The Mindful Tourist

18th December 2020

This piece published on the Just Breathe Project – The Mindful Tourist. 

For those who love to travel,  a big question for the (near) future will be – when will we be able to travel ‘properly’ again? Where can we go and what will the world of travel and tourism look like?

What we do know is that people like to travel. Over the last few decades cheap flights have allowed us to travel affordably, regularly and discover different parts of the world.

A good example of this passion for travel (and a demonstration of ‘pent-up demand’) from a few months ago, were the ‘flight to nowhere’ experiences, where airlines took people up in the air for a sightseeing trip. Opinion is divided on the appropriateness of these excursions.  One camp suggests that they are not justified, from the perspective of sustainability and climate impact. Those in the travel and tourism sector see these trips as a positive example of the importance of travel in our lives. It is certainly worth saying –  this is an industry worth supporting, as one in ten people (at least before the pandemic) were employed in the travel and tourism sector worldwide.

What is true but often not discussed, is that travel is closely connected to mindfulness. For many it is whilst on holiday that we are most likely to be behave mindfully, even if this state of mind is attained inadvertently. Whether it is relaxing in warm sunshine,  listening to a live band or enjoying restaurant food with close friends – these are the times when we are more likely to live in the present moment and not distracted by thoughts, whether they relate to the past or to the future.

But as we know,  for many, a traditional approach to travelling is not possible right now. As a result, this year, some people have tried new destinations perhaps closer to home than usual. My family and I went up to Edinburgh, Scotland, this summer . A city I have not visited properly before, and where we enjoyed the delights of Arthur’s Seat,The Palace of Holyroodhouse and walking through Leith in the sunshine.

So, with this in mind, what kinds of holiday breaks and locations will people be choosing in the near future?

1. ‘Wonders on your doorstep’

Holidays, away from the crowds, perhaps in the countryside and including healthy outdoor pursuits such as walking and cycling.

2. Hotels or houses with seclusion

Venues that include space and an element of isolation are likely to prosper.

3. River cruising vs ocean sailing

The ocean cruise line business has been especially hard hit. The answer could be on the rivers, where smaller ships and more time ashore provide flexibility, seclusion and space.

4. Multi-generation escapes

Finally, with families having been separated under lockdown rules, we are likely to see an increase in multi-generation escapes. Families looking to spend quality time together and where they’re able to relax and enjoy one another’s company, will be much needed in 2021.

Travel may never be the same again.

But when we can get back to (a new) normal it may be that people will return to their previous passions and historic approaches to travelling. But perhaps this is an opportunity for us to consider travelling in a different kind of way, an approach that takes account of sustainability, wellness and a more mindful mindset.  Here is  a chance to re-assess how we look at travel, and the world more broadly.
There are opportunities for travel organisations (destinations, tour operators, travel agents, even airlines) to encourage a more mindful approach to going on holiday. Here are some travel trends and initiatives that will hopefully play an important role in the future.

These include – Slow Travel (off-peak travel, exploring less visited areas of cities, and spending enough time in one location to really get under its skin), Sustainable Travel, (e.g. how holidays can be beneficial to local communities) ‘Living like a Local’(recommendations from residents) ; and of course Wellness Vacations (e.g. spa holidays, meditation and yoga retreats).  Reset Travel are doing some good work in this area, with a focus on ‘intentional journeys’ where we can connect with ourselves, others and our environment. Think less city breaks and hotel holidays, and more slow journeys, deeper conversations and outdoor adventures.


Many hope that the current crisis will eventually change for better, the way we live and see the world. Of course, mindfulness could be a powerful tool in this quest and as travel can have such a positive, symbiotic relationship with mindfulness; it would be wonderful if this association could be augmented for the benefit of our travel experiences and the wider world.

Nick Hammond .