Do These 5 Simple Things to Become a More Mindful Traveler in 2021

Can you believe it’s already 2021?! Even though we’ve been homebound for the bulk of 2020, the year proved that time doesn’t stop for anyone! I know we’re all ITCHING to bust out those passports and travel again! But aside from filling my bucket list with new travel destinations, 2020 led me to reflect, specifically with becoming a more mindful solo traveler as places begin opening up.

That being said, here are 5 simple ways to become a more mindful traveler in 2021!


1. Don’t rush; travel slow

Slow traveling is one of the simplest ways to practice becoming a more mindful traveler. You’ll learn to appreciate everywhere you go, soak in every moment, and cultivate a deeper connection to a place. Soon, it won’t feel as though you’re just a tourist, but rather a visitor learning to see life from another’s point of view. 

Mindful traveling requires you to be flexible, especially overseas. There is so much world to take in that it’s impossible to have a plan for everything or every situation. You may want to spend a little extra time in Kyoto to fully cherish all it has to offer, or head out of a city early. Traveling with a relatively free schedule is so much more relaxing and allows you to truly enjoy the most of each moment without feeling rushed.

One way I highly recommend slow traveling is by teaching abroad! You reap the benefits of experiencing life immersed in a completely new culture, while having extensive time to enjoy a country to its fullest. Click here to learn more on how you can get started teaching abroad (I highly recommend this for recent graduates!).


2. Leave nothing behind but your footprints

Just as we say here in Hawaii, leave nothing behind but your footprints. One step to becoming a more mindful traveler is respecting mother Earth. Reducing your carbon footprint is huge, and another simple way to become more mindful abroad. Like I shared earlier, you’re ultimately a guest in another person’s home, and just as you’d be respectful when visiting your friend’s house, you should do the same while traveling. Whether it’s packing bamboo utensils, using reusable bags, or picking up rubbish you find on the beach, each of these make such a huge difference collectively.

As travelers, souvenirs are sentimental representations of our fondest memories overseas! Especially here in Hawaii, many tourists try to sneak shells and lava rocks into their luggage (which is illegal and believed to bring bad luck!). To be a more mindful traveler, consider the land and it’s resources to those living there. Don’t disrupt the ecosystem by carving your name onto trees, or taking home rocks/shells. Imagine if every visitor thought, “it’s just one shell” – our beaches would soon be empty. Be mindful of the environment; don’t contribute to its destruction. Instead, be present, take photos, and support local businesses for gifts/souvenirs.


3. Be respectful and embody a mindset of cultural humility

Remember, you’re a visitor in another person’s home. Familiarize yourself with the history and culture ahead of time, and above all, be respectful. Naturally, you’ll encounter lifestyle differences that feel foreign, but at the end of the day, you’re the guest. Act as you would when visiting a friend’s home – you wouldn’t tell them their lifestyle is wrong just because it’s different from yours, would you? 

When places start opening up, be gracious – don’t expect to have the trip of a lifetime just because you paid X amount of dollars. Be grateful to even have the opportunity to travel overseas.

Check out my post on cultural humility to grasp a deeper understanding of how to become more mindful in terms of respect. Your lifestyle habits aren’t universal, and there is SO much you can learn from others’ upbringings when you adapt a mindful approach. No one’s lifestyle is greater than another; there is always something we can learn from others, and traveling allows us to actively do this.


4. Stay curious; ask questions

Curiosity is the heart and soul of solo travel. Be open to new experiences and always ask questions, whether it’s about cultural history, safety tips, or places to visit. Never stop learning! Following your curiosity (safely) encourages viewing the world from a more humble perspective. So instead of traveling merely to cross places off of your bucket list, you’ll approach these new experiences with an open mind. You’ll be surprised what you discover!

Another tip – join Facebook groups specific to your circumstances, whether it’s solo travel in Bangkok, solo hiking in Taiwan, or solo budget traveling in Japan. This tactic is actually a great way to make connections with other like-minded individuals. If you’re looking for quick, honest answers, these forums help make your travels as seamless as possible.


