Travel Log 6: “The Mindful Traveler” by Samantha Prevot. Notting Hill, London, England.

In Chapter 3 of Becoming World Wise, Slimbach discusses the difference between being a “mindful traveler” and a “carefree drifter” or “mass tourist”. He says, “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, what Slimbach means is that mindful travelers are more active in their participation in the countries and cultures they are visiting, while carefree drifters or mass tourists are more passive in the way they carry themselves. So I asked myself, after a month in England, am I really a mindful traveler? Or am I just a mass tourist?

When trying to assess myself, I looked at what Slimbach says about mass tourists. He says, “The tourist gaze transforms all into aesthetic images of “nativeness” to be discovered, sighted, and ‘shot’” and that “If the ‘old’ mass tourist was all about sun, sand, sea, and sex, the ‘new’ mindful traveler aims to be sensible, sensitive, sophisticated, and sustainable.” All of this comes back to my thoughts about being active rather than passive. Am I just passively taking pictures of the tourist sights to post on social media and show my friends? Or am I really taking an active role in my time here and taking time to appreciate the culture and environment I am living in for the next two more months?

I do think that “carefree drifter” is a term that shouldn’t be put together with “mass tourist”, as I think that all travelers are carefree in their open-mindedness and curiosity, which brought them to their destinations in the first place. However, I do think it is important to not be carefree in the sense that you are not appreciating where you are and what makes where you are unique in comparison to home. In some ways, I do think that I can be a mass tourist at times. I’m always taking pictures of the places I go to, especially if they’re famous landmarks like the Shard or Big Ben, especially since I am taking a course here where each week we go on walking tours of the city and see all of the sights. I am still very much in awe of this city and still feel as though I am in this magical place straight out of the movies. However, at the same time, I feel like in the last month I have really begun to transition from a tourist into a citizen of London. My daily commute to university and my many walks around my neighborhood and the rest of the city have really given me a chance to take in my surroundings and make me feel more and more at home. I’ve been trying to meet the local people at my university and when I am on a night out with friends. I’ve been going to local markets and buying produce from the vendors in order to support local business and consuming fresh foods. I’ve also been trying to adhere to the energy conservation and recycling customs here as they are adhered to more here than in the U.S. In these ways, I think I am becoming the “mindful traveler” that Slimbach describes, journeying “in ways that strengthen rather than undermine the goals of economic growth, cultural preservation, social harmony, environmental protection, and spiritual flourishing…”

In our workshop at the end of the fall semester, we defined Global Community as “All people around the world living by and fighting for similar social values and basic rights.” I think the concepts Slimbach discusses relates very well to our definition. Slimbach says that mindful travelers take active roles in their new communities to help them flourish rather than harming them. I think our class definition has the same intention in mind when we say “living and fighting for similar social values and basic rights.” I also think that these characteristics are definitely keys to participating in the global community. When I was in high school, we had to take the Ephebic Oath and in that oath we swore to leave our city greater than we found it, and I thought about this while reading Slimbach and looking at our definition of global community from class. There is always a theme of active participation and trying to benefit your community rather than harm it. I think as my time in London continues to pass by, my desire to be a “mass tourist” will fade and I will continue to grow into a “mindful traveler” that truly cares about the city that has become my temporary home.

I think this picture of myself at Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park best describes my journey so far and my growth into a mindful traveler. Living near Hyde Park has given me the opportunity to go on walks and experience some of the natural beauty of London that may not always be seen through the crowded streets of buildings. Kensington Gardens, which are, you guessed it, near Kensington Palace, are beautifully laid out and for me were a bit of an escape from the hustle and bustle of the main road just feet away. The gardens also overlook a large pond that is heavily populated by swans and other birds. It’s places like these that make me realize that London is more than just the typical tourist sights I’ve come to know and love. Now I am finding parts of this city that I can “call my own” in a way and I think it is making me appreciate my time here more and appreciate the city more as I transition from tourist status to Londoner status. I look forward to exploring more, especially outside of the city as I begin to go on trips, and become a true “mindful traveler”.

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Works Cited:

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

 

 

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Travel Log 6 “The Mindful Traveler” By: Stephen Sharo Dunedin, NZ

The view from Mount Cargill, the highest point in Dunedin.

The view from Mount Cargill, the highest point in Dunedin.

The mindful traveler carries much more weight in the community compared to the carefree drifter or mass tourist. The carefree drifter and the mass tourist are in the community to see sights rather than experience the culture of the host country. Slimbach summarizes it best when he states, “This intentional awareness finds its ground and inspiration in a “story” that clarifies our motivations and allows higher purposes to guide our attempt to grow in worldly wisdom while enriching the lives of others,” (Slimbach, Kindle location 1450). The mindful traveler has more responsibility to the community, the host country, and the environment compared to a mass tourist or a carefree drifter.

In my experience so far in Dunedin I feel as though I have experienced both the carefree drifter and the mass tourist. Several times a day a tour bus drops about twenty people off at the entrance to the campus. These people simply take pictures for a couple minutes and then hop back on the bus and to travel to another spot. These people are not immersing themselves into the New Zealand culture but are rather simply observing what’s going on around them.

