A long trip away backpacking may sound like the cure to all your woes and it can be rather exciting as you get caught up in the frenzy of new places and people. There are all kinds of reasons why we travel. Some of us appreciate the social aspect, while others may appreciate the historical richness and cultural diversity, or some may travel solely for the sake of leaving the hum drum of home. Whatever the reason you've chosen to embark, one thing is for sure - you must take care of yourself while away.
Sure it can be tempting to overindulge in rich foods or bypass your normal fitness routine so that you may be able to cram in more exciting activities. It can seem like a waste not to use up all of your time however, we are here to say that although your days will be filled with SUCH fascinating and mind-blowing things to do, you may not realize that travel burn-out is real and it can put a damper on things quickly.
We've compiled a list of ways you can bring some of the balance back into your life, while you're out in the world exploring. The more of these activities that you are able to work into your trip, the better and more centred you will feel throughout and upon returning home.
25 Go For A Hike
Don't worry, no fancy hiking gear (or poles) required. Sometimes taking a brisk walk through a wooded area can really put the wind back in your sails. Spending time with mother nature has a few notable benefits to your mental and physical health such as improved short-term memory, stress relief, and reduced inflammation. One study even found that that people immersed in nature for a period of four days helped to boost their results on a creative problem-solving test by 50%. In addition to all these positive aspects, it's actually great exercise that doesn't feel like exercise at all and can be quite social too.
24 Visit a Natural Hot Spring
The world is littered with beautiful natural nutrient rich pools of steaming hot water that you can dunk yourself into for free! If you're visiting places like Iceland or Italy, you can see that these natural hot springs are revered by the locals as they are known for their many health benefits like detoxifying the body of impurities, increasing circulation, relief of acne and/or rashes and pain.
The mineral rich waters can sooth your mind as they smooth your skin. Often you will find matching natural muds nearby the pools which has high antioxidants and is often far more potent than you stuff you find in a jar. Make it a priority to pit stop at a pool!
23 Explore your Curiosity In New Topics
Finding a way to do something in that you've always wanted to try can be really beneficial to your spirit. For example, riding a bike through a vineyard in South France, making a lei from fresh flowers in Hawaii, or adventuring around in dune-buggies in Mexico. If there is something you've always wanted to try, make it a priority even if it's a little out of budget. Crossing something off your to-do list can be incredibly invigorating and make your day and trip a memorable one. If you happen to meet a local who has a skill that you value, don't be too shy to ask for a lesson!
22 Cultivate a Meditation Practice
Meditation has been scientifically proven to lessen illness. In a study conducted by an insurance company it showed that the actual statistics were that those who meditate reduced the likelihood of being hospitalized for coronary disease by 87 percent, and the possibility of developing cancer by 55 percent.
Another study aiming to display any significant or noteworthy psychological effects of meditation showed a reduction in negative personality traits, reduction in stress, and improving attention span. There is no doubt that meditation benefits the body and mind both short term and long term, the difficulty is getting into a practice. There are a few apps available where it sends daily prompts with beginner sessions starting at 5 minutes to get you on the path. Speaking of apps...
21 Digital Detox
It might be interesting to ditch your social media feed for a few days / weeks / months and experience life without it for a while. If you're a solo traveller, it's not recommended to detox from anything that is required for your safety or keeping in contact with your loved ones but superfluous apps like Facebook and Instagram can be binned for a while.
You would be simply amazed about how much time and mental energy it frees up almost instantly.
It can also increase your presence or ability to stay focused in the moment since you're not hearing a ding or buzz every few minutes. If you absolutely must share your photos with the world, try something like Unsplash or Flickr - it's a bit more productive.
20 Bring Some Lavender Oil
It can be a drop of relaxing heaven when you need it most. Put a drop on your pillow before sleep or stick some in your hand lotion and cup it over your nose and mouth for a few deep inhalations - lavender is simply amazing for reducing anxiety.
You can also apply it topically to any burns, wounds or aches that you might have if you dilute it in a base of lotion or coconut oil first. If it's in the coconut oil, may as well go full tilt and do some self-massage on your legs and feet. Happy legs make for happy travels.
19 Swap Your Coffee For Tea
Okay, okay, okay, here us out. One coffee a day in the morning is of course totally acceptable. It's only when it becomes a bit of a crutch that it can go from energizing to dehydrating - which means headache central. Why tea can make a great substitute is because it does a better job of dispersing the caffeine evenly throughout the day and depending on the type of tea you pick, it tends to be more hydrating. With herbal teas like green tea, you can also skip the milk and sugar which can weigh your system down quite a bit.
