Travel Log #6: “The Mindful Traveler” Kathleen Flynn. Florence, Italy

The difference between the ‘mindful traveler’ and the ‘carefree drifter’ is that the latter is not aware of the impact that their stay has on the country they are visiting. A ‘carefree drifter’ simply goes through the motions of traveling, even if it is “shallow and trifling,” while a ‘mindful traveler’ has a “conscious awareness” in everything they do while abroad (Slimbach, 85). The result is that the ‘mindful traveler’ not only brings home greater experiences and understanding that helps them grow as a person, but they leave behind a positive impact on the host community as well. To be a ‘mindful traveler’ means that a person is so sensitive to the social and natural environments of the place of stay that they can see how their actions affect even just staying a hotel for example. Since being in Florence I am constantly questioning how the locals think of me from the way I speak or act. Sometimes I wonder if they really even care at this point since this city is so full of tourists, and has been for a while. Either way I have tried to respect the locals by speaking Italian as much as possible or not being loud during the city’s quiet. However, until reading this chapter I never thought about how I may be affecting the natural environment of Florence. In general, Italy has very few natural resources and I can only imagine how much energy all of us American students abroad consume since we are used to an unlimited supply at home. Even further, we are taking away from the people who have lived here their whole lives and of course this does not leave the city with a positive impact upon leaving.

These concepts relate to our working definition of “global community” because we described it as “a shared living space of interdependent individuals endowed with universal human rights, while choosing to act upon them, embracing differences and working towards a common goal.” This describes a community comtaining ‘mindful travelers’ more than ‘carefree drifters’ though, because only ‘mindful travelers’ are able to consciously share the living space with the rest of the community while the ‘drifters’ would use the space without any awareness that there is a larger community out there. I think that our working definition of a “global community” hits almost all key points including “shared living space” and “working towards a common goal,” but after reading this chapter I might describe the individuals as conscious and selfless too. Furthermore, I do think that ‘mindful traveling’ is a key characteristic of intentional participants of the global community. ‘Mindful traveling’ and intentionally participating in the global community go hand-in-hand. As said by Slimbach, “travel is a school for life, one that generates fresh insights and unforgettable memories” (Slimbach, 75). Personally, one of the biggest reasons I decided to study abroad was to experience and participate in the in the larger community outside of my national one in America. This would not be possible if I was not mindful of my actions abroad. Like I said previously, I think that respecting the local culture and being conscious of customs such as saying a greeting or farewell when going into a shop help us to “embrace the differences” of the global community. Also, I will try to cut down my footprint while I’m here in Italy and “share the living space” better with the rest of the community. If they have to monitor the amount of water or electricity they use, so should I.

I recently hiked the beautiful coast of Cinque Terre where five small cities have been carefully preserved since the date of their construction. When visiting a place like this that is so unique and amazing it made me really happy to see the way that everyone takes care of it. Thousands of tourists visit Cinque Terre a year, and besides the flattened trail that carves through the jagged coast and cities, everyone has respected this national park enough to carry their trash in and out; the natural land around it left untouched. As I embark on this “sojourn experience” I hope to minimize my impact on the environment here and be careful to pick up and properly dispose of my trash as well as others.

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One thought on “Travel Log #6: “The Mindful Traveler” Kathleen Flynn. Florence, Italy

  1. Kathleen, the energy consumption we use while abroad is something I question frequently as well. Especially since back at QU we are able to leave the lights on all night long and could run the sink all night long and not even get in trouble (however it’s very bad idea because it’s bad for the environment). I always made sure to take short showers and turn the lights off whenever I left a room or was not using the electricity. I know that these utilities are very expensive in Barcelona and my roommates and I had to train ourselves to understand this concept when we first arrived and settled in our apartment.

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