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December 18, 2012 / A Mindful Traveler

Air Travel as an Opportunity for Mindfulness

I’m typing this on the so-called “airside” of security, or to put it more simply, within sight of the gate where I’ll board a plane to Thailand in a few hours. As I successively packed my carry-on bag (at home), repacked it (to go through security), and then somewhat unpacked it (after security), it occurred to me that time in airports and on planes calls for a great deal of intentionality. Everything is compressed, both literally and figuratively.

I say this because depending on your style of travel and the length of your trip, in preparing your carry-on bag you’re putting together essentials for your flight, the possibility of your checked luggage not arriving, or possibly everything you need for your trip. Given spatial limitations, this requires a number of difficult choices. Similarly, keeping handy the amount of information you need in order to check in, pass through immigration, and board is its own exercise in organization and simplicity.

Perhaps most importantly (and quite ironically), while air travel takes you great distances, both at the airport and on the airplane your space and opportunities for diversion are limited. The hurry-up and wait nature (or more accurately “hurry, then wait”) of this process calls for a great degree of patience. If that doesn’t call for mindfulness, I don’t know what does!

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