I encourage mindful walks. This concerns not only casual walks, but any form of tourism. Head for the depth, not the breadth. Opt to completely exhaust one detail rather than skim over ten.
Don’t settle for shallowness. Develop a deeper connection with even the (seemingly) little that may surround you.
Why is this important? I’ll state it briefly.
Shallow explorations yield no lasting value beyond that of a check mark on your activity list and the supplemental benefit of having exercised some movement. The latter stimulates endorphins, yet causes you to misconstrue the underlying cause of your happiness, much to the satisfaction of travel agencies and tour operators.
You might snap a photo to showcase on Instagram (or whatever fashionable medium). The photo may later spark those memories, I tend to hear.
But what memories do we speak of? Unless you’ve transcended the shallowness, the photo may only trigger a visual association with other more authentic moments that have occurred during that trip/exploration/hike.
For that it serves (although of not strict necessity.) You may recollect fun conversations with your friends. You may recall incidental encounters.
But the photograph itself will not trigger anything particular to the contained element. You haven’t really partaken in it.
I observe the same phenomenon time after time. I stare at a handful of photos of those more shallow occasions (trips, events, whatever). I recall the interactions with the human beings, for which, by the way, I prefer journaling.
But I recall nothing of interest in that photographed setting. Nothing. It may as well belong to an exposition with my profile digitally interlaced.
It almost begs the question. Why bother with all the movement and check marks? Why deal with the anxiety of haste, logistics, reservations, entrance fees?
It’s better than nothing, I might hear. Time is limited. Superficial exploration is all it affords.
To that, I argue, that it’s worse than nothing. I prefer nothing. With nothing, I can spend quality time in my mind, which there is never enough of.
And with regard to personal interactions, I would rather engage the individuals separately, mindfully, without all the distracting elements, unless you have the pleasure of an exploration partner who, like yourself, explores with no tourist pretensions or check marks.
With nothing, you create space. As one way to fill it, I propose mindful, depth oriented exploration.
Beyond the holistic benefit of fostering overall mindfulness in every activity you undertake, environmental mindfulness I view particularly powerful. It had revolutionized how I engage the surroundings.
If faced with an imposed choice of two extremes, one - a classic 10-day trip saturated with visuals for the desensitized explorer, and two - the same 10 days spent exploring nothing but one 100 X 100 meter patch of oak trees (or an abandoned courtyard), I would opt for the latter.
What I’ve already invested into the trip is of no consequence. The latter consideration only matters if you neglect the rationale behind sunk costs.
Questions of “what is there to do?” (at a given locale/region/city) puzzle me. Such questions concern the domain of shallow exploration and only make sense to shallow explorers.
Scarcity of ‘things’ is only possible when you severely zoom out and project your environment as a set of discreet structures.
Under a deep exploration, there is no scarcity, because the world exhibits no fixed depth discernible to the eye. Nature is quiet fractallized.
Environments are limitless in small detail. You can continuously submerge at no fear of exhaustion.
Exploring the depths, you begin to synthesize the intricacies, uncover the life behind rough appearances, interact at a more engaging level.
You challenge your consciousness. And you more effectively assimilate the environment in memory. The brain operates at it’s most efficient interactively.
It’s been too many years since I asserted my indifference for random photography. Unless applied to photography in the domain of art expression for it’s own sake, I ceased to see much benefit.
And yet … I can recall specific, intimate detail of trips and depth-oriented explorations dating many years back; solo, unconstrained explorations of no purpose but to emphasize depth over breadth.
I may have snapped but a handful of photos (which I virtually never peruse). Nonetheless, I can redraw entire regions in my mind, recall the scents, the emotions, the imperfections.
I house impressive recollection of my excursions through the wastes of Detroit for days on end, purpose - nonexistent, short of keen attention to detail.
I remember the 8/9 aimless (yet deeply contemplative) days in Laos with no working camera, including the odd little misadventures, visuals, and emotions.
Łódź, Poland, a city with a reputation for lack of appeal, I found full of fascinating detail and endless fractals.
Some cities I’ve felt that I can spend a week on one city block alone, bewildered over the noise I hear concerning the ‘right’ amount of time to spend and where. These include Bangkok, Berlin, São Paulo (or myriads of other Brazilian cities such as Porto Alegre, Salvador, Belém, etc). And these are but the obvious cases, fractals screaming for attention. With a degree of zeal, I can extend the observation to virtually any visited locale.
Contrastingly, I remember little of the majority of my trips before the age of 29, all of those group experiences oversaturated in sights and movement.
This should explain why I avoid not only group trips, but especially tours. I find them 90% useless. The only benefit lies in some incidental conversations or contacts I may form, for which exist other, less ceremonious methods.
Tours are shallow. They could not be structured in any other way. You cannot engage a deep exploration but on your own terms. This is why I greatly cherish solitary time out there in the environment.
I find frequent solitary explorations not mere providers of some possible benefit, but of absolute necessity and irreplaceable.
Explore and submerge. Observe the detail: the plants (and the inexhaustible world of their own), foliage, graffiti, odd engravings, the stones, the street art, the subtle decorations. Walk into random establishments, strike odd conversations. Engage the unexpected.
Once you become more sensitized to the omnipresent depth, you will not rely on museums, castles, botanical gardens, historical tours, butterfly sanctuaries, pub crawls, or boat parties to satisfy the concern “what is there to do?” Detail will strike your attention at any corner.
Follow the rabbit hole. In fact, whenever in doubt, I like to evoke the immortal Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It reads like a fractal, precisely in the way I visualize mindful walks. Each level organically descends into the next. A higher level detail expands into a myriad of speckles, each opening the territory for further adventure.
Questions, comments? Connect.