Lastly, don’t stop asking questions after traveling. Feed your curiosity and reflect on how you’ve changed internally. What cultural differences can you adopt into your own life? Where can you learn more about a city’s history? Where do a country’s values stem from? What experiences gave you culture shock? How has travel changed your perspective on cultural integration?


5. Be intentional

No matter where you travel in 2021, set your intentions behind the real reason you want to visit a place. Do you want to develop a stronger connection to the culture? Do you want to feel immersed in a new lifestyle? Or do you want to enjoy the tourist attractions? Whatever the reason is, be intentional with everything you do. Don’t participate in an activity just because everyone else does it – why do YOU want to do it? Solo travel is all about empowering yourself; remember – you don’t need to satisfy the expectations of anyone else.


Wherever 2021 takes you, use these five simple things to practice becoming a more mindful traveler. Once you open your eyes to this deeper perspective on traveling, I promise you’ll never travel the same again.


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18 Comments

  1. January 16, 2021 / 7:35 am

    Great tips – I think a lot of us have felt that with the disruption to all of our travel plans this year that it has been a good time to reflect and maybe be more thoughtful with our travels and our lives. You summarised it perfectly.

    • Kylie
      Author
      January 16, 2021 / 6:56 pm

      Definitely! 2020 was a good year to reflect 🙂

  2. January 16, 2021 / 7:59 am

    These are great tips! I think being a mindful and responsible traveler is such an important thing. This year I’m hoping to implement mindfulness practices into a few areas of my life and travel is one of them! I’m hoping it isn’t too long until we can travel again and I can try out some of these tips. Thanks so much for sharing them!

    • Kylie
      Author
      January 16, 2021 / 7:01 pm

      Same here! I’ve got a lot more to learn when it comes to mindfulness all around!

  3. January 16, 2021 / 8:01 am

    I totally agree with all of these! Especially after 2020, I really learned the importance of slow travel and cultural humility. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Kylie
      Author
      January 16, 2021 / 7:02 pm

      Me too! I usually love filling my itineraries so no minute goes unused, but lately I’ve really come to appreciate slow travel!

  4. January 16, 2021 / 8:35 am

    Great article! I agree with everything and especially about respecting local culture which is so vastly different than our own and not expecting everyone to cater to your culture. Great points!

    • Kylie
      Author
      January 16, 2021 / 7:02 pm

      Yes!!! That’s SO important to remember!

  5. Charu Goyal
    January 16, 2021 / 9:04 am

    I love all these points, Kylie! Slow travel is such an incredible way to really experience a country- it somehow enables me to actually get a feel of the place instead of just ticking places off a list.

    • Kylie
      Author
      January 16, 2021 / 7:04 pm

      Yes! For a while I was a more “tick places off my list” type of person, but over time I’ve come to appreciate fully immersing in new surroundings.

  6. January 16, 2021 / 3:34 pm

    Love love love love these great tips…. I think setting a travel intention will go a long way. Slow travel too! I think some see travel as a competition or a list to cross items off of, and really, what’s the point?! I totally agree that mentality detracts from the real health benefits of traveling.

    • Kylie
      Author
      January 16, 2021 / 7:05 pm

      Oh definitely! I’ve been there and quickly learned how that mentality isn’t actually all that fulfilling!

  7. January 16, 2021 / 5:17 pm

    Great tips! I always trip to be respectful to the environment and the people around me I travel, but I guess there is always more to do to become better.

    • Kylie
      Author
      January 16, 2021 / 7:05 pm

      There’s always more to learn out there for sure 🙂

  8. January 16, 2021 / 11:24 pm

    Such good reminders. We have also become more mindful travelers over the past few years. It is so important for our planet.

    • Kylie
      Author
      January 18, 2021 / 11:17 pm

      I’m so glad to hear that!! I’m sure there’s LOTS we can learn from you guys 🙂

  9. January 17, 2021 / 2:32 am

    Wonderful thoughts here seeing how the pandemic has disrupted all of our lives including travel plans. I love the idea of leaving behind nothing by my footprints 🙂

    • Kylie
      Author
      January 18, 2021 / 11:20 pm

      Yup! I’m so happy seeing many people pushing sustainable/eco-friendly travel lately!

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