop they forget to enjoy the present. You nailed it.
Audrey, As always powerful words and good advice. I often think about these things and the only word I can come up with is, balance!
Great post, incredibly well written. I wrote something similar recently(and by recently I mean my last post 2 months ago before life stuff made me disappear completely.) I think the main, take away message is to stop rushing to see everything. I barely remember France because it was this whirlwind see everything organized tour, whereas with Japan I might not have gotten to everything I wanted to see, but I remember it much better and more fondly.
I also really like the idea of productive wandering. You might never see what you were making your way over to see, but if you didn’t it’s certainly because you saw something better trying to get there(or it was one of those really, really bad days where nothing goes right.)
It’s part of the reason I chose the travel style I did for my next trip. I’ll be able to make my way somewhere without too much of a rush and see what happens along the way.
PS – I’ve included this post in my monthly round up 🙂
Slowing down can be hard for me sometimes, but it has never been a bad decision when I have. Great article guys!
A heightened awareness is the best reason to travel in my opinion. The new experiences you get during travel combined with the influence of different cultures opens your mind and eyes to so much that you would not be able to experience otherwise.
For some, travel is about seeing 14 countries in 14 days. There’s no way you can be present and mindful about a place, with such an itinerary. Good advice, Audrey.
@Tom: Practicing presentness is does take conscious effort and commitment, but the rewards are worth it as you described.
@Jan: Great note from the Jain temple in Rajasthan. That reminds me of an experience we had at the Jain temple in Bikaner. The guy who took us told us we couldnâ€™t take any photos or record it. At the time we were disappointed, but then we got so caught up in the ceremony – the singing, emotions, spirit – that we completely forgot about the camera. We would have never been able to feel that experience like that if we had been focused on documenting it.
@Lucie: So great to hear from you!! It is certainly hard to resist the urge to try and do it all in a short time, especially when at University age. But once a deep experience does happen due to slowing down and being present, you begin to look for similar experiences that go beyond the checkbox.
Itâ€™s impossible for me to know exactly what was going through my step-fatherâ€™s head or emotions, but I do think that being present does draw in others and itâ€™s a shared experience. My step-father did seem more peaceful, calmer during the experience of just being together while I held or rubbed his hand. Even though itâ€™s difficult to express emotions verbally, those emotions are still there, and it seemed like he internalized when there was anxiety or â€œbusy-nessâ€ around him.
@Merushka: There are always big FOMO issues when traveling, but itâ€™s especially bad as a blogger. Even worse when youâ€™re on a project. Those photos and documentation are really important, but itâ€™s a balance with feeling the story or experience behind it. Weâ€™re still trying to work it out 🙂
@Corinne: Balance is the challenge in so many things in lifeâ€¦
@Rebecca: While on tours itâ€™s especially challenging to find the time to be still and stop. We often will break away from the group for periods of time so that we can just hang out in a park or go to a cafe. But not every tour will allow that. And even when traveling independently itâ€™s difficult to limit the itinerary because. But your experience in Japan shows the benefits of doing so. We always like to say that we leave something on the table each time we leave a placeâ€¦something we want to return and see or do.
@Jeremy: Like so many things in life – hard to do, but when you do it the experience is satisfying. Same thing goes for exercise 🙂
@Heni: Yes, travel certainly brings out a heightened sense of awareness and also perspective. It makes you question assumptions and pushes you to engage in new ways.
@Heather: I got tired just reading the first sentence of your comment!! Canâ€™t even imagine. Glad you enjoyed this!
I don’t want to over-analyze travel. I’vve been to places where I was lucky enough to have connected with several people and the country’s culture and some places I was not. Time may have had something to do with this as well as certain affiliation (flimsy as it may seem) with books and other people you’ve met before the trip.
I agree that there is certainly no fool proof formula or recipe, as it differs from person to person based on previous experience, the place, so many factors. And there are some places that click and other that don’t.
Insightful post Audrey! Being present during a trip can be challenging for some, but with practice, it will be worth it. So many fall victim to their cameras and gadgets that they forget to enjoy what they can see with their very own eyes 😉
Thanks, Marcello! Doing all of this is certainly not easy, but the reward is definitely worth it. We also fall into the traps of devices sometimes, especially with our line of work, but trying to err on the side of putting them down more and more (but still have a snapshot).
Very sorry to hear about your stepfather. It is a horrible condition he is suffering from and undoubtedly all of you around him suffer with him.
Your reflections are perfect. I totally agree with your first no. 2 point. Stop for a moment, stop planning ahead and enjoy the moment. Yes we should plan ahead but if we never stop looking forward we’ll never live in the here and now.
Also a great point about putting the camera or phone down. So many times you see people rush to take a photo and move on. The memories are the pictures they look at in the future rather than the memories in their head which they created with their own eyes.
