Travel Log 6 “The Mindful Traveler” by Steven Schnittger Lugano, Switzerland

So for this assignment we examined the topic of being a mindful traveler. Slimbach differentiates a mindful traveler from a carefree drifter or mass tourist through intentional awareness. He states in the text, “To be a ‘mindful traveler’ is to approach our field settings with a level of sensitivity and curiosity that raises our conscious awareness of how we affect the social and natural environments we enter and act upon.” To me this meant we must be actively looking to immerse ourselves in our present culture. This idea of being mindful of our surroundings and environment translates to more than studying abroad or even travelling, Slimbach is saying that it is important to have situational awareness and understand what is an isn’t appropriate at any given moment.

To reexamine our definition of a Global Community: All people, around the world, living by and fighting for similar values and basic rights; I would think that the word attentive should be added to the definition. This would encompass what Slimbach was trying to say, especially in relational to the story about the students helping the Thai girls. Sure they were working and standing up for basic rights, but they weren’t being mindful. They were more caught up in terms of “them and us” and never stopped to consider that they should be thinking in terms of “we”.

The importance of being a mindful traveler is something I struggled to find how important it really is. Yes, I think all people should be respectful of whatever culture they are in, but is it not sometimes okay to be a mass tourist. Sometimes I really get a kick out of gawking at the lake outside my room, and I enjoy running with shorts on instead of spandex tights. But, of course there is a limit to how acceptable it is to not be aware of our surroundings. I cringed when my girlfriend and I were having dinner in Florence and a group of kids walked in wearing lacrosse shorts and being loud and obnoxious. They couldn’t believe it when they were asked to leave but it was clear to everybody else how far out of line they actually were.

Yes, I absolutely think being a mindful traveler is a key characteristic of being an active participant in the global community and I do try my best to incorporate it into my time here, especially when I am in Lugano. Some of the places I have found best incorporate me into the culture are the bars here and the chair lifts and some of the ski mountains I have gone to. While there people are open and accepting to talking to strangers and are happy to give advice or tell a story. I am also staying in my first AirBNB this weekend while in Prague and I can’t imagine a better way to get involved with a local community than staying in somebody’s house. The host has already given us plenty advice on where to eat, must see attractions, and things to watch out for while travelling so I already feel like I am better off for choosing to stay at an AirBNB rather than a hotel.

I think some of the challenges myself and many other study abroad students will face has to do with what Slimbach called being “on-stage” and “autopilot”. Slimbach said that many locals in a tourist heavy area will act as though they are on-stage, they give the tourists what they expect as to not disappoint them. That is why I think the bar especially is a great place to talk to locals because some of the fakeness is definitely lost. The other thing is going into autopilot mode which is something I have to fight myself on pretty constantly. I love the idea of having a routine and being comfortable but I clearly need to keep things a little spontaneous so that I don’t get comfortable with people that won’t challenge me to try new things. I think this course has done a great job at forcing me to be a mindful traveler and constantly staying active so I can find my next adventure.

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This is one of the pictures I took from the top of Duomo while in Florence. It was the first place I had gone outside of Switzerland and clearly had a different culture than what I was used to. It was great to experience something new again and it reminded me that I have a lot I can learn while outside of the classroom.

Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.

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