You don’t need to be a Buddhist to borrow some spiritual wisdom and integrate it into your (traveler’s) life.
As traveling itself is one of the best ways to learn and become a better version of yourself, a Buddhist mentality can only add to the experience.
Here are 10 Buddhist beliefs that you can use while you’re traveling to feel calmer in the face of difficulties, immerse yourself in your journey and simply feel happier on the road.
1. Live fully in the now
It’s no surprise there’s so much fuss about mindfulness and meditation nowadays. In this high-tech age, our minds are constantly bombarded with flashes of information, social media updates and seemingly endless cat videos, making it almost impossible to stay anchored to the present moment. Buddhists believe that neither reminiscing about the past nor dreaming of the future will make you happy; the right way is to fully savor the present.
On the road: While traveling, take time to stop and try to remember smells, notice shapes and colors, and – perhaps most importantly – don’t scroll through your phone while eating. It’s a reminder to taste every bite of food and immerse yourself full in every moment while you’re traveling. By the way, this is something you could incorporate in your everyday life too.
2. Learn to let go
“You only lose what you cling to,” said the Buddha. If you don’t try to possess a thing, you cannot lose it and it makes it forever yours. To let go is an art that will improve your whole life, whether it be with relationships, friends, possessions or jobs.
On the road: Embrace minimalism and learn to pack only the basics (here’s how to do it). We don’t encourage you to voluntarily let go of your wallet, but if it happens to get stolen, it’s no use making a drama out of it – that won’t help you. Just move on and accept your new conditions.
3. Empty your mind of expectations
There’s a famous Zen story that explains this best:
A university professor once visited a Zen teacher in search of more information about Buddhism. The teacher offered him a cup of tea, which the professor willingly accepted. Then the teacher started pouring tea in the cup, continuing to pour even after the tea started overflowing. “Why don’t you stop when the tea is overflowing?” the professor asked, worried. The teacher answered: “Your mind is just like this cup – overflowing with your expectations and opinions. I can’t give you any new information until you don’t come with an empty cup.”
On the road: Don’t believe what others say about the Russians, the Chinese or the South Africans, for example. Go and see these places for yourself and make up your own mind. The moment you cross a border, forget all your preconceived notions about the country and enter with an empty cup.
4. Don’t label things as “good” or “bad”
One of the basic pillars of Buddhism is non-judgement. You usually tend to qualify events as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but can you remember a moment when something that seemed like the end of the world turned out to be a great piece of luck? If you maintain a non-judgemental attitude, a potential disaster can turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
On the road: Every time you miss a flight or encounter some other traveler’s ‘misfortune’, just remind yourself that it might turn out to the best part of your trip. Encountering troubles on the road (and finding creative solutions to them) can often lead you to meet great people or regain faith in humanity.
5. Feel and express gratitude
There are hundred of books discussing all the advantages of gratefulness, and we’re going to add to that list by reminding you to take a moment to be grateful for what you have when you’re feeling low.
On the road: The very fact you can afford to travel is reason enough to feel thankful, because millions of people around the world can’t even dream of that luxury for various reasons (poverty, war, political restrictions etc.). Take a minute before going to sleep to feel gratitude for all the amazing things that happened to you during the day.
6. All that we are is the result of what we have thought
How is it possible that John hates Thailand, yet Jack considers it the best place in the world? Did they go to the same country? Of course they did, but John and Jack are different people absorbing different information according to their inner image of the world, and that affects their perceptions.
On the road: If you don’t like a place the first time you visit it, consider what conditions might have created that negative attitude – maybe it was raining or your travel companion was grumpy. Challenge yourself to visit the place again and see if your impression is more positive the second time around.
7. When you share your happiness, it doesn’t decrease
If your happiness is a candle and you share the light with others, your light doesn’t decrease.
On the road: Share happy moments on the road with the local people you meet along the way, as well as friends and family back home. Take the time to send news back home – your loved ones will be happy to know you’re safe and having fun.
8. Everything constantly changes
Impermanence is a core Buddhist concept, one that will help you feel at peace even during the most tense moments on the road. According to the belief, everything comes into being and dissolves – good and bad things alike.
On the road: Once you accept that nothing is eternal, it will be easier to appreciate what you have and to realize that all bad things pass eventually.
9. Get to know yourself
“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.”
On the road: Even though traveling might seem like little more than a leisure activity, it actually changes you in a subtle way, no matter how you travel. Regardless of whether you go on short trips or year-long journeys, you will come back a changed – and in many ways better-rounded – person. We get to know ourselves when we face situations that take us out of our comfort zone.
10. It is better to travel well than to arrive
What matters the most is not the final destination but the journey itself. We’re sure you’ve heard this thousands of times before, and you’ll hear it many more times throughout your travels because it’s true.
On the road: Enjoy every step of the journey. Don’t spend all your time on board a bus or a plane just waiting to arrive. Instead, use the time to talk to people, read with ravenous anticipation about your destination or listen to some local music from the place you’re visiting (which you have downloaded in advance because you already know this music habit will change your trips).
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