Ahh, the sights and sounds…
AND the smell, taste, and feel!
Traveling is amazing for rebooting our senses. Everything literally feels new and foreign, for your eyes, nose, ears, and taste buds.
Even the familiar becomes new again. Drinking a coffee at home and drinking one while watching the ocean waves ripple are two very different experiences!
Often we get caught up with the ‘seeing’ part: we want to travel to see the sights of a given place…
But there are 4 other senses to entertain when you’re on an adventure!
The following list gives you 25 fun exercises to stimulate your senses so you can better explore a new place (and, later, remember it better). Enjoy!
We live in a visually complex world, seeing hundreds of thousands of altering visuals every day. Adjusting how we see can change what we see and perceive.
Here are a few to have fun with in a new location (or at home):
• Take sight-seeing photos from as many different vantage points as possible.
• Get your hands on a set of binoculars and head to a local park.
• Pick up a magnifying glass and use it to explore.
• Eye Spy is not just for kids! Play this game when you have some time to kill on travel days.
• Find the highest place you can get to and observe your landscape from there.
Aroma affects us in primal ways. Smell cells in our brain are connected to the limbic system, which governs emotions, behavior, and long-term memory.
Our smell and taste senses are also intertwined. Without our nose, food would taste incredibly different. Anyone who’s had a head cold can tell you meals becomes tasteless. However, it is not the taste buds fault! A congested nose is the culprit.
There are even experts that have trained their noses so well that they can isolate individual odours from hundreds of different scents. “The Perfumer,” “the Sommelier,” “The Tea Expert” are a few examples of professional ‘Smellers’…
Good news: you have a nose and can also train it to be more active in noticing what you smell in your environment.
Travel is a wonderful opportunity to pay more attention to the array of smells that hit you through out the day…
And the best part: by doing so you strengthen your connection to the memories of that time and place.
Here are a few ideas to kick your smell receptors into high gear:
• Smell your food and drink before you eat or drink it.
• Close your eyes, cover your ears and inhale deeply. How many different smells can you identify?
• Wear a new cologne or perfume especially for a trip – it will be tied to that place through smell association for years and years to come.
• Get close! Proximity is important when you want to smell fully. Go to a botanical garden and stick your nose in flowers.
• Sign up for a wine tasting class and get better at describing what you smell.
Sounds bombard us every day and we are exceptionally good at filtering out a lot of them (the din of traffic in the city, the white noise of a fan at the cottage).
But when was the last time you just sat and listened to the sounds around you? Taking time to really listen – especially somewhere new – is a great way to soak up the moment. Consider trying the following:
• Eavesdrop on a conversation in another language.
• Make time for a concert.
• Find a park close your eyes and listen to the birds.
• Notice the music playing in the local coffee shop.
• What specific sounds happen daily where you are?
Evolutionally, our sense of taste (and smell) has kept us alive. Bitter or sour was an indication of inedible plants or spoiled protein, whereas a sweet or salty taste signaled food rich in nutrients and calories.
Although flavor depends on taste as well as odor, texture, and temperature… There are 5 basic qualities of taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory.
Food is a huge part of what makes travel so amazing. Trying regional cuisine is one of the best ways to appreciate a different culture and location in the world.
It’s a given that stepping outside of your comfort zone is a must while abroad and, because of the links between taste, smell, and memory, it is invaluable to truly savour your meals while traveling. Here’re a few ways to help with that:
• Practice mindful eating (basically slowing wayyyy down)
• Attend a food or drink festival
• Cleanse your palette between sampling food. Lukewarm water or crackers will do the trick
• Go on a food tour. Sign up for an organized one or self-guide your own!
• Try pinching your nose when tasting something to observe the smell taste connection
A huge network of nerve endings and touch receptors in the skin (known as the somatosensory system) controls this last sensory detail – touch.
Naturally, it’s vital from the moment we are born and continues to play a huge role in our relationships with others and the world around us for the duration of our lives. Unfortunately, as we age our sensitivity to touch deteriorates. So use it or lose it!
Develop and attend to your sense of touch, and feel connected to wherever you are in the world:
• Splurge on a massage or a day at a spa.
• Go to a petting zoo or pet different animals when you have the chance.
• Buy a piece of clothing that feels good on your skin while on vacation (bonus: it will be instantly connected to that time and place).
• Physically help someone cross the street.
• Visit a market and touch and feel all the amazing stuff there.
Although this list separates the 5 senses, they, of course, do work collaboratively. They also work automatically and so it’s too easy to forget we have these amazing tools at our disposal for really taking in a new place.
So instead of racing through your next trip, take the time to explore using all your senses for a richer escape!