Try these to feel healthier when traveling.
I’ve done a fair amount of traveling, mostly on my own, often 10+ hour, multi-day drives, and a bunch of business traveling overseas. I try my best to move as much as possible during travel days and try not to sit around waiting for departures.
We’ve all experienced the exhaustion of traveling, and don’t often stop to think about what actually makes it so draining. Traveling can take it out of us mentally, physically, and emotionally because there are a variety of factors all calling for our attention at the same time.
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
― Anita Desai
Why we feel wiped out and how to transform that on the next trip.
Travel exhausts us because we physically move from place to place. This means we expend energy as we go from point A to point B. The more we have to move, the more energy we use, and just like a hard workout at the gym or a long run, if you keep moving and hauling luggage, you are going to feel it.
Physiologically you are triggering your sympathetic nervous system, (SNS) – Your “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” responses. Your body gears up, paying attention to anything that could pose a physical threat. Your muscles tense, breathing is shallower and your entire body gets less oxygen. The system triggers a dump of stress hormones which add to increased heart rate and inhibition of major organ functions. Your body has basically put out the “All hands on deck”, call and is in a heightened state.
Next up is the mental aspect. Whether you made the travel plans, or someone did it for you- you are paying attention the whole time you are traveling. Part of your mind has been primed by the chemistry triggered by activating the sympathetic nervous system, (SNS), other parts are now paying attention because forward movement usually means accelerated attention is required to process information. In simple terms, your brain is making sure it pays attention to an ever-changing landscape as you move from one location to another. Navigating a new space like an airport, train station, or new town means there is a lot of information coming in and your brain needs to map it to whatever destination you have told it to look for.
Feelings… Nothing more than…
We humans “feel all the feels” meaning we are capable of experiencing several emotions at one time. It’s why we have created so many different words to express all those emotions and combinations. Traveling requires us to handle what can be an onslaught of emotional experiences. A simple business trip can hold excitement or nervousness about achieving desired goals. A romantic getaway might bring up a mix of anticipation, love, worry, or feelings around self-worth. Expectations about what may happen when we reach our destination can have us feeling combinations of joy, anxiety, delight, expectant, frustration, or more.
Add these together and it’s no surprise that we can feel exhausted by even short trips. The body, which includes our brain, is working overtime on many levels with multiple inputs and working towards a desired outcome all at once!
In other words, we shouldn’t discount the toll that traveling can take on us — not only that day but for the longer short-term (the following week/month).
Our physical bodies do “keep score” Because they are made of physical matter, they are slower to process events and information than our brains or emotions are. One way that can be helpful to think of this is through vibration, so let’s dig into science a little bit.
“The only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk
It’s all about the vibration…
We know that everything in the world, including us, is made of energy. Energy is wavelengths and wavelengths are vibrations. Everything that is physical matter vibrates at a lower frequency, meaning it takes a long-ish time to process information because that information moves more slowly through the system. You can think of this like a sailboat trying to sail across a very still lake. No wind = low vibration = slow movement.
Our thoughts vibrate at a higher frequency. That’s why we can create many thoughts in such a short time. Our minds process information more quickly than our bodies do. Now our sailboat is pushed by the wind. Quicker vibration = faster processing.
Our mind processes everything more quickly than the body. The body always needs time to catch up, which is why, when you travel you often find yourself needing hours, days, or even longer to readjust and re-ground. Traditional health sciences such as Yoga and Ayurveda both describe the delay that our etheric, or energy bodies have in catching up to our physical bodies when we travel. Ancient Yogic Science texts talk about how when our physical bodies travel at high speeds, our etheric bodies need even more time to “catch up”.
Whether you follow these traditions or not, they provide a handy visual for understanding why you may feel ungrounded or out of balance after traveling and more so after lots of fast or extended travel; say a trip to Bali or Australia.
Happily there are easy ways to make your travel healthier and each of these will help you feel more rested, grounded and “in your body” faster.
8 Easy Tips for “Healthier” Travel:
🔵 Hydrate. You may already bring water with you when you travel, but start hydrating a couple of days before you leave and you’ll increase the benefits. If you live somewhere dry, as I do in Colorado, aim to drink 3-4 quarts of clean, fresh water a day for 3-5 days before you depart. Anywhere else in the country aim for 2-4 quarts a day. During your trip, do your best to drink at least 2 quarts of water. Pro-tip: toss some lemon slices in a ziplock and add a slice to your water every time you refill. Lemon has the added benefit of helping balance Ph levels and lowering blood pressure.
🔵 Stretch at every opportunity. It used to be much easier to head to the back of the plane and stretch. These days you need to get a little creative to wring the kinks out of your body while traveling.
🔵 Look for “quiet rooms or chapels” in airports and larger train stations. These days they often have pillows, mats, and rugs for meditation and no one says you have to “meditate” sitting still.
🔵 Flying? Head to the lave and do a couple of stretches there or walk the aisles several times. I always say I have a “bad back” and need to stretch if asked. Pro-tip: Since hanging out at the back of the plane is discouraged these days, I take more frequent and shorter stretching breaks wherever I can, and just ignore anyone who gives me weird looks as I bend and stretch in and around my seat.
🔵 Traveling by train? Walk the aisles and between cars. Who knows, you might even strike up a conversation with someone else and transform your life!
🔵 Car travel. I know, we all want to get there as fast as we can but add in a few extra breaks at rest stops or town parks and really stretch out your body. Pro-tip: Use walls, benches, and picnic tables as supports for stretches. Get creative and aim for 5-10 minutes of stretching every 2-3 hours on longer trips. You’ll arrive a little later but you will feel more energized and ready for more fun activities if you follow this tip.
🔵 Bring healthy snacks. Plan ahead and bag up interesting fresh veggies like snap peas, carrots, celery, fennel, and jicama, exotic dried fruits like sour cherries or mango, and rice crackers or veggie crisps. Pro-tip: Stay away from anything sugary, made from grains of any kind, or salty. You’ll feel more awake, and alert upon arrival. You can hit the “fun food” once you arrive at your destination and want to play.
🔵 Whenever possible breathe fresh air. If you are driving, open the windows from time to time, yes, even in winter or summer. If you have a sunroof, keep it tilted open for as long as you can stand the noise. The more fresh air you breathe, the better and more alter you’ll feel. Do your best to take advantage of station or rest stops and walk around. You’ll double-dip the benefits of fresh air and stretching all in one go!
When you tend to your body as you travel, you’ll feel better and more energized when you arrive for that amazing-once-in-a-lifetime-vacation, or that career-changing-business-trip.
Have some great travel tips to share? I’d love to hear them!
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