Whether you’re on a quick road trip or a year-long adventure, feeling healthy and grounded is so vital to enjoying your holiday to the fullest. It’s so disappointing to look forward to a trip all year only to feel lousy from the long flight or contract some stomach bug in a foreign country. Self-care is typically one of the first things that starts to slip away on a long-term holiday. Your routine is different to home, or sometimes becomes completely obsolete. And this can take a toll on the body, mind & soul over a period of time.
I learned this the hard way the first time we took a year-long holiday in 2015. Keeping your body out of tune with a normal routine, as well as introducing foreign food, water, airborne pollutants and more, can have a really big effect on your body’s natural rhythms as well as your mental health.
Travel is great for the soul, but terrible for the body. Particular air travel wreaks havoc on the body. It can slow down digestion, increase the chance of catching a cold and it can also make a woman’s cycle irregular. So if you are taking the amazing leap into long-term travel, or if you are planning a quick getaway, it’s important to take care of yourself as best you can, on top of the general precautions.
All of these suggestions are ways I currently practice and maintain self-care while we are on the road again, and they have made a massive difference in my experience this time around. Much of this advice was prescribed to me by my amazing Naturopath, so please reach out to a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner if you have any concerns or questions. This is me sharing my own lived experience in the hopes that it can help you, but I am in no way a medical professional so take this all with a grain of salt 😉
I have been on the supplement train for 2 years now, and the difference it has made in my skin, hair, digestion, energy, anxiety and overall health has been nothing short of a miracle. I knew when I was going traveling again I would need their help more than ever. I take a lot more than these three listed, but these are the best all-rounder supplements while you travel in my opinion.
Magnesium – Helps in rest and recovery, especially if you’ve been moving around, hiking or walking heaps. Helps with deeper sleep and also aids in digestion. With lots of flights & potential bugs in food & water, digestion is particularly sensitive when traveling, so I find taking Magnesium regularly helps heaps.
Zinc – I was initially prescribed Zinc to aid in me getting off birth control, as BC is known to make women deficient in certain nutrients, Zinc being one of them. Given my hair & skin issues, my naturopath was fairly certain my BC at the time was making me deficient in Zinc. Zinc has a wide range of benefits, but for me specifically with travel, I take Zinc to keep my immune system strong and my scalp condition from going haywire.
Probiotic – I’ve been taking some form of probiotic daily for over a year now, and I wasn’t going to stop because I was on the road. My naturopath was able to prescribe me a capsule probiotic that didn’t need to be refrigerated. This helps keeps my digestion in line, after a couple years of being completely out of whack. It’s really important to make sure your body is able to eliminate toxins efficiently, especially while traveling when you’re introducing new foods into your diet.
Echinacea – This is the dream herb when it comes to fighting a cold. As soon as I start to feel a tickle in my throat or a stuffy nose, I start taking Armaforce, which contains Echinacea. This helps with combatting illness, and it’s super easy to get sick when you’re flying heaps! If it’s available, taking it liquid form is much more effective.
Also – she recommended that I always have a prebiotic/probiotic with me that contains Saccharomyces boulardii, which helps treat gastrointestinal conditions like traveler’s diarrhea. Gross, but unfortunately very very common when traveling to countries in Asia, Africa & South America. It’s worth it to have on hand for sure. We take a prebiotic/probiotic combo we got from India every day.
A note on supplements – be sure to get your supplements from a reputable source, and not just your everyday grocery store. Many of the supplements sold in grocery or convenience stores don’t have nearly enough active ingredients to be effective. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Reach out to your local naturopath, nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner for reputable brands sold in your area.
#2 Get Enough Sleep!
Just because you are on holiday, doesn’t mean you should deprive your body of sleep. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” can only get you so far before your body shows serious signs of wear and tear. If you usually get 7-8 hours of sleep at home, do your best to do the same on holiday. Sleep deprivation is one of the easiest ways to get into a grumpy mess throughout the day. I try my best to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day to keep my body’s natural rhythms in flow.
#3 Take a Day Off
This one took me a good loooong while to understand when we were traveling long-term last time. I have a tendency to want to do and see and eat everything there is to do, see and eat in a city. I’ll pack my days to the brim with activities, and even then still feel like I didn’t do enough. My partner likes to chill out by the pool and take time to rest, and I just could NOT comprehend this. But over time, I started to wear down, and it caused many breakdowns and tantrums.
This time around, I promised I would take more days off to rest, forgoing sightseeing for recovery. It has made all the difference. Just as you have days off in the week to rest after you work Monday-Friday, you also need time to rest while you travel. I’m slowly starting to understand the vital importance of rest & recovery and how this directly correlates to how I fully enjoy my active days.
#4 Water, Water, Water
I’m really good at remembering to drink water at home, but while you travel and are constantly moving, it can be hard to keep up the recommended daily intake. This on top of not being able to freely drink out of the tap in most countries we visit makes staying hydrated low on the priority list. Do your best to keep a reusable water bottle with you and fill up at the filtered water refill stations that many countries have implemented across Asia. Water is they key to overall vibrancy, healthy digestion and good sleep.
#5 Bring your fave Travel-Sized Skincare products
This may sound silly, but being able to use my regular facial cleanser, toner, moisturizer and more has really helped me feel like I still have a semblance of a routine. And my skin thanks me for the consistency and love. If you’re doing carry-on for your travels and to save some space, pour your fave skincare products into small travel-sized bottles. Or buy products that already come as 100ml or less to take on the plane with you.
