Is Mindful Travel the Next Big Thing?

Is Mindful Travel the Next Big Thing?

In response to our frenetic world, travellers are looking for breaks that go deeper than the typical detox holiday or yoga retreat. We examine the trend for conscious travel and offer five simple steps for incorporating mindfulness into your next trip.

was in the otherworldly peaks of the Indian Himalayas that I
discovered cosmic energy. Over the last decade I’d travelled
extensively for work and leisure, but that trip stood out for two
reasons. Firstly, my travelling buddy was a close friend and
mental-health therapist with an infectious enthusiasm for life’s
simple pleasures. Perhaps more importantly, the destination was
unspoiled by tourism.

In the stillness of Almora, I could hear my inner voice. The
unstructured time somehow felt more mindful than a run-of-the-mill
detox break or yoga retreat. Against the snow-capped Nanda Devi
peaks, days were spent forest bathing, discovering local wildlife
and taking in lungfuls of crisp mountain air. I sensed true

In the mountains, I felt far removed from the stresses of modern
travel – the multiple connections, packing logistics, heavy carbon
footprint and figuring out the best itinerary or places to eat. My
experience of peace and balance was the antithesis to our
overworked, chaotic world. It was a break in a very real sense –
but one that felt inaccessible to most travellers today.

Yet as it turns out, there are several UK-based operators that
are putting conscious travel at the forefront of their itineraries.
Take The Mindful Travel Co., for instance, which offers sustainable
vacations to Australia and New Zealand. Founders Emma Penfold and
Laura Hughes curate unrushed, meaningful itineraries which leave a
positive impact on both the traveller and the destination. “Our
customers tend to be eco-conscious, sometimes spiritual and usually
looking for a well-deserved break,” they say. “For us, travel and
mindfulness are about being in the world, in the present, and
giving meaning to our existence and to the existence of

Daintree Rainforest in Northern Queensland is one of The Mindful
Travel Co.’s most popular destinations. With no phone signal,
visitors are truly immersed in nature, surrounded by rock pools,
waterfalls, tropical plants and wildlife. What’s more, on behalf of
its customers, the company offsets carbon emissions by working with
One Tree Planted to support reforestation across North America,
Latin America, Asia, Australia and Africa.

The Arrigo Programme is guided by a similar
“back to nature” ethos. Founded by biodynamic psychologist Fiona
Arrigo its healing retreats – held across
, London,

, France,
and the US
– tackle exhaustion and depression in a bid to achieve better
health, balance and happiness among its clients. It’s Back to
Nurture by Arrigo retreat is designed exclusively for the modern
woman. Between bedding down in luxury yurts kitted out with private
bathrooms and log burners, women are encouraged to reconnect with
the land; they forage, visit sweat lodges, swim in the wild, craft,
do breathwork and trade stories as they cook by campfire.

This move towards mindful travel is not just a UK phenomenon.
India-based operator Simply Breathe combines adventure
activities with meditation practices on diving retreats in the

. The company was founded by banker Karan Mehta,
underwater photographer Bhushan Bagadia and Michelle Faye Pereira,
a counselling psychologist. “It’s uncanny how alike diving and
meditation are,” they say. “The traditional Buddhist practice of
ânàpànasati [mindful breathing] leads to a deeper connection to the
body which, in turn, helps you tune in to the energies around you.
Similarly, when one is underwater, we focus on breathing instead of
checklists or negative emotions. We are in a state of complete
presence and, through this, it’s possible to develop deep
compassion for the beings around us.” Being a certified diver, I
can attest that I’ve never felt closer to the planet or more aware
of my existence than when I am scuba diving over a rich coral

There’s been an explosion of authors and content creators
focusing on mindful travel. Voiceover artist and writer Emma
(best known for voicing “mind the gap” on the London
Underground) has authored You Are Here: A Mindful Travel Journal.
Between playful illustrations and mindfulness exercises, it
encourages readers to pay attention to their body and senses while
making meaningful memories. “I think so many people feel exhausted
and demoralised because the state of our world makes life quite
challenging,” says Clarke. “My readers are people who are doing
their best to bring happiness and meaning into their lives. The
book speaks to a lot of people regardless of geography, gender and

Indeed, travellers are responding to such offerings in a big
way. Researchers from Australia’s James Cook University have found
that digital detoxing is on the rise. In the summer of 2016, actor
Selena Gomez took a 90-day hiatus from her phone. In 2018, the
Mandarin Oriental in New
partnered with the Mayo Clinic for a wellness
program where guests trade in their phones for journaling,
colouring or merely sitting in silence. In 2019, JetBlue Airlines
partnered with wellness and mindfulness app, Inscape to
provide meditation and relaxation content to its fliers.

Mindful travel in five simple steps

1. Reset

The most important step for a mindful vacation is to be present,
to disconnect and find joy in simple things. This goes a long way
in making other tangible changes which will help you centre
yourself, enjoy your trip and not be perturbed by external factors
that usually trigger travel-related stress.

2. Unplug

You don’t have to swear off connectivity for the entirety of
your trip, but some level of disconnection from your work and
regular life will eventually feel or do good. Switch on the “out of
office”, log out of social media and leave your phone in your room
(or simply put it in flight mode if you’d still like to use the
camera). Many people opt for destinations that have zero or poor
connectivity which results in a mandatory hiatus.

3. Experiment

Let go of your usual routine and travel habits to step out of
your comfort zone. Even if you have a controlling type A
personality, leave an afternoon or two free to see where the road
takes you. Explore indigenous flora and fauna, savour your food,
feel the wind on your face, the sand beneath your toes and allow
your senses to be overwhelmed by the world you’re visiting. Strike
up conversations with local people and ask for suggestions (and try
not feel FOMO about what you’re missing out on according to

4. Practice

Figure out an activity you enjoy and build it into your travels.
This could also depend on the destination. If you’re in the
mountains, try meditating for a few minutes in the wild; take in a
vivid sunset on the beach and even if you’re visiting a city, pause
in a midst of a busy street or museum to sketch or write something
that inspires you. Instead of taking pictures, be present. Relish
the moment.

5. Breathe

Even (and especially) when things go wrong, don’t get worked up
over what you cannot control. Have awareness of your physical
reactions: is your jaw clenched or shoulders tense? Take a deep
breath to relax. Have a book at hand for when you need to kill time
in the face of missed connections or transport breakdowns. Often,
being grateful for what is going right helps to put things into

Discover More
10 New Year’s Resolutions to Help You Travel More Sustainably