Many individuals wait their whole lives to travel the world, keeping an extensive collection of destinations, photographs, and landmarks in which they hope to one-day reach. People typically tend to see the grass being greener on the other side, always anticipating their arrival to a specified dreamland. However, these dreams solely focus on themselves, imagining the excitement and wonder in which their temporary escape from reality will be filled with. This is what creates for the ‘carefree drifter’ or the ‘mass tourist’, having a one-track mind that is evidently self-centered.
Westerners’, especially Americans, sadly take things for granted. We do not ‘stop to smell the roses’. If we have something to do, somewhere to be, or a conversation to be had, it is very systematic. We live in a world that is run on practical terms of efficiency and time. Slimbach explains this phenomenon in the following quote, “Most of us are creatures of habit. Our tendency is to do things—including travel-related things—on automatic pilot, largely oblivious to the movements themselves and how they impact the world around us” (2010, p. 74). Because of this, the true benefits of travel become fogged behind our tunnel vision of what we believe traveling should entail. The ‘carefree drifter’ does just this, going through their traveling experience on autopilot, never adding or gaining any true meaning to themselves of their host culture. On the other hand, the ‘mass tourist’ is mainly concerned with returning home as a hero, publicizing all of the adventures in which they survived while overseas. These individuals are very egocentric, seeing and discussing their experience only from their point of view, without any consideration to their host country’s affect.
The ‘mindful traveler’ takes into account the affect that they have on their host country in addition to the affect their host country has on themselves. This can be seen through economic, cultural, social, ecological, and spiritual mindfulness. To begin economic mindfulness urges travelers to be aware of how his or her spendings abroad will influences locals, rather than large international companies and tourist organizations. Slimbach suggests, “Some of us might decide to stay in locally owned and operated guesthouses and eco-lodges or—better yet—in the homes of the rural or urban poor” (2010, p. 84). This example reassured my role as a mindful traveler, as my friends and I often travel under these housing arrangements. We typically stay in a Bed and Breakfast, spending the weekend in the home of locals, who rent out a bedroom in order to make a higher income. Next, cultural mindfulness encourages travelers to learn more about his or her host country prior to their endeavors. By doing this, individuals can be more aware and respectful of cultural values and morals while exchanging new languages and ideas with locals. Furthermore, social mindfulness reminds travelers to see situations from local’s perspectives. Slimbach best explains this concept in the following, “Mindful global learning aspires to narrow the gap between “us” and “them” strengthening the bond of understanding and legitimate respect between strangers” (2010, p. 87). This was my favorite aspect of mindful traveling, as I feel as though American travelers often are quick to judge foreigners as rude or distant. By stepping into their shoes, maybe we can begin to understand why animosity has grown towards American tourists; perhaps it is due to the generalization that we are all ‘carefree drifters’ or ‘mass tourists’! Ecological mindfulness was another interesting component of this notion. It is important for travelers to remember that although we may be on vacation, this country is a full-time home to many. Because of this, we must care for it as we would care for our own. Some ways to do this is keeping track of water usage, pollution, littering, and much more. Slimbach raises the harsh reality that, “Few of us stop to consider the enormous amount of jet fuel required to fly us from home to that colorful or “unspoiled” location abroad” (2010, p. 90). This bleak truth brought a guilty sense of awareness over me, as throughout my travels for twenty-years, I have never once gave thought of how my travels affect the atmosphere. Lastly, there is spiritual mindfulness. Spiritual mindfulness simply means getting involved with locals on a deeper level than what meets the eye. This may be through religious affairs, valued activities, or volunteer services. By attending mass every Sunday at a local and quite beautiful church, I do always feel as though I am connecting with locals on a spiritual level. Especially considering the fact that religion is a great influence on the Italian and Roman culture, I am able to practice a common faith simultaneously respecting a fundamental aspect of their culture.
I believe that our class working definition of “global community” reflects the concepts that Slimbach discusses when describing the “mindful traveler”. Mindful traveling is definitely a key characteristic of intentional participants of the global community. This is due to the fact that if an individual is only ‘going with the flow’ or ‘doing it for the insta’ then they will not be valuable whatsoever. Slimbach states, “This may partially explain why consistent growth in study-abroad participation has not necessarily met with a corresponding increase in longer-term cross-cultural engagement, whether at home or abroad” (2010, p.80). I completely agree with Slimbach, as I believe if more young adults were mindful travelers, they would be more involved in the global community. Because of this, I plan to continue practicing the same rituals in which incorporate aspects of the mindful travel in my everyday life and be more aware to add more meaning to my host culture. For instance, I hope to get more involved in directly adding value to my host culture through participation in volunteer service of some sort. However, I will definitely reach challenges in which will attempt in inhibiting mindful traveling. For instance, my communitas who are not in this course are not aware of these concepts, and therefore tend to fall under the categories of “carefree drifter” or “mass tourist”. Getting too entangled in the ways in which they tackle this study abroad experience could negatively affect my participation. Additionally, it is often difficult to not feel like you are living in paradise on a four-month long vacation. This could make it complicated to see from local’s perspectives, when I am often wonder-struck that I am living in this beautiful country. However, I will attempt to find a happy medium between these two separate traveler mindsets, in order to become a more beneficial and valuable “mindful traveler”.
The picture in which I have attached best describes my thoughts regarding mindful traveling. This is due to the fact that from far away, this appears to be one of the most beautiful photographs and landscapes I have can remember seeing thus far throughout my travels. However, as a mindful traveler, I must remember the five important aspects of this concept. Although the beauty of the photo does not change, the story does. It is not just a pretty photograph to show my loved ones when I return from study abroad, it is a home to many individuals who undergo their own struggles and successes, who may have different economic backgrounds than myself, who may have different values and morals than myself, who look at myself as a strange foreigner, who may take different ecological cautions, and who may practice different faiths from myself. All in all, this photograph is not just a beautiful sight, it is a home with a story that I hope to uncover throughout my mindful traveling. I am looking forward to having a more meaningful background to this photograph come December. Arrivederci!