Slimbach discusses being a mindful traveler as someone who will “approach our field settings with a level of sensitivity and curiosity that raises out conscious awareness of how we affect the social and natural environments we enter and act upon.” He then continues to discuss how a mindful traveler will have intention to their actions instead of just being on autopilot and drifting around. I have mixed feelings towards his emphasis on being intentional when traveling. One on hand, having previous knowledge of the culture and customs can be helpful to both yourself and the people around you. But, personally I went into Australia knowing nothing. I think this was the best decision that I could have ever made. Yes, I know about twenty people who have studied abroad here. Yes, they all gave me their own opinions on what I should do and where I should go. One thing that I never inquired on was, what should I expect? In my opinion, my lack of knowledge allowed me to be open to knew experiences. It is like a child learning how to read for the first time or ride a bike. Every new experience is a lesson. With every lesson, I take away something more valuable then the last.
This unknowing could be seen as a negative and unintentional. But, my personal goal was to be unintentional. My entire life is planned out. I know what I am going to eat for every meal. I know my agenda for every hour of every day. I have intentions of what I want to accomplish and I always accomplish them. This has allowed me to be a successful student but that free-spirit side of me was lost. Being in Australia, I have decided to be the “care free drifter”. Even though that is exactly what Slimbach warned us not to do.
I believe that if I were on a service trip, my opinion on mindful traveling would be much different. When you are on a trip like the trip Slimbach described in Thai, it would be necessary to be mindful. Those trips are not meant to serve you but to serve the people around you. I think in those circumstances, it is important to be aware of how you are affecting your environment. When studying abroad, you should be aware of your surroundings and the impact you are making. But, I believe it is also important to put yourself first. Moving to a foreign country for four months was exactly what I needed. Being someone who never puts myself first, ever, it was time for a change. Being here has allowed me to find a new confidence in myself that I have never experienced before. I am slowly learning how to “go with the flow”. I am trying my best to be open to every experience and every person that I meet. I have met such amazing people in my short amount of time here and I could not be more grateful for Australia’s carefree culture.
I chose this picture because it represents what being a carefree traveler to me. The night before this sunrise, at around five am, I hit my head on a windowsill. This resulted in a huge cut in my head that would not stop bleeding for a long period of time. By the time it stopped, it was almost six am. Instead of going back to sleep, we decided to watch the sunrise. This sunrise was the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen in my life. The moment was surreal. All the events leading up to that moment seemed to make it so much better. If the hostel had had AC, we would not have been up at five am. If I had been in a rush to try to go sleep, I would not have hit my head. All these moments that seemed to be bad turned into something so beautiful. These are the reasons why I am happy not to be a mindful traveler.