4 mins

8 ways to travel more mindfully

Sometimes it's best just to slow down. Travel more mindfully to experience more culture, meet new people, and simply enjoy the thrill of the open road. Pick one of these challenges and you'll relish the change of pace...

Hiking woman with backpack  (Shutterstock)

Sleep under the stars

Seeking out dark skies and engaging with the big empty above is good for us. It reminds us how small we are and – away from light pollution – resets our biological clocks. Also, seeking an endless sparkle of stars is, simply, wow. Whether you sleep out in a swag, bivvy bag, Bedouin tent or boutique lodge, you can simply lay back and enjoy the celestial entertainment.

Starry night at NamibRand Nature Reserve (Dreamstime)
Starry night at NamibRand Nature Reserve (Dreamstime)

Where? Roll out your mat in an official International Dark Sky Reserve – such as Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve; go fancy with a luxurious four-poster ‘starbed’, such as South Africa’s Chalkley Treehouse. For more stargazing tips see our Masterclass

Ride an electric bike

If the rise of cycling has characterised the past decade, the rise of e-cycling may be the story of the next. E-bikes (bikes with small electric motors) are the fastest growing cycling product, according to the British Electric Bike Association. You still need to pedal, but the motor gives you an extra push, allowing even novice riders to tackle undulating terrain or longer distances, usually the preserve of the super fit.

Cycling in Queenstown, New Zealand (Dreamstime)
Cycling in Queenstown, New Zealand (Dreamstime)

Where? Flatten out Wales’s rolling Brecon Beacons; get a helping hand in Austria’s hilly Tyrol; explore the undulations around Queenstown, New Zealand.

Try stand-up paddleboarding

Stand-up paddleboarding – using a paddle to propel yourself while standing upright on a board – is a super sport for travellers. That’s because on gentle waters, it’s easy to pick up. In minutes you can be zipping across turquoise seas, around rocky headlands and into lagoons; alternatively, the more adventurous can take on wilder waves. It’s good for you too, providing a low impact workout for virtually every muscle in the body.

Paddleboarding in Hawaii (Shutterstock)
Paddleboarding in Hawaii (Shutterstock)

Where? Hawaii is the spiritual home of SUPing; paddle with bioluminescence in Tobago; propel yourself around Bristol’s historic Floating Harbour.

Complete a long-distance walk

Walking is wonderful. It’s a great way to see spectacular places inaccessible by other means, not to mention being one of the best forms of exercise. But following a multi-day, long-distance trail is something else. There’s the element of challenge, as well as a chance to fall into the stress-relieving, landscape-appreciating rhythm of perambulation.

Hiking in the Lake District (Shutterstock)
Hiking in the Lake District (Shutterstock)

Walk day after day and suddenly life assumes of blissful simplicity, filled only with mountains and coastlines and hills and rivers, and the need to fill your belly with something delicious and deserved each night.

Where? Great Britain – so many footpaths to pick from; a pilgrimage, such as the Florence-Rome Way of St Francis (new Cicerone guide out now); or why not a whopper? The USA’s 4,286km Pacific Crest Trail or Australia’s 5,330km Bicentennial Trail, perhaps?

Learn to cook like a local

As a picture is worth a thousand words, a single dish can tell a thousand stories. One single pie, stew or soup might contain notes of turbulent history, cultural melding, societal traditions, even topography and climate change. Learning to cook a local speciality is a great way to taste the destination, especially if you choose a class that involves a trip to the market first, to see, smell, touch and select the ingredients that power the place.

Traditional Moroccan cusine (Shutterstock)
Traditional Moroccan cuisine (Shutterstock)

Where? Good places for market-to-mouth cookery classes include Morocco, Thailand, Mexico City and Palma in Mallorca.

Sleep with a stranger (in a manner of speaking)

If you haven’t yet tried an online accommodation marketplace such as HouseTrip or Airbnb, 2016 is the year to do so. There have never been more options, in more locations: by late 2015, one site offered more than two million places to stay. You could book someone’s bargain spare room, and benefit from your host’s local knowledge and network of contacts.

Or opt for a whole apartment or houseboat, where you’ll likely get a more character for your cash than you would in a hotel. Either way, it's nice to have a local 'home' rather than kipping down in a hotel every night. 

Bed & Breakfast (Dreamstime)

Bed & Breakfast (Dreamstime)

Worldwide – the likes of HouseTrip, Airbnb, FlipKey and other such sites have properties all over, from Anguilla to Benin, from Paraguay to Palau.

Learn a language

Many scientific studies hail the benefits of learning a language. Research has indicated that it slows brain ageing and results in less loss of brain function following a stroke. But, on a simpler level, it enables you to interact more fully with people you meet on your adventures – from being able to buy a train ticket to discussing politics.

One of the best (most fun) ways to learn is in-country – live with a local family for full immersion, practice constantly, and never be afraid to fail. Your brain will thank you.

Antigua, Guatemala (Shutterstock)
Antigua, Guatemala (Shutterstock)

Where? Antigua, Guatemala, is a classic spot to learn Spanish; however, picking a less-popular location can be beneficial: fewer other tourists/students means you’re less able to fall back on your English.

Stay still

At Wanderlust, we love travel. We love seeing as much as possible, strolling this city, that town, those forests, them there hills. We want to get a full picture of the place we’re passing through. But, blimey, it can be tiring. And maybe even counterproductive? Every now and then, don’t dash, take time to stay still.

Remain in the same spot for a week or two; melt into its vibe, locate your favourite cafe, get on first-name terms with the baker. Maybe give directions to another tourist.

Greenwich Village, New York (Dreamstime)
Greenwich Village, New York (Dreamstime)

Where? City neighbourhoods (eg Williamsburg, New York and Fitzroy, Melbourne); rent a cottage in the remote wilds – the perfect place to watch nature and write that travel book…

Main Image: Hiking woman with backpack (Shutterstock)

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