Our family just returned from a worldview-expanding trip to Montreal. In my post-vacation afterglow, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of mindful travel. We bring aspects of mindfulness into our everyday lives, but do we include this when we go on vacation? If we do, we are bound to marinate in the wonder of the moment, make real connections with people, imprint the memories through our senses and capture mental snapshots that will last a lifetime. Because living mindfully is now a “built-in” state for me, I feel fortunate that I get to experience life in this rich, full way.
When we bring our attention to the present moment, we don’t miss anything. We feel awake and alive because our senses are engaged. We notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations in a completely comprehensive way. Therefore, we imprint the moment into permanent memories because we lock in the sensation of the experience with our whole body, not just with our cameras.
My family was so impressed with the Jean Talon open market, we went there twice. It is one of the largest open markets in North America. As we wandered around for the second time, I kept running into this woman. I paused to notice her. She blew my mind! Navigating this market by herself with a walker that doubled as a way to hang her purchases on little silver hooks. Just take a moment and admire her silver tennis shoes. We sat in an open table section and enjoyed our picnic lunch with an assortment of delicious market finds and we saw her pass us multiple times. She met up with a few others her age and passed the bags of produce off to a man who we hypothesized may have taken them to their vehicle, then she would scurry off and enter the market again and load up. She did this about 4 times while we were sitting there! I loved how she seemed limitless. How nothing stopped her from doing what she wanted to do. I felt a sense of excitement each time she appeared again – like a feeling of victory for her agility and spirit. She made a profound impact on me, because I was mindfully awake. And even though we never spoke, I felt a strong sense of connection to her.
On our way to the airport, we made another interesting connection with our uber driver. We asked her if she was from Montreal and she told us a fascinating story of her life as a Canadian immigrant from Kazakhstan. She said “I look Asian, but I’m not. I speak Russian, French, English and my native language of Kazakhstan too. My daughter looks Mexican so people try to speak Spanish to her. I cannot return to my homeland and yet even though I’ve lived here for 10 years, I don’t really identify as a Canadian either.” She said “language and traditional food anchor a person to their cultural heritage so never lose your connection to those things.” She also told us it’s too expensive to return home and not as secure as it used to be, so over the years, she continues to lose her sense of connections to her extended family back home. In that moment I felt her pain. Her sense of being a person without a country. A deep sense of being both incredibly multinational and yet not belonging to any one nation. For all of her sense of loneliness and isolation, her presentation was the complete opposite – light, cheerful and effervescent. This made me think a lot about gratitude. This woman made a choice to be grateful. She seems to choose to focus on what she has versus what she doesn’t. Instead of focusing on scarcity, she lives in abundance.
I love living mindfully awake and aware. It helps me feel a sense of joy that I might otherwise miss if I weren’t in a mindful state. I also love travel for all the ways it inspires me. Seeing beautiful things is part of it, but seeing beauty in people is all of it.