According to our definition of the global community which states, “A shared living space of interdependent individuals endowed with universal human rights, while choosing to act upon them embracing differences and working towards common goals,” the mindful traveler is very much a part of the global community. The mindful traveler has responsibilities and a higher purpose within the community itself. Whereas the mass tourist or the carefree drifter simply exist in the community and do not contribute to it. I think that our definition can be tweaked slightly in order to address some other points. I think that a reference to working towards the improvement of the community. I feel that Dunedin is a great working example of our definition. Dunedin is a place where differences are truly embraced. The university and the city are constituted of an eclectic mix of people from all around the world. For example the majority of the teachers at the University are not native to New Zealand. Moreover the school embraces various cultures by holding events such as the international food festival which represented about 20 different countries and were all run by students who attended the university. I think that the biggest action Dunedin has taken to demonstrate its open mindedness is its decision to take in thousands of Syrian refugees. Dunedin was picked out of all New Zealand cities to host the vast majority of the refugees fleeing to New Zealand.

I do think that mindful travel is a key characteristic of intentional participants of the global community. While I am traveling throughout New Zealand I plan on incorporating mindful travel into my trips in multiple ways. First, I consistently ask questions about the culture of the Kiwis. I want to know the reasons behind why people and society acts in a certain way. I continue to ask the questions that start with why and how because I think that is how I will get the most out of my study abroad experience. Secondly, I plan on discovering the meaning behind the sights I visit. For example, in Maori culture some mountains are sacred because they believe that’s where their loved ones go after death to move on to the spiritual world. I want to get the knowledge and meaning behind the sights that I am seeing. Lastly, I want to give back to the people who live here. Even small tasks such as ensuring someone gets home safely will allow me to become a part of the global community.

There are still some challenges to mindful travel. Traveling can already be exhausting and being mindful is tiring both mentally and physically. A person must fight through their fatigue in order to truly become immersed in the host country’s culture.

 

Slimbach, Richard (2012-03-12). Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Kindle Locations 1450-1451). Stylus Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Travel Log 6: “The Mindful Traveler”. By Chelsea Campbell. Barcelona, Spain

When studying abroad most students have the goal to not be looked at as a tourist in their host country for the duration of the semester. It is the difference of being a “mass tourist” to the “mindful traveler”. This does not only refer to while in one’s host country but also while taking weekend trips to other countries or cities. To me, I found that the difference between the two is the amount of energy spent trying to take in and fully understand the culture, while respecting it. As Slimbach explained, “to be a ‘mindful traveler’ is to approach our field settings with a level of sensitivity and curiosity that raises our conscious awareness to how we affect the social and natural environments we enter and act upon” (Slimbach 74). Thus far each weekend I have either traveled to a different country or another city within Spain besides Barcelona… traveling is addicting. However, each time we are traveling my roommates and I look for the small, local restaurants where not only will we be getting a better taste of the local, “not-so-touristy”, areas but we will be supporting them with our business. While traveling in Rome this was especially beneficial to us because the food was absolutely amazing and we became incredibly friendly with the staff. It is just as simple as going to a local restaurant that makes our experiences better than we could’ve imagined. It is the locals who are the culture, and just like the interviews we had done, it is obvious they are our best source to learn anything about our host culture.

I think this relates to our class working definition of “global community” because by interacting and exploring the culture with our sensitive curiosity we are able to almost become one with that culture. The interactions we have allow us a chance to show as citizens throughout the world interacting in one moment, we are a community. We support one another in different ways. I think that our definition should be changed to incorporate the aspect of “support” because within a community that is truly what the citizens do that bring them together as a “whole”.

I think that mindful traveling is definitely a key characteristic of intentional participants of the global community because it shows our curiosity but also awareness of the world. Awareness is key to being a participant in the community because without it we would simply be wandering through a community that we would learn nothing from and simply look ignorant to those who are within the global community. For my travels abroad one simple way I plan to incorporate mindful traveling is by using Airbnb or couch surfing for my stays. These are forms of accommodations within locals’ homes (they’re safe!). Rather than spending money on a hostel or hotel that may have been put up in the place of people’s homes, I will be staying within a locals’ home itself. Through this type of accommodation, I will learn more in depth about the culture and the ways of life. The friendships and conversations that can be created through this could never be found through a hotel while also benefiting the host with a form of payment.

I find that the biggest challenge that exists to inhibit mindful traveling is the expenditure of energy needed. However, we are studying abroad for a reason and that is because we want this experience and to make the best of it, which requires as much energy as it takes. Energy expenditure is nothing when it means you are passing through a journey fully aware of your surroundings that you will never experience again in the way you have it now.

