Being in the moment takes your road trip from something ordinary to something sublime. In fact, this applies to all travel – why go there if you’re not going to really be there? My mother, an extremely experienced traveler, learned this lesson at a very deep level while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
My mother is a “doer” – a very active and engaged person who really gets out in the world. Sometimes, this need to be active can backfire as you’re so busy running around you can’t see where you are. On her trip to Australia, they spent some time snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. Their instructor told them very clearly that they must lie on top of the water and be completely still (not easy for Mom) in order to see the fish.
You see, the fish in the reef hide when things get stirred up and the only time they come out is when it’s peaceful. As she fought her inner get-up-and-go, each second feeling like an hour, she was astonished to see the water below – empty of life a moment ago – filled with brilliant color as thousands of fish swam out of their hiding places. All around her the water turned Technicolor and suddenly she didn’t have to fight to stay still, she was paralyzed with wonder.
Being in the moment is better defined as slowing down and being still. Whenever you’re rushing to see that next sight or try that new thing, you are often so engaged in the process of doing that you stop being.
What is the best way of being in the moment? Take these steps to become still and you will find that the world around you will become lush with life and color:
Being in the Moment: Sight
You’ve arrived at your destination or you’ve stopped somewhere great along your road trip route and you really want to experience the place. After doing the usual wandering, take ten minutes to yourself and find a place to sit down. Sitting there, start by taking three long deep breaths – this will help calm you down and allow you to see more clearly.
Next, starting over your right shoulder slowly scan the entire area you’re in, taking in the scenery, the people walking by, any animals/birds/insects/etc. Look at the sky and pay attention to the weather. Notice shadows and the play of sunlight. If it’s nighttime, pay attention to the moon and the stars in the sky. Continue your slow-scan until you’re looking over your left shoulder.
Being in the Moment: Sound
Now close your eyes for at least three minutes. Listen to all the sounds, cars passing on the nearby road, people talking, music, birdsong, footsteps, sizzling food. If you feel weird doing this, lean back on your hands and turn your face up – it looks like you’re just resting your eyes and relaxing for a moment. More and more sounds will become available to you as you sit with your eyes closed – ones you would have never noticed with your eyes open.
Being in the Moment: Smell
Keep your eyes closed! Breathe deeply and slowly, taking in all the scents around you. Think about what memories those scents bring back. The smell is the strongest memory stimulator of all, and you’ll be surprised at what comes back to you as you think about the various smells around you.
Find a dominant smell? There are more scents under there – keep breathing in and pay attention. Try to find at least 4 more aromas in the air around you – trust me, they’re there. We may not have the ability to smell as much a dog can smell, but our sense of smell is a very strong one, we’re just used to dismissing the odors around us unless they’re purposeful (perfume), gross (an overflowing septic tank), or seem dangerous (gas or smoke).
Being in the Moment: Touch
Open your eyes now. Feel the air around you – is it hot? Cold? Humid? Dry? Feel any breezes. Feel the sunlight on your skin. Feel anything close at hand – the wood of the bench you’re sitting on, the roughness of the rock you’ve perched on. Feel your body in your clothes – the sensation of cloth on skin.
Look around you – what is here that you would like to touch? Get up and walk over and touch it (assuming it’s legal to touch it, of course). As children, we touch everything. Heck, we put everything in our mouth when we’re very young! Touching is a very essential part of being in the moment, so definitely touch at least one thing. If you feel like it, touch even more things that are special or unique to where you are and enjoy the discovery of sensation.
Being in the Moment: Taste
Is there anything to eat where you are? Especially something that has to do with the place? Whenever I eat Cracker Jack, I remember eating it for the first time as a little girl while walking along a boardwalk at a beach on Long Island on a cool and cloudy summer day. Now is your chance to add taste to your full experience of the place you’re visiting. Try to make this item something you’ve never had before, if possible.
Eat whatever you choose slowly, savoring every bite. Close your eyes again and thoroughly taste what you’re eating – let the flavors fill your mouth. Don’t hurry or you’ll miss all the nuances of flavor in the food you’re eating.
By immersing yourself in all of your senses you’re truly being in the moment in a way that the active-you can’t be. Be still, be there, and watch the magic of the place you’re visiting come out of hiding.
In addition to being in the moment, there are other ways to get the most out of your vacation. Check out these tips on the personal growth elements of travel.
If you’re like me, you want to make the most of life. I found a site covering this subject that’s simply amazing that I highly recommend. Check out these tips to live life to the fullest!