Travel Photo Credit: Averie Woodward

Turn Your Next Road Trip Into a Mindfulness Retreat

Author Brooke McAlary explains the art and importance of slow travel.

For many of us, planning a road trip is both hectic and exciting. There’s a lot to consider after all, from planning an itinerary to figuring out how much—or how little—to bring with you. With all this in mind, it’s easy for what was supposed to be a fun trip to become a stress-inducing experience. But what if it was possible to turn your busy road trip into a mindfulness retreat?

When the opportunity arose for Brooke McAlary, Australian author of Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World, to take her family on a slow road trip across Western Canada, she seized the chance. But what exactly is a “Slow” road trip?

“Taking a slow road trip, or any kind of slow travel, is about how we experience our time on the road,” says McAlary, “For me it’s about settling in to life in a different place, living like a traveller as opposed to a tourist, finding out what farmers markets and grocery stores are around, spending time in the local library and community centre, taking time out to sit in a park and people watch—these are all part of slow travel.”

Photo Credit: Brooke McAlary

The idea, McAlary adds, is to take time and actually pay attention to the experiences you’re having, to enjoy each one in depth rather than focus broadly on many of them. For those wanting to go on a slow road trip of their own, McAlary shares some handy advice:

Don’t let the planning overwhelm you. “Chances are, for longer trips, your plans will evolve over time anyway, so accept that you’re probably not going to have all the answers before you leave. Simply pick a place to land, have your first accommodation arranged and ensure you’ve ticked all the major boxes before leaving home (mail, house-sitters, pet-sitters, budget, emergency fund etc.).”

Pack less than you think you need. “Don’t buy specialized travel clothes unless they’re a necessity. Travelling slow is so much easier when you’re travelling light, and part of the beauty of life on the road is learning just how little we need in order to be happy.”

Photo Credit: Brooke McAlary

Stay in places that have a kitchen. “Eating out every meal gets real old, real fast. By staying in Airbnb’s that have even a simple kitchen, you’ll save money, eat better food and settle in to a slower, gentler rhythm much more quickly.”

Photo Credit: Brooke McAlary

Swap gear as needed. “Most bigger towns and cities will have secondhand gear stores and these are great places to donate seasonal gear you no longer need, and pick up affordable gear as required. Skis, snowboards, winter jackets and boots, backpacks, bikes—there’s no need to carry it all, year-round.”

Photo Credit: Brooke McAlary

When first arriving in a new place, take some time to drive through the main area of town. “This will give you to get a sense of what’s around, and help to settle in. You can find the grocery store, pool, beaches, parks, coffee shops, library and community centre and minimize that sense of being an outsider.”

 

What are your tips for making the most of a vacation? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments

It’s interesting that she mentions Airbnbs… Regarding the practice of mindfulness, I often consider it purposeful. Airbnbs have affected the number of available units in large cities, such as Toronto. I love to stay in places that have kitchens, of course. But I also think it’s important, from this perspective to consider the effects of our choices. Camping (especially on the West Coast), staying with friends, or staying in B&Bs are all alternatives to Airbnb culture.

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