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I'm planning an upcoming trip to Spain and Germany, and I have been reflecting on how I'm going to keep up my efforts to keep overall wellness in my life while I'm travelling. It’s not easy to focus on staying healthy when we’re staying up late, drinking more, sleeping less (or not at all!) and eating a lot of take-out because we do not have the space or time to prepare food ourselves. On the other hand, we don’t want to be so rigidly committed to our routines that it dampens our whole travel experience. I sometimes find myself in a state of mind where my “healthy routine” becomes all-consuming and actually prevents me from fully expressing myself as a healer, yoga teacher, doula and person. We all need a little spontaneity from time to time, and travelling is a great way to introduce some. Spontaneity challenges us, breeds fun, drops us into the present, and can help us discover our sense of balance.
So how am I going to stay well while travelling? Here are my tips:
Take a Load Off
I have suffered from plantar fasciitis for years, it got better when I stopped working as a waitress, but I know it will flare up when I’m walking around Gaudi Cathedral in Spain, as well all the markets, to and from the hostel and restaurants, etc. You can relieve your aches and get weight off your feet with the yoga pose legs-up-the-wall. Lay down on the floor with your feet pointed to a wall, place a folded pillow under your low back to support your sacrum. Lift your straight legs to rest against the wall and open your palms to the ceiling, resting your shoulders in the sockets as you allow gravity to lessen the load off your feet. This pose also slows your heart rate for relaxation, which will be very important because our nervous systems can get overstimulated while travelling.
Know when to Withdraw
Experiencing new cultures, foods, people, cities and customs can sometimes leave us feeling a bit overwhelmed. I sometimes even feel it here at home in Toronto. I bring an eye bag everywhere I go (my birth clients love them at the hospital to escape the bright lights). When you are going to sleep, or even during those glorious mid-day naps in a park, practice pratyahara (deprivation of the senses), one of the eight limbs of yoga. This is such a good way to reduce stress, meditate and reflect. While lying on your back, place the eye bag over your eyes and resist the urge to move your eyeballs around in their sockets. You can intensify this by wearing ear plugs as well.
If you do not own an eye bag here is my DIY version: Take a clean sock, drop 5-8 drops of lavender oil over the sock, fill it with flax seeds and tie a tight knot at the top.
When it Comes to Food, Be Prepared
Without easy access to a kitchen, it can be hard to eat healthy meals while travelling. If you're staying at an AirBnB with a kitchen, you'll be all set to cook. If you are staying in a hostel or hotel, research close-by markets and make a day trip to them. Buy lots of on-the-go snacks and be spontaneous, buy something you have never tried before. Bring along a couple extra ziploc bags in case you've got leftovers. This way, you're more likely discover a great area of the city and experience it the way locals.
Let’s all admit, if you are of legal age and not pregnant, you'll probably drink more when you travel. You'll have chances to try great wines, go on vineyard tours, meet great people, experience the local nightlife and simply take it all in. I can honestly say that these are some of the things I am looking forward to most in Spain. However, these come at a cost. If you over do it, you'll end up with sluggish mornings, upset stomachs and moodiness. It's okay to indulge a little, but try these tips: eat a full dinner before you start sampling the local beverages, drink tons of water and skip the taxi back to the hotel. Walk it off and get some air!
When you're standing in line-ups and in front of paintings at world famous museums, use that standing time to practice good posture, alignment and breathing. Stand with your earlobes directly over your shoulders, shoulders stacked on top of your hips; without squeezing your bum, relax the natural low curve of your spine; stand evenly on both feet and practice some deep breaths. Deep breathing is when your abdomen rises and your pelvic floor (picture an upside down diaphragm, like a bowl in the base of your pelvis) stretches. When you exhale, your abdomen draws back in gently and your pelvic floor gently contracts, bringing the four points of the pelvic bones together, pubis, tail and two sit bones.
Write it All Down
Lastly, bring a travel journal with you. It's a really nice way to remember and absorb the experiences of your trip. Leave a little extra time to meditate before you begin to write. Sit in a comfortable place, close your eyes and begin your deep breathing. Let the images flow and, without stopping your thoughts, allow yourself to see the thoughts and images pass by. Remind yourself at every chance to come back to your deep breaths.
Have a great trip, wherever you may be going!