Picture it. Taking a barefoot walk through a lush, serene garden with a view overlooking the deep, blue sea; the delicate fragrance of aromatic flowers wafts through the warm breeze and a bevy of cicadas are singing their rhythmic, swaying song. Your day’s to-do list is blank—not a single quickly scribbled note to read, telephone number to dial, or address to be at. All you have to think about is being present. Present with your thoughts. Present with your body. Here. Now.
Ask anybody leading a fast-paced, over-caffeinated, anxiety-ridden, must-accomplish-now, 9-to-9 lifestyle, and their idea of paradise will probably sound something like the aforementioned description. Today, our overabundance of “modern conveniences” has conspired to make our lives so complicated that we can’t tell what truly living is any more. But beyond the conference calls, countless text messages and multitasking overdosing, we all recognise that we’re filled with suppressed desires and dreams of a “real” simple life that demands nothing more than our freedom. But the act of suppression and the constant inner struggle this creates within us can often take over our daily lives, pulling us even further away from the present and exhausting our energy. We know what we want: to truly be a part of the world we were created to be in, to take a moment to just be and allow our senses to savor the experience. The question is: how can that aspiration ever be anything but a beautiful, diverting daydream?
Wondering that is to overcome the biggest obstacle—the realisation that something needs to change. This change can begin “at home.” We can try to incorporate small alterations in our lives that help us become more focused and present. But sometimes, a drastic change is needed, one that presses our reboot button and is strong enough to reposition our entire way of being. Sometimes…we just need a break.
Travel is ingrained in our DNA. Daily we travel through our thoughts, ideas, dreams, through the memories of everything we’ve lived through and the hopes of all we wish to accomplish in the future. But physical travel, getting from point A to point B, is what is often yearned for, the kind that involves expanding our physical sight, our thoughts, knowledge and experiences.
Thankfully, some have devoted their lives to delivering our yearnings on a silver platter… or rather, a mindful platter. Designers the world over constantly harness their creativity and distil it down to its most simplistic, and yet most impactful, essence in order to create covetable products and destinations that aim to revitalise and transform.
Fancy trappings aren’t needed because the personal thought, care and devotion the designers have put into the projects are all encompassing. After all, great design knows exactly what to leave out and is all about the beauty of essentials. These designers consider all the aspects of design as a single co-dependent system that looks to be natural, pure and spontaneous but is, ingeniously, utterly orchestrated. Conservation and sustainable design are a seamless part of this package throughout all its facets. Portuguese design company, Ginger & Jagger, comes to mind as a personification of all these elements. Each of their handcrafted items requires the skills of a single artisan for weeks and is a brass casted masterpiece constructed not just with respect to nature but based on nature. Fittingly, Ginger & Jagger’s iconic items can be found gracing some of the finest destinations worldwide.
In travel, engaging in mindfulness, conservation and sustainability ensures a steady dialogue—from the original design inspiration of the destination, to the interaction of all its construction elements, and then upon its completion to the interaction its guests have with the environment as well as with each other. It is a constant evolution. In fact, these talented designers keep in mind that their work will affect a guest for much longer then that guest’s actual physical stay in a place. What each guest “takes away” from their travel is often much more than what they have the time to physically experience during their stay.
All that being said, the common element that is present in all mindful designs is basic: nature and the encouragement of guest’s communion with nature. Aja Malibu is one such place that envelops its guests in eco-friendly sustainability and affords them a balanced experience of mind, body and soul, which is more than able to live up to the beauty of its designed surroundings. Across the globe, Babylonstoren in South Africa’s Cape Winelands is another covetable destination that comes to mind. Their guests experience an “authentic” version of a working farm’s country getaway reality which—although commonplace 320 years ago when it was established—is now a dream many yearn to experience.
Encouraging guests to literally touch nature through gardening and cooking what they harvest, inquisitively yet unobtrusively observing local animals, or simply sitting in the middle of a lush garden in Lotus Pose, is experiential travel at its best. It makes guests a part of the action and allows them to experience a unique sense of place promoting total peace and encouraging them to “let go” of all baggage, distresses and limitations that are weighing them down and causing them to compromise. It puts life into perspective.
Therefore, mindful design is much more than merely the act of designing a physical location that renews visitor’s minds and bodies. Rather, it is paying attention and understanding what people’s latent needs are and then the emphatic attempt to meet those needs in the most simple, pure and relevant way possible. After all, that serene, seaside garden daydream is even sweeter when one knows that it can be made a reality, if only for a long weekend escape.
Costas Voyatzis is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Yatzer, a global online destination for fine and applied arts.