When I say “travel,” what comes to mind for you?
Is it staying in your grandma’s house and hanging out with your cousins all day, wild trips with your girlfriends for spring break or bachelorette parties, or long walks through unknown cities with new places to explore around each picturesque corner?
Or is it dark hotel rooms with early mornings and late nights, unpacking and repacking your life into a tiny suitcase every week, strategically trying to determine which snacks will make it through TSA, never-ending exhaustion, and sometimes even loneliness?
A few years ago, travel was all the former for me. I typically travelled with friends or family to fun destinations or familiar places to which I loved to return. I took occasional trips alone and these always felt like a new adventure – an opportunity to make my own agenda, wander at my own pace, and examine the menu of every organic restaurant I passed. My travel was not always idyllic or glamorous but I savored every moment of it (and I still do!).
But my view of travel has shifted since I started hitting the road nearly every week for my job. When I travel for work, it usually looks far more like the second scenario I described above: dark hotel rooms, unpacking and repacking, airport snacks, exhaustion, and loneliness. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my job and I still love to travel, but I have realized that travel for work has very different implications for my health and happiness than does travel for fun.
During business travel, I often find myself going days without doing a single thing for myself as I try to “make the most of my time on the road” and work 16-hour days. I will crawl into my hotel bed at night and realize that I did not talk to a single person outside of the professional context in that day, and that makes me sad. I return home so exhausted and stressed that I spend the whole weekend recovering before I do it all again the next week.
If you have ever felt the way I described above, know that you are not alone and you do not have to feel this way. I have started to develop some new routines and practices to keep myself happy and healthy while I travel, and I am sharing them in the hopes that they might help you as well. I must confess, though, that I wrote this post to hold myself accountable because I definitely need to practice these strategies more than I already do…who else is with me?!
If you ever feel stressed, exhausted, burnt out, or alone while you travel (or while you’re at home!), these tips are for you.
1. Get some sleep. I could not be a bigger believer in the power of sleep, especially for those with chronic illnesses (hey friends). When I don’t sleep well, I notice physical signs like cravings, soreness, and fatigue as well as other signs like emotional instability, sadness, and difficulty thinking clearly. Travel schedules and crappy hotel beds can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep but you need to make it a priority. Pack an eye mask and some comfy pajamas and commit to setting your alarm for at least eight hours after you get into bed at night if at all possible. Getting adequate restful sleep every night will have the single biggest impact on your travel experience as a whole.
2. Get moving. It can be hard to create movement in your day when you are waking up at the crack of dawn to sit in meetings all day and don’t have access to your normal gym, yoga classes, etc., but a sedentary lifestyle will only exacerbate your aches and pains from travel as well as your exhaustion, cravings, poor sleep, and unstable emotions. If you have access to a hotel gym, get in a workout before you leave in the morning or walk on the treadmill for a few minutes before you go to sleep at night. If you don’t have access to a gym, try doing a yoga video in your room or going for a jog outside. I am not telling you to do hard workouts every day, but I have found that incorporating movement into each and every day makes my travel experience infinitely better.
3. Call your mom. It is far too easy to isolate yourself when you are on the road alone for large chunks of your time. Make sure you take a few minutes every day to call your mom or your cousin or your best friend or your brother or…you get the point. No matter who it is, take some time to connect with someone you care about each day. Maintaining these connections will help you feel more connected to life outside of your hotel room, which is key to maintaining your sanity and happiness.
4. Do the little things. Most of the comforts of home do not easily fit in a suitcase (like your bed or your EO diffuser) but some do! Try to identify little things that you can pack or do that will make you feel a little more at home, and then actually pack/do them. I have found that bringing along some of my favorite essential oils, comfortable pajamas, and a big cozy sweatshirt makes a HUGE difference in how I feel. I also try to keep my morning and evening routines as consistent as possible to make my body feel like it is at home as well. These are just little things but they make a huge difference in my healthy and my happiness when I’m on the road.
5. Treat yo’self. Finally, don’t forget to take time out of your day or your travels to enjoy yourself, too. Try a new restaurant you have been wanting to try for dinner, get a manicure if you have a 30-minute break before dinner, or watch an episode of your favorite TV show instead of answering emails before bed. When you are at home these little breaks are usually built into your schedule already, but when you are traveling you have to make a conscious effort to create time in your day for the things that make you happy.
Do you have any tips for self-care during travel that I need to add to this list? Share your wisdom in the comments, please!