Travel Log 6: “The Mindful Traveler” By Alexandra Borges. Cardiff, Wales

It’s already that time again, the week is coming to a close. It’s amazing that it’s already October. I think that there is a lot that can be said about the reading on “the mindful traveler” as well as reflected upon. You know, being at the peak of our youth and having the opportunity to travel, to see the world from a different view, is something that not everyone gets to do. Sometimes we may take that for granted because American and other 1st world countries provide this cushion that even the middle-low class can lean on. I’m not saying that it’s any better or worse than any other country out there, I’m just saying that even we have more than others. When it comes to traveling I think it’s really easy for Americans, let alone students to not consciously grasp that traveling for educational purposes is to experience the life of the country not living it up in the host country. Basically, it’s not a vacation it’s a one in a lifetime experience that if you allow it to, will teach you a variety of things about the host country, the culture, the differences between your home country and host, and ultimately about yourself and the way you live.

Becoming a “mindful traveler” rather than a “carefree drifter” is an important differentiation that Slimbach points out to us. In this reading I believe the key factors that distinguish one from the other is essential to reflection this week. Slimbach says,”We recognize our  tendency to romanticize, rather than actually befriend and “neighbor” the stranger” (Slimbach, p.88). Often we feel more comfortable with what we find the familiar yet, never entertain the idea to reach beyond our comfort zone. The best way to put this from the way I understand this is that this would be the result of failing to integrate into your host country and being able to overcome the lIminoid stage. Not being open enough to the wonders that surround us. However, the same goes for someone who is too busy with trying to see everything they can, which brings them to live up to the “tourist” name. Being a “mindful traveler” means having a balance between being immersed in the community and culture around you, but not to the point where one loses sight of the whole purpose of being in a different country. Therefore, as Slimbach says, “if we are willing to maintain a principled openness to …native populations can present us with rare opportunities to discover practical wisdom and vital spiritual resources for cultivating a deeper, richer sense of self” (Slimbach, p. 92). If we choose the latter path of which he speaks of we are able “to join local residents in pursuing insight and wholeness as a natural response to the spirit of life” (Slimbach, p.92). I sometimes feel that falling into this “tourism” behavior is like as if we are viewing these people not as people but an exhibit to watch in amazement. I think tourist forget that these people are people just like them work and living day-to-day to provide for their families. People just get caught in the moment, they don’t know how to properly use the freedom they have when they leave their homes behind to travel. I think that being young and on our own in the world we are more susceptible to this behavior. It’s easier to falling into stride with everyone else or completely ignore the people and just enjoy the sites. What I believe Slimbach is saying is that the whole experience of traveling and/or living abroad is about a give and take approach in learning from the new culture, people, and country as a whole and not singling out one thing specifically.

Which brings us to global community. At the beginning of it all (this course), we came up with a working definition for global community. It is as follows, global community is composed of all living things  who make up smaller communities that are conjoined by the desire to achieve human rights. In retrospect to what I’ve experienced and to what Slimbach has shared I think that this definition might need to be altered just a bit. I feel as though this definition doesn’t take into account the choices and consequences that affect different communities. In an ideal world yes the working definition would be fine, but I don’t think we realize that although we all work toward a common “interest” it doesn’t always have the same outcome. We said human rights, just this week my professor and his daughters were verbally threatened, almost physically, because of the religion they believed in just for my professor asking if the couple could not vulgarly kiss like they were in front of his 3, 5, and 7-year-old daughters. They were giggling, they didn’t know or think anything of it. How does someone’s religion have anything to do with public decency. This is in Wales, a modern country, 1st world country, can you imagine how it is in 3rd world countries. If we can only guarantee human rights in some countries and not others then how is it a common goal. Also, if we do guarantee it, at what cost do others have to pay in order for only some countries to be even able to attain such freedom? I don’t know, maybe I’m just looking at things too closely, but one thing for sure is that even Slimbach points out that what we do individually, as a community, has an effect on the entire world on a global scale. I think often times people who travel abroad don’t realize that they not only represent themselves, but their country and community as well.

So, in saying as much there are steps that I have and will continue to take in order to think like and be a “mindful traveler”. First and foremost I will actually be traveling this weekend within my home country. I will be traveling to North Wales, Snowdonia. For those of you who don’t know I am actually taking a course to learn Welsh, which is spoken in Wales, predominantly in North Wales. In North Wales, I and a group of people will be hiking Mt. Snowdon, there’s a lot of rich history to learn from Mt.Snowdon. I am looking forward to listening and speaking the language with native speakers as well as get the feel for the differences between the North and South regions of Wales. It’s my belief from what I understood of what Slimbach was saying in order to be a “mindful traveler” you must have balance. Go and experience the country, its history, its people, and its culture, but don’t get so lost as to lose sight of what you originally sought out to do, which is to learn and understand from your experiences and discoveries in a place new to you, to grow as a person. I think a lot of people get caught up trying to see everything and go everywhere. Find somewhere you really would like to visit and learn from that experience, what new knowledge have you gained, what new and lasting memories have you made?

Snowdonia by Marian Jones

Snowdonia by Marian Jones

This is a picture of Snowdonia and in the back you can see Mt. Snowdon (hopefully if the weather holds I will take some of my own). I think that this best describes mindful thinking because within one’s host country you can’t learn everything from locals, history, or visiting tourist sites; you have to experience the country. You have to experience it with a clear and sound mind, don’t rush to go everywhere. Had I not decided to go and explore other places outside of Cardiff, how would I have actually said and thought that experienced the country. Your host country is more than the city in which you stay in. Most of these countries are 100s of years old, more so than America, to not go and learn about and from their rich history is a if you went on a very long boring 4 month vacation in which you stayed in the city and did touristy things. If you want to get the most out of your experience and truly want to understand the people, culture, and the country in which you are in, you have to put yourself out there and be willing to learn and experience new things. This picture holds wonder, wisdom, and curiosity, but it also has a feeling of peace. I feel that this is a new discovery, adventure, and experience waiting to unfold and add another piece to this chapter in my life.


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