Throughout re-doing my site and organizing all my photos and video clips from the past couple of years, I came across some sets of photos that never made their way to the blog. Out of them all, these were some of my favorites, and it seemed a shame to let them go to waste.
Trinidad, in southern Cuba, is a delightful place that is known for its old colonial town, cobblestone streets, and a specialty rum drink comprised of rum, honey, lemon, and water — canchánchara. As one of the first Cuban towns founded by the Spanish, Trinidad profited greatly from the production of sugar cane, cattle, and tobacco due to the importation of African slaves which, in turn, funded extravagant palaces, broad plazas, and colorful colonial homes for the wealthy plantation owners. Visitors to Trinidad are welcomed by colonial architecture that is so well preserved that the town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I never finished my Cuba posts and, while I am not going to go back and re-start the daily travel journals, I still would like to write city guides for the main locales I visited. (I also daily vlogged while I was there!) What do you think, would they be helpful? Let me know in the comments below!
Even almost two years after visiting, Cuba is a destination that I frequently reflect on and often talk about because my fascination continues. Curiosity, after all, is at the core of a traveler’s mindset. Here’s what a traveler’s mindset means to me and how (I think) you can cultivate it, no matter whether you are in Havana or at home.
What is the deal with a traveler’s mindset?
I genuinely believe that the benefits of travel result from mindset more than from an actual location. Of course, experiencing a new place helps to enhance the mentality; but, just because you are in a new destination, doesn’t mean you are automatically going to gain a whole updated psyche. Are you following?
We all know someone who hopped on a flight half-way around the world, only to continue doing the same thing, with similar people, that they would have done had they remained at home. Sure, they are waking up in a new destination, but if the hours that make up their days aren’t spent in an unfamiliar way, then it is going to be hard for their mindset to shift. Although, it should be pointed out that maybe they don’t want to acquire a traveler’s mindset — being curious all the time can be slightly exhausting. To the best of my ability, I try not to judge how people travel because no trip is the same and there are different purposes for each voyage. For me, traveling = living, and so I try not to judge how people travel in the same way that I try not to judge how people choose to live (perhaps one of the results of my traveler’s mindset???) That being said, I firmly believe that having a traveler’s mindset brings an abundance of benefits (would I do what I do if I didn’t?). So, for the sake of this article, I am going to presume that you also conclude that it is a pretty fantastic way of approaching life.
So, how does a traveler see the world?
Nothing like setting yourself up for failure with a question like that, ey? All jokes aside, I think there are a few characteristics of travelers on which we can all agree.
- Travelers are willing to try, taste, see, and experience new-to-them things.
- Travelers are okay with being uncomfortable.
- Travelers prioritize learning through first-hand experiences.
- Travelers recognize that there is so much that is different about each of us, but also plenty that is the same – the interconnectedness of humanity!
- Travelers appreciate everyday occurrences.
- Travelers are always looking for opportunities to get out of their comfort zone.
- Travelers know that each day can be seen as a wonderful gift.
How to Cultivate A Traveller’s Mindset
1. Truly, madly, sincerely believe that everywhere has something unique or interesting about it.
People love to berate their hometown or country, while simultaneously venerating every other location. This has never made much sense to me. For just as much as person A wants to see “XXY” with their own eyes, person B dreams of seeing something just like where person A is currently. Granted some countries or cities have more to offer than other places, but that doesn’t mean that everywhere else has nothing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the only things that I wholeheartedly believe is that there is one interesting thing about everywhere and every person on the planet. For me, this pretty much sums up the traveler’s mindset. If you can believe this without any gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach, if you can approach both new-to-you and familiar places with a sense of curiosity, then you are well on your way.
Tip: Get excited about researching the history of your hometown. When and why did it start to develop? What groups were involved in its development? What is unique about the culture? Immerse yourself, read travel writing describing it, watch travel vlogs from people who have been there. Open yourself up to seeing it as a place filled with potential explorations.