IMG_8399            The picture I am attaching shows how willing I am to expend all of my energy for the simple joys of putting myself out there and avoiding the “carefree drifter” tag. This picture was taken during our 15 mile hike up Montserrat on Sunday. Despite the fact I could barely feel my legs, the views were unbelievable, constantly changing with the higher we got up the mountain, and it was worth it. We could have been typical tourists and sat on a tram for less than 10 minutes to get to the top, however, just like all of the locals and Barcelona running team we passed, we found the hike to be a part of the journey to the top. That tram was put into a very small town at the bottom with large paved parking lots that were plain ugly, all for the tourists. All we did was take a train into town and found the beginning our 15 mile hiking trail to the top. It is a simple example of the avoiding the touristy things but it is one of my favorite examples because that hike is one of my favorite memories. Especially for all of the locals and their dogs we passed on the steep trails.

Travel Log 6 “The Mindful Traveler” by Chris Wilner, London, England

As each and every one of us has embarked on our own journeys away from our home countries, we all went with the mentality of coming back a changed person through this rite of passage. Some may have had an idea of what they wanted to accomplish while away and others may be looking for something but they aren’t completely sure what it is. When returning we will talk about the things that we did on our journeys and the memories that have been made, but many will have done it for themselves and had no connection with the community that they became a part of. This is partly what distinguishes that someone from being a mindful traveler. The way I see it as it was written in the book, the mass tourist is someone who goes on vacation or a journey that only contributes to the mass market. People stay in fancy resorts and have no real interaction with the general public of the community that they are joining, even for a short period of time, except for those who work at the resort of the restaurants that they eat at. Compared to the mass tourist, a step above that would be the carefree drifter. This would be someone who comes into town with no set plans of what to do, but they do things that interest them like eating at the best restaurant in town or having a conversation with a local to get a sense of what the place is like. In the same instance this person might keep the ideals that they brought with them and their eyes were never really opened to the things around them.

For someone to be labeled as a mindful traveler Slimbach noted, “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.” (Slimbach, 74.) This is the person who immerses themselves in a culture not only by living in the community, but also by actively participating in it. They live with a local family instead of staying in a hotel in order to help the family survive. Maybe instead of eating at the local establishments, they ask to be taught how to make those dishes on their own. This person will leave the community as a part of it instead of an outsider who visited for a period of time. In talking about these different types of travelers, I think I can almost identify with each of them. Reading through the chapter I was thinking about my family and the vacations that I have been on with them outside of my home country. I think I would identify most with the carefree drifter.

When I was on my last vacation with my family, we went on a cruise that stopped at four different places in the Caribbean each time we would embark on the island with no intention of doing as most of the tourists would. Instead of shopping around like the rest of the tourists we would talk to the locals and see what were the things that we should do and see before we left one of those places. We would always ask where was the best place to get authentic food from the region so we would at least know what it was like to eat as a local in the area. At least in this sense we would help the local economy flourish instead of the big businesses that would set up shop and try to reap all of the benefits.

Since embarking on my own journey with no plans as to where I am to go and not knowing anyone until making my own friends once landing here, I am doing my best to be the mindful traveler and become a part of the community that I am living in. As Rolf Potts said, “Go slow. Respect people. Practice humility, and don’t condescend with your good intentions. Make friends. Ask questions. Listen.” (Slimbach, 86.) These are the things that I think are important in order to become a part of the community. When I walk around the streets, I try not to look like the typical tourist that takes pictures of everything because it is new. I think one of the most important pieces of advice that I was given before leaving home was to live in the moment because you will never get another experience like this. I am succeeding in my goal of making friends with locals and becoming a part of their social circles; I have learned so much just from having conversations about the differences between here and home and I feel like by understanding the people who are a part of the community I become a little closer to not being seen as an outsider.

In thinking about how these concepts might relate to the working definition of global community, we must remember the definition that we have set in place. “A global community is a shared living space of interdependent individuals endowed with universal human rights, while choosing to act up on them, embracing differences, and working toward a common goal.” I think the definition that we created as a class directly relate to the definition of a mindful traveler. In thinking about the characteristics that a mindful traveler might have, we can see through our definition that it is a shared living space between us, the mindful traveler, and the community in which we are living. As each of us is empowered with universal human rights, we all choose to act upon them and as we spend more time in the community and learning about the community we soon immerse ourselves in the community. That is why when you talk to people who have already studied abroad, all they wish to do is go back because this soon becomes our home. As a mindful traveler, we come into a community with differences; whether they are the color of our skin, the language that we speak or even the pronunciations of our words, we are seen as an outsider. As we spend more time in the community and learn to emplace the differences, both from our side and theirs, we all work towards a common goal of acceptance. By thinking through the definition we created as a class I feel that we covered all of the necessary points that help to define a global community. At this moment in time I do not think there is a need to make any changes to the definition, but that may change as the time spent here on my journey goes on.