18 More Sleep
Getting a square 8 hours is absolutely mandatory if you are to make the most of your waking hours. Sure there will be some nights you will make an exception for a group outing, concert or festival or something crazy cool but generally speaking you should aim to be in bed at a reasonable hour. Your body really needs a good night's rest to function properly, especially if you're getting behind the wheel. Drowsy driving has been likened a similar level of impairment as driving drunk, being awake for 18 hours straight is like the equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05. It's not a light thing and can seriously affect your ability to make decisions so make sure you rest up.
17 Allow for Idle Time
Don't harbour guilt if you decide to spend a day lounging around on your travels.
An awesome aspect of exploring is spending the day in a different country exactly how you would at home.
Maybe taking a stroll to a nearby bakery and then to a local bookstore before landing back in your bed for Netflix and take-out. Regardless of what some travellers feel constitute a 'full-day' this can be just as insightful about a countries customs and intrigue you just as much as seeing the Acropolis. If you have a nagging feeling to kick back and relax, follow that.
16 Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Especially true if you're visiting a place with a land that is notorious for its beautiful produce, such as Costa Rican bananas, Italian tomatoes, Canadian Apples and South African Oranges. Pop over to the local market and get yourself some nutrient rich snacks to break up the heavier (read: greasier) meals you've come to know and love on the road. I still remember the first time I had a peach in Greece from a fruit cart parked inconspicuously on the side of a gravel dirt road, it helped me to instantly remember how peaches are supposed to taste! It was glorious and provided me with lots of energy and delight.
15 Pack Vitamins
If you will be visiting places void of nutritious options or sunlight or both, make sure to pack your vitamins! Vitamin D is an important one for mood enhancement as well as an immune booster. Throw in some magnesium to help your bones and muscles and of course, the ever-popular Vitamin C. Having a basic mix of vitamins is important for regulating your health while away. Not to mention, it will help you to keep the habit of taking them daily when you get home.
There's absolutely no need to abandon good habits for the sake of it. Whatever you do, make sure any jars of vitamins are stowed away in checked luggage though to avoid having them scooped up by customs.
14 Consider Renting A Home
A week long apartment resembling home can be just the ticket to restore your equilibrium after spending many a night in random beds. Travel burnout can strike when you've been chugging along to the point of exhaustion.
Unpacking and repacking constantly takes its toll so it can be a god-send to have booked a week in a place that has a full private kitchen, laundry facilities and a comfy bed just for you.
Some privacy really does go a long way in maintaining your balance and health while on a long travel. Even just the act of grocery shopping can feel anchoring in moments like these.
13 Drink Water At All Times
Staying hydrated is a number 1 priority at all times for all trips abroad. If you're not into single-use plastic you can always score a cute thermos that's leak proof to tack on to your luggage. This will be especially useful if you're staying in places like Scotland or the Netherlands with their crisp spring water flowing from the tap freely.
Taking in at least 8 glasses of water will ensure your body has what it needs but if you're partaking in one of those hikes we talked about earlier or an impromptu beach yoga session, it should be nearly double that! Get sippin'!
12 Find A Free Workout
Sometimes the free workout even finds you and all you have to say is YES! Invited to a friendly game of beach volleyball? Say YES! Notice a team organizing at the hostel for some footy in the park? Jump in! Or if you prefer solo sports you can always rent a racket and hit a few balls against a wall or do some laps in the nearest pool / sea / Ocean.
You can also pack a resistance band in your bag for any last-minute floor workouts you crave or bring proper shoes and go for a run around town - a great way to explore the town as well. The point is, you should be doing some form of sweaty exercise for at least 30 minute a day, even while away.
11 Walk Everywhere
This goes for anyone staying in a bustling city or virtually anywhere in Europe. Ditch the taxis, the busses or god forbid the rickshaws and put on your comfiest shoes. You can find a tourist office with local maps so you have a reference point in case you get lost (which you probably will).
Don't let your fears get the best of you, if you're worried to walk alone at night, use it as a way to break the ice with someone new in your hostel / hotel and get to know them better en route to procure an ice cream cone.
10 Create and Recite Your Travel Mantra
Whatever is your most cherished travel goal for the trip should really be at the center of your mantra so that you keep your focus on the purpose for taking off! It's okay if it changes a little as you go or if it changes altogether - it's a personal reminder just for you that can help foster some clarity while you're sort of uprooted and floating around.
