Self care might not be on the top of your mind when you set out to travel. After all, travel is one of those wonderful situations where we relinquish all notions of control and roll with the punches.
Travel produces feelings of freedom and spontaneity, and creates serendipitous moments that would never take place inside the controlled environments we design for ourselves at home. ut it also opens the door for complete chaos.
Self care keeps us sharp and adaptable in the face of these unpredictable and often stressful situations.
When we forget to take time for ourself and take precautions to keep physically and mentally well, we deplete our confidence and self-esteem, leaving us less able to face new challenge and problems.
It is bad enough that many of us neglect our self care at home, but not practicing it on the road can be truly detrimental.
Self care helps us stay in tune with ourselves and allows us to take better care of others. You can’t pour from an empty vessel and you probably can’t pick up very much survival Chinese with one either.
Here are some basic self-care hints to keep you safe and sound on the move.
Slow down if you need to
The number one thing that causes stress and anxiety on the road is trying to do too much too quickly.
You will enjoy yourself more and need to recoup less if you start at a more leisurely pace and make adjustments accordingly. You can always make arrangements for additional locations and activities, but once your tickets are booked and your plans confirmed, it is hard to do less. Spend a few days in one place if you need to regroup.
Take “you” time
Even if you’re a born extrovert, it’s important to recharge alone every so often when traveling with a partner or friend. Set aside time to decompress, whether by grabbing breakfast solo one morning each week or taking a few days to go trekking alone. Spending time apart leads to less tension, blow-ups, and the dreaded “friend fatigue.” Your relationships will thank you.
Don’t be afraid to opt for comfort
When you’re sick or feeling blue, it’s okay to spend a little more money to make yourself feel comfortable and safe. Treat yourself. This is the definition of self care.
Don’t prolong your illness by not facing the problem head-on with a little R&R. Humid jungle huts and a fever don’t mix, and neither do squat toilets and nausea.
The “I’m a backpacker, I don’t need luxuries” attitude doesn’t apply when you are feeling run down or under the weather: an air-conditioned private room now is more affordable than a lengthy hospital stay later.
Self care means taking what you need
Set yourself up for success by bringing what you really need, even if you feel silly about it. It’s okay to bring your favorite fleece pajama bottoms to the Bahamas if they’re something you really feel you can’t do without. In a situation where your surroundings are rapidly changing, it can be helpful to hold onto a significant personal item or part of your routine at home. And don’t be afraid to seek out comforts you’ve been missing for a pick-me-up after you’ve been traveling for a while.
Clean up sometimes
Getting dirty is great, and it’s an inevitable part of traveling. Letting go of our vanities is powerful and can be refreshing, but if you need to, stop in for a massage, get your hair trimmed, or paint your toenails. Spending a little more time grooming can ground us and make us feel more like ourselves. When we are feeling stressed or out of our element, reinstating the ritual of bathing that may have fallen to the wayside in the chaos of traveling can help us feel more in control.
Know that it’s okay to be lonely
Or bored. Or a whole host of other awful feelings we never wanted to associate with travel, like being exhausted, overwhelmed, or scared. Traveling forces our bodies and our minds to make numerous rapid adjustments when we really weren’t even designed to change time zones. Be patient with your surrounding and, most importantly, with yourself. Give yourself permission to feel however you’re feeling. You aren’t a failure if you’re having an “off” day or week on the road – everyone has them.
It is an inevitable truth that you will encounter misadventures while traveling. The best way to cope is with regular self-care before these incidences happen–if you keep yourself happy, healthy and mentally sound, you’ll be ready to face the day, regardless of what it brings.