Thanks to social media, there’s a lot of pressure to have the perfect vacation. It’s not enough that you’re traveling to an amazing location and LIVING through the experience, but you also need to have the PROOF that you had a good time. You absolutely must come back with professional-grade photography and stories of five-star dinners and off-the-beaten-path experiences. It’s all so much!
My husband and I’s vacation to Maui started off less than perfect with a sunburn and major stomach problems. We went into it looking for more of an improvised and spontaneous experience, so I only booked our flight and Airbnb. Not worrying about a plan freed us up, but it also made for some missed opportunities. But even the most meticulously planned trip can have its ups and downs, so we didn’t let the bad moments override the good.
It made me realize, travel has the potential to open you up as a person if you let it. It’s not about controlling the environment around you to make it comfortable for you, it’s about adjusting your own attitude so that you can enjoy anything, anywhere! It reminded me of yoga, about how the poses can be uncomfortable but the challenge is seeing how long you can sit through it until you don’t even notice it. These same yogic principles could be applied to your next trip to make for an enjoyable experience. Consider taking these ideals with you next time you travel:
Be mindful and respectful of the people and places you visit
The first limb of yoga (Yama) are the moral vows a yogi takes in respect to how they interact with their outside world. Those vows include: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, the right use of energy, and non-greed. All of these principles can be applied to the way you treat your fellow travelers, locals, and hospitality staff/workers. This should be common sense but I see rude and disrespectful behavior all the time when I travel.
This doesn’t just apply to the treatment of other people, but also the way we treat our environment. At one point on our trip, we were at the summit of Haleakalā National Park (an altitude of 10,000 ft.) and we found candy wrappers on the ground. It’s mind boggling to me that you could be thousands of feet in the sky, surrounded by stunning natural beauty, a place of history, and your choice at that moment is to litter. DON’T BE THAT PERSON!
Respect and honor what your body needs
Part of vacation goals is eating and drinking unabashedly, right! Wrong. I know I have stomach issues. I know I can’t drink very much alcohol. I know that travel already makes my digestion system go out of whack. Did I let that deter me from pounding three sugary vodka drinks in the middle of the day on an empty stomach? No! I had a nice buzz-on for a bit until it wore off and my stomach started rejecting everything into the toilet. It was a rough night, and my stomach was never quite the same for the rest of the trip.
All of this could’ve been avoided if I hadn’t ignored my body and given into vacation pressure. Had I stuck to my beloved iced teas none of this would have happened. I tried not to dwell on the matter and I enjoyed the rest of the trip even if I had to be less adventurous with gastronomical choices. Honor what your body asks for, don’t feel pressured to eat or drink that thing you don’t feel like eating or drinking. Or do anything with your body that doesn’t make you feel comfortable. Listen to your gut, it’s usually right!
Asana is optional
Before I left for my trip, I was talking to a fellow yogi in the studio. Her advice to me was to not do any yoga at all, to not even think about it. At the time, I thought that was odd; of course I’m gonna do yoga! Once we got there, I realized she was right. Vacation time’s supposed to be an opportunity to hang loose and relax! The last thing I needed was to go Type-A on vacation by making it all about yoga class. Besides, I found it a wonderful opportunity to practice the non-physical part of yoga which tends to be the hardest part anyway.
If you absolutely can’t help yourself and MUST practice your poses, be my guest. I simply suggest honoring the first limb of yoga and conducting yourself accordingly. This includes being mindful and respectful of the people around you and also keeping your ego in check. The videos below include a couple of examples of yogis being extra in very public shared spaces. Some might argue that these displays of asana are perfectly acceptable because they don’t bother anyone. My argument is, how do you know you’re not bothering anyone? On stuff like this, I err on the conservative side. If I really need to do yoga on the plane, I’ll stick to some gentle neck, spine, and leg stretches without needing to go upside-down or in the middle of the aisle.
Take a breath and go with the flow
THINGS ARE GOING TO GO WRONG. Guaranteed. Even the most meticulously planned trip will have some element that doesn’t go your way. The key is to be okay with all of it, embrace the new direction and maybe you’ll stumble upon something even better.
This happened to us in Maui, I messed up on the bus routes but thanks to a local who overheard us and gave us some advice, we ended up in another cool town. If you’re too regimented on your trips, you don’t open yourself up to those opportunities. You have to be a little loose. Admittedly, this is easier said than done, and sometimes I’m not great at it, but vacation time is a great opportunity to practice it.
This one’s difficult because you want to make sure you see everything so you’re constantly thinking about what comes next. What are we going to see tomorrow? What about the day after? And the day after? But you must put those thoughts aside in order to enjoy the current moment.
If you find yourself jumping ahead, remind yourself to take it one step at a time. Remind yourself that you HAVE the time, you’re on vacation! Take in your environment using all your senses, then turn those senses inward to understand what your body feels. Take the time to tune in to yourself. We’re so busy checking off our task list that we forget to do that sometimes. If you find yourself or your vacation mates starting to go down that path, just say, “Let’s get through today first.” That helps.
Reflect on life
If you’re on vacation, chances are you’re going to see beautiful vistas and awe-inspiring nature. Take that moment to reflect and meditate on life. This could mean thinking through personal matters like career or family, or it could be working through some of the problems plaguing the world right now like racism. Yogis believe that if you meditate long enough on something, the universe will expose its secrets to you.
We got around Maui on the bus and this provided us countless hours of staring off into the ocean and long conversations. Be a philosopher, ask questions, even if you don’t know the answers to them. Especially if you don’t know the answers to them! If you turn the problem around in so many ways eventually you find the answer. Maybe you’ll have an epiphany and come back home a changed person.
Don’t forget to have fun! Overthinking your trip is the easiest way to suck the fun out of it. Laugh, move your body, get some air and sunshine, it’s that easy.
I wrote this with a focus on vacation, but now that I think about it, these could apply to everyday life! You don’t have go anywhere to begin to listen to your intuition, be more mindful, and enjoy what you can from life. Even if you’re not going anywhere, consider whether there’s room in your life to try some of these thoughts out. Safe travels, and namaste!