2. Remember that mindfulness to details results in awe and wonder.
When it comes to the simple pleasures of travel, the over-arching theme is that while on the road you regain a sense of childlike amazement towards things that would usually feel routine at home. Buying groceries becomes a mystifying challenge, using public transportation feels like a colossal undertaking, walking down the road has you stopping and looking and noticing — noticing is the keyword. This is the part of travel I love the most — a seemingly never-ending stream of stimulating moments. However, the more I return home or even revisit places I have grown to know intimately, I have realized that it is entirely possible to continue to notice even after the initial awe and wonder has worn off (and it inevitably does). The collage of life ensures that there is always something to admire, you merely have to open your senses to it. In our day to day routines, we get so used to seeing the same things, eating in the same places, speaking with the same people; but, just as there is a whole world out there waiting for you to explore, there is also a microcosm in your backyard that is begging you to notice it. Be willing to choose the comfortable over the uncomfortable and the known over the unknown. When abroad, this is forced upon you. On the other hand, when at home, you have to be slightly more active in seeking out these situations. But, trust me, it can be done, and once you have started, you will find it hard to stop.
Tip: Be present in your day-to-day life. The more interest and curiosity you throw into your surrounding area, the more you will start to notice the little things (which, ironically, tend to be the big things). Allow yourself to be spontaneous, say “yes” to invitations or choose options you wouldn’t usually give a second thought to and be open-minded over the outcome.
3. Prioritize discovering what is around you.
Most people rarely do the “touristic” stuff in their city. It is entirely normal for residents to not explore their hometowns until friends or family from out-of-town come to visit. However, if you dream of taking a cooking class in Thailand, have an itching to see art in Mexico City, or fall asleep each night dreaming of desert safaris in Dubai, then you may want to start discovering what is around you — there is a good chance you will be surprised by what you find. Whether it is participating in new activities, attending meetup-groups, going to the opening of a new restaurant, or attending a book reading at your local library, there are plenty of ways to add fuel to your wanderlust by merely getting out there and doing things. DO THINGS. If you are seriously stuck for ideas, check out Atlas Obscura and you are almost guaranteed to find something weird and wonderful not too far away.
Tip: Spend a day exploring your town or city just as you would should you find yourself somewhere else. Take your camera and notebook along with you and act like a tourist. Find the magic. Take the time to notice colors, smells, vibes. Go to a new restaurant or coffee shop, finally check out the museum or art gallery that you always put off, drive to a new neighborhood and notice the style of architecture or the distinct feeling that echoes through the street.
4. Put yourself in scenarios to engage with other people.
We happen to be part of the smartest (and strangest) species on the planet, and we can communicate our sincere thoughts, deep emotions, and specific knowledge with each other over a cup of coffee. Isn’t that magical in itself? If I could spend the rest of my life merely talking with and listening to people, I would. The disheartening truth is that we tend not to engage enough with strangers, especially when we are in the comforts of home. While I am not proposing that you jump into a car and ride off into the darkness with a stranger, I am suggesting that you focus more on the opportunities for connection that are right in front of you. We have so much to learn from each other and there are so many possibilities for connection, don’t let these moments pass you by. Each day, imagine that we exist in a world where it is stranger not to strike up a conversation than it is to initiate it.
Tip: Get in the habit of going places and doing things on your own. People are a lot more likely to strike up a conversation when you are solo, and you will also have more energy to give to the new person because you aren’t distracted by present company. At first, it may feel strange to be riding solo, and you may feel like billy-no-mates; however, no-one is paying as much attention to you as you think they are. No-one is going to go home and laugh with their 100 best mates about the solo chick in the coffee shop. Plus, being able to independently indulge your interests is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Forewarning: just like meditation, gratitude journaling, and other mind-altering practices, you don’t get just to flip a switch and reprogram your brain. Instead, you will need to chip away at the beliefs and habits you currently have that are impeding you from the mindset you want.