Through the discussion of the mindful traveler, I do believe that mindful traveling is a key characteristic, but it may also be the characteristic that defines international participants of the global community. The reason I say this is because in order to be labeled as a mindful traveler, you must have immersed yourself in a community and become a part of it even if it were for a short period of time. The global community is always changing as more and more people join. There are similarities and differences between those who are a part of the community but we all work towards a common goal. In order to be able to label myself as a mindful travel I believe that “educational travel must dispose us, first of all, to seek out and welcome all reflections of truth, goodness, and beauty in the lives of those we met.” My goal when coming here was to make friends away from home and become a part of their community and I think I have done just that. By learning from the people we meet on our journeys our perception of the rest of the world will have been altered. One of the first questions I asked my friends was what their perception of the United States was and they asked me the same of the United Kingdom. Through shared experiences, we have learned from each other and enriched our own lives and that I believe is what it means to be a mindful traveler.travel

This journey is not only about living in a different land, but its about finding out who you are in relation to the global community and the impact that you might have.  I see this picture and quote as something that I am aspiring to follow while on this journey.  By traveling to a distant land, I am strengthening my mind through experiences and friendships that I most likely wouldn’t have if I didn’t take this risk.  There is no way of telling how something’ll turn out until you do it so that is why I journeyed here without knowing anyone to figure out if I could make it on my own.

Travel Log 6: “The Mindful Traveler” by Lauren Kantrovitz, in Florence Italy. 

The ability to properly understand and decipher what it means to be a mindful traveler has become more evident each weekend I travel. Although most people would ideally like to go into a weekend of travel with a plan in regard to what museums they will visit and where they will eat, it is impossible to plan for the unforeseeable and inevitable problems that arise each day. Although people always run into hiccups and bumps in the road that prevent most days from being “perfect”. The problems that arise during travel are often more important and feel much larger than they are. Why is this? It is likely due to the fact that most people travel with a preconceived notion of the place they are visiting and the experience they will have, thus preventing open-mindedness’. To me, open mindedness means having the will to understand and learn about one’s surroundings, permitting discovery and realizations, rather than going into a situation with a set desire and expectations. If one plans each moment of their life out, they are leaving less opportunity to learn. People often have in mind what they ‘need’ rather than leaving room for the unknown possibilities that life can throw at you, which unquestionably are the moments that you learn the most.

A problem that many travel abroad students run into, including myself is the impression that we can form a stronger bond with fellow travelers than locals. Although it may initially be easier to create those bonds off of obvious similarities such as language and culture, in order to grow and gain a sense of raw local culture, one must find similarities with locals. Slimbach made a fantastic point when he mentioned students arriving home, “they’re likely to speak and write of what they learned about or did for the locals rather than with them” (74). This is a notion I have not thought about previously and sadly can recall doing on countless occasions. As humans, we scientifically like to talk about ourselves and talk about our accomplishments, in my opinion to feel more secure with ourselves. It is interesting to then look at something such a volunteering, an act, that is often looked at as selfless. However, could it really be an action masking a selfish need to make ourselves feel better about ourselves? Now don’t get me wrong, selfishness is obligatory for every human being in order to survive however we have to stop giving out the label of volunteering so easily as we need to start weighing the significance of our help as it could be harmful in the end by creating imbalance. In order for a study abroad program to be permitted, it is inferred that there must be certain conditions that have been met, and likely changed in the host country, to fit the needs of the lifestyle we are used to at home. It is important that we realize that implementing ourselves into a culture is creating disproportion.

People often look at the impoverished in one of two ways: that they are either so incredibly dirt poor that we look at them with sorrow, or with a sense of jealousy for living a so-called simple life, because having no money gives you a simple life I guess, right? It is important that people begin to realize that money is simply an object. We should not give money the power to determine our happiness. Most people living in this world have nothing compared to us, and although life may not be as “easy” as it is for us in terms of acquiring life necessities, most are still happy because they don’t know anything different. We must change our perception of necessity as the only necessities that we really need are people, food, water, and shelter. Slimbach quoted Pico Iyer, “If money does not it happiness, neither does poverty” (78). This quote elucidates the importance of money and how much we allow money to influence our thoughts towards ourselves and others. It blinds us from the beauty of culture and the people around us. It is not fair to look at people who are less fortunate than us and assume they are not happy as that is like telling them that they shouldn’t be happy given their circumstances. Slimbach quoted from Abernathy, “I didn’t use to think of myself as poor, but now I do… I resent them for having so much and then wanting to come see people who have so little” (88). Although emerging ourselves in a culture different and especially less fortunate than ourselves, we are automatically causing a bit of imbalance. However as long as we try to learn about each other’s cultures and abstain from changing the beauty of a raw culture, we will hopefully be able to change our perception of what a simple and happy life is. Ultimately a happy life is based on the self growth, learning, and the people that surround us.

Travelers must make sure that they are simply just aiding the conditions that these impoverished people are living in. We must not effect the customs, that may even seem to be practiced on account of their indigent conditions, as they are what make each place unique and travel ultimately worth-wile. Isn’t that the goal of a mindful traveler; to embrace one another’s indifferences in order to experience a culture unique to our own? If people are consistently permitting host cultures to change their ways in order to make outsiders more comfortable, travelers will no longer really be traveling if they are walking into a country just like that of their own. Additionally, we must take into consideration that media blinds us to the conditions that locals are experiencing everyday in places that we may call “paradise” as the raw culture of the place is hidden from us.