Some examples of travel mantras might be always take the scenic route or wherever you are, be all there it can be even one word long but should signal something important to you personally.
9 Try Something New Every Day
It can be as something small as a sampling an unusual dish or learning a new word but you should aim to challenge yourself since personal growth really is at the heart of every trip. It can even be saying yes to something you wouldn't normally consider like an invitation out from the new friend you just made, joining in with a dance lesson at your hostel or even taking the long route home from the market.
Your trip will feel full of rewards if you allow yourself to experience the numerous benefits that come along with allowing the unfamiliar in.
8 Keep Reading
With so many fabulous distractions it can be easy to let your reading list dwindle down but it is so important to continue to read and learn while away. A nice side-effect of reading while on holiday is that the memories will come flooding back whenever you see the book later at home! It's like you're imprinting your trip on the books you read which is reason enough!
It is also a really effective way to get out of your head and have some quiet time. If you want to refresh the books you brought with you, you can always swap with another traveller and experience something new!
7 Disinfecting keeps you healthy and on your feet
Bringing some form of hand gel or lotion with disinfectant properties is just the very start. You can also mix together a small spray bottle full with some water and pine oil for any surfaces that need a good clean! If you injure yourself it can help to have a salve handy with disinfectant properties in case you scrape yourself while away from a hospital or access to a doctor.
Keeping things clean can help prevent infections, diseases or even just common colds which can deplete you of your energy for a few days at least.
6 Get Some Fresh Air
Breathing in that recycled air after a long plane ride full of a chorus of coughing maniacs can be a travel bummer. If you've been cooped up in coach busses on tours or changing destinations that can also be a bit harsh on the system. Be sure to take regular breaks to stretch your legs and get fresh air while you can so it gives your body a chance to recover from the stale and dry reality of every traveller's commute nightmare actualized. If you won't have access to fresh air for a bit, please see Lavender and Disinfect sections.
5 Be Alone For A Bit
Time spent on your own is a precious commodity when you're constantly surrounded by people (even when you sleep!) so be sure to make time for it during your days. Sure it can be a little more nerve racking to navigate new territory solo but it can also be really nice.
Visit a botanical garden and take some pictures, check out some local art shows, see a live show - these are all things that have the potential to be really awesome when you go alone. Even if you never leave your bed, spending time to decompress without the distractions of others can be accomplished with a good pair of headphones and a book.
4 Keep A Journal
You think that you will remember everything but you might forget the small things if you don't write them down.
The human brain just doesn't have as much RAM as your laptop so it tends to glide over most of the smaller details. So write it down.
If there is an experience that you felt altered your perspective or opened your mind or maybe you just need a safe place to vent! Capturing these seemingly insignificant details can lead to greater self-awareness and growth. In the moment it can be a form of therapeutic release and years later it will bring you the lasting joy to reflect on your travels.
3 Write Home Often
If you're not too crazy about journaling, writing home to the people who mean the most to you can be another way to process everything that's happening and make sense of your experiences. It's also a great way to let your loved ones know that even though you're far from home that you are thinking of them often.
Hearing from your friends and family can also ground you in moments where you may be questioning why am I here doing this? as their letters and e-mails are often littered with words of encouragement and pride which can be just the ticket.
2 Practice First Aid
Having survival skills can be pretty empowering for anyone and especially for a world traveller. It prepares you for a situation that we hope never happens where you could be in the position of saving a life. Oftentimes these courses are partially online so you can begin virtually anywhere as long as you have access to a computer and wifi. If you already have the skills from that summer lifeguarding or babysitting, it can mean extra karma points if you're willing to teach others who would like to learn too.
CPR being one of the most important skills that everyone should know how to perform, it can also help to recognize unusual symptoms of stroke, etc., as many are quick to brush things off instead of seeing a doctor while they travel.
1 Help Someone Else
As a traveller and especially as a solo traveller it can become really easy to fall into a self-indulgent vacuum where you feel like you're journey is the most important thing going on. What can be incredibly enlightening is taking a break from yourself to focus on helping someone else who wants and needs it.
Maybe it's helping to prepare dinner, maybe it's lending an ear to someone who needs advice
Whatever the case is, acting selflessly in this way can dramatically enhance your days and add a whole other dimension to your experience (and theirs too!). Before you start your superman strut, be sure that the person you intend to help, has asked for it before you jump in and meddle.
References: Business Insider, Livestrong, Project Meditation, National Sleep Foundation, Forbes