I am well versed in traveling. I grew up overseas and my father had two months of paid vacation every year. Imagine that! We would hop on a plane and travel to India, Europe and the US for almost the entire summer. I have memories of getting ill many times while traveling as a child, but don’t recall dealing with constipation, fatigue, ankle swelling and bloating. I don’t remember thinking much about drinking water, trying to get exercise and paying attention to what I eat. Alas, everything changes with age. Gone are the days of eating the bag of blue corn tortilla chips on a jetblue flight across country or drinking a cup of tomato juice because it just taste so good at 30,000 feet high (there is actually science behind why it taste better high up). I now think mindfully about preparing my body prior to travel and the choices I make while traveling. I’ve found that sticking with these 5 things keeps me at my best so I can enjoy my experience of traveling and recover quickly when I get home.
- Stay Hydrated. I know you’ve heard this before. The truth is, I don’t like to stay hydrated. I find that it’s a fine balance between drinking enough water, and not having to tap the shoulder of the person sitting next to you so you can go to the bathroom for the fifth time during the flight. So, to avoid this scenario, I start my hydration the day before. This allows me to get on the plane in a positive hydration balance, so I don’t have to drink as much water during flight. I try to drink one to two bottles of water during flight. If I find coconut water in the airport, I usually grab that for the plane. Be sure to check the label though as some brands have a very high sugar content.
- Take Your Vitamins. I do take daily vitamins and supplements. I recently found a great little packet that is easy to travel with. It has all the ingredients to keep my energy levels up while traveling. It has activated B vitamins, which are great for recovery from travel as well. It also has omega-3 fatty acids to combat inflammation, and magnesium to help me relax and stay regular. The supplement pack I like is Pure Encapsulations Energize Plus Pure Pack. You can create your own vitamin pack however. Just be sure that it has methylated B vitamins, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Eat or Take Probiotics. This is especially important if traveling overseas. Your gut can get hit with all kinds of new bacteria and other organisms. While some of this exposure is a good thing, to increase your immunity and improve the diversity of your gut microbiome, the last thing you want is to be holed up in the bathroom with Montezuma’s Revenge (traveler’s diarrhea). Alternatively, if you are prone to constipation, summer travel can be a trigger for this too, due to the increase in dehydration. I take my probiotic daily and always bring it with me on a trip. Arming your gut with good bacteria will prohibit the bad organisms from taking over. I like Integrative Therapeutics Probiotic Pearls. These pearls are created with the right technology to get through the stomach acid to the gut where they belong. They are also quite small and easy to swallow even without water if needed. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you will want to find a vegetarian version as this one is not.
- Be Mindful About Food Choices. I don’t know about you, but when I go on vacation, eating the local food is at least half the fun! I certainly don’t want to limit myself too much, however, I realize I need to balance my choices. I try to make sure I start my day with protein and fiber and eat lots of fresh, healthy snacks throughout the day. I typically carry small bags of unsalted nuts on the plane and throughout my trip. My travels these days usually involves my young kids, so I always grab fruit to munch on throughout the day as well. I find that if I change my diet too drastically, such as indulging in dairy and gluten, I feel bloated, fatigued and less energetic. So, I think of my day in 24 hour segments and if I eat something that’s not typically in my diet for lunch, I balance it with a healthy choice for dinner. I pick and choose my battles, and make mindful choices about what I’m going to indulge in…like that extra bowl of clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl that I had in San Francisco on a cold and slightly foggy day overlooking the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. Sigh…that was a worthwhile experience and a memory I won’t forget!
- Plan Trips That Include Movement. One of the best ways to detox, increase energy and clear your mind is to be physical. I try to include natural movement while traveling. This means that if there is an option to take the stairs, I do. If there is a nearby trail or hiking area, I’ll include that in my day. Recently, while in the middle of an urban vacation, we added in visits to the botanical gardens, a Japanese Tea garden and a hike through nearby woods. Not only did these excursions become some of the best memories from our trip, but they also served to help our bowels stay regular, pump blood through our liver to detox all the wine we had tasted the night before, and clear our brains so our focus in a busy city remained sharp. The hike through the ancient Redwood Forest was also an incredible opportunity to connect with nature and get in a few minutes of meditation. This brings me to the next tip…
- Engage in a Mind-Body Practice Daily. If you already have a daily meditation practice, a breathing practice, a guided visualization practice or some other stress reduction practice, continuing it while traveling might prove difficult. I like to mix it up a little, and see what works in my day. I have the apps, Insight Timer and Headspace on my iphone and typically turn to these in a crunch. You can choose from 5 minute to 60 minute or more meditations that are guided or silent. When I am not in my usual meditation space, it can sometimes be hard to quiet my mind. I practice a few rounds of 4-7-8 Breath which calms down my sympathetic nervous system and increases my relaxation response. Then I dive into my meditation. I also enjoy the opportunity to find moments of mindfulness throughout my travels. Stepping outside my daily grind of work, kid’s schedules and home life reminds me of the larger picture. I find it so much easier at times to be truly present and connected when I travel, because my mind isn’t crowded with all the things that need to get done that day. I also find that I have moments of a deeper connection with my children and my spouse, because we may have nothing else to do than just be together in this new space. Keeping my body regular and healthy while I travel gives my mind the freedom to remain clear and attentive so I don’t miss a single moment of fun on my new adventure.