With the luxuries that so many of us in the United States are blessed to have, we have no real sense of the world and conditions that most people on our planet are living through. In my opinion, you can read, watch, or speak about something countless times, but you cannot truly grasp and appreciate third world countries and the conditions so many third-world citizens live through unless you see it first-hand. That is why, in that sense, travel is essential to understand each other and be to truly achieve sati (mindfulness in Pali language). However if most students and people as an entirety just want to travel to another place of luxury, then we are preventing self growth and global understanding. Traveling is beneficial in the sense that we want to understand each other but if we are not making those mutual connections, and just putting on short performances for one another to convey each other’s needs, we are creating imbalance and leaving no room for growth and improvement.

In class, we defined a global community as a “Shared living space of interdependent individuals endowed with universal human rights, while choosing to act upon them, embracing differences, and working toward common goals”. The concept of being a mindful traveler is perfectly conveyed in this quote as a mindful traveler must embrace and accept living in similar conditions, embracing those differences, without preconceived notions hindering our ability to work towards and share common goals. At the end of the day, we must reflect on why we want to travel. Is it to travel somewhere and experience a life that we live everyday, or are we traveling to experience something entirely new, that will permit insight towards oneself, unique cultures that are inaccurately represented by media, and finally what happiness really is.

I chose a photo that I took at the Topography of Terror in Berlin, Germany that I found to be very powerful. The Topography of Terror was a really great experience that required a lot of reading but permitted self growth as I gained an incredible amount of knowledge that I had not previously had about the Holocaust and World War II. It was very touching to see so many photos that were taken at concentration camps. If I had not taken the time to read the timeline of the war within the museum, the pictures may not have touched me to the extent that they did as it is possible I would not have been trying to truly understand the conditions that these people lived through, why, and how it came to be. Pictures can tell a story of their own, but it is important to understand the story before permitting assumption as that is how discovery and knowledge is made.


Travel Log 6 “The Mindful Traveler”, Kait Shortell; Paris, France

The difference between a ‘mindful traveler’, ‘carefree drifter’, and ‘mass tourist’ from what I understand, is simple at first glance, but challenging in the midst of being in the actual presence of this trifecta. The ‘mass tourist’ I think is the one to which we all fall victim most easily. In this mindset, we tend to see the “cliché” side of a culture, which I think is important to an extent. A lot of tourist attractions have a very important history behind them, and I think that going and taking the time to learn about that countries history, and how it affected them and so forth is a good place to start becoming a ‘mindful’ traveler. It could give insight into some characteristics of that culture today. The ‘mindful’ traveler is described well by Slimbach. To describe the opposite of a mindful traveler he wrote, “…they can speak and write about what they learned about and did for the locals rather than with them.” (74). To be a mindful traveler, I personally feel that you should be able to write and speak about all of those point of views, as well as what the locals did for you. Being a mindful traveler includes so much more then just site seeing, you have to reach out to locals. I think talking to them and taking the time to learn about the lifestyle they live through their own stories will teach us more than what we could read from a traveler’s book. Eventually, if we are outgoing enough and talk to as many people as we can, we will be able to start piecing together a picture of that country’s economy, their healthcare, and their home life. I think it is also important to do things with the locals, take part in cultural activities with them to submerge yourself in it. For example, I spend a lot of time with my home-stay mom’s son. His name is Adrian and he is a great source of Parisian knowledge. We have talked a lot about healthcare, and how it affects the public, social classes and how they interact, and what Parisians value, as well as how and why they live the lifestyle that they do. These conversations are rich in culture and I look forward to them immensely. While we talk, Adrian has taken me for a bike ride down the Seine on Sunday morning when the city closes the road that runs along it for its population to enjoy, we have ventured to a hole in the wall building called the “Aftersquat” where artists can rent a space for up to six months at a time, and use it as their studio. They will cover the entire building from floor to ceiling in paintings. It is incredibleIMG_2123, and still is one of my favorite places of all I have seen so far. He even invited me to see the Calvary horses perform with him and his son one day, which was so interesting. All of these adventures are ones I don’t think I would have known to do on my own. With the help of a Paris native, I am getting to experience a very authentic Paris lifestyle. A ‘carefree’ drifter is someone who I feel goes to a country, with no knowledge of where they are going, or what there is to see, etc. I think, that every traveler should spend a small amount of time “drifting”. Sometimes, this idea of drifting leads you to discover a new place in a very ‘unplanned’ way, if you are lucky, but it does not always work out that way. As far as our definition of a “global community,” I am not sure yet where I stand. I feel like I would definitely make a few changes, or maybe word things differently, but I am not sure how just yet. I do think ‘mindful traveling’ is a key part of intentional participants; just simply because of the way it presents, and frames the experience. It puts the time you spend in your host culture, into a different perspective, that you can welcome open-mindedly.

The picture I chose is of Adrian and I in front of the AfterSquat. I thought it would be good to incorporate a picture of the Parisian I have been learning so much from, and in front of one of the places he has shown me. Our conversations have been so helpful, and I have learned so much. Interestingly enough, Adrian is actually moving his family to the western Untied States with in the year, so as much as he has told me about Paris, I have been able to help him with learning about the States.

