It is Christmas time and there are quite a few of us who will be travelling to spend the festive season with friends and family. Over the years, in the different countries that we have worked, I have collected quite a few travelling tips that could be useful to our meditation retreat participants. I have jotted down a few of my favourites below:
Patience is an essential traveller’s virtue
When you are travelling, whether it is from London to Paris or London to Kathmandu, having loads of patience to trot out when needed can make your journey much more comfortable. Travelling calls for barrels-full of patience, especially at this time of the year. If patience is not your thing, avoid travelling at peak times, as in over Christmas. We have given up trying to get to our family in the southern hemisphere for Christmas. We go a month later, during the worst of our winter, which means tickets are at half the price. If you do have to travel and things go wrong, take a deep breath and then tackle problems as creatively as possible.
Don’t take anything too seriously
The ability to laugh and to laugh at yourself while travelling can also make the whole experience more enjoyable. On the flight, watch the in-flight comedy. Or read a funny book. Think of a joke/ a situation you found yourself in that made you laugh. Smile to yourself. Look at challenging events from the funny perspective. Nurture your sense of humour and keep it close to hand when travelling.
Keep your valuables safe while you travel
- Losing your camera is one thing.
- Losing your luggage is another.
- Losing your wallet is annoying.
- Losing your passport/driving’s licence/health insurance card is seriously annoying.
- Losing your phone is extremely annoying.
- Losing your laptop, where you have scanned copies of all the above, is in a different league altogether.
To avoid losing you mind, keep tabs on your valuables while you are travelling. Back everything on your laptop/phone up (including emergency/contact phone numbers) on an external hard drive as well as online for easy access in case of need.
Hunt and capture memories
We now have digital cameras. Take lots of photos – you can always delete the less successful ones later. It is also a great way to keep a travelling diary, especially if you set the camera to imprint the date unobtrusively on each photo. Keep notes – a sentence or two will often suffice, to re-ignite a memory later. As you may know, I am a great fan of journaling, and although while on holiday one may not have much time to write at length, a few sentences a day in a travelling journal can bring back memories as sharp as if it all happened yesterday many years later. Photos you can also share with others, especially useful if you are travelling alone and you want to reassure and share your experiences with loved ones at home. A picture often speaks more than a thousand words and it is important to stay in touch.
Always pack earplugs and keep them with-in easy reach
Essential for the phantom crying baby on the plane, for ignoring the noisily celebrating and completely drunk returning stag/hen party participants at the next restaurant table in the waiting lounge or the explosive snorer in the room four doors down the corridor, for excluding the deafening traffic noise while you are transferring from one airport to another, for obliterating the passenger in the seat next to you on the plane with verbal diarrhoea…you get the idea.
Go out and meet the locals
Round here, a short stroll up the road will do the trick. You will come across Mme D’Angle mowing her front lawn, always ready to switch the machine off for a quick chat. Don’t worry if your French is limited, she is good at communicating with hand signals and boy language. A bit further you will meet up with the vineyard workers having a quick restorative under a huge oak tree, always willing to share their tipple and talk about the state of agriculture in this country. Yet a bit further you may meet Mme Pontier, taking her dog for a walk to her husband’s grave in the village cemetery – if you wanted to know anything about the history (or the hottest village gossip) of the region, stop and ask after her health. Small but potent ways to enrich your holiday experience…and it provides the locals with new stories.
When travelling, keep an open mind.
So they do things differently in this country (sometimes their way of doing resembles nothing you have ever come across in your life before). That’s OK. You are also here to learn from new experiences, maybe even find a better way of doing something. If their way of doing seems completely idiotic to you, ask them why they are doing it this way. Ask nicely and then listen carefully. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Maybe from their perspective, their way of doing is perfectly natural, obvious and logical. You do not have to agree, just see if you can learn something. Leave your comfort zone and keep an open mind. Try new things, new ways of doing. Try new food. New wine. Chances are you will find new insight and understanding. New possibilities and opportunities. New friendships.
Be prepared for all eventualities
In the very first instance, look after yourself physically. Be careful of the sun, especially here in the south of France, when midsummer over midday you can get sunstroke from spending an hour or two in the sun. Wear sunglasses, wear a hat, drench yourself in suntan lotion, again after you had a swim in the lake. Make sure that the water from the tap is safe and if not, remember to keep your mouth closed when you are showering. Not all spring water is safe to drink either – we get our spring water tested once a year to make sure it is. DO bring all your regular medication with you and bring enough to last the whole holiday. Yes, there are two pharmacies in the village 3 km from here, but it may be difficult to get hold of the French alternative of what you are taking anytime soon. Bring emergency meds: anti-heartburn, anti-diarrhoea, anti-pain, anti-allergy stuff, that sort of thing. Last but not least, make sure you have appropriate travel insurance. If you are from the UK, an EHIC card is absolutely essential.
When you are on holiday, wake up early
You usually sleep in as late as possible on holiday to catch up on your well-deserved sleep. I perfectly understand and that is why if you are on one of our equine-guided meditation retreats, you do not have to be coffeed-up and corpus mentis before 10h00. If you could, though, maybe just one day during your stay, rise with sunrise you may discover a whole new world up to now unexplored. Grab your camera before you venture out, now is the best light for memory-firing pictures. Stand for a while by the horses, quietly munching on their hay, join your host for a brisk walk through the vineyards or maybe you would like to join the guests who are doing slow stretching exercises on the deck by the lake…
When you are on holiday, help.
Look at what is happening around you. Maybe there is something you can do to help? I know you paid for this holiday, a lot ! and that you fully intend to get full value for your money. Of course, that is important. Just entertain the thought for a while. Even when on holiday, when you give, you receive so much more. We never expect our guests to do anything, they are here to relax and enjoy their holiday. But the ones who have stolen our hearts and became life-long friends were the ones who have offered to help clear the table, insisted on doing the washing up, got up early to help feed the horses, bought an extra bottle of wine for dinner when they go wine tasting…we have learnt this precious lesson from our guests and we now help whenever we can while we are on holiday. We have made many new friends this way and find it a very rewarding experience.