With traveling long term comes a life of chaos and a lack of routine. In many ways this is good for your brain, to experience new things constantly, but we also need a sense of routine and organization just to feel like ourselves. I have felt every emotion possible while traveling and find these tips to keep me grounded and sane while on the road.
1. Pack light
Whatever you do, don't overpack. Your suitcase should be 80% full at the most when starting your trip. Start planning way in advance and lay all your outfits out on your bed before throwing them in your suitcase. You will drive yourself insane if you have to sit on your bag just to zip it up. Keeping light and organized will make your life easier and less stressful. Don't pack anything you "might wear". We all know the difference in clothes we might wear and will actually wear.
2. Get Out Of Vacation Mode and Keep your diet clean
This is a given for me. It is easy to fall into "vacation mode" where we feel like we can eat whatever we want. There is always an excuse to gorge on something ridiculous because it is the "best in the world". So put that croissant down and ask yourself whether you would eat this on a regular day back home. The answer is likely no.
If you are traveling long term and actually living, vacay mode has got to go. Treat the week like you would at home by avoiding unhealthy food and alcohol and let yourself have a few glasses of wine on the weekends. As always, I say avoid processed foods and meat/dairy. Eat as many local vegetables as you can.
Hiking, yoga, swimming - whatever is your thing. Even if you just go for a brisk walk in the morning it is better than nothing. Keep your body moving as much as possible and stretch every day, especially before/after long flights. I love my yoga practice and although it can be hard to maintain on the road I feel leaps and bounds better when I do practice. Even if it just a few sun salutations in the morning.
4. Spend time in nature
One of my favorite things to do is lay on my Turkish towel in a park with good music or a book. There is nothing like the sound of nature and fresh air that will make you feel more alive than ever. We need to be outside and feel this way. I believe connecting with nature is crucial to a higher state of consciousness and awareness. Let your bare feet touch the ground, whether it is on grass or in the sand at the beach, to truly connect with the Earth.
5. Read and write
This is key to keeping your mind active and focused. In the same way that we exercise to build muscle, we challenge our minds to build focus. Focus really is like a muscle that we need to keep active all the time.
6. Take care of yourself With Rituals
Eating and exercising are obvious big ones here but there is so much to this. Stay well groomed and put yourself together every day to feel and look your best. It can be easy to just throw on work out clothes and slapping your hair up in a bun each day (I am so guilty of this) but after a while you won't feel like yourself. Having consistent rituals, whether they are dry brushing daily or giving yourself an oatmeal scrub every few days, will make you feel normal on the road.
7. Learn about a culture before arriving there
As every culture is different, you will have to adapt to your surroundings. Knowing how a culture operates can save you a lot of time or stress. For example, I didn't realize how prominent the Muslim culture in Istanbul was until we got there (nor did I realize it was Ramadan at the time). With all the bouncing around sometimes I just show up somewhere without any prior research.
Well, women dress conservatively in the Old Town of Istanbul with completely covered legs. I only had summer clothes and was walking around in the tiniest jean shorts on our first day. It only took about 15 minutes for me to realize I was getting stared down by every man in sight like I just killed someone. Ah! I didn't even bring a long dresses or pants because it was summer. Luckily I had leggings to throw on but how silly I felt.
8. Don't lose your cool
You will encounter stressful situations where plans did not go accordingly or you forgot something hugely important. We have gotten terribly lost, broken expensive phones, and stranded at a sketchy airport at 3am. Prepare yourself to pay more than you expect or get a flight canceled on you last minute.
Always remember to keep your cool. There is only one thing you can control in life and that is YOU: how you live and react to things. The more calm you remain and less emotion you evoke, the better you will be able to handle situations and think logically. It can be so hard but the more you practice the better you will get. Isn't that why we travel? To grow more aware of who we are then try and make ourselves better people?
9. Don't let other people influence your mood
This is similar to the previous point of not losing your cool. You will encounter, well, miserable people in the world. Not just that but unaware people that will bother you. Whether they are pushing you to get in front of a line or lighting up a cigarette next to you in a cafe, some are bound to upset you.
Even staff at a hotel or restaurant might be rude when you are already in a foreign place that is not totally comfortable. The key to all this? Remove yourself emotionally from the situation: detach. Look at it from a logical perspective if this is hard. Maybe that waiter had an awful day at work or maybe he didn't realize his behavior. All you can do here is not let if effect you and know that everyone is just trying to make it in the world like you. Find your zen :)
10. Slow Down
I am the first to admit I try and squeeze a million places into my trips because I want to see the entire world! I get so excited about the next place I forget to appreciate and live where I am. Spending extra time in one destination is not only cheaper but allows you to see and experience so much more of the culture. You can digest what you are seeing and learning when you have extra time, not to mention the less time you spend in transit, the better.
I always think if I spent 3 days in New York City in just Time Square I would hate it! And NYC is my favorite city of all time. Likewise I am sure there are places I simply left too early and did not see enough of in other parts of the world.
11. Don't Be Afraid To Take A Break
If you get burnt out from exploring nonstop don't be afraid to spend the night in watching movies. There are quite a few places I've been to but haven't really seen because I was so exhausted from traveling. One of my favorite things to do is throw a robe on and cuddle up in a hotel room with a good book or movie!
12. Live and enjoy the present
With all the stress of travel and distractions sometimes we forget to just take a step back and chill. People get wrapped up in the logistics of travel or what to Instagram next that they forget how wonderful the moment is. Take a deep breath and be thankful for where you are. Enjoy the present and appreciate what you have. This is, after all, the key to happiness.
If you don't already have a meditation practice I highly recommend getting started. Even just beginning with 5-10 minutes every day can significantly reduce stress and help keep you focused.