Travelling is way more complex than I ever imagined. I never thought there could be diverse ways of being a traveler when exploring new parts of the world. After experiencing my first month and a half of being a traveler, it was interesting to read Slimbach’s insight into the two different types of travelers. He discussing the distinction between a ‘mindful traveler’ and a ‘carefree drifter’. He says, “Most of us are creatures of habit. Our tendency is to do things – including traveling-related things – on automatic pilot, largely oblivious to the movements themselves or how they impact the world around them (Slimbach 72). This is the trap that many people, especially tourists, fall in to. They are so focused on checking things off a list that they don’t take the time to meet local people, take in the sounds and smells, and wander off the pre-determined path. On the other hand, the mindful traveler is a traveler that one that is always thinking, feeling, acting, and reflecting. They are able to become integrated with their host country by appreciating its differences from their own country. The mindful traveler doesn’t believe that their own country’s ways is any better or worse, but just different. In contrast with the mindful traveler, the carefree drifter is completely unaware to their environment and the impact they are having, or lack thereof. They are more comfortable with travelling to popular places, checking off major monuments, and being around people like them. They do not see the purpose in fully integrating with their host country through reflection, relationships with locals, and exploring things on their own. Slimbach says that in order “to be a ‘mindful traveler’ is to approach our field settings with a level of sensitivity and curiosity that raises our conscious awareness of how we affect the social and natural environments we enter and act upon” (Slimbach 72). It is imperative to not only exist in the new environment, but to be an active participant and consider the impact you are making.
The mindful traveler and the carefree drifter have completely different impacts on the global community. As a class, our definition is that “a global community is comprised of all living things who make up smaller communities that are conjoined by the desire to achieve human rights.” I think as a traveler it is easy to get caught up in your own smaller community at home rather than struggle and work through the liminal phase to find your place in the new smaller community. As the definition states, in the end all the smaller communities have the same value of achieving human rights therefore it is not impossible to become integrated in a new smaller community. Although the communities are connected by human rights, they are also connected by people who make an effort to travel to understand different cultures and people. This is what makes our true global community and it displays the importance of the mindful traveler.
Tying together these smaller communities to become part of a global community is not easy. Channeling Slimbach’s creation of the mindful traveler can be difficult at times. It is easier to stick with what is familiar and routine and harder to step outside of a comfort zone. A way to do this is to consider not what the host country will do for them, but how they can impact their host country in a positive way. Studying abroad should not just be for me to experience Barcelona, but for me to also find a way to make a difference here. To do this I have really made an effort to put myself out there with the local Catalan people which is extremely difficult. Rather just staying with my American and English-speaking friends, I spend time with my language exchange partner and her friends learning more about Barcelona from their perspective. Although this is advantageous for me, it also has given Silvia and her friends a more positive view on Americans than they previously had. She told me that she assumed all Americans studied here as more of a vacation rather than to get to know the people and culture of Barcelona. I can tell that they appreciate that I try to speak Spanish even though it is very basic and that I take an interest in their thoughts, feelings, and knowledge about Barcelona. Even though these girls appreciate my effort to integrate, many locals merely stare at me when I try to speak their language and don’t respond. Mindful traveling is not always easy, but when it is an amazing feeling when it pays off.
This is a picture of the the Diada de Catalunya which is a huge parade and day where the locals celebrate their hopeful independence from Spain. It represents the mindful traveler because a normal traveler would be so focused on seeing the main tourist attractions of Barcelona such as Parc Guell or Sagrada Familia than going to a local festival. Becoming immersed in the local culture is an imperative step to being a mindful traveler.