By Courtney Scott, on January 20, 2016

A guide to living in the moment

As we head into the new year, I’ve started to take inventory of my bad travel habits. Most of them relate to all of the digital distractions that permeate life. I find myself looking down at my phone when I used to look out the window. Instead of eating my meal, I photograph it. And I think I’ve turned my husband into a full-on Instagram Husband. All of this makes it increasingly hard to appreciate all the small moments that come along with travel.

If you find yourself in the same boat, here are six tools for staying present while you’re on vacation!

1. Rise with the sun. There is something very grounding about waking up with the sun. It gives you energy and inspiration to make the most of your day. Especially when I’m at a beach destination, I usually grab a towel or yoga mat and set it up on the beach for a short yoga practice. The sound of the waves and the heat of the rising sun invigorate every sense.

2. Five-minute journaling. It’s impossible to remember everything that happens while on vacation. That’s why I love to put pen to paper and keep a travel journal. It doesn’t have to be a novel, but by jotting down a few notes about your daily experiences, you’ll remember the details and will have a fun memento to look back on when you’ve returned home. It’s also a nice opportunity to actually write rather than type!

3. Digital-free meal time. Meal time should be a sacred time when you and your family or friends eat, drink, and make memories. It’s not a time to check emails or Snapchat every course, even though I’ve been guilty of both! The best way to avoid the temptation of using your phone during dinner is to keep it stashed away in your bag or pocket. It’s helpful to set some boundaries with the friends before you even arrive at dinner to make sure everyone is on board with your “social media–free supper.”  

Viewfinder Tip: San Francisco Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, and Raleigh-Durham Airport all have meditation or yoga spaces for quiet reflection.

4. Meditate. Meditation is a powerful tool. It helps calm the mind and make the noise around you disappear. If you go on YouTube, you will find hundreds of 10-minute meditations that you can do right when you wake up, or anywhere, really. Meditation and yoga rooms are becoming more and more popular at airports and hotels, so take advantage of the Zen spaces to re-center.

5. Connect with locals. Part of being a “present” traveler is connecting to the things and people around you. I like to make a point to talk to locals as much as possible. Chat up your Uber driver, speak to your waiter at the restaurant, and be open to the spontaneous experiences that may come from meeting other local travelers.

6. Get back to nature. Whether you take a hike in the mountains, go zip-lining in the jungle, or surf at the beach, being surrounded by nature is one of the best ways to appreciate the present. Even if you are traveling to a city, you can always find an urban park to explore or a botanical garden to enjoy.

What’s your favorite way to stay present while you travel?