I’ve been practicing meditation consistently for a couple years now, and it is NO-TICE-A-BLE. when I stop for a few days because we had early morning flights or a weird schedule. Keeping up with even the most basic of practices for a couple minutes a day helps me regain my center and shift through some of the clutter in my mind that builds up throughout the day.
I often find that I’m also more compassionate & less judgmental, which is important when traveling through countries with drastically different cultures than yours. And it also helps me stay calm in more stressful circumstances.
If you’re traveling, you may be walking around loads already, but it’s important to keep up with a regular exercise routine. Breaking a sweat is so good for the body for more than just aesthetic reasons. It helps your body rid itself of toxins from food, drink, environmental pollution and more. So sweating is good! I try to move at least 20 min a day.
The type of exercise is determined by where I’m at in my menstrual cycle. Typically the first 2 weeks (follicular & ovulation phase) I do high intensity, HIIT-style workouts. And the second two weeks (luteal & menstrual phase), I do more slow yoga & pilates. I use 7-Minute Work Out & the Nike Fitness App for my HIIT-style classes. And I create my own yoga & pilates flows based on how I’m feeling that day. You can check out some of my flows for travelers here.
#8 Eat Regularly & Eat Well
This may sound like a given, but it’s surprising how quickly this simple tip disappears when you’re on the road. I suffer from sever hanger if I don’t eat regularly, and this makes any stressful travel-related event even more stressful. It’s easy to eat brekkie and then tour around a city all day, forgetting to eat lunch. But, as a woman, this does more damage to your body than you think, causing blood sugar levels to get out of whack and messing with your endocrine system. So try to eat as regularly as possible. Bring healthy snacks like fruit or almonds with you if you’re heading out for the day and not sure when your next meal will be.
Lastly, although you’re on holiday, and you feel you should go all “yolo” on the deserts, just remember that your body doesn’t recognise “real life” vs “holiday.” It goes through the same cycles and systems no matter where you are in the world, so be sure to treat yourself with healthy, high vibe food as much as you can. This will make you feel better, and ultimately make your trip better in the long run.
#9 Put the Phone Away
When you’re on the road, it can be hard not to miss home and not think about what you’re friends are doing for Sunday Brunch. And while Social Media is great for connecting and keeping up wth home, it can also turn into a distraction from experiencing the place you’re in right now. It can also turn into a spiral of comparison and judgement.
I’ve been trying to limit my social media time as much as possible on this trip, reminding myself that this could be the last time I ever visit this place again, so why would I want to spend that time on my phone? Also as soon as I find myself going down the rabbit hole of comparison or negativity on social media, I just turn my phone off and walk away.
Sounds drastic, but it’s really helped. Go out and experience the beautiful city, village, island, mountain you’ve just traveled to. Then tell your friends about it in person when you see them next 🙂
#10 Schedule Alone Time
Whether you’re traveling with a partner or friends or you’re solo but always in hostels filled with people, scheduling alone time is a vital way to practice self-care. It can be easy to get swept up into what other people want to do and see. If you’re not taking time out alone, then you may lose yourself in other people’s plans. Sam and I are constantly together when we travel, but we make time to do things separately a couple times a week.
I’ll go to a yoga class or a massage, while he swims in the pool. Or he’ll go to the market, while I sit back and read. It’s important to have your own space and be alone to check in with yourself to see how you’re really feeling and how you want to spend your time. You don’t always have to want to do the same things as your travel partners or hostel buddies. Spending time alone has been my favourite and most essential part of my self-care routine on the road.
#11 Listen to Your Intuition
And lastly, listen to your intuition. There can be a bit of travel-shame amongst the travel community these days. If you didn’t take the 30-hr train across India, then you didn’t do it right. If you didn’t try the street food in Hanoi, then you really didn’t experience Vietnam. All of this makes you feel like that you have to behave certain ways or do certain things in order to be dubbed a true traveler. My advice is to cut through that bullshit.
The only thing you need to listen to is your own heart. If you feel something is dangerous, or may make you sick, or even just make you uncomfortable (in a bad way), then don’t do it. You don’t have to be the most adventurous backpacker to be a world traveler. Sam and I flew & took private drivers across India, and we heard often that we “missed out” because the trains are so epic. Maybe they are, but not for us. Not anymore. And our trip was just fine. Because we knew in our hearts and listened to our intuition that if we took the “epic” trains, we would be at each other’s throats the whole time and that’s just not how we wanted to spend our 5 weeks in India.
In Indonesia, I was offered a coconut by a local, which I accepted, and then he took a spoon out of a dirty sink for me to use. I immediately knew I shouldn’t use that spoon, but I “didn’t want to feel rude” (classic female societal conditioning), and I used it anyway. I had Bali Belly for 5 days and had to go to hospital, all because I didn’t listen to my intuition.
The point is – you don’t need to listen to anyone else other than yourself. You know your limits better than anyone, and the biggest lesson in self-care I can give while traveling is to start listening to your heart. If you’d rather spend the day sleeping and recovering than hiking to a waterfall, then do that. Your intuition will never leave you astray, so leave the judgement behind when you do listen 🙂
Hope these tips were helpful for you! What are some of your tips?