Being a mindful traveler is essential to immersing yourself into the study abroad experience. Slimbach highlighted three main topics that really eclipse being a mindful traveler, social mindfulness, ecological mindfulness, and spiritual mindfulness.
Social mindfulness is realizing the effect of having an outside culture in a foreign country and immersing yourself within their culture to seamlessly walk side by side with them. Social mindfulness revolves around not simply being in the community unnoticed but becoming part of the community, actually contributing and assimilating with the locals.”Mindful global learning aspires to narrow the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’ strengthening the bond of understanding and legitimate respect between strangers.”(Slimbach 87 ) This has been a little more difficult than I expected as the language barrier proves to be much more of a hinderance than I expected, although my Spanish classes have been going well. I have made friends with a group of Italians and Portuguese kids, although this is not assimilating into the culture of Spain it is quite interesting to assimilate with other outsiders journeying to become mindful travelers.
Ecological mindfulness is appreciating the impact on the ecology and economy of the host country. It may take you $50,000 to travel and stay in Spain while that $50,000 could feed an entire Spanish family for a year. The emissions of traveling, pollution, and social pollution that tourism causes negatively impacts the natives a lot. Assimilating yourself into the culture and creating the least amount of negative impact is essential. Spiritual mindfulness is disregarding the “Been there done that” mindset and appreciating the spiritual and cultural parts of the country you are visiting, instead of feeding your spirit of conquest rather feed your insightfulness and appreciation.
The highest level of traveler is a mindful traveler, as I travel to surrounding countries I realize the difference between a mass tourist or drifter and the mindful traveler I am in Spain. Last weekend my group of friends here attended Spain, we ran around the city seeing every tourist attraction taking pictures and eating at the tourist restaurants while searching for english speakers wherever we went to navigate us. We were essentially simply seeing Paris for its tourist attractions and not appreciating the deeper culture. During our next trips we will be doing a few things to quickly become as mindful as possible in our new countries, for one we will be staying in Airbnb’s with hosts that can help show us what the locals do, and how to really get a glimpse of the other countries culture.
I plan to move from the carefree drifter stage to the complete mindful traveler stage by engaging more with the locals, I have set up meetings with my program coordinator to meet a local who needs an english tutor while they can help me better learn Spanish. In addition my group of friends have been branching out from the traditional American bars and social activities and assimilating with locals at the more traditional meeting places. This week we attended a Spanish carnival and had one of the best days/nights that I have had since I landed. We mingled with locals, tried traditional food, learned about their culture and why they celebrate carnival and really expanded our view on Spain, it was truly an eye opening experience. I have attached a picture of me and my friend at the Carnavale wearing masks, it was quite overwhelming and packed with locals, the blurry background with the dancers showing just how fast this whole trip is going and how we truly have to appreciate each one of these expeirences. Today I am attending festivals for the local holiday for Saint Aulia, the patron saint of Barcelona, luckily my Barcelona history classes have taught me a lot about the holiday and I will not be going in clueless. There is a water fountain show, a small parade, and lots of festival style activities, it should be a blast.