For some people, all bets are off when it comes to self-care and travel. I get it. I’ve been that person and while it can be kinda a relief to not give a rip while I am gone, it always comes back to bite me when I get back home and it takes forever to undo the bad habits I created while I was gone (especially going to bed late!) and to feel like myself again. Now because I am older and wise-enough not to want to bring feeling crappy onto myself willingly, I try to be proactive about my travel plans. Since I know that self-care while traveling is a challenge for a lot of people, I thought I would share my strategy for trying to keep up with some self-care while I am putting in the miles.
Step One: Make sure you know your minimum and ideal self-care so that you can more accurately strategize for how to take it on the road.
My minimum self-care: five hours of sleep~not missing more than one night at home with the boys~exercising at least 3 days a week~quality time with Happy~ten minutes of pleasure reading~moisturize~brush/floss-take vitamins/meds-plan daily tasks~drink at least 50 ounces of water~hug and kiss loved ones~talk to a touchstone~stretch~daily reflection/prayer/meditation~eat three healthy meals and snacks~sit outside~work from home 1 day a week~work minimally on weekends- sing~watch something entertaining~no self-berating talk
My ideal self-care (above + these modifications/additions): eight hours of sleep~exercise at least five days~make art~fifteen minutes of pleasure reading~drink at least 66 ounces of water~limit sugar~eat home cooked, healthy meals and snacks~limit caffeine~harvesting a home garden~monthly massage~regular hair-cut~pedicure~hot soaking bath~annual physical~living the birthday list~seeing friends~sit outside for five minutes daily!
Step Two: Know your travel absolutes.
Determine if you have any travel absolutes. For example, I cannot sleep anywhere but in a dark, cool, silent room on a bed at night. Seriously. I hate being high maintenance when it comes to sleep but it is what it is. So you know what kind of flight I don’t take if at all possible? A red-eye. If I weren’t all Princess and the Pea, then sure, we could talk about it but I am so I can’t.
So go ahead and list all of your travel absolutes. Claim your truth even if you wish it weren’t the truth about you (not being able to fly red eyes). Claim your truth even if others have a whole different perspective about things. For example, when I went to speak at NYU in March, a lot of people asked if I was going to hang out in the city for a few days. Lovely idea. But no because one of my rules is to do everything I can to not miss more than one bedtime with my family a week. So I was in NY for less than 24 hours. Things may be different at some other time in my life, but not missing bedtimes is how I want them for now.
Step Three: Look ahead and plan accordingly for travel.
Every trip is unique so you really have to plan for individual nuances. For example, vacation may need to have some different considerations than business travel. Let’s look at two of my upcoming trips really quickly:
Trip #1: A family trip to the beach. We’ll be driving there and will have our own kitchen. So, before we ever pack a bag in the car, I think about how we can all care for ourselves on this trip. First and foremost, I will menu plan and to be cost and time-effective, I will do some of our grocery shopping here and some food prep here- taking a few meals frozen for us to give the three of us a little extra time to play on the beach a few nights while we are there. I will not worry about lifting weights while I am there but will pack my running shoes and still plan on getting in some good stretching while I am there. I will tell BF my run plan so he can help encourage me on the mornings I want to get out for a run before the beach becomes crowded. I will pack an extra book or two because the odds are in my favor that, even though we play so, so much with Happy on these trips, I will get to read for more than 10 minutes each day. I will try to get as much work done before I go as possible so my work is minimal while I am there. I will stock the refrigerator and cooler with water.
Trip 2: Going to a conference on a Friday to do a Saturday morning workshop. I will be flying there and staying at a hotel. I will book my flights to minimize the time I am gone. I will pack an apple and granola bar for me to take as healthy snacks while I travel and will buy the biggest water bottle possible once I am through security in the airport. I have a tendency to get a sinus infection after flying so I will take hand sanitizer and be diligent about keeping my hands clean and off my face and will also start a little Vitamin C, Zync, and Echinacea regimen before I travel that may not help me at all but at least makes me feel like I am trying.
A quirk about me is that it takes me a bit to wind down from social activities. From meetings to book club, if I do something on a week night, it takes me 2 hours after I get home to be able to go to sleep. I have to have some quiet time with myself to process, reflect, decompress, read, etc and that takes about two hours for me. So I know this conference will have a Friday night networking event and so I will forgo caffeine and leave the networking event by 9 so that I can be in bed by 11.
I will plan my workouts that week so that I know that I am going to take Friday and Saturday off from working out and will also plan to do a nice yoga practice on Friday in my hotel room to undo some travel kinks.
And an extra thought: if I am traveling by car for a few hours, I indulge in a good audio book. That, for me, makes the drive feel even more worth it (it already will feel plenty worth it if I am going to the beach but an added bonus is nice).
Travel doesn’t have to be totally serious and without its fun so I incorporate plenty of fun into my life– I just make sure it adds to my sense of well being and doesn’t detract from it.
In fact, there is one thing I save for our annual beach trip and it is like a little extra silver lining to our vacation. I LOVE Lucky Charms cereal. But I don’t think it is a breakfast of champions and certainly don’t want my son to think it is a breakfast of champions so I only buy it once a year. Every year for our beach vacation, I get a box of Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast. It makes me happy and then when I am starving again 2 hours later because it so doesn’t stick like my oatmeal, greek yogurt, hard boiled egg and/or fruit breakfasts, I devour fruit to compensate. If there is a little dose of happy you can give your travel, too, do it.
What is your strategy for taking self-care on the road with you?