There are so very many important things to remember and to consider while traveling abroad, but there is one main thing that I have found to be the absolute most important thing to have the most worthwhile experience, and that is to be a “mindful traveler”. The problem is that becoming a “mindful traveler” is much easier said than it is done. As Slimbach says in Becoming World Wise, when studying abroad, “global learning often becomes more about [the student” (Slimbach, pg.79). Students studying abroad often feel that the experience is about being different from their surroundings, standing out, and distinguishing themselves. This is exactly the opposite of being a “mindful traveler”. To be a “mindful traveler” one must truly immerse themselves in the new environment that they have been placed in. A “mindful traveler” realizes the impact that they have on their surroundings, as well as the impact that their surroundings are having on them. As Slimbach writes, the “mindful traveler” has an “intentional awareness” (Slimbach, pg.74). This means that this type of traveler knows what they are doing it, how they are doing it, and what affects their actions have. Also, they are paying close attention to not just major landmarks and obvious sights, but small things going on in their new location. This is the big difference between a “mindful traveler” and a “carefree drifter” or a “mass tourist”. A “carefree drifter” or a “mass tourist” simply goes with the flow in a new place. Not caring to try to fit in or appreciate the cultural, social, or economic differences in their new place.
Ever since I have been abroad in Barcelona, I have truly tried to become a “mindful traveler”. Although I am obviously still working on it, there are many times that I do feel I am successful in this. For example, this past week I took a different route to class just to see what else was around my apartment and the school that I had not notices yet. During this walk, I discovered a beautiful spice shop. In the shop, they sold every spice imaginable for prices that were ridiculously low. They had curry, sea salt, and even raw and natural nuts and legumes. I went up to the counter to speak with the woman about the shop because I was so impressed and quickly discovered that she did not speak English. I spoke with her in the best possible Spanish I could and she was overjoyed at my effort and even complimented me on how well I was doing. I bought many spices from her and promised to come back. To me, this was one example of being a mindful traveler.”Mindful traveling” is a key characteristic of intentional participants of the global community. Just through one change in a normal walking pattern that all students take to school I found a local spice shop and even made a new friend in the process. Being aware of your surroundings and straying from the norm of other abroad students to find more local places can have so many benefits.
As a class, our definition of a global community was, “A global community is comprised of all living things who make up smaller communities that are conjoined by the desire to achieve human rights.” After having been abroad for a little over a month, I have learned that there is much more to a global community. Although everyone in a global community does want to achieve human rights, without a personal connection to other people in vastly different places, we are easily unaware of the situations that other people are in. Slimbach writes that through educational travel, “everything may appear much more complex and less cut-and-dried than before” (Slimbach, pg.94). Slimbach is saying that when people are “mindful travelers” they are able to discover much more about a place than was obvious before. I think that people in different places may see human rights as different things and with different variations. Without educational travel, all people will never be able to agree on what these human rights really look like because they do not know other peoples different cultures and outlooks on the world.
The picture I have chosen is one that my friend took of me while I was overlooking the view of Barcelona while on a ferris wheel on Mount Tibidabo. This picture shows my emotions because I am so happy and blessed to be taking in every moment I spend in Barcelona. I am being a “mindful traveler” by enjoying every single second I get to spend here and trying to take in every little detail I possibly can. Also, it shows my thoughts because I am always pondering how I can make my experience more meaningful and the more mindful of a traveler I am able to become the more meaningful my experience in Barcelona will be. Lastly, it shows the behaviors I am taking to become a more “mindful traveler” because I am trying to embrace every part of Barcelona and become as much a part of Barcelona as I possibly can be.