The stages of travel

Mindful Travel, USA

A quick search of the internet reveals that there are plenty of views on how many stages of travel there actually are – although, it often seems that the number put forward is influenced by the product being marketed! Common terms include researching, booking and sharing, but I feel that these are all captured in the following simplified version:

I

Dreaming

I

Planning

I

Experiencing

I

Remembering

When looking at these four stages, it’s important to remember the principles of mindful travel – that is, focusing your consciousness with purpose, in the present moment and without judgment.

For example, the dreaming stage is often influenced by stories that you hear from family or friends about their travels. Rather than becoming jealous of their experiences, you should view them as a catalyst to make your own travel plans. This means really embracing the idea of going somewhere new and enjoying the fact that you have so many options to choose from.

It’s also important not to become impatient during the planning stage through wishing that your departure date would hurry up and arrive. Planning requires attention as it is an important step that will help you to decide many aspects of your trip, such as:

  • How long can you travel for?
  • How many destinations will you visit?
  • How much money will you need / be able to save?
  • When you will be able to depart?
  • Are there any ‘must-see’ attractions?
  • Are there any ‘must-do’ events?
  • How will you get there?
  • How will you get around?

In terms of the experiencing stage, we’ve already looked at trying not to compare one destination with another in the Niagara Falls article, but I also remember getting caught up with the cost of accommodation during my first trip to New York, after spending the previous six months in South America. I was so shocked that one night in a hostel was the same price as one week in Colombia, where I’d just come from, that I ended up changing the place I was staying three times in six days in an attempt to save some money.

I still had a great time and did manage to save a bit, but if I’d just accepted the situation for what it was, rather than comparing it to another experience, I would have been able to relax and not spent those hours carting my backpack from place to place. Fortunately, I realised this afterwards and haven’t made the same mistake since!

The photo below was also taken between places, so moving around wasn’t a complete waste of time!

Equally important as not becoming impatient during the planning stage, is not allowing yourself to stress about the imminent end of your trip – whether it’s in a few days, weeks or months. Staying present helps you to enjoy every moment of your travels, rather than occupying your mind with what’s on the horizon.

Finally, with regards to the remembering stage, it’s often hard for anyone that hasn’t been away to relate to the experiences that you’ve had, so it’s important not to become frustrated with those who may not share the same level of enthusiasm for your stories as you!

Being present in this stage can also be difficult, especially straight after arriving home and having to get on with ‘normal life’ again. A great way to avoid getting caught up with thinking, “I wish I was back there” is to really cherish the experiences that you had and the people that you met along the way. This may even lead you back to the dreaming stage as you give some thought to visiting your new friends in their home country, or meeting them somewhere else – you wouldn’t be the first one to cure some post-travel blues by starting to plan your next trip!

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