To be a mindful traveler means many things. A person who is a mindful traveler is cognitive of the physical, spiritual, emotional, and economical changes that arises when they travel. Traveling has to do with more than pictures by famous architecture and tourist attractions, it positively and negatively affects those who may be affected by tourism and invaders of sacred lands. If a traveler is being guided by a tour guide through the city of Barcelona, then that tour guide may have that job which supports her or his family. However, tourism also affects gentrification, which boosts the cost of living. Even though Barcelona is a popular city, its economic standpoint is struggling and emphasis on tourism will not serve the people of Barcelona very well.
I think of myself as a mindful traveler because I am conscious about how my presence affects others viewpoints. An experience this past weekend gave me a deeper look into what it means to be a mindful traveler. A woman was ordering a sandwich from a popular food chain called Pans and Company. However, the cashier misinterpreted her order because his English was not the best. He then told her in Spanish that it was too hard for him to understand him. He pleaded to her that she must learn Spanish because this is Spain. Although this was very harsh words towards the woman, it reflects the difficult some locals may have with foreigners. Language is not just a barrier, but it is a way of life and for some, if people do not know the language they are insulting their culture.
The ways I become and reinforce being a mindful traveler is to not over compensate the reality of people in Spain. When people travel, they tend to stick to what they know from rumors, media, or other sources. They overly romanticize the area, region, or destination because they want to structure a “fantasy – like” world in their head for travel. Yet Slimbach exemplifies this as a social injustice to the culture because, ” [We] begin to ask ourselves why we find it easier to struggle for cultural understanding and social justice everywhere else but in our own neighborhoods. Is it because we are drawn to the exotic and glamorous over the familiar and mundane? Or is it because we expect that third world peoples abroad will be less likely to question our motives and more likely to solicit our “help” than those at home? Whatever the reason might be, at some point we must learn to measure our commitment to justice abroad against the walls of our own house.” It is clear to understand that even the most luxurious of destinations, Malaysia, India, Singapore have social and economic struggles. In order to defuse myself from these issues, I make myself aware of issue by reading the local news paper La Vangaurdia and El Pais. These newspapers give international and national stories for more insight into the trials and trivial of life in Spain. The stories I see in the news papers provide me a guide to being more than just a study abroad student, it gives me a temporary citizenship to be emotional affected by the same issues and concerns other Barcelona people are experiencing.
Slimbach mentions that there are many forks in the road when someone is presented with a new culture. One the best ways to get assimilated is through Spiritual Mindfulness. This type of Mindfulness allows a person to have personal interactions with locals, while also learning about themselves and how they are positioned in this Global Community. Slimbach states: “By generously serving alongside people of different faiths but like passion, we share in the difficult but deeply rewarding task of making the world a better place to live. This shared commitment also provides the context for thinking much more clearly about ourselves in relation to other people and the root issues affecting their lives.” As I am learning the language more and more, I appreciate the culture and respect why certain things happen. I have learned to adjust my behavior from separate and isolationist, to inviting and curious by talking to a local student and understanding her perspective. I use my mindfulness to enter into the incorporation phase by adding my American culture to my host town without impeding or changing it.
Lastly, I have added the photo here below of mindfulness.
This picture is of Nelson Mandela and South African President F.W.DeKlerk agreeing to end apartheid. Aside from the historical significance of ending Apartheid, these two important figures represent mindfulness. They both agree that even though there are extreme differences between the two of them, they accept each other and respect each others opinions and thoughts. They both want to work together to preserve a union and agreement to make a place better. To me, this is what travelers should strive for. Not to take pictures and gloat to friends about their next trip; but to inspire other people to integrate cultures, learn from each other, and be mindful of everyones differences.
Slimbach, Richard (2012-03-12).Chapter 3. The Mindful Traveler. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Kindle Locations 1790-1791). Stylus Publishing. Kindle Edition.