Meditative relaxation techniques help relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.
Who among us couldn't do with a bit less stress?
In addition to the health benefits, such relaxation modes have been shown to improve creativity and problem-solving, skills that are sometimes essential and always enriching in both our work and personal lives.
I have always considered meditation and relaxation to be passive endeavours. Sit still. Quiet your mind. Sink into the floor beneath you.
But as I recently discovered in France, meditative relaxation can be quite active. In fact, in my case, active has proved to be the better way to relax.
On my independent walking tour in the Loire Valley of France sponsored by Exodus Travels, I busied my mind on something completely different from my usual concerns. I also busied my body with three days of intense walking and three days of exploring. Thanks to all that activity, at the end of the trip I found my mind more relaxed and my body held a newfound sense of physical confidence.
My Mind Relaxed As I Puzzled the Path
This is not the only way in which I found this vacation relaxing, but it is the one I loved most.
Part way through my second walking day, I noticed how my mind had begun to relax. And the thing that really did it was the walking instructions. When I arrived, I thought a map would be my guide. Instead, I found that having two pieces of paper folded into quarters in my hand, with the next section of the walk showing, to be far easier. The instructions involved such things as:
- Turn off the surfaced road at this bend and follow the unmade track towards the farm buildings but turn left on the the grass and walk behind the steel shed. You will see the way marker on the corner of the shed.
- You arrive at a triangular junction of sorts with a sign for St. Regle. Turn right here and then notice the unmade track leading off to the left of you between the two houses.
- Follow the road as it winds up past the church and under the concrete bridge to arrive at a junction. Continue following the road straight ahead for 200 m where you bear left onto a track keeping the cross on your right hand side.
Bear left at the gate, turn right at the church. Walking all day involved solving a day-long puzzle. And more, the instructions required being in the moment because they made no sense until I arrived at the actual triangular junction or cross on the right. The instructions were not difficult but they required attention allowing my mind to relax from its usual concerns.
Add to this the pleasure of the changing countryside between turns, passing vineyards and through villages, walking through woods and along the river, and the entire day was a mind relaxation exercise without the effort one feels when trying to inject such a thing into everyday life.
A Meditative Relaxation Was Possible with All Details Managed
I will share more details on how this self-guided trip worked in a future post. To write about this trip and relaxation without mentioning the benefits of having Sharon and Marc, the local representatives for Exodus, taking care of the details as I walked, would be a mistake.
Sharon and Marc made a world of difference. Their support began in Tours where they picked me up and took me to my first hotel. They pointed me to my first Chateau and headed on to take care of other guests. The next morning, there was Sharon to pick me up at 9:30 am and take me to my starting point of the day. Chatting along the way, she spoke of the highlights I might not want to miss. At the end of the day, at my next hotel, there was my baggage that she had dropped off.
Sharon and Marc were available for anything I needed, including help with my driver's license that I had somehow lost at the chateau in Chaumont. I let them know, Marc picked it up from the Chateau, and Sharon delivered it to me.
The trip had all the freedom of independent travel plus the support of a tour company.
I Arrived Relaxed with the Planning Done for Me
Finding the time to plan a trip of this nature would be very difficult for me. But it would not just be the time. The Loire is a huge river. To start, I'd have to narrow down which part of the river to explore and which chateaux. From there, I'd have to determine the walking route to ensure that it was feasible, legal, and safe. I don't mind planning but I much prefer the doing. So the third way in which this trip contributed to my wonderful sense of relaxation was that it was well-planned for me.
I arrived in the Loire Valley relaxed with the knowledge that all was well thought out and in hand. I lived the trip relaxed because I knew that I had the support of Marc and Sharon. And I enjoyed deep relaxation on the trip from the meditative nature of following the walking instructions.
This trip was sponsored by Exodus Travels. Of course, Solo Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.
Read how I trained for this trip at Physical Training for Travel: Preparing for Demanding Trips
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