 

Travel Log 6: “The Mindful Traveler” By Alexandra Borges. Cardiff, Wales

It’s already that time again, the week is coming to a close. It’s amazing that it’s already October. I think that there is a lot that can be said about the reading on “the mindful traveler” as well as reflected upon. You know, being at the peak of our youth and having the opportunity to travel, to see the world from a different view, is something that not everyone gets to do. Sometimes we may take that for granted because American and other 1st world countries provide this cushion that even the middle-low class can lean on. I’m not saying that it’s any better or worse than any other country out there, I’m just saying that even we have more than others. When it comes to traveling I think it’s really easy for Americans, let alone students to not consciously grasp that traveling for educational purposes is to experience the life of the country not living it up in the host country. Basically, it’s not a vacation it’s a one in a lifetime experience that if you allow it to, will teach you a variety of things about the host country, the culture, the differences between your home country and host, and ultimately about yourself and the way you live.

Becoming a “mindful traveler” rather than a “carefree drifter” is an important differentiation that Slimbach points out to us. In this reading I believe the key factors that distinguish one from the other is essential to reflection this week. Slimbach says,”We recognize our  tendency to romanticize, rather than actually befriend and “neighbor” the stranger” (Slimbach, p.88). Often we feel more comfortable with what we find the familiar yet, never entertain the idea to reach beyond our comfort zone. The best way to put this from the way I understand this is that this would be the result of failing to integrate into your host country and being able to overcome the lIminoid stage. Not being open enough to the wonders that surround us. However, the same goes for someone who is too busy with trying to see everything they can, which brings them to live up to the “tourist” name. Being a “mindful traveler” means having a balance between being immersed in the community and culture around you, but not to the point where one loses sight of the whole purpose of being in a different country. Therefore, as Slimbach says, “if we are willing to maintain a principled openness to …native populations can present us with rare opportunities to discover practical wisdom and vital spiritual resources for cultivating a deeper, richer sense of self” (Slimbach, p. 92). If we choose the latter path of which he speaks of we are able “to join local residents in pursuing insight and wholeness as a natural response to the spirit of life” (Slimbach, p.92). I sometimes feel that falling into this “tourism” behavior is like as if we are viewing these people not as people but an exhibit to watch in amazement. I think tourist forget that these people are people just like them work and living day-to-day to provide for their families. People just get caught in the moment, they don’t know how to properly use the freedom they have when they leave their homes behind to travel. I think that being young and on our own in the world we are more susceptible to this behavior. It’s easier to falling into stride with everyone else or completely ignore the people and just enjoy the sites. What I believe Slimbach is saying is that the whole experience of traveling and/or living abroad is about a give and take approach in learning from the new culture, people, and country as a whole and not singling out one thing specifically.

Which brings us to global community. At the beginning of it all (this course), we came up with a working definition for global community. It is as follows, global community is composed of all living things  who make up smaller communities that are conjoined by the desire to achieve human rights. In retrospect to what I’ve experienced and to what Slimbach has shared I think that this definition might need to be altered just a bit. I feel as though this definition doesn’t take into account the choices and consequences that affect different communities. In an ideal world yes the working definition would be fine, but I don’t think we realize that although we all work toward a common “interest” it doesn’t always have the same outcome. We said human rights, just this week my professor and his daughters were verbally threatened, almost physically, because of the religion they believed in just for my professor asking if the couple could not vulgarly kiss like they were in front of his 3, 5, and 7-year-old daughters. They were giggling, they didn’t know or think anything of it. How does someone’s religion have anything to do with public decency. This is in Wales, a modern country, 1st world country, can you imagine how it is in 3rd world countries. If we can only guarantee human rights in some countries and not others then how is it a common goal. Also, if we do guarantee it, at what cost do others have to pay in order for only some countries to be even able to attain such freedom? I don’t know, maybe I’m just looking at things too closely, but one thing for sure is that even Slimbach points out that what we do individually, as a community, has an effect on the entire world on a global scale. I think often times people who travel abroad don’t realize that they not only represent themselves, but their country and community as well.

So, in saying as much there are steps that I have and will continue to take in order to think like and be a “mindful traveler”. First and foremost I will actually be traveling this weekend within my home country. I will be traveling to North Wales, Snowdonia. For those of you who don’t know I am actually taking a course to learn Welsh, which is spoken in Wales, predominantly in North Wales. In North Wales, I and a group of people will be hiking Mt. Snowdon, there’s a lot of rich history to learn from Mt.Snowdon. I am looking forward to listening and speaking the language with native speakers as well as get the feel for the differences between the North and South regions of Wales. It’s my belief from what I understood of what Slimbach was saying in order to be a “mindful traveler” you must have balance. Go and experience the country, its history, its people, and its culture, but don’t get so lost as to lose sight of what you originally sought out to do, which is to learn and understand from your experiences and discoveries in a place new to you, to grow as a person. I think a lot of people get caught up trying to see everything and go everywhere. Find somewhere you really would like to visit and learn from that experience, what new knowledge have you gained, what new and lasting memories have you made?

