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A mindful travel manifesto

While you’re renting that bike or hybrid car, making reservations at that eco-friendly B&B and ordering your gluten-free vegetarian in-flight meal, don’t neglect to prepare for your green vacation in another way: internally.

You may have noticed: Otherwise genial adults become surly, impatient, me-me-me embodiments of ugliness when they travel.

My theory: They’re scared. Scared they’ll miss a connection or that their reservations will have been blown away in cyberspace; afraid of the TSA line (“Did I take that pocket knife out of my backpack?”); afraid they’ll run out of money (most of us do). For your sake, and that of your traveling companions, banish fear. Travel green in spirit.


Eat and sleep well before travel. Hydrate. Meditate, pray or otherwise invoke your spiritual side. Plan a prep day–packing, calling friends, paying bills–even if it means one fewer day of travel. Embark carefree.

Polish your karma

You’ll need it when you’re distressed, fearful or impatient later. Act as if it’s not all about you. Do unto your fearful fellow travelers.

When you see distress, fear or impatience, offer an encouraging smile (or a companionable roll of the eyes). Wave the next in line ahead of you if you’re groping for those papers that always dive to the bottom of your carry-on. Give an elder your seat.

Here’s something travelers routinely wipe from their memory banks: The rules were made for you, too. That long queue? Don’t be one of those who look about wildly as though to say, “They can’t possibly expect ME to line up with the riffraff.” Yes, they can.

Open your eyes and look around you before you ask questions: The answer’s probably on a sign right in front of you. For foreign countries, get a really practical travel guide to alert you to common signage; Rick Steves is great and Lonely Planet.

Things Not to carry

Remember that that gorgeous ceramic bread-rising bowl you discovered in Emilia-Romagna has to get home somehow. Preferably not as part of your carry-on luggage, when it will be hideously heavy, cumbersome and prone to breakage.

Take a picture. Get the recipe. Leave the cannoli.

Baggage charges have caused many to flout the carry-on size regulations. I’m begging you: Check the bag if it won’t readily slide down the aisle and into the overhead compartment. You’ll feel the love.