One of the things that I find very hard to do is to keep myself in the moment while traveling. Someone once told me an interesting term: anticipatory nostalgia. It describes the way many people experience new things, they don’t think of what is happening now but of how cool it will be to tell stories about it. “I can’t wait to see that picture,” “my friends are going to love this story.” Anticipatory nostalgia is something that I frequently struggle with, because I love sharing my experiences (hence our blog), and I get caught up not with the moment but with how I am going to explain the sights or describe feelings of where I am. Here are several things that I do to ensure that I am getting the most out of my experiences and making sure that I stay in the moment:
1. Put down my camera
Taking pictures is a great way to remember and catalog your adventures, and with the digital age you can take as many as you want. It is important to remember that the world looks different through the lens then it does through your eyes, so take the viewfinder away from your face and look around. Take in not only what is in front of you but what is all around you. In Peru I visited Machu Picchu, I made sure to get the necessary photo-ops, but I also wanted to see what no one ever looks at, the mountains all around the beautiful site.
2. Talk to people
After making the mistake of not talking with locals many times I realized that you never truly have been to a place until you have talked with the people who live there. It doesn’t have to be deep or life changing, but find out where they work, what they eat, what TV they watch. Some of the answers may surprise you and not thinking about your own life for a second will keep you focused on the area. When you travel around you’ll be thinking less like tourist (pictures, pictures, pictures) and more like a local (food, jobs, traffic, etc.).
3. Stop and breath
My last bit of advise is to just slow down. Traveling can be incredibly hectic and fast paced, especially if you crammed your days full (which I don’t blame you). I have been traveling and moving so fast that I don’t appreciate the world around me. So I stop wherever I am when I realize I’m rushing and I take three deep breaths and just look around. I try to focus on the smells, the colors, is it hot, is it cold, and when I feel like I have successful slowed myself down I continue on.
So go out and explore, but take your time.