Thanks for your kind words and thoughts for my step-father. He passed away a week ago and while it wasn’t unexpected, the quick decline at the end was still somewhat shocking. But, he died in peace and without pain – that’s as he would have wanted it.
So agree with the idea that if you never stop looking forward you miss the now. Sometimes hard to do. In fact, really trying to practice this right now 🙂
When observing, paying attention to whatever stands out to you the most and focusing intently on it … it will give you insight to the amazing things that are present in the environment in which you exist at that moment.
Penelope, your comment is spot on! When we’re still and focused on what is around us we often discover things – sounds, smells, feelings – that we never would have noticed if we hadn’t taken the time to observe.
Focus on the present and let go of stress. We don’t live in the past, we don’t live in the future.
Traveling has brought me a lot of new friends, amazing experiences, I learned a lot (and still need to learn more), it also refills my batteries…
Well said. I’ve fallen in the trap of “collecting memories” or living behind the lens before. I’ve even ridden the passport stamps express. Finally, someone asked me how my past trips changed me–and I went blank. Ever since, I’ve tried to live in the present as much as possible. This post really inspires me and re-invigorates this idea.
Rashad, great story regarding the transition that happened after someone asked you how travel changed you. Sometimes it takes a simple question or scenario to shift our thinking. So glad this post helps to support your living and traveling in the present.
I have read your article, and I pretty much agree with it. Also I am very happy that you found this solution.
But to be honest I have come to this conlusion a long time ago. And now I kinda started wondering WHY am I so urged by every inch of my body and mind to travel to very far from where I am now.
The same being in the present and enjoying the moment prectically happens to me every second or third day, Even if I just go out to my old very much boring town’s public park or something (and belive me its really boring after more than 20 years) I can have this peace moment.
When you have this feeling of: not you but actually the world slowing down around you, and you start seeing things actually very regular everyday-like things in a different way. Also actually the present is quite long when you are in it. Partly this is this reason I do not take pictures, and have no camera because to me its a distraction from the moment I experience. (although now I am considering to buy one)
Maybe you have some sort of answer to WHY I want to travel (one can never know)
But nevertheless great discovery what you have made, and I wish you more such moments, just because they are awesome. Also this fits in well into my “Secret Language Theory”
Árpád, great question here. I think one can find peace and be in the moment in a place that we know and are very familiar with for many years. But the urge to travel to a far away place and be present in travel is more about being in stimuli and an environment very different from what we know in order to learn something new. It’s healthy curiosity. When I think of the benefits of being present in travel is that the slowing down and observing allows you to connect with a new place and people, providing more room for learning and discovery.
I wander down streets for its own sake – to see how people live their lives in normal neighbourhoods … that’s how I stay present!
Its a great thing to do sometimes!. Especially if you are at some place else and no one knows you.
Frank, that’s a great way to do it!
You are touching on something that I have been learning over the past few years, and it doesn’t just apply to travel. Most people lament over the electronic devices and “always-connected” lifestyle. The problem is, the inability to be present in the moment has been around for as long as modern man has worried about his job at the Bedrock Stone Quarry.
When on vacation, I like to do simple things. I avoid the tourist destinations for the most part. I would rather sit in a cafe and watch people and experience life through the eyes of people in other cultures. I take time to meditate. Sit on a beach, close my eyes, listen to the noises, feel the wet sand, breathe in the many smells. Thank you for this post.
I couldn’t agree with you more that this doesn’t just apply to travel, but to life in general as we are always feeling the need to be connected and on. While I agree that this problem has been around forever, it seems to have become more difficult in the last years with all the shiny distractions that are around us.
Sounds like you’ve come up with a great way to stay present while on vacation. Meditation is something we are trying to do more of. We’ve also found that going running in a new place in the morning is another way to see a place as more of a local. Thanks for your comment.
I love your tips how to be present when travel, sometimes we forget how to enjoy a new experience and we only focus on capturing it on a device instead of mind.
Carol, glad you enjoyed this piece and the tips. Yes, it is sometimes easy to forget how to be present in a place. That’s why little reminders are helpful to bring perspective again…and perhaps put down the device.
Your enlightening post makes me feel refreshing. Sometimes we focus too much on the travel schedule , arrange too many places to visit . Maybe our everyday fast -paced life mislead us always to finish more ,to reach our destination ASAP. But we neglect those beautiful view en route.
To stop in a place , to reflect ourselves ,to embrace our surroundings, they will bring different feeling to our mind and soul .
Again I really appreciate your post . ^_^
Yes, that’s it. Sometimes in the rush and “busyness” we aren’t able to see what is around us en route to enjoy the journey. And I find that the places that I hold dearest in my heart are those where we did have time to be present and reflect as we connect deeper with that place.