The wander mindset is, perhaps, the most important skill to develop in pursuit of a wanderer’s lifestyle. We can all make a reservation or jump on a plane, but wandering in daily life, when we aren’t traveling, can feel underwhelming.
“I can just let my curiosity wander unleashed.” -James C. Collins
A true wanderer can find what they are looking for no matter where they are. If they are in some exotic locale, great. If they are walking from the office to their car, that works too. Developing that mindset leads to a more fulfilling life experience. How do you do it? How do you cultivate that attitude? Here are a few things that have worked for me.
1.) Cultivate Awareness
“If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.” -Terry Pratchett
Awareness is the keystone to building a wandering lifestyle. Knowing where you come from is a part of that, but knowing where you are is even more important. Let’s practice together.
Take Out Your Journal
A true wanderer carries a journal…always. Check out this post for some reasons why. If you don’t have one yet, might I suggest this one? Get comfortable, whatever that means for you, and answer these questions.
- How are you breathing? Fast or slow? Are you wheezing, or breathing through a cold?
- What does your body feel like? Are you tired, excited, anxious? Is there any pain?
- How are your feet touching the earth? Through shoes? What does the ground beneath them feel like?
- What can you smell? Is there coffee brewing or food cooking. Is there an overpowering smell that you can identify?
- What can you see? Pick one thing, not the whole scene. Perhaps there is a mother talking to her child or a man arguing with a street vendor. Pick one thing and describe it in vivid detail.
- Where are you?
Notice that I saved the real question for last. Awareness allows us to see things as they truly are, not as we expect them to be. If we had answered that question first, our answer would be much different than after we had considered our sensations, our feelings, and what we actually see in the moment.
When you find yourself moving throughout the day, notice moments. What are you hearing, feeling, seeing, smelling? We often move through life in a trance. We are so stuck in the past or the future that we don’t notice the present. When you catch yourself doing this, stop, take a deep breath, and pull your mind back to the present moment.
2.) Cultivate Curiosity
“Assumptions are quick exits for lazy minds that like to graze out in the fields without bother.” -Suzy Kassem
If awareness is the keystone of a wandering mindset, then curiosity is the open window through which we can see the world. Curiosity allows us to dive deeper into understanding what awareness has given us a glimpse of. Since you already have your journal out, let’s use it again.
What’s that smell? Do you recognize it? Chances are that your mind has given you a very clear picture of what is making that smell. Don’t trust it. Assume it’s wrong. What else might it be? When did it start? What makes it smell like that? What feeling does the smell bring up in your heart? Are there memories attached to it?
When I was in High School, I had a very good teacher who shared an exercise that has stuck with me. She put an item on a table—I don’t remember what it was—and asked us to name it. “What is this?” She asked. We named it with whatever was most obvious. “What else is it?” She asked. Perplexed, we came up with another name. This exercise went on for several minutes until the answers became creative and even silly.
The point of the exercise, I think, was that our initial perceptions of things are based on our memories, but our memories are often false—or at least flawed. When we look at a person, a place, or a thing with curiosity we are able to see it anew. With awareness and curiosity, you will never see anything the same way, ever again.
3.) Cultivate How you Walk
How many steps did you get today? Is your FitBit profile a source of pride or embarrassment? If you don’t have a FitBit, or an iPhone, perhaps you have another way to track your steps. This seems to be a really “in” thing to track these days, but perhaps we should look at the quality rather than the quantity of our daily steps.
We all have to walk from the car to the office, or from the bathroom to the living room. Where ever we walk, we can cultivate a wanderer’s mindset by approaching each step differently.
Most of us run through our day. We move swiftly from place to place because we believe that life is before us. We have to arrive before we can experience life, we have to get “there” so life can happen. This is a BIG LIE!
Life is happening now. Slow down and be aware of that. If it normally takes you two minutes to walk from the car to your desk, take four. See how it makes you feel. Notice things along the way. “Arrive with every step.” Says Thich Nhat Hanh. This is good advice. Notice how slowing down helps you experience more of the present in your life.
Change Your Path
Don’t walk the same path too often. You will wear down your soul as much as the path in the process. This act goes along with cultivating awareness and curiosity. If we walk the same path too often, we walk it by memory, not awareness and curiosity. Look for a new path through the parking lot. Take a new way home. Turn off the GPS and “feel” your way to your next appointment. Since you’ve taken the time to slow down, you’ll have plenty of time to figure it out.
Developing a wander mindset takes time. Be gentle with yourself in the process. Slow down and walk slowly. Be aware and curious. Take new paths and notice things you haven’t noticed before. As you flex this muscle it will grow and soon you will find yourself aware, present, curious, and wandering no matter where you are. Best of all, no matter where you are, you will know where that is.