Travel Log 6 “The Mindful Traveler” by Christina Mercugliano. Rome, Italy

The mindful traveler exhibits a desire towards deeper understanding of the host culture, as we as an acute awareness of the effect of their travels, not only on themselves, but their host cultures, and the entire global community. In “Becoming Word Wise,” Richard Slimbach presents the mindful traveler in sharp contrast to the ‘careful drifter’ or ‘mass tourist,’ as he seems to consider most travelers to be. Slimbach discusses four different arenas in which a traveler can exhibit mindfulness, or a lack thereof: economic mindfulness, cultural mindfulness, social mindfulness, and ecological mindfulness. He addresses the importance of each, as well as the many ways in which travelers often fail to execute each one.

In his chapter on mindful traveling, Slimbach primarily focuses on rich, white students embarking on service trips or study abroad experiences in third world nations. I found his discussion, therefore, to be wildly incomplete. While perhaps on a global scale I might be considered ‘rich,’ I certainty don’t consider myself to be at home, nor am I considered to be abroad in Europe. My skin is the same color as the vast majority of the people here, and the dominant religion is the same as I practice at home. Nonetheless, I am certain that the importance of my mindfulness is no less.

Living in a major European capital city, it is unlikely that I could possibly be responsible for introducing new ideas, language, or customs that had not previously been exposed here. However, I am still exceedingly aware that to each Italian I encounter, I represent America. Likewise, my impression and rendition of the Italians I encounter will help shape, in some small way, how the Americans I confer my observations to think of Italians. Slimbach writes that, “every intercultural program participant is potentially a bridge between peoples, enabling an empathetic, two-way learning process that can be deeply rewarding for host and guest alike” (Slimbach 87). With this great opportunity comes great responsibility, for being constantly aware of the messages we display and perceive.

In the context of aspiring to me mindful travelers, we must reconsider the definition of global community. Traveling the world, mindfully, both fosters global community and begins your own personal relationship with it. It is only through sensitive, culturally appropriate interactions that a richer global community can be attained. I do, therefore, believe that mindful travel is a key component of becoming a member of the global community.

In the rest of my time in Rome, as well as my international travels while abroad, I intend to focus on ‘mindful traveling.’ Just this past weekend, I attended Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. It was more than just a big party, but an excellent opportunity to soak in culture and converse with many members of the European community. Oktoberfest is deeply rooted in the German culture, and because of its popularity, it has attracted people from all over the world. The opportunity for everyone to gather in a setting just focused on fun, I believe, it truly an excellent example of how global community is built.

While in Germany, I also had the opportunity to visit a concentration camp, which was a deeply moving and important experience. I strongly believe that part of being a mindful traveler is pushing yourself to engage in such experiences, and take advantage of the ways that you can educate yourself academically and personally abroad. I have chosen a picture that I took at the concentration camp, with the words “May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.” This quote seems extremely important, and I think it can also easily relate to the mission of mindful travel. Conscientiousness, as encouraged here, is incredibly important in this pursuit.

The mindful traveler exhibits a desire towards deeper understanding of the host culture, as we as an acute awareness of the effect of their travels, not only on themselves, but their host cultures, and the entire global community. In “Becoming Word Wise,” Richard Slimbach presents the mindful traveler in sharp contrast to the ‘careful drifter’ or ‘mass tourist,’ as he seems to consider most travelers to be. Slimbach discusses four different arenas in which a traveler can exhibit mindfulness, or a lack thereof: economic mindfulness, cultural mindfulness, social mindfulness, and ecological mindfulness. He addresses the importance of each, as well as the many ways in which travelers often fail to execute each one.

In his chapter on mindful traveling, Slimbach primarily focuses on rich, white students embarking on service trips or study abroad experiences in third world nations. I found his discussion, therefore, to be wildly incomplete. While perhaps on a global scale I might be considered ‘rich,’ I certainty don’t consider myself to be at home, nor am I considered to be abroad in Europe. My skin is the same color as the vast majority of the people here, and the dominant religion is the same as I practice at home. Nonetheless, I am certain that the importance of my mindfulness is no less.

Living in a major European capital city, it is unlikely that I could possibly be responsible for introducing new ideas, language, or customs that had not previously been exposed here. However, I am still exceedingly aware that to each Italian I encounter, I represent America. Likewise, my impression and rendition of the Italians I encounter will help shape, in some small way, how the Americans I confer my observations to think of Italians. Slimbach writes that, “every intercultural program participant is potentially a bridge between peoples, enabling an empathetic, two-way learning process that can be deeply rewarding for host and guest alike” (Slimbach 87). With this great opportunity comes great responsibility, for being constantly aware of the messages we display and perceive.

In the context of aspiring to me mindful travelers, we must reconsider the definition of global community. Traveling the world, mindfully, both fosters global community and begins your own personal relationship with it. It is only through sensitive, culturally appropriate interactions that a richer global community can be attained. I do, therefore, believe that mindful travel is a key component of becoming a member of the global community.

In the rest of my time in Rome, as well as my international travels while abroad, I intend to focus on ‘mindful traveling.’ Just this past weekend, I attended Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. It was more than just a big party, but an excellent opportunity to soak in culture and converse with many members of the European community. Oktoberfest is deeply rooted in the German culture, and because of its popularity, it has attracted people from all over the world. The opportunity for everyone to gather in a setting just focused on fun, I believe, it truly an excellent example of how global community is built.

While in Germany, I also had the opportunity to visit a concentration camp, which was a deeply moving and important experience. I strongly believe that part of being a mindful traveler is pushing yourself to engage in such experiences, and take advantage of the ways that you can educate yourself academically and personally abroad. I have chosen a picture that I took at the concentration camp, with the words “May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.” This quote seems extremely important, and I think it can also easily relate to the mission of mindful travel. Conscientiousness, as encouraged here, is incredibly important in this pursuit.

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Dachau Concentration Camp, September 2016

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