Living in Europe thus far has continued to be surreal. I wake up in a foreign country everyday thinking about how lucky I am to have been given this experience. Europe’s geography has given me the opportunity to travel to 5 countries so far in my trip due to ease of travel. I’ve gotten to experience many cultures and sights that I would be blind to without this opportunity. But whether or not I have been a mindful traveler or a carefree drifter thus far is a bit of a toss up.
In Slimbach’s texts, he discusses two types of travelers: the mindful traveler and the carefree drifter. We must consider that to be mindful is “to consider why, how, and with what effect we do what we do” (Slimbach, 74). A mindful traveler takes into account his actions while traveling and how his actions have affected the local culture or individuals in that area. Slimbach discusses that mindful travelers “ 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, 74). On the other hand, carefree drifters are those that don’t really take into account their effect on their surroundings. They’re in the host country to see the sights and only acknowledge the effect of their actions on themselves. In a global community, it is important, now more than ever, that one be able to see the effect they have on a country when they travel. Our working definition of a global community, “a community comprised of all living things who make up smaller communities that are conjoined by the desire to achieve human rights”, emphasizes the fact that all communities have an effect on one another. While the wording of this definition addresses a major concept, it also misses out on the fact that achieving human rights is not the main thing that conjoins all of these communities; the interactions between people, mindful travelers and locals are what connects us. It is for that reason that being a mindful traveler is absolutely a key characteristic of intentional participants of the global community. It is worth noting, however, that it isn’t always easy to be a mindful traveler. Sometimes you can really just get caught up in all the sights and the newness of everything surrounding you that you just go about your business without any regard for your affect on others. I think this comes with time and experience. These trips abroad for all of us are just stepping stones towards becoming mindful travelers in the global community.
So far in Barcelona I think I’ve been a moderate mindful traveler. I take into account the various forms of mindfulness that Slimbach discusses, including economic, cultural and social mindfulness. I find that I am very economically mindful. For example, I always search for all of the locally owned stores when shopping for anything. I just got my haircut in a small barbershop that I’ve seen locals walk into. I go to the smaller owned markets rather than the larger chains. For all of my bread-type purchases I always head to one of the local bakeries. I’m aware that the economic situation in Spain isn’t the greatest at the current moment, and I want to be able to help out the locals in my surrounding area as much as possible. I’d much rather give my business to a small mom and pop store as opposed to a financially secure chain. And most of the time shopping at those places is more rewarding. Recently I was heading back from class on a different path than usual and ran across a bagel store. I was excited because bagels are actually quite difficult to come by in Spain. I went in the store, met the friendly owner, and ordered one of the specialty bagels. I’ve been going back to that store nearly every day after class. The owner already knows my regular order, and has even been helping me with my Spanish (I’ve been trying to order in Spanish and my accent has been pretty terrible). This goes to show that breaking routine can lead to awesome experiences!
The image I chose is a quote by St. Augustine that reads “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” It is the same quote that Slimbach chose to use in his book. Why? Because I believe that it is still extremely important to travel in life. When people are traveling though, they should think of this book as having chapters from various points of view – one may be their own point of view, but they should also consider what the other chapter written by a local in the host country “wrote.”