I have been a traveller for a long time. When I travel, I am inspired by new sights, sounds, flavors and ideas. I feel renewed by shaking my old routine. I’ve always loved meeting new people and being surprised by what the world has to offer.
But, why do I sometimes feel like I need a vacation to recover from my vacation?
It turns out that traveling, whether it’s for work or for pleasure, is actually pretty hard on the body (and mind).
Our bodies actually really love routine and rhythm in our days. Shaking up a good routine may feel freeing at times, but it can also be pretty unsettling to the system. We often imagine that we are going to find vacations relaxing and nourishing. However, often they end up stressing us out and leaving us more deeply exhausted.
It’s challenging when you have a high-pressure life with little vacation time or a job that requires you to travel. It can feel like you have the make the “most” of every opportunity you have. And making the “most” of your vacation may seem like it means go far and go big.
But, when you do have a break from life’s responsibilities, you could consider taking a low-key vacation, choosing not to travel far from home. Maybe you would even enjoy a “stay-cation.” You could stay at home but unplug from your phone and computer and create a simple retreat for yourself at home or near home.
When you do choose to travel farther away from home, there are some things you can do to protect your body and lessen the impact of the elements on your system.
How do I stay “juicy” when I’m traveling?
Easing the “drying-out” influences of travel means reducing the qualities of dry, rough, moving and irregular. In order to do this, we want to increase our exposure to moist, smooth, still and regular things; decreasing the influence of Vata and increasing the influence of Kapha. We can stay “juicy”, hydrated and energetic by paying attention to our diet and our activities.
Diet for Travel
While you’re traveling and for a few days before and after, it can be very helpful to follow a Vata-reducing diet. In the summer this may mean following a Vata-Pitta foodlist. In the winter, a Vata-Kapha foodlist can be helpful good guide. Warm, moist, home-cooked foods will make us feel juicy, grounded and fulfilled. Soups and stews fit this description well. Even in the hotter months, you can enjoy a light summer soup
like this mild Coconut Curry Chicken or a Fava Bean Soup. For breakfast, oatmeal or cream of wheat can be very soothing. If you like to drink milk, a cup of warmed milk with turmeric, ginger and cardamom is very nourishing and grounding.
Usually the quick foods that are available when we are traveling are pretty Vata-provoking too. Nuts and dried fruit, crackers, chips and pretzels are all moisture-sucking—especially in the dry environment on an airplane. I usually try to pack some snacks or even meals to take with us when we fly, such as:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Veggies sautéed in ghee with rice
- Tortilla wraps with chicken and avocado
- Fruit such as pears, peaches, bananas or oranges
During periods of travel–in fact during any periods of any stress or uncertainty–it can be a great help to make sure you have plenty of good fats in your diet. Ghee, coconut oil and olive oil are all great foods to keep your insides lubricated and juicy.
I also like to bring a couple of bags of ginger tea with me when I travel. The airplane hot water can taste pretty gross, so I bring a metal travel mug with me and get it filled with hot water at one of the airport restaurants after going through security. It is a very good idea to avoid things like alcohol, sodas and coffee, which are very dehydrating and over-stimulating.
Abhyanga or oil-massage is very useful before, during and after periods of travel. This practice strengthens the immune system and provides a layer of protection to the body during a time when you will be exposed to all sorts of things. These days I particularly enjoy olive oil which is lighter than the traditional sesame oil used in Ayurvedic massage but offers a bit more protection than coconut oil.
Essential oils dabbed on the wrist and temples or mixed into abhyanga oil can be very mind-soothing. Some nice ones for travel are lavender, frankincense, eucalyptus and jasmine. They are all mind-calming and clarifying. The first 3 have the added benefit of being anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory as well, so they can protect you from some air-borne bugs.
Taking a stroll in the morning or mid-day sun can do wonders to help ease jet-lag. The sun helps your body re-set its internal clock so that your “energy body” can arrive in your physical body more easily.
Exercise also helps the body to stabilize during and after periods of travel. Exercising to the point of producing a light sweat opens the channels of the body without depleting the system.
Carry a large, light scarf when you fly, even during the summer. When you are going in and out of airplanes and airports, the temperature can change pretty radically. The forced air on the airplane or the air-conditioning in a car or building can feel very penetrating to an exposed neck and chest.