Traveling Mindfully: Five Breaths

Written by Alicia April 25, 2016

When you travel in pairs so every picture is a selfie.

View at the end of a wonderful tour of Vatican City.

What better way is there to enjoy a warm day in Rome?

After staring at it every day for three months, I finally made it to the top.

Nothing like standing on the top of a mountain!

One of the more emphasized, overarching lessons of the CIMBA program is learning how to be more mindful or aware of the current moment you are in. There were a great many ways to incorporate this into travel, but I chose to concentrate on a single breath in each new place I visited. Cataloging an entire adventure is all but impossible and clear bright memories will no doubt fade over time. Instead I tried to solidify one moment from each adventure to store away and recall whenever necessary.

On a Plane:

Breathing in is easy, but out is difficult. It seems impossible that I should be here at all, on my way to Italy with no option to return for months. There is so much anticipation that it invades every other emotion and tints even the fears with a positive excitement. New thoughts keep circulating. You would think that eight hours on a plane would at least slow them down, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. ‘I don’t speak Italian so if anything goes wrong I’m completely dependent on the 20 phrases I google-translated and scrawled into a notebook. It’s still in the front pocket of my backpack right? How likely is it that my luggage will get lost?’ 45 minutes until we land: breath out.


Breath in. We are on the tarmac, walking toward the airport. It’s the first stop of our 10-day trip. It’s a little overwhelming and nerve-racking. If something goes wrong there is no easy way out, nowhere to go, no people to help. I need to put those worries away. The exhaustion from a long week had finally set in on the crowded plane. I shake off the yawn that accompanies the breath out. This will be absolutely insane, but also amazing. As one of the students in our travel group volunteers a joke that genuinely makes the rest of us laugh, I’ve never been so certain of a trip’s success in my life. Breath out.


Breath in. It smells like summer. It’s sunny and warm, the warmest weather I’ve seen all year. Everywhere you turn there are sights being excavated. From the newer streets you have to look down to see them— the height distance between the old and new roads gives away the city’s age. Some of these buildings are over 2000 years old.  I’ve never been so impressed with humans as I have standing in the heart of this city. More than anything else I feel an overwhelming pride that people made these incredible things, structures that still stand today. It feels like possibility – if these were made thousands of years ago, what are we capable of today? Breath out

On Top of a Mountain:

Breath in. This is terrifying actually, way more than I thought it would be. Although it isn’t very rational I kind of feel like I could just fall off at any minute. I’m really gross too – covered in sweat and melted snow. My legs are exhausted, but sturdy. This is the most challenging hike I think I’ve ever completed. It’s beautiful, we can see so much of Italy from here. I’m satisfied, proud. This mountain is what I’ve been looking at every morning when I wake up, looking so vast and daunting. Well mountain, I made it. Not even the snow could stop us from completing our adventure. I’m so content, up here with my friends. Breath out.

In an Airport:

So this is it? It’s over? What happened? How did it end so quickly? But it wasn’t quick at all, was it? All those places I’ve been and the sights I’ve seen. I can’t decide if I’m happy to go home or disappointed to leave. I decide that it has to be both. This breath is hard to take in, one of my last in Italy, and I don’t want to let it out. This was so…grand compared to everything else I’ve done with my life. It can’t be the end of the adventures and it certainly won’t be my greatest challenge. I’ll find a bigger one – better and more terrifying with far greater risks. I decide, in line with all the greatest clichés, this end will not be my end. Breath out.

And now I’m back. Back to real life – the boring reality with work and school and snow. It’s hard to reconcile the dream that was three months in Europe with what I’ve always known. But now I have those moments, stored away in my head. I can remember what I saw, what I felt, who was near me, and what was important. I keep pulling them up from the depths of my mind, dusting them off, playing them again and again to keep them clear and fresh.