Arriving Home: Effects of Travel on Mind, Body & Spirit

I have arrived home after several days of travel. This trip was akin to a move from one home to another, so it was very involved. In the past, I had always liked the process of travel.

I flew for the first time when I was 22 years old, so I was not very experienced with the whole airport/plane travel system. I made up for my lack of experience with business trips and vacations all over the world for the next 10 plus years.

In the past, I found business travel to be exciting – believe it or not, I liked going to the airport, checking in and reading while waiting for my plane. I liked to have a fun magazine or novel and occasionally, to watch the in-flight movie. I even enjoyed staying in the hotels and the diversity of people I’d get to meet. At some point, however, I realized that all of this travel equated to lack of sleep and lack of self-care.

Travel – Not Taking Care Of Myself

I was not very good at setting my own boundaries regarding amount of sleep I needed, when, where and what I would eat and having my own personal time & space. There were times I’d be at a client site and they wouldn’t order lunch, but instead passed bowls of Halloween candy around the room all day. Other times, I’d be up until 1:30 am preparing with my team for a sales meeting – only to meet for breakfast at 7:00 am. There were also international business trips where I’d get off the plane, shower and go right into the office, with no time for a nap. These trips, plus international vacation travel tended to trigger disordered eating behavior for me. I will focus this post on how it felt to travel this time, what I became aware of and how I feel in the aftermath.

Self-Care in Travel

Today I awoke in my own home, after 3 days of travel. I chose to draw the travel out over a series of days in order to make it more manageable – and mostly, so I could get plenty of rest and feel more at peace during the whole trip. Today I am tired and feeling the full effects of travel. I feel a sense of mind & spirit exhaustion – my body feels really energized and ready to go, but my mind feels tired. I keep thinking I want to do things – send e-mails and get back to my work, start projects, etc. I continue to remind myself to start nothing until my mind & spirit energy comes back.

This is the time when in the past, I would have been running around and exhausting myself further – possibly becoming depressed – because I’d be stomping my spirit into the ground, rather than letting it replenish. I keep looking for those feelings of peace – as if they “should” be there. I mean, the travel is done, right? It was fine, no big deal, right? Not true. There were many stressors on this trip from mistakes with plane tickets to carrying 8 heavy pieces of luggage from airports and hotels to passing through time zones. I admit it, I’m tired – and I’m going to luxuriate in being a bit lazy today so that I can recover my good spirits.

How Did The Travel Go?

My husband tells me I was very calm on this trip – more so than on past trips – in spite of the stressors that occurred. In fact, I did feel more calm overall, although I think the difference is that I was aware of when the angry child reared it’s head. I could feel the frustration building and I started to manage it at that point, by becoming very present – focusing on what was going on. What worked for me was telling myself it would all work out – trusting. The trusting really helped.

One example is that we had a big problem with our tickets, which almost resulted in losing the tickets we paid for and paying full price to travel – a large expense. Instead of getting upset and yelling or even being rude/annoyed around people, I stayed calm. I spoke calmly to everyone, including my husband. We asked for help from a travel agent we know and ended up resolving the issue with only a minor fee – including being upgraded to first class & avoiding overweight baggage fees!

This whole process took 2 hours at the ticket counter, but because we arrived 4 hours before our flight to check in, we got to stay at the desk and resolve the issue. I highly recommend getting to the airport early to alleviate stress the day of travel!

Putting Myself First

During this time, the lunch hour was passing and I was aware of irritation building inside of me due to hunger. I deliberated waiting to eat, but knew it could be an hour or two before we were settled. I gave the phone to my husband and told him I needed to have lunch – and proceeded to plop down on one of our bags and assemble my lunch that I had brought with me. There was no place to sit in this check in area, so I was quite a spectacle eating my lunch. I still did my pre-eating thankfulness meditation and ate my lunch calmly and peacefully – without rushing through. I really enjoyed it, actually – and felt calm and ready to deal with the ticket issue afterwards.

While I ate, my husband and the travel agent resolved our issue and we ended up having to move to another airline. Interestingly, everyone helped us – even the security bag-checker walked our heavy bags over to another security bag-checker. This new security person was exceptionally friendly to us and really helped us redistribute the weight in our bags, in case we had to pay a fee (which we didn’t). Everyone, at every stage of the process was kind, generous and helpful. I am certain that it was because they noticed my husband and me being calm and kind – in spite of such an ordeal. They noticed how we went with the flow – and didn’t take it out on them or make a scene. I’ve noticed how things go much differently when I am angry and act angry to the people working in the ticketing area. I have never seen this kind of outpouring of kindness.

Receiving Help

My husband is able to go for long periods of time without eating, so for him, it was no big deal. In this way, it is easier for us to be a tag team when we travel together. The other fortunate quality my husband has is tremendous energy in airports – he is really motivated to move the process along. This was helpful for me because I found myself very tired on this trip. At this point, I was surprised to find I was physically tired — I barely had the energy to lift all of the heavy bags. In the past, I had great energy and would really jump in and help. This trip, I allowed myself to step back a bit and accept help from others – sky caps, use of “smart carts” for all the luggage, taxi drivers and my husband. I felt a bit like a prissy woman who didn’t want to “get her hands dirty,” but I decided to enjoy it. This was my opportunity to recognize when I’m tired and need the help of others – and that it’s really okay! I am also willing to add these tips into my travel budget because it allows me to reduce the stress I feel during the trip.

In flight, everything went smoothly and when we arrived at our final flight destination, my husband’s energy and help from the rental car van driver allowed us to get all our bags loaded up with no problem. I was really exhausted in mind, body and spirit at this point. We stayed in a hotel near the airport, since we live 3 hours away. This allowed us to get a decent night’s sleep instead of staying up almost all night to get home.

Stocking Up

On our way home yesterday, we went grocery shopping at our favorite health food store. At this point, I was out of healthy foods, so I got some easy lunch foods so I could eat lunch before we headed back. My hot/cold bags were perfect for stowing all of our refrigerated foods for the trip home – and this saved us from arriving late and having no food in the house. We spent the evening unpacking and I felt pretty energized to be home. I had planned to exercise, but my body felt tired, so I honored it and made tea and watched a movie with my husband.

I NEVER would have skipped my exercise in the past – I would have felt guilty or worried. Now I find that I honor my body when it’s tired and it’s the best thing I could ever do. Pushing my body did NOTHING in the name of maintaining my weight or making me healthier. It only made me more tired and depleted my adrenals.

The Key – Listening & Trusting

This morning, I woke up feeling happy to be home. I had a wonderful night’s sleep in my own bed and was thankful for all the healthy foods stocked in our refrigerator for breakfast. But even more importantly, I am feeling great about this trip! It was really a triumph for me because I did all of the things I needed for myself – I took good care of myself. In this way, I didn’t crave any of the junky airport foods that would have tempted me in the past (and I probably would have given in too). I found that I brought the perfect foods and really allowed myself some leeway to eat a little more and trust my body’s signals. I’m guessing that by tomorrow, I’ll be fully recovered from the trip. But even more importantly, I trust myself even more. I am getting to see how I do in a variety of life’s circumstances – and practicing trusting – my mind, my body and my spirit. They are speaking to me and I am listening – and this — this simple formula — is the key to my recovery.

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As a coach, writer and recovered former executive, I understand the challenges of creating a balanced, healthy lifestyle when over-scheduled. In my journey to radiant health, I created a whole health system of eating, exercise, renewal and recharging -- a roadmap toward health & vitality. I empower clients to create their own whole health systems, in their own unique ways. I have seen amazing results in working with my clients!