Snowdonia by Marian Jones

Snowdonia by Marian Jones

This is a picture of Snowdonia and in the back you can see Mt. Snowdon (hopefully if the weather holds I will take some of my own). I think that this best describes mindful thinking because within one’s host country you can’t learn everything from locals, history, or visiting tourist sites; you have to experience the country. You have to experience it with a clear and sound mind, don’t rush to go everywhere. Had I not decided to go and explore other places outside of Cardiff, how would I have actually said and thought that experienced the country. Your host country is more than the city in which you stay in. Most of these countries are 100s of years old, more so than America, to not go and learn about and from their rich history is a if you went on a very long boring 4 month vacation in which you stayed in the city and did touristy things. If you want to get the most out of your experience and truly want to understand the people, culture, and the country in which you are in, you have to put yourself out there and be willing to learn and experience new things. This picture holds wonder, wisdom, and curiosity, but it also has a feeling of peace. I feel that this is a new discovery, adventure, and experience waiting to unfold and add another piece to this chapter in my life.

Travel Log 6: “The Mindful Traveler” by Doug Beebe; London UK

It has now been a little over a month that I have been in London and it seems like it’s keeps getting better and better as the days go on. Now that I have pretty much seen and done all of the tourist things that you must see and do when you come to London I feel that I have started to drift towards the more quaint and local parts of town away from all the tourism. Studying abroad is so great in so many ways but also has a negative side when it comes to immersing yourself in your host culture as well as learning more about the place you are living in. It seems as though many people treat studying abroad as if you are entirely on vacation and just do whatever you want and travel every weekend and some that are only there to go to school and that is it. From my prospective, studying abroad is meant to have a healthy balance and that is what I feel helps us to become mindful travelers.

Something that I have found myself doing recently is trying to blend in with the English culture. Trying to act similarly and to try not to stick out in the crowd as the annoying American. I thought that this would really help me to understand they way English people live and go about their day if I almost mimicked them. Slimbach mentioned in his third chapter that “most of us are creatures of habit. Our tendency is to do things on autopilot” (Slimbach, 74). This, I think, is something I have found myself doing a lot, as well as my friends, when we are out and about in London. One of the ways that I try to assimilate with the culture is to look like I know where I am going, keep up the pace, and not be aimlessly walking and getting in people’s way. After reading this quote I realized that maybe that isn’t the best way to get to know a culture because I am missing so much a long the way. I realized that if on my way to school everyday I could make my walk about twice as long if I just slowed my pace down and looked at my surroundings and window shopped and discovered more within my neighborhood that just walking with tunnel vision through the streets with my eye on one destination.

Another really cool lesson that I learned recently was it is okay to stand out as different from the typical Londoner because sometimes they are just as intrigued with my culture as I am with there’s. Earlier this week my flat mates and I went to the Somerset House which is a mansion on the Thames River with many different coffee shops and art galleries throughout it. As we were walking through one of the exhibits an English man stopped us and struck up a conversation. He must have heard our accents from a far and decided that he was going to quiz us on different terminology and cultural practices within London. He asked us what we thought different phrases would mean and why English people do certain things a certain way and we wound up learning so much from this random man that we probably never would have understood if he didn’t go out on a limb and start talking to us. From this mans quiz I leaned that I am awful at trivia and that sometimes you can have the best conversations when you just strike up a conversation with someone about something random and ask each other questions. This is what truly made me understand what I mindful traveler is.

I decided to insert a picture of the Somerset house the day that the random English man came up to us and started firing trivia at us. This was such a significant day because it really inspired me to want to go out and ask my questions and start conversations with people I normal would converse with to hopefully make me more of a mindful traveler.

Travel Log 6: “The Mindful Traveler” by Jared Walsh. Barcelona, Spain

 

Living in Europe thus far has continued to be surreal. I wake up in a foreign country everyday thinking about how lucky I am to have been given this experience. Europe’s geography has given me the opportunity to travel to 5 countries so far in my trip due to ease of travel. I’ve gotten to experience many cultures and sights that I would be blind to without this opportunity. But whether or not I have been a mindful traveler or a carefree drifter thus far is a bit of a toss up.

In Slimbach’s texts, he discusses two types of travelers: the mindful traveler and the carefree drifter. We must consider that to be mindful is “to consider why, how, and with what effect we do what we do” (Slimbach, 74). A mindful traveler takes into account his actions while traveling and how his actions have affected the local culture or individuals in that area. Slimbach discusses that mindful travelers “ 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” (Slimbach, 74). On the other hand, carefree drifters are those that don’t really take into account their effect on their surroundings. They’re in the host country to see the sights and only acknowledge the effect of their actions on themselves. In a global community, it is important, now more than ever, that one be able to see the effect they have on a country when they travel. Our working definition of a global community, “a community comprised of all living things who make up smaller communities that are conjoined by the desire to achieve human rights”, emphasizes the fact that all communities have an effect on one another. While the wording of this definition addresses a major concept, it also misses out on the fact that achieving human rights is not the main thing that conjoins all of these communities; the interactions between people, mindful travelers and locals are what connects us. It is for that reason that being a mindful traveler is absolutely a key characteristic of intentional participants of the global community. It is worth noting, however, that it isn’t always easy to be a mindful traveler. Sometimes you can really just get caught up in all the sights and the newness of everything surrounding you that you just go about your business without any regard for your affect on others. I think this comes with time and experience. These trips abroad for all of us are just stepping stones towards becoming mindful travelers in the global community.

