Conscious Slow Travel
Being conscious means being aware and consciously choosing elements in your life that are nourishing for the soul. It becomes important to have this for a sense of control as well as for a sense of being a flow, a sense of trust in nature. Personal and spiritual growth is a journey that lasts throughout our lives, but travelling can expose us to the opportunity to fasten some learning. Almost like going to the next level of a video game. You gain certain skills, life tools that help us move forward in this journey. Last few years of travelling has led to many journeys outside of my hometown Delhi and inward journeys too. A journey of understanding my self better, developing a more conscious me and adopting a few habits while travelling that I feel have led to personal growth. Here are some key things that I always keep in mind while travelling that has made it more spiritual:
Take the public transport, Talk to the local people, Smile at them. Learn a few words and phrases of the local language to connect with them better. The biggest inspiration to travel is to experience out of the ordinary everyday life to understand a different perspective and culture. Educate yourself about other ways of developing and understanding life. When I visited South India last year, I realised that people had a simpler life compared to people in north India. Small efforts like walking to the vegetable market instead of a motor vehicle is a very common thing in south India no matter what strata of the society you belong to. Picking up certain habits from other cultures, even small food habits helps in personal growth as it's a conscious decision you make for a life better. The friends I make while travelling, I make a point to keep in touch. I like the cosmopolitan approach to life where I feel like I am a global nomad with not a restricted cultural identity. The connection between travelling and understanding the local ways helps us shed the cultural boundaries thus bringing us closer. One learns to let go of judgements when learns to accept differences in cultures.
When travelling, I always go grocery shopping and cook a meal for myself? An exercise to indulge all my senses. engaging in an activity bring us to focus on the present. Like an old India saying: ' What makes the man is the food he eats ', hence, to understand a culture, food is a big component. Shopping for local vegetables, fruits, bread and dairy makes me happy. Sit next to a window in a cafe and sip a local tea or coffee. Do it every day of travel. Sitting in a cafe looking out of a window I notice small things, the routine things of the local people. After many years of visiting a place, I don't really remember the details of certain things but I do remember the vibe of the place, and this is a great opportunity to connect to a place.
Be close to nature, take walks. If you are an adventure traveller or a city tourist, either way, there is no better way to explore. Hike, Enjoy the rain, Sit in a park, Watch a flowing river or Listen to hustling trees. Nature has all the answers we need. Usually, my trips are a combination of different landscapes with always a city and some countryside.
Carry a journal and pen down all that you feel. From little details to lists, write them all down. Take pictures, not just of yourself but of the city. Be curious, I usually give my self a creative project when travelling. It increases my power to observe. During my travels in Italy, I tried to capture the various doors and windows of Venice, Milan and Verona. It was a creative burst almost when I went around looking for details, colours, textures. It increases my excitement of the travel as well as gave me a tangible memory. Collect mementoes. Shop local, bring small things that remind you of small moments or of a place. I always bring a leaf. flower, a book and a journal from everywhere I go.
TAKE A LEARNING HOLIDAY
Engage in arts, literature, language, music, dance. I recently took a pottery vacay in Himachal Pradesh, India and last year learnt to tie and dye in Jaipur. I feel touch has a lot to do with therapy. Pottery clay is earth, an element of nature, being close to that for a long period focusing all senses to creating something, makes us forget all that our mind holds. It teaches a lot of the way nature works, the creation and recreation, the forms that we can give that our in our control. even the need to talk becomes less. A similar experience happened when I visited the Osho meditation centre in Pune. Even though I attended a day's program, I learnt about dance meditation, a simple activity that brings us to the present and somehow the experience teaches us to be in a flow. A new skill helps us focus and gives us the power to create.
GO TECH FREE
Even though travelling nowadays means using apps on your phone all the time, I think practising silence a couple of times in a day to reflect, introspect can really help growth. Listen more. Read. I usually am reading 4-5 books at one time. All of the different subjects keep me curious. Awareness with all senses involved is sort of meditation. I remember a day before going to Pondicherry, my smartphone stopped working. I transferred my sim card to a 90's Nokia phone which only allowed a text message. Initially, I was a bit worried about not having all my contacts. emails handy, but I have to say after the 3-day trip I felt cleansed. I realised that the very important calls could still be made, and I was letting go of all the extra digital information that subconsciously I was always taking in, thus cluttering my mind. This constant need to check my phone went after a day which let me enjoy the present moment so much more. I actually documented all my notes in a journal rather than an app.
Sitting in a cafe once in San Francisco I met up with someone who was curious to know what I was drawing in my journal. I told him I was an artist who was travelling solo. We got talking, never really exchanged any personal information. I realised while talking to him I was being who I wanted to be. It put me in a position with no baggage to behave like a certain someone. I realised I was being more of a person who I aspired to be that the person who I thought I was. This exercise made me realise that I could be whoever I wanted to be with the change in perception. I was saying and doing things that I wanted to do and a sudden shift in confidence was apparent which is motivating for oneself to be more of that. When one is with a familiar set of people, subconsciously we have similar actions and reactions, leading to similar results and self-image. In a new surrounding, meeting someone new who knows nothing about me, gave me a chance to be an improved version of myself. That shift only came because of this encounter. Usually, with a friend, I would not introduce myself as an artist but a consultant which is my day job. But I felt more confident of calling myself an artist with more possibility of acceptance in some way. This was a conscious moment for me as I realised I resonate more with the new self than the old one. Hence a great exercise to know yourself.
I usually plan about 50% of my travels and always leave room for things that I might want to do impromptu. A road trip to LA from SF and a train journey from Paris to Brussels were some of the recent spontaneous things I did while travelling. It increases self-confidence and trust in oneself and life that one has surprises waiting without any fears of going wrong as well as having an explorer's attitude that if plan A doesn't work, one has a plan B while having the attitude of moving with the flow. I think this attitude is true to everything in life and not just travelling. Travelling becomes a teacher and an exam as well, but trusting life and moving forward is a skill that one can have anywhere and it has helped me as a person reducing anxiety and fear.
In summers I usually wear linens and cotton and avoid all kind of synthetic materials. Usually a comfortable pair of slippers( Birkenstocks) as handy. For winters, my layered big jacket with some shawls and uggs. I try to pack light and avoid over accessorising. Key is being comfortable and confident in your skin without having the trouble to follow a fashion trend. I see that how we dress, the colours, materials have a direct effect on how we feel, hence dressing for the weather and for the activities helps us focus on the experience. An explorers attitude has a lot to do with the attire/ the uniform of the explorer!
Stretch, breathe and smile!
KEY TAKE AWAY
Connect - Disconnect, Attach - detach, escape - immerse, Be mindful and mindless, Belong and Be a Nomad!