Sensory travel is such a wonderful way to treasure our traveling memories long after our tan has faded. There are some travel moments that stay with us months, even years, after a trip and the slightest smell or taste can bring back those previous memories back in a flash. I don't think I had ever experienced this quite as strongly until I started solo traveling, but this lifestyle really pushed me to travel more mindfully and to always remain present.
Every sight, sound, smell and taste would make my senses explode and now, even four years after those first moments on the beach in Thailand, those same smells, tastes or sounds still evoke all the memories and feelings I felt back then. The taste of fresh coconut water, the smell of the ocean breeze rustling through the palm leaves, mango sticky rice and the chaos and noise of the Thai markets. All of these are things I associate with travel, with freedom and the serenity I felt when I was first traveling and had escaped from a life where I was no longer happy. I've teamed up with TUI Sensatori to talk all about my most vivid sensory travel memories.
My sensory travel memories
I'm a foodie at heart and I'm always chasing the next delicious experience, from those Thai spices, to the fish curries of Sri Lanka, my favourite brunch dishes and barbecues in Australia, to the comforting roast dinners of home. Feeling nostalgic for those traveling times, last night I made Thai green curry and mango smoothies, because for me, taste is a big part of remembering those traveling and holiday times. As I was cooking and smelt the mixture of coconut milk, the fragrant lemongrass, ginger and chilli combined in the pan and the sizzle reached my ears, I was transported back to those first days in Thailand, fresh off the plane when everything is almost an attack on the senses. I remember how overwhelming and exciting it all was – the colours, the sounds and smells, the tastes as a stopped off for a bite to eat and felt the flavours wash over my tongue.
What is sensory travel?
Oxford University experts have said that over-reliance on smart phones and taking pictures on holiday has led to "digital holiday amnesia" causing far too many holiday makers to forget much of their trips after two weeks. By putting down our phones and cameras, and taking the time to awaken all of our senses, we are much more likely to create sensory travel memories that will let and be treasured for life. Experimental psychologist and renowned Oxford University sensory expert Professor Charles Spence led the research, he said:
“When we watch something unfold from behind a lens, we’re not truly living and sensing the experience. Smartphones can prevent us from creating fully-fledged memories as capturing a picture only really engages one of the senses – sight. It’s only by really engaging with our experiences on holiday through all of our senses that we can hope to process all the stimulating information to lay down the sorts of memories that will last, and that will be easier to retrieve.”
My most vivid sensory travel memory
One memory that has really stayed with me was from when I was first traveling solo in Laos over three years ago. I was on a slow boat traveling down the Mekong River from Pai in Northern Thailand, to Vang Vieng, and it would take us two days to arrive at our destination. Our boat was rowdy, with a group of young travelers including myself and a couple of other English girls, some Aussies, Kiwis and even Canadians. I'll always remember two guys on the boat, an Aussie and an English guy, who were just so annoying. They never stopped talking and singing, and drove me crazy. Ironically they are some of my greatest traveling friends now!
But on that same boat, among the chaos and noise, there was an older woman who was quietly sat there just taking it all in and sketching on a pad in front of her. When I got up to take a look, she was beautifully capturing the scene in front of her, chaos and all. She had taken the time to breathe in the noise of the chatter and singing, the smell of the river and the cigarette smoke, and the feel of the hot, humid air packed tightly around us all. Seeing it through her eyes, I really saw the scene for the first time, without the annoyances, I breathed it all in, the people, the moment, all of it. Taking that moment to be mindful and appreciate changed the way I remember it, instead of just seeing it, I felt that moment. And even now, years on, I feel it. I felt it when I was reunited with the two guys and despite not seeing each other for a year we instantly felt like we were back on that boat.
Incorporating sensory travel into my life
Since that moment, I feel like I really have made a conscious effort to really appreciate every moment and not just to see it through a screen. I never want to be one of those travelers who just runs in, gets the pic and just leaves without feeling a place. As a writer, I love to soak up every part of an experience, so that later I can translate how it felt, smelt, tasted and sounded on to the page. I love curating beautiful content and imagery as you can see from the pics in this post – but I also feel that it is so important for there to be a story behind it.
For instance, the day I took the images for this post, we found a beautiful field full of rape seed and went for a walk. I remember so clearly the hot sun on my shoulders, the smell of the seed and the vibrancy of the yellow. I also remember when we found a local aviation club who were flying gliders over the fields and the muffled sounds of the aircraft coming in to land. Meeting my partner was a big push for me to put down the camera at times and just live in the moment because he, like me, loves to travel slow and really experience every moment. So we find ways of capturing the moment as I love to, but also getting to appreciate the experience just the two of us. Sensory travel at it's finest.
This blog post was a collaboration with TUI Sensatori who understand that in using all of our senses, we truly come alive and aim to help holidaymakers make the most of their holiday by stimulating their senses like never before. To find our how connected your senses are, take the TUI Sensatori quiz here.
Have you got a sensory travel memory to share? Leave a comment telling me about your sensory travel experiences and how you try to capture the memories without technology.