Well, I am getting ready to take an international flight – a travel experience that will last an entire day, with 7 hours in flight and more sitting in airports.
I now make plans for a more balanced experienceI have done a lot of traveling, both for work and for vacations. Each time I have traveled in the past, I have felt depleted. Exhausted, spent, tapped out. These are the times when my old addictive self would have wanted to get that adrenaline spike from bingeing and purging.
Over the past couple of years, I have started to really make an effort to create an easier travel schedule. While I used to “put my nose to the grindstone” and power through the travel, with lack of sleep – I now make plans for a more balanced experience. I will share these tips and some actions you can take as you plan for future trips.
Planning & Preparing to Travel
- Take time off from work to prepare for big trips, so that I have time to pack, make arrangements while I’m gone and get plenty of rest. The trip I am taking this week is a big one, so I’m taking a few days off in advance of the trip.
- Plan for healthy meals and snacks – Airports, airplanes and all the stops in-between tend to have unhealthy food. Given the harried schedules of travel, it is often hard to find just the food I’d like, when I want it. For this reason, I cook some meals ahead of time and bring healthy snacks. I bought some of those insulated hot/cold plastic lunch bags and an ice pack so that I can carry my meals easily. While this adds effort to travel planning, it’s a life-saver when I travel. I find that I am always able to relax and enjoy a healthy meal.
- Schedule planning – Whenever travel requires getting up in the early hours, such as 3:00 am, I plan to stay in a hotel near the airport on the night before. Most of my travel these days require trips to an airport that is far away from my home. In the past, I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the money on a hotel, but now I add it to my travel budget. In this way, I can plan to get enough sleep and have less stress on my travel day. I do the same at my destination – if I am arriving really late and my trip home from the airport is a long one. Getting plenty of sleep has allowed me to feel more calm and even after a long trip. When I lacked sleep, it could take me a couple of days or more to readjust mentally and physically.
- Bring water – I carry my own water with my lunch when I travel. I use a refillable water bottle so that I always have enough for a long trip. Airplane travel is dehydrating, which can contribute to exhaustion and malaise. This is especially critical if you are bingeing & purging, since your body is already dehydrated. I also use some water and sesame oil with lavender essential oil on my face, to protect my skin from dehydration.
- Make a list – I admit I am big on lists for organization! I rely on my lists to plan the actions I need to take in preparation for my trip. This way I don’t have to get stressed by carrying all the big and little details around in my head. Once it’s on paper, I can forget about it and work the list as I go.
- Create a travel “comfort pack”– I never did this until about a year ago. I used to sit in my seat on the airplane and feel like I had to take up as little space as possible. I would try not to go to the bathroom too much, in case I had to ask people to move. And I never seemed to feel like it was okay to do what I really wanted to do in order to be comfortable. Now I actually put my own comfort first, while still being courteous of my fellow travelers. I make myself comfortable by bringing eye covers, a blow-up pillow and ear plugs in case I want to sleep. I also bring toe stretchers (yoga toes) – these are great little rubber devices that go over your toes and increase your circulation. Long plane rides can be tough on circulation, so these toe stretchers feel pretty amazing. They make me think of the things you’d use when painting your toenails, but it’s much better than that because it’s designed to give each toe just the stretch it needs, which has many health benefits. Other things I pack are an inspirational book, a novel for fun reading and some soft music & meditations. These things make my travel experience comfortable, relaxing and fun.
- Permission to take things off your “to do” list – preparing for a long trip involves plenty of action steps. Consider creating your list with “must do” activities and “nice to have” activities. This way, you can cross off the “nice to haves” if time gets tight. If you feel yourself getting rushed and stressed, give yourself permission to take them off – feel good about how this allows you to stay in balance.
- A Get Home plan – When I get home, I plan for a day or two off from work so that I can settle into my new environment. This allows me plenty of time to unpack, do the laundry and make arrangements as I settle back into my routine. It also allows me to get plenty of rest and recharge after the travel.
- Carve out your own space – if you are traveling to see people and staying with them in a hotel or home (even if you have your own room in the home), consider taking steps to ensure you’ll get your needs met. For example, will you be able to have the healthy food you like to eat? Will you be on someone else’s schedule and out of synch with your body’s needs? Do you need your own privacy or space? Consider either staying in a hotel on your own (or with your significant other) or making plans to ensure your needs for privacy, nutrition and scheduling are met. Set these plans up before you go and talk to your hosts about your needs. This sets everyone’s expectations – communication is often all that’s necessary in order to make this a win-win for everyone. I’ve found that everyone has been really understanding when I explain my needs. I don’t have to tell people anything about having recovered from an eating disorder, I just share what I am doing for balance. This often intrigues people and they want to know more – because most people are out of balance and looking for ways to change.
Eating Disorders from An Ayurvedic Perspective
In the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda, eating disorders like binge eating, anorexia and bulimia can come from a Pitta dosha imbalance, which tends toward compulive behavior. However, an imbalance in the Vata dosha can be the most upsetting because if it lasts long enough, it can create imbalances in Pitta and Kapha doshas. In some cases, the longer you have an eating disorder, the greater you aggravate the Vata dosha. This can either mean that a person who is primarily Vata is out of balance – or a person who is Pitta or Kapha has a Vata imbalance in their constitution. A Vata imbalance can involve: dry skin and hair, irregular digestion (gas, abdominal pain), anxiety, difficulty sleeping, constipation and constant movement (inability to stay still). Travel upsets the Vata dosha, so if you already have a Vata imbalance, travel can create more upset to your system. This is why it is so important to have a plan for self-care when you are traveling. If you are in recovery, a long and stressful trip could create a relapse.
* More Information: Balance from an Ayurvedic Perspective
- How does travel impact you?
- Do you find yourself exhausted?
- Does it take awhile to get back into your routine?
- Consider looking at how you travel and coming up with creative ways to take care of yourself before, during and after your trip.
- Create a travel plan in your journal so that you have an outline of your ideal travel scenario for your next trip.
- Pay attention as you travel and write down your lessons learned for the next time.
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