Where I’d rather be: in the Christmas presence

The Christmas holidays. It’s almost an oxymoron. How can such a busy season tag on to the idea of relaxation? If December has become a month of frantic wrapping and failed mince pies, you probably wish you could slow down a little.

Introducing mindful travel. Find joy in the present by championing simpler, enriching travel experiences. Here are five ideas you can try over the holidays and well into 2022.

Practice silence

About an hour’s drive north of Auckland in the lush valleys of Makarau is a Vipassana Meditation Centre known as Dhamma Medini. Guests practice Vipassana, one of India’s most ancient techniques of self-observation, via 10 days of residential seminars and by observing a Noble Silence for the duration.

Seek hands-on experiences

Things that speak to the senses often involve using them, so get to grips with a hands-on workshop. There are plenty of carving tutorials across NZ but we like Bonz N Stonz in Hokitika for its variety of choices. Visitors can try their hand at chiselling jade, bone or shell, producing a signature piece of jewellery to take home. We also like Barrytown Knifemaking for its optional (if not a little obscure) free activities such as axe throwing.

Step outside your comfort zone

It’s the old life-affirming effect. Do something uncomfortable and reap the uplifting rewards. In NZ, the land of skydives and bungy jumps, you’re never too far from terrifying extremes, but everyone’s threshold is different. A venture to Waitomo Caves puts visitors inside a shadowy (yet spectacular) chasm; shark cage diving is all the rage in Bluff and at Auckland’s Vector Wero Whitewater Park, you can test your balance on an extra-large SUP board with up to five other people. With activities as diverse as these, pick your poison.

Strike up a conversation with a stranger

An easy one that requires little prep, cost or trepidation. And foolproof in a nation full of friendly Kiwis. Why not start with a farmers’ market. Come summer, they spring up with almost contagious regularity, offering various artisans of every skill to have a yarn with. Added bonus, you’ll no doubt learn a few insider tricks of the trade to regale your mates with.

Take a slow-paced hike

There’s no short supply of short walks and long tramps in Aotearoa. Next time you’re exploring by foot, make a conscious effort to slow down and linger. Take the time to absorb what’s all around you and not directly two footsteps ahead. The Japanese have a beautiful term for this called shinrin-yoku, which means “forest bathing” or more simply, absorbing the atmosphere of nature.

Check traffic light settings, vaccine requirements and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz

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