Everyone has a different reason for visiting the mountains. Maybe you want to take an active vacation. Perhaps you want to create lasting memories with family and friends. Or possibly it’s been on your bucket list for years and you’re finally ready to set dates and book your tour. Whatever your reason, you know you’ll be stepping outside of your normal routine to embrace an adventure.
Travel invites us to shake off the dull groove of the day-to-day, as we experience what is new and unfamiliar to us. It makes us pay attention so we don’t miss a train connection or a turn in the trail. In a way it wakes us up, rejuvenates us, and allows us to return home with a fresh perspective and maybe a shift in our priorities.
Here are my pointers on how to travel fully through smell, sound, taste, touch and sight.
Take a deep breath:
From plane to train you’ve made it to the Alps! Invite in a deep breath and feel that crisp, clear mountain air. It sure beats the stale air from the plane and is way cleaner than what you get at home. Out on the trail, you’ll naturally breath harder as you hike uphill. Pause to notice what you can smell. Catch the scent of hay drying or maybe you can even smell the movement of water as if falls from a cliff above or passes by in a rushing river.
Close your eyes and listen:
The quickest way to tune in is by closing your eyes to listen. Hear the wind swaying the grasses. You might hear the reverberations of an alphorn or the whir of a helicopter’s blades as it passes overhead. If you’re lucky, you might catch the call of a cuckoo bird, which immediately brings to mind the image of a cuckoo clock. Listen to the unfamiliar languages around you with open curiosity. When you pass someone on the trail, say hello. The language you use doesn’t matter as much as your mutual enjoyment of your time in nature.
Notice what’s right in front of you:
It’s easy to spend your time staring at majestic mountain peaks capped in snow or the feet of the person in front of you as you navigate the trail. Pause every so often to take in the intricate details of a wildflower. If you meet a cow on the trail, marvel at her big eyes and ability to pick her nose with her tongue! At the supermarket, linger in the aisles as you learn about different cheeses and admire the vibrant local produce. Each time you feel inspired to take a picture, pause, notice where you are and what you’re currently doing before bringing the camera to your eye.
Try a new food and eat it slowly:
Meals invite the use of multiple senses. Smell the different ingredients of a dish and how they combine before taking your first bite. Notice the different colors and textures. I once ate a salad in Italy made from 25 different alpine flowers and herbs. It was such a work of beauty and love that I struggled to eat it. You might have heard that you can taste the flowers and grasses in fresh Swiss yogurt. It’s true!!
Touch with awareness:
Noticing what we feel is a quick way to learn our new environment. Is it humid or dry? Does the sun warm my skin or do I feel mist from a low hanging cloud? Nothing beats that feeling of taking your shoes off after a long day on the trail. Enjoy a bath to calm your nerves and encourage deeper relaxation. Savor the warm weight of a down comforter as you crawl into bed at night.
We spend so much of our lives taking information in through our eyes. From sightseeing and taking pictures, to interpreting a menu in a foreign language, or looking at our phones to map a hiking route, it’s easy to let our eyes do most of the sensory work for us. Travel is a wonderful opportunity to practice using all five of our senses. Through sense awareness, we’re able to deeply learn a place and connect in a way that encourages us to be in the present moment.