So far in Barcelona I think I’ve been a moderate mindful traveler. I take into account the various forms of mindfulness that Slimbach discusses, including economic, cultural and social mindfulness. I find that I am very economically mindful. For example, I always search for all of the locally owned stores when shopping for anything. I just got my haircut in a small barbershop that I’ve seen locals walk into. I go to the smaller owned markets rather than the larger chains. For all of my bread-type purchases I always head to one of the local bakeries. I’m aware that the economic situation in Spain isn’t the greatest at the current moment, and I want to be able to help out the locals in my surrounding area as much as possible. I’d much rather give my business to a small mom and pop store as opposed to a financially secure chain. And most of the time shopping at those places is more rewarding. Recently I was heading back from class on a different path than usual and ran across a bagel store. I was excited because bagels are actually quite difficult to come by in Spain. I went in the store, met the friendly owner, and ordered one of the specialty bagels. I’ve been going back to that store nearly every day after class. The owner already knows my regular order, and has even been helping me with my Spanish (I’ve been trying to order in Spanish and my accent has been pretty terrible). This goes to show that breaking routine can lead to awesome experiences!

 

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The image I chose is a quote by St. Augustine that reads “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” It is the same quote that Slimbach chose to use in his book. Why? Because I believe that it is still extremely important to travel in life. When people are traveling though, they should think of this book as having chapters from various points of view – one may be their own point of view, but they should also consider what the other chapter written by a local in the host country “wrote.”

TL6:The Mindful Traveler by Rob Cowan

Week 5 onsite is fully in progress, and has honestly felt like the most normal week I’ve had in a long time. I’m not traveling anywhere this weekend, so I’m in a much more relaxed mindset, focusing on getting my work done and exploring my own city in great detail. While Barcelona has felt like home for a couple of weeks now, I’m really starting to hit my stride this week. This stride can lead to a more comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere, but presents various dangers that must be avoided. The last thing I want to begin to happen is to get in such a routine that I lose focus on my surroundings and purpose in being here. Slimbauch highlights this danger in the opening of his chapter, where he writes, “Most of us are creatures of habit. Our tendency is to do travel related things on automatic pilot, largely oblivious to the movements themselves and how they affect the world around us.” While I don’t feel as if I have become oblivious, I am slowly feeling myself taking for granted the countless countries, sights, and places I’ve been. Luckily, this self reflection and reading is putting me back on track.

While going abroad, you are really left on your own to decide what kind of experience you are going to have. You can drink more than usual, party more than usual, and treat the entire trip like a vacation. While students can do this, it will not serve any cultural or educational purpose, and will most likely result in the student not receiving a true global education. The next option is to thoughtfully observe these new cultures, ask to many questions, and put yourself out there in order to explore the world and yourself. The best part is, as students and travelers we are able to choose who we will be. Slimbauch writes, “we have the ability to whether our journeys will be mindful attempts to maximize benefits to ourselves and our host communities, or just another luxury item mindlessly consumed.” (74) With this in mind, it is important to know what we are choosing. A mindful traveler is defined as someone who “Approaches our field settings with a level of sensitivity and curiosity that raises our conscious awareness of how we affect social and natural environments.”(74) I have definitely tried to do that in my personal life by using a varying degree of strategies that have so far worked.

One thing that helps you separate yourself from a vacation atmosphere is to speak with the locals of the places you are in, which can give you a new perspective on your travels and interactions. In Spain, I have signed for a language exchange program. This has paired me with a local who is learning English, and will allow us to practice our languages out on each other. After getting to talk to them, I better understood Catalonian independence movement, attitudes towards tourists, and the religion that is FC Barcelona. On another occasion, I spoke to a taxi driver on a long ride about the varying differences between Barcelona and the United States. He questioned my motives for choosing Barcelona to study business, pointing out the country weak economy and the America’s impressive GDP output. He proudly told us of his dream to start a restraint in New York City, and how the American Dream is alive and well in the minds of many Europeans. This made me think about America’s power, and how I take our luxuries for granted almost always. While traveling, I’ve tried to speak to one local, with my favorite conversation being with a coffee shop owner in Amsterdam about gun control and women’s rights. An odd setting for that sort of talk for sure, but it gave an incredible insight to Dutch ideologies nonetheless. As Mark Twain said, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.”

My second strategy on being mindful is self-reflection. Multiple times a week, I take walks on my own to make sure my head is right. After I get on the plane to come home to Barcelona, I document my thoughts, observations, and feelings about the place I traveled to, as well as writing down every funny moment that happened. This, along with these weekly posts, has kept me grounded more than I ever could’ve thought possible. I’ve never been one for self-reflection and writing, but it has significantly helped my experience abroad.

reflection

This picture I chose shows me looking over the mountains that border the rear of Barcelona. Sometimes, it’s nice to sit back and take in the view, and realize it won’t always be right in front of you.