Mindfulness is one of the buzzwords of 2019, and with so with side-hustles alongside our regular jobs, getting involved with activism and the general state of the world at the moment is there any surprise that we need to take time to relax and reconnect with the world? Travel for some people is a relaxing experience but taking a lot of short breaks in order to see as much of the world as possible in a short period of time can result in burn out. That’s the position I found myself in when I preparing to visit Brugge, I’d done a lot of travelling that year, a total of 23 trips to 9 different countries that year and it was beginning to get overwhelming! However I’d got a deal that was literally too good to pass up, it was a £1 return ferry trip to France that I’d already booked but I was seriously considering not going, I was exhausted! The travelling was just becoming too much but I also didn’t want to miss out. We did some research and decided to drive to Dunkirk for a couple of hours before heading to Brugge but I knew I would have to take this in a different manner to my usual high-speed site-seeing in order to look after myself, so we decided to take a mindful travel approach to the trip.
But what exactly is mindful travel? Mindfulness in regards to travel can really be boiled down to being in the moment, taking in an atmosphere rather than an attraction, watching the world go by and listening to locals chat instead of setting up insta-shots. In short, just taking it slow. You can appreciate the little moments rather than chasing big experiences, all while taking in a new culture in a respectful manner. My mindful travel approach to this trip was born out of necessity, but what I discovered was that Brugge was actually the perfect city for mindful travel. Here are a few reasons why:
No travel stress
Brugge is an easy city to get to, we got a ferry to Dunkirk because of the amazing deal and driving into the city from here via the motorway was really straightforward with minimal traffic. There’s actually a much closer port at Calais and plenty of travel companies do have combine tickets which include coach transfers if you don’t want to worry about driving. The city centre itself is so small that the only way to really get around is on foot, so transport is no issue. We were staying in a cheap motel around 20 minutes walk from the centre so we could have got a bus, but all the roads here are lead straight into the city so you can’t go wrong, so we chose to walk.
Plenty of street food and cosy, low-key restaurants
Brugge has a plethora of street food options, from the famous Belgium waffles to Freits and of course, Belgium chocolate there are loads of options if you want to just rock up and grab a bite to eat stress-free. Alternatively, if you want to put your feet up and be waited on, most restaurants here were cosy, candlelit and low key with no snobbery or dress codes and often, no need to book. Just rock up, eat and relax.
More of a place to explore then to visit attractions
Yes, Brugge does have a handful of museums and tourist attractions, however, this certainly isn’t the highlight of the city. While there is plenty to do if you want to visit such places there aren’t any major ‘must-sees’ here or anywhere that would garner large queues or the fear of missing out. Part of our agreement on doing this trip in a mindful way was that we wouldn’t visit any such attractions, we made one small exception to climb the tower of the Belfry of Brugge because I can’t resist a good view a view from up high when I visit a new city, but outside of this, we stuck to it. Brugge is made up of small cobbled streets you can wander down endlessly and take in the architecture and atmosphere and this was where the real joy of the city is to be found.
Space to take it at your own pace
Unlike a lot of cities, Bruge has a very laid back atmosphere, so I never felt rushed or in anyone’s way as I wandered the streets here. Lie in, wander, get lost in thought. Brugge is a popular location but despite its beauty, it never felt overly busy, which for a European city is rare.
The Cafe culture
The relaxed, cafe culture means you can just buy a drink, pull up a chair and just happily watch the world go by. There are no bad views in Brugge so you can go to any cafe and lose yourself in people-watching quite happily for hours.
Plenty of public space to explore mindful travel
Brugge is a small city and it’s surrounded by lots of green space so from the centre you are only ever a 15-minute walk away from finding a nice open space to while away the hours. You can grab a picnic if it’s warm enough, walk from windmill to windmill with a coffee or walk along the canal and feed the ducks.
A beautiful place to take in the sights
Brugge is notorious for its beauty, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and that’s really saying something. It’s fairytale-like streets and buildings mean there is plenty to see without ever having to step foot into a building. We spent our days winding the streets and taking it all in which made for the perfect break.
Lots of dark, cosy bars for drinking Belgium beer
Belgium is of course known for its beers and there are plenty of cosy bars in Brugge for you to stop for a drink or two. Just like the restaurants, these are in no way snobby or fancy, everywhere was laid back and friendly, a great place to have a pint. Our favourite was actually in the basement and it’s dark, candlelit atmosphere was seriously romantic.
Brugge gave me a mental break and really opened me up to the idea of mindful travel, while still allowing me to visit somewhere new. It’s laid back atmosphere and beautiful architecture meant we were not competing with other tourist’s to get into busy places nor did we need to get up early to fit it all in. We wandered, we ate, we drank, and we relaxed. It made me fall in love with the city, I will definitely revisit someday to relax in these beautiful surroundings all over again. Where’s your favourite destination for mindful travel?