I travel for a big chunk of the year with my blog and I turn up in foreign places all the time faced with the challenge of how to keep my mind, body and soul balanced in the midst of so much uncertainty and change. It’s a bit of bummer when you’re trying to soak an incredible place in, a place you’ve been dreaming of, and you’re fighting things like jet lag, disorientation, homesickness, poor digestion and general niggling things stopping you from being your happiest self. Travel can be a positive, life-changing experience but it’s not without its challenges.
So here are a few tips on how to keep everything in balance when you’re travelling.
Pre-game – before you go, on the plane and arrival
The trip can start, in your mind at least, before you even leave. Make sure you sleep and eat well before your flight, so you don’t go into the trip with a bad mindset that can take days to overcome.
Prepare well for the plane – bring some herbal tea bags and ask for hot water on the plane to keep everything moving inside, order a healthy special meal in advance (I pre-order the asian vegetarian meal as it’s usually rice and vegetables), bring an empty water bottle so you can get it filled up over and over again on the plane, take an aisle seat so you can go for regular walks around the cabin and don’t give up your sleep time to watch the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy all at once.
Plan your route to your hostel or where you’re staying in advance so you’re not stressed on the plane or at the airport and make sure you have some local currency. Knowing exactly what I’ll do and where I’ll go when I land makes me a much more chilled out traveller.
Eat all three meals and eat well
Eating regular meals at regular times throughout the day is an important part of staying grounded and healthy in general. So don’t drop it when you travel! Not only will you keep your digestion in check by eating regularly (digestion’s always a challenge when you’re eating foreign food), you’ll also be helping to reset your body clock for the adjusted time zone. By telling your body when meal times will now be, your body is better able to adjust to your new sleep times too. Breakfast at your hostel is usually sorted but make sure you plan regular stops in your day for lunch and dinner. Though it can be hard when you’re in Spain or Italy in the height of summer and no restaurant will serve you until 9pm, I suppose in a case like this I’d eat a snack at 6pm and eat very light when the restaurants open later on with soup or salad. Just keep the energy up and the digestion fires burning!
I also find what I eat to be important for the health of my mind, body and soul when I travel. The food we eat is the only fuel our bodies get, so eating things that make you feel good will mean more wellness and happiness on your trip! When you’re travelling, you tend to either eat at restaurants a lot or grab take away food, neither options usually offer many vegetables. So I try to seek out healthy restaurants and cafes, which does take a bit of planning, order lots of side vegetable dishes, and I try to find the city’s spots for Asian food as these places are usually cheap and relatively healthy. Picnics in summer are a healthy (and cheap) eating option too, buy lots of salad or healthy sandwich ingredients at the market or shop and laze about in the sun grazing on local delights.
Oh and one more thing, take a water bottle out with you every day. If you buy a reusable metal bottle you’ll be more likely to want to use it to get your money’s worth. Plus you’ll buy less plastic bottles.
Take a class
I usually seek out local yoga classes wherever I go on my travels. Yoga is so widespread these days you can find it in most cities; it’s even offered in some hostels as part of the daily routine! If yoga’s not for you or it’s not offered where you are, think creatively. Tai chi in the park in Beijing, ballet classes in Paris, capoeira in Rio, salsa class in Barcelona, these sorts of local exercise classes help you combine exploration with feeling good.
Walk or ride when you can
Yes you can get an uber/taxi/train/bus everywhere but including some walking or cycling to get around town ensures you’ll see some things on street level, take it all in slower, walk or cycle off any naughty local delicacies you’ve sampled; you’ll get all your body’s mechanisms moving – mind, body and soul.
Take time out for yourself
It can be tempting to want to spend all your time with your friends, partner or new travelling pals but taking some ‘me’ time is essential. Book a private room in a hostel for a few nights, or just taking a few hours out for yourself can go a long way to ensuring you’re your happiest self on your trip. This is especially applicable to introverts!
If you’re feeling a little flighty or overwhelmed, find a comfy spot in your hostel and use the free WiFi to call someone you love. And no, texting/snapchatting/instagramming/facebooking doesn’t count. Studies have shown that hearing someone familiar’s voice on the end of the line lifts your mood by increasing endorphin production in the brain, while texting or emailing has no such effect. So just pick up the phone and feel the smile wash over your face, it’ll put all things into perspective, and your loved one will be happy too.
Seek out down to earth, inspiring experiences
Getting dressed up and heading to the tallest rooftop bar at the coolest hostel in town can be fun but in the end it’s all about balance.
If you want to return home feeling recharged and inspired, with something of a new perspective on life, seek out down to earth and inspiring experiences. Find experiences in nature, or local experiences like markets, small festivals, local eateries, or something super inspiring for you personally like an incredible art gallery, a local sports match, even a fashion concept store if that’s your thing. The point is to lift you up with inspiration and also bring you down to earth with grounding experiences too.
Don’t do too many things
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to do too many things at once, ticking everything off a big bucket list. I’m guessing you’re away to relax and ditch your to-do list. Go ahead and have a general list for things you’d like to do but don’t get too caught up in trying to achieve it. Often, having one or two loose plans for each day, leaving a lot of room for doing whatever takes your fancy as the day goes on is a lighter, happier way to spend your days.
Follow nomadic freelancer, Katie McKnoulty’s (a.k.a. The Travelling Light) travels for more tips on how to find the light when you travel and for authentic, secret, soul-filled places to visit around the world at www.thetravellinglight.com