On some occasions, we go through our days on autopilot– coffee-deprived and half awake. Dangerously, this extends to our vacation days in what I’d like to call the “tourist frenzy”: pack, leave, see the sights, eat, sleep, repeat. Add in a lot of excitement and you have a recipe for mind-numbing restlessness. I know I’ve experienced this and in my frenzy to see it all, I’m left dissatisfied, disconnected, and unfulfilled. Is there another mindset we can adopt? How do we become more conscious travellers?
During our Muni Meetup on Travel & Truth last April 22 at Z Hostel, we invited three young nomads to share how they travel mindfully and the purpose/meaning they seek on their journeys. This is what our featured guests had to say:
April Cuenca: A Shift in Mindset
For April Cuenca, co-founder and CEO of fliptrip.ph, travel changes when you connect with the community. One time, she was hiking in the rainforest with the chief of the Mal-os tribe who had invited them to visit his village. While it took them seven hours to get there, April loved discovering little bits of the chieftain’s life as the stories unfolded naturally along the trail.
Various spots held different significance– one spot was where he watched the battle during World War II and another where he stole a rifle from an American. He showed them this very same rifle when they reached his house.
Knowing these kinds of stories helps us see these places not just as tourist destinations but, as April says, as someone’s home. This mindset then becomes a path for us to travel with more purpose. “If you google it, you’ll get so many guidelines […] but it really comes down to that: valuing somebody else’s home like it would be your friend’s home and learning about the way that they live,” said April.
However, once we have grown to respect and care for the places, communities, and people we have come across, we’re left with a burning question: is this where the journey ends? What else can I do?
Guido Sarreal: Taking it to the Next Level
Guido Sarreal, co-founder of Kawil Tours, Trail Adventours, and Culture Shock PH, offers a suggestion. For him, mindful travellers are those who are aware and are involved. One way of being so, Guido says, is by actively questioning and asking more of, not only ourselves, but various travel businesses and institutions as well.
He shares his observations with the changes in Mt. Pulag. The number of climbers since the 1990s has significantly increased, and this can be alarming. While the mountain can only sustain around 200 climbers, the number often balloons to 500.
Guido’s solution? “Remind people who are in the industry of their responsibilities, of their promises,” he says. We can help these travel developers be aware of and tackle these various issues by questioning their services and giving constructive feedback. Guido then encourages us to be brave, take a stand, and come up with solutions which can then be proposed to the LGUs.
Hannah Reyes: Stillness in Motion
While translating caring into action is a part of mindful travel, sometimes it’s really just about slowing down. “It [travel] was about finding understanding and stillness in a landscape that was different from my own and not about counting how many countries and famous landmarks I had been to,” said Hannah Reyes, a travel photographer for National Geographic and Ruom Collective.
Hannah reminds us that sometimes we just need to purposefully draw our attention back to the present moment, and to enjoy and savor what is before us with respect and a whole lot of gratitude.
Hannah shares: “[…] if you think about travel and about flight, these are things that would have been impossible if I was in another time or another place. It was because of sitting beside her [lola] as she marvelled at what was out there, just like I had done when I was a little girl and looking through mom’s National Geographic magazines, that I remember what a privilege and miracle travel truly is.”
With gratitude comes an awareness of the uniqueness of travelling and its consequences. Mindful travel is simply the recognition that wherever we are in the world, and whomever we meet, our actions become a part of the fabric of each other’s lives. That can mean taking the time to get to know the people, their stories, and their community or tackling pressing issues and providing tangible solutions.
But at the end of the day, we can see that there are different ways to travel more mindfully.
What will yours be?