Spring break is over and signs of the new season are popping from the Earth. Bits of green grass and flowers are persevering over the lingering cool weather. The sun is lengthening the days. And my body is going through adjustments. After a bitterly cold winter and traveling throughout March there is much I want to shed before stepping into the new season.
The cold drove me indoors more than I like, leading to less socializing and the travel has left me depleted. Between juggling time differences, healing from the flu, shocking my system with new foods and changes in weather, I’m ready to embrace spring and a new routine.
I’m incredibly grateful for the past month’s travel experiences. Beginning with explorations across Italy with my sister and ending with discoveries in urban and rural Malaysia, I learned a great deal about the world and I’m excited to share all that I observed. This means making time to record the journey, scheduling dedicated writing time, getting into a work flow that speaks to my energy levels and learning how to manage the anxiety that comes with wanting to share it all at once.
The past few days I’ve pondered what to share first. And I keep coming back to the stress of traveling. Travel is a beautiful gift. To have the opportunity to practice world citizenship should not be taken for granted or bemoaned. That being said, travel does present certain stressors on health. For me that includes, motion sickness, worry over available foods, mistakenly eating an allergenic food, irregular sleep schedule, constipation and triggering my eating disorder. Recognizing this list helped me prepare for all the situations.
Issue: Motion Sickness
Solution: Mostly due to recycled air and lack of sunlight on the flights, I try to sit in a window seat so I can sneak peaks of light when I need it. Eating ginger chews and drinking ginger tea both helped to calm my nausea and distract from the queasy feeling.
Issue: Worry over available foods
Solution: Airlines are accommodating to dietary restrictions. They have vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, egg-free, kosher, gluten-free and other options depending on the airline. I selected the gluten-free meal and was impressed with the offering. The foods were mostly rice-based and less vegetables than I typically eat but not bad for an airline meal. The best option is to pack your own meals and bring snacks. I brought a sardine salad for dinner and sweet potato mash for breakfast in throw-away containers on the flight to Italy. The return flight is where I had to get creative. I still had packed sardines and a few other snacks to supplement the provided airline meals.
Issue: Mistakenly eating an allergenic food
Solution: Always have an EpiPen if you have a severe allergy. If it’s more of an intolerance then drinking lots of water and supplementing with l-glutamine help.
Issue: Irregular Sleep Schedule
Solution: Both of my outbound flights were overnight so my regular sleep schedule told me to sleep as soon as I boarded the plane. It was smooth sailing on my flight to Italy and I was out for six straight hours. An eye mask, ear plugs, neck pillow and blanket contributed to the sleep success. Unfortunately I was more restless on the flight to Malaysia. When we arrived to our layover destination, my energy had hit rock bottom. Then we discovered the coolest offering at the airport, a full service spa with gym, lap pool and relaxation lounge. I booked myself a massage then parked myself in the lounge for a few hours of sleep before our next flight. Many international airports offer comfortable reclining seats for rest during layovers and spas are becoming popular as well.
Solution: Whenever my routine is altered, my digestive system is the first to notice. I use a few tricks to alleviate these symptoms and get things moving again. Hydration is priority. I start upping my water intake a full week before planned travel. Taking breaks for movement helps as well. I’ll do squats and certain yoga poses in the bathroom or back of the aisle, anything to get my body out of the seated posture.
Layovers are helpful ways to get in exercise too. Some airports have gyms and there is even a yoga room in the San Francisco airport that I love. But really walking is all you need and most concourses are long enough. If you have the time, find a spa and schedule a massage.
Issue: Triggering my eating disorder.
Solution: The importance of scheduled meals is the first thing I learned from my eating disorder therapist. When you’re on a path of breaking poor habits in exchange for healthy behavior it’s critical to have a set routine. I’ve been married to this principle ever since. To maintain a healthy relationship with food I need regularly scheduled breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Once I deviate from this it’s challenging to right the path.
During the flights I was bombarded with food. The airlines have determined that the best way to pass the time on lengthy flights and keep customers happy is to keep the food flowing. To deter myself from falling into dangerous food patterns I set a meal timer. When the timer beeped I knew it was time for the next meal. I set the timer for every five to six hours. I knew that if I ate enough food at each meal I would not be hungry or tempted to snack in between. And it worked. I was able to stick with my regimen and not have food regrets.
It has been almost been a year since I accepted my eating disorder and sought progressional help to begin the healing. I’ve learned that I’ll always be mending my distorted relationship with food and that’s okay. Acceptance and therapy have given me the tools to manage it. Travel is just one of the challenges I face and with these solutions I’m a healthier woman.
What helps you practice self-care when traveling?