This July our family ventured to Sri Lanka. I managed to navigate this trip with more ease and good health than previous overseas holidays and wanted to share for anyone who is curious how they can incorporate self-care habits when traveling overseas.
Whether it's work or play, traveling provides the opportunity to be somewhere new, to get away, experience the sights, sounds, tastes and sensations of a different place, or revisit something or somewhere we’ve had a connection with in the past.
Staying healthy while traveling can also be a challenge. Jet lag, aeroplane food, being in confined spaces, adjusting from winter to hot sun, or the wonderful tasting foods that we don’t typically eat. Travel takes us out of familiarity, routine, and the comforts of home and can easily overwhelm the senses and tip our bodies out of balance – if we let it.
Travel by its very nature requires motion, which, according to Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science) aggravates vata dosha. Vata is the energy of movement and when in excess cause gas, constipation, dryness, insomnia, anxiety, stress and low immunity – among other imbalances. This is all compounded with the fact that our routine goes out the window when we're not on our home turf which is one of the biggest contributors to vata imbalances.
Thankfully, there are ways to ensure your good habits don’t completely fall by the wayside while away from home. Here are some guidelines I follow to help me feel great and stay healthy whenever I fly for work or play.
What to pack:
Tongue scraper (if forgotten use a metal spoon).
Small bottle of cold pressed sesame or almond oil for abhyanga (self massage), and oiling inside your nostrils and in the ears.
Arnica (useful for jet-lag and feeling restless as well as muscle strains, shock or bruising)
Manuka honey - though not for international flights! (amazing natural bug killer).
A good thermos. Fill it with a few slices of fresh ginger (for digestion) before you leave.
Few bags of your favourite herbal teas like chamomile (calming & relaxing), spiced tea like ginger (boosts digestion)
Miso soup sachets and dried seaweed (nori) are super handy. If you don't like miso soup use a veggie broth cube instead.
Supplements: Magnesium (for sleep + elimination) and ashwaganda (for stress + sleep). I also use melatonin to help me adjust to a new timezone
Socks and a big scarf for long plane trips. Eye mask too.
Rosewater in a small spray bottle
Calming and grounding essential oils like lavender, rosewood or sandalwood
Before you go:
Give yourself a grounding oil massage the night before or the morning of travel. Can add a few drops of calming/grounding essential oils to your massage oil as well
Get enough sleep the night before a long trip (try not to leave your packing for the last minute as this isn’t conducive to getting a good night’s sleep)
Write or type out a travel checklist and packing list that you can reuse every time you travel to streamline packing.
For the plane ride:
For long trips dress in loose, comfortable clothing
After you go through customs find a coffee shop and ask them to fill up your thermos with hot water. When onboard you can ask the air stewards to refill it as you need.
Hydrate heavily throughout your trip and avoid iced or cold beverages (bad for digestion and further aggravates vata).
Avoid drying, cold and hard to digest foods (ice cream, biscuits, chips, pretzels etc..), opt for moist and warming food instead like soups, curries, and stews. Sip water with meals
Ask the air steward for a cup of hot water to add your miso mix or veggie broth cube and seaweed to.
Practice deep belly breathing or meditate during take-off and landing (Headspace or Insight timer are great free apps)
Air travel is extremely drying which makes you more prone to congestion and compromises your immune system. Keep your skin hydrated with rosewater spray, oil inside your nostrils to keep nasal passages lubricated and filter germs, and massage your feet with oil
If it's a long plane ride get up often to walk around and do some simple stretches in your seat – aim to move the spine in all 6 directions.
When you arrive:
If possible place your bare feet on the earth upon landing – it's the fastest way to ground your body (and improves sleep!)
Do some belly breathing to relax the nervous system
Adjust to a new time zone as quickly as possible - use your eye mask at night if you're not in a blacked-out room, do some stretching, make a relaxing tea and take magnesium/ melatonin before bed.
Get into a regular eating and sleeping routine to support your digestion and sleep. Aim to eat your main meal at lunchtime and eat lighter in the evening – this frees up your evenings and energy to explore and you wake the next day feeling refreshed.
Stay active - walk as much as you can and do a short workout (move spine in 6 directions) in the morning to tell the body it’s time to wake up. If you can get your heart rate up that helps too and will boost mood, energy, and metabolism for the whole day.
Take a thermos or water bottle with you everywhere to stay hydrated and keep you regular : )
Most importantly, have FUN. It goes without saying that an open mind, a willingness to venture out of your comfort zone, a sense of adventure, curiosity and play are equally important items on any holiday packing list.
May one or more of these self-care tips help you to navigate your next getaway with ease - big or small.