The summer is upon us, and for a lot of us that means travel, or at the very least, some change in our daily routine. Whether this comes from going on holiday, getting time off work, having more work, children being home from school, or simply a change in the temperature and the length of daytime, most of us will find that our routine shifts somewhat. This can make it difficult to stick to certain habits, for instance, meditation. I therefore dedicate this post to my own practice during my travels. And maybe it will help you with your own practice, if and when you find your daily routine disturbed.
- Work with your environment, not against it. When I went to Malta, I found myself waking up earlier than usual to catch the good sun, and to spend the morning at the beach. As per my usual meditation habit, I planned to practice before leaving the house. However, I found the morning to be a hectic time, the apartment I was staying in was too hot, and I just wanted to head out and get to the beach as early as possible. So I decided to do a meditation session at the beach instead. Listening to the waves coming and going, touching the sand underneath my feet and legs, watching the pebbles on the ocean floor, and feeling the rays of the morning sun on my back and shoulders only enhanced my practice. I learned to work with the environment and the time that I had, and found that it was actually a better experience than if I would have stuck to my usual routine of meditating as soon as I woke up.
- Work with the people around you, instead of isolating yourself. When you go on holiday, you are also less likely to find yourself alone. I live alone, so I am used to meditating wherever and whenever I want, with nobody around to distract me. However, we rarely travel alone (kudos to you if you do!), and so we end up sharing apartments and hotel rooms abroad with friends, family, or partners. If your travel companions wake up later than you, you may enjoy a morning meditation in peace, but this is not always the case. To maintain your own practice, however, it is important that you take some time for yourself. You can achieve this by asking your friends to give you some alone time, waking up before them, meditating while they do other activities, or finding a place where you can be alone without getting disturbed (e.g., rooftop, hotel prayer room, balcony), but also without disturbing your friends, who are also enjoying their holiday. In an ideal scenario, you can even ask your friends to join you in a short meditation session, without forcing it upon them!
- Work with the tools that you have, and adapt if necessary. If you are used to following a guided meditation on YouTube, but find yourself without a computer on holiday, try meditating with background meditation music, with an app (I use The Mindfulness App, but there are many others you can try), or indeed attempt an unguided meditation to see how you progress. Use the sounds around you – the waves, the birds, the wind, the voices, the cars – and incorporate them into your practice. Try different meditation techniques that suit your current environment. In a quiet space, focus on your breath and bring your attention back to the breath when the mind wanders. On the beach, allow yourself to attend to the waves, and let their rhythm calm you and keep you grounded in your present time and place. Near the ocean, meditate using four pebbles from the water, imagining a flower, a mountain, still water, and space. Adapt the time and duration of your meditation practice as needed, as well as your posture and position, depending on what time and space is available to you.
- Work with the time you have, instead of trying to fit everything in. When we travel, we often want to explore, visit many places, try different foods, and see all the parts of a country. Maybe you find yourself spending most of your time on a plane, bus, or train. If this is the case, these modes of transportation can actually be great places to meditate. You are already seated, but it helps to be mindful about your posture, to stay relaxed but alert. Even while travelling, you can explore a variety of meditation techniques, such as focusing on your breath, listening to sounds and voices come and go, repeating a mantra in your head, or simply noticing your body flow with the movement of the vehicle you are in. Indeed, one of the most interesting experiences for me while travelling was meditating on a rocking boat. I felt relaxed, yet awake, and simply concentrated on staying in the present moment. The waves moving the boat are also a perfect reminder for your practice – if you fight against the motion of the boat, you will lose your balance, but if you let your body flow with the rocking, you remain grounded and present.
- Work with the activities you do, and incorporate mindfulness in everything. Are you hiking while on holiday? Try a walking meditation, focusing on your breathing, your steps, and your feet touching the ground, as well as your surroundings and the sensations that come and go. Are you camping? Meditate in nature, meditate on the image of the campfire, meditate on the image of a flower, and allow yourself to be physically grounded. Are you eating new and exotic foods? Eat mindfully, looking at the food, smelling the food, touching the food, tasting the food, and experiencing the food.
The most important thing for keeping up with your practice when travelling (or simply in a new environment, when you are busy, or when you find your daily routine disturbed) is to stay committed to yourself and to your practice, make the time and the space that you need, adapt to your situation and environment in a mindful way, and incorporate mindfulness, gratitude, and patience in your day-to-day routine.
What helps you stay committed to your practice? Feel free to comment on this post to discuss!