Keep Calm and Travel On
Travel. Reisen. Viajar. Voyajer. It seems like I have always loved it. In reality, this love affair began unexpectedly when an ex-boyfriend and I called it quits in the middle of the trip in Thailand, making traveling together a no-go. The universe does indeed work in mysterious ways. Out of necessity, I was forced to find my way around a very foreign culture and landscape relying on my wits and survival instincts I guess. The trip left me with a hunger for more… the more far off-the-beaten track, the better -- the mountains in the Himalayas, Amazon river in Peru, the Glaciers of Patagonia or my upcoming venture to the far-off islands of Greece (see below). What is that Augustine quote... The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page..
Spontaneity and letting the world organically unfold was the name of the game. This also applied to how I “planned” for the trip. I use that term loosely as I was famous for packing the night before only to realize I had (God only knows why) packed jeans and heavy shirts for a hot tropical holiday or only one fleece for a trip in the mountains. I loved the spontaneity. Even if it had negative consequences.
As we transport ourselves physically through planes, trains and automobiles, into a new environment with different time zones, pace of life, food, etc - we follow a different rhythm from back home, which can look like no rhythm at all. This is the dosha of vata (which has the qualities of movement and change) at work. Those with vata in their constitution may be more sensitive to the effects of travel since they have those same qualities in their personality and mindset. As a vata myself, I noticed the lack of routine in bedtime, eating, waking and movement took me weeks to "recover" from. I felt like I had a travel hangover.
As we get older, we reflect on yesterdays and try to learn from them - hopefully while keeping the spirit and wonder of our youth. I still love travel, and always will, but I have learned to travel wisely - not only for the trip to come, but how I want to feel when I get back.
If we travel too much (for work or fun), we wear down the container that is us (our body, mind and spirit system housed in a human body). We call this ojas in Ayurveda – it is the vital essence that promotes and sustains our physical vitality, mental clarity and overall health. It is the foundation of our immunity and longevity. Low ojas is why you get sick or just really worn down and sluggish after a holiday or work trip.
Traveling well means building up our Ojas both before and during our journey. Learn to make a smooth transition from the stable, earthy routine of our life back home (kapha) to the movement, change and arrhythmic nature of travel (vata) and back again. Return refreshed, rather than in need of a vacation from your vacation.
Think ahead/plan ahead - It is common to overload our schedules before we travel. There is so much to pack in so we can really enjoy our holiday, right? Overloading your schedule is vata-aggravating. So is travel (see above). That’s a whole lot of vata. For at least the week prior to your trip, commit to your regular work and social schedule, not more. You will either pay up front in the early days of travel with low energy, sleepiness, or stress-recovery, or when you get back when you catch a cold, so why not be proactive instead?
Be proactive about self-care– Get serious about your self care routines before you leave so you start your trip feeling strong– go to bed early, eat at regular times, don’t snack, move and meditate/get quiet daily(1 to 5 minute practices DO count). I teach these habits in my health coaching programs. Interested? I offer an intro 3 week coaching course this August on the habits of Ayurveda.
Stay Regular– On the first day or two of travel, many people suffer from constipation (another sign that vata imbalance). What keeps you regular? For some people, it is drinking a lot of (room temperature) water and loading up on juices and soups to keep the insides hydrated and encourage peristalsis. Others find that adding more oils to their food, eating beets, dried fruits or fermented foods keeps things moving. What are your go-to foods that make you regular? Make sure to eat more of it the days before your trip.
Pack early. Have a packing list ahead of time, when you aren’t stressed, so the actual packing will be a breeze.
Pack wisely – I have a pre-made bag I grab before travel, so it is always ready to do. What goes in it? Well what do you know about what you need so you feel the most like you when you travel? A few things I bring to keep up my healthy routines even while traveling are:
* green smoothie powder – Organic stores in most cities at least have a carrot or beet juice. I add a little green in to start my day right. You can also add it to your morning porridge for a chlorophyll surge first thing.
* chia seeds for good digestion – add them to your morning muesli. Lightweight and easy to pack
* My favorite teas
* Water bottle
* Yoga mat
* My favorite DoTerra essential oils (On Guard to take on the plane and daily to keep my immune system up, DigestZen to keep my digestion regular, lemon for my morning water and lavender for a foot massage or do drop onto my pillow for relaxation and deep rest.
Visualize your journey –Do you get stressed by certain parts of your travel? Or just worry you will fall off your healthy routines from home? Visualize the things that you definitely want to happen.. Hydrating? Running in the morning? Open up to the desire and result of why you are going on the trip.
Unpack– Right when you get back. This settles vata and eases you back into your regular, stable routine and get out of the beautiful chaos that is part and parcel of travel.