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I recently traveled to New York City for the first time, to spend two long and epic days in Manhattan. I’ve been doing a lot of personal development in the past year, and I was determined to bring my new awareness and joy to my travels. My time in New York was one of the most magical experiences of my life, and from the lessons learned I’ve compiled 7 tips to help you be more mindful during your travels and truly enjoy every minute of it- even in The City That Never Sleeps!

planning mindful travel

1. Plan, and Plan for your Plans to Change

I recommend planning your trip by researching the area for places and attractions you want to see. Ask your friends (even better if they’ve lived there,) and research online. The internet has a plethora of ideas of where to eat and the top places to visit, and resources for planning the trip.

When I found an attraction or restaurant I potentially wanted to see, I saved it on Google Maps under a list called “NYC.” By doing this, I could see what attractions were within walking distance of each other, which were close to my hotel, and got a better idea of my options. And don’t forget to give yourself options! I’ve had experiences where I picked a restaurant and it was closed for maintenance, and I had no back up idea of where else I could eat.

The planning process may get overwhelming. If it does, just take a step back and remember you don’t need to plan every detail; you’re just giving yourself options for when you get there. Over planning may lead to an exhaustive trip that you don’t enjoy. Plan for a few destinations that are in you top 3 for each day (or any number that feels appropriate) and let the rest fall in to place. You have a whole list of ideas, if you need them, but something else might catch your eye. If your curiosity is sparked then I suggest you follow it. Aren’t you traveling for adventure and fun?

2. FOMO- Fear of Missing Out

You want to see it all, right? You don’t want to miss anything iconic! Well, you will feel much better when you accept that you can’t see it all, and give yourself permission to see what YOU want to see, not what a travel guide says is important.

You may have people ask you the same questions over and over (did you go to the top of the Empire State Building?) and it’s okay if you didn’t, especially if it wasn’t important to you! If you cringe at saying no, you missed it, I would encourage you to respond in an empowered way; “No I didn’t want to go there because it was too crowded, I saw X instead and it was incredible.”

In my case, I took the Air Tram to Roosevelt Island, something most tourists in New York haven’t done. How unique!

the met nyc

3. Knowing your Travel Type

What is important to you when you travel? Do large crowds bother you? Do you mind standing in line for 20 minutes to an hour? Are you comfortable taking public transportation? Would you prefer to spend extended time seeing iconic pieces of art or go on a hike and walk through a scenic area?

The better you know yourself and what experiences you enjoy, the more likely you are to truly love the trips you take.

4. Expectations

Have as few as possible.

One of the only things I really wanted to see in New York City was Central Park, and I was actually a bit disappointed by it. Disappointment comes from expectations not being met, so the less you have, the less opportunity there is to be disappointed. While Central Park was lovely, it wasn’t as incredible as I’d imagined, but to be fair I was also tired when I got there.

Pro Tip: If you are looking for a place to make you happy, you will never find it! Happiness, joy, and wonder all come from within, which leads me to the next tip…

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5. Mindset

On my first day in New York, I did a Hop-On/Hop-Off bus tour and was really trying to “see it all.” That first day was a bit more touristy, and while I saw a lot and liked it for the most part, I didn’t have the joy I would have preferred and my mind felt tired seeing so much.

On day two, I gave myself permission to enjoy every moment, instead of focusing on checking off places on my list.

Pro Tip: Practice gratitude along the way, expressing thanks for the ways your travel has gone right.

6. Setting Up Your Day for Greatness

On day two, I woke a little bit tired and wasn’t moving towards the door when I had planned. This is when I made the MOST important choice of the entire trip, to do my morning practice (a ritual with a variety of different activities I choose from) and set my day up for greatness, an aspect I had missed in the rush the day prior.

Choosing to do my morning practice was a bit difficult because I already felt late, but I knew it would be important for my enjoyment of the day. I started with a meditation, then moved into a visualization process where I practiced feeling different emotions I want to experience during the day- ease, joy, wonder, excitement! I then felt centered and ready to be in every moment. This was truly my saving grace for this trip; my choices for the day were made with ease, I felt almost no stress, and I strolled through New York with that “stop and smell the roses” mindset.

Morning practice for mindful travel
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7. Be Here Now

After you’ve set up your day for greatness and chosen your mindset, start practicing your awareness and presence.

What are you looking at? Do you even know or did you snap a photo and move along? Are you truly seeing it? Are there people around you who can ask a question or express how you feel about where you are? Some of my favorite moments in New York were the interactions I had with strangers. Are you enjoying the details of what you’re experiencing?

The wonder of travel is in the experience, so make sure you experience it!

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