"Prefieres que vayamos en coche?" my partner (and navigator extraordinaire) asked. Beads of sweat trickled down my spine and we were only filling up the gas tank around the corner from home. It was hot, but I didn’t want to go by car. The plan was driving over six hours from Seville to Valencia by motorcycle, and that meant doing so even with the pending heatwave. The whole trip was organized as a weekend getaway to refresh and regroup, and I figured as a passenger by moto I'd at least be able to get a head start on practicing breathing and awareness (being most mindful of staying on the bike).
I looked at the sweat forming above his brow.
"Vamanos. Let’s just go with it." I said.
It’s easy to drown out your thoughts as a passenger by car: radio, small chat with the driver, texting, navigating. On the back of a motorcycle, however, your mind is all you’ve got; noticing its lively activity jumping from thought to thought is (in and of itself) mind-boggling. I found that counting my inhales and exhales worked best to keep me focused on the ride, while the humming of the breeze through my helmet was a soothing reminder of the open road around me.
After hours under the hot sun and wind-whipping curves, we arrived to Valencia, a small, charming city on the eastern coast of Spain. The destination, however, wasn't the only new experience on the list: our lodging, Valencia Mindfulness Retreat, was a B&B off the eastern coast of Spain that welcomed guests from all over the world in a unique setting. It turned out that was more than just a place to sleep, too; it was an learning experience slowly revealed throughout the short getaway.
Thoughts like bubbles
We arrived tired, thirsty, and later than expected, ringing the bell of a historic building set on a quiet and shaded side street. Welcomed by a lovely Dutch couple (also fellow guests at the B&B), we were offered a cold sparkling water and waited for our host. Instead of gulping it down to quench my thirst as quickly as I could, I took it as a challenge to be more mindful before I drank. Raising the drink to my lips, I watched the glass flute begin to fog from the heat of my hand; the bubbles shimmied their way to the surface, excitedly bursting out.
A refreshing moment, it was also somewhat allegorical to the overall mindful feel of the trip. Watching the tiny bubbles, coming and going, were just like noticing the passing thoughts that try to cloud the mind. The water wouldn’t stay carbonated forever, just as the mind will eventually come to stillness -- if you show it a little TLC and guide it to do so.
What you put out there, you receive back
It’s no surprise why one might be turned off to the idea of a bed and breakfast: some offer less privacy, others may be a bit pricier, and many have an atmosphere that perhaps isn't as alluring as an all-inclusive low-cost special. But this is an introduction to the B&BE: the Bed and Breakfast Experience. The apartment of this Valencia B&B was remodeled into an antique-chic sanctuary, with a wall of tall windows that was always open, welcoming both the dry breeze during the day and the light winds at night.
Guests were encouraged to embrace the "if you feel like it" vibe. No up-selling, no surcharges, no distractions, no catches: draw the attention to your body, do what you feel. Honing in on energy and not listening so much to the mind as to the whole being, something often marketed to travelers as “wants” disguised as “needs.” I was more mindful of the space, the senses, and the energy -- pure, flowing, and friendly -- and the faint, but sweet smell of sandalwood that lingered from late night until the early morning hours.
A B&B will also be a more personal experience, and the owners of this stay emphasized care, consideration and attention to the self and surroundings. That energy was something even my partner noticed, solely by being exposed to--and sharing in--this more mindful perspective. The weekend getaway wasn't about cramming in activities, but orienting, grounding, and listening to what I felt I needed at that moment.
So as much as I wanted to take advantage of the daily guided meditation, I snuggled a little longer in bed on the first morning. A little extra rest helps conquer the day.
The second and last morning, I unrolled a purple yoga mat in the strip of sunlight facing the small terrace next to the host, Thijs. We sat for awhile in a guided meditation, and it was enough time for the sun to grow stronger and spill onto my mat, moving along to warm the entire room. The familiar feeling of heat and sweat led my mind to wander to thoughts about the return trip back to Seville, but the gentle coos of the owl outside was subtle trigger, calling to return to the breath.
Being more mindful wasn't just an awareness of filling breath in lungs and energy in body, but a fulfilling sensation knowing that there was engagement and connection coming from the heart.
Not every B&B is the same, but you can take mindfulness and meditation anywhere. Here are some additional tips to reflect on for a more mindful approach to traveling:
1. Experience over expectation.
Part of the reason why I was able to get the most of my trip was because I didn't expect anything in return. It made the trip that much more memorable.
2. Person over price.
It's ok to stray from mainstream and trendy to try something new. Opt to be more attentive toward yourself, even if that means spending a little extra.
3. Breathe - Center - Orient - Ground
A simple, but effective way inspired by my #Aummies to go about each and every day.
4. Use travel to increase mindfulness. Use mindfulness to enhance travel.
It's not a trend that's about to fade, it's here now. Get out there and be present.
How are you more mindful in planning your getaway stays?