Now, you might say that traveling is a form of self care, and I would wholeheartedly agree. However, there are a lot of aspects about leaving the comfort of my home which fill me with dread.
Having a disability like I do (read more about my 2018 diagnosis of ALS) makes what is easy for other able-bodied people quite a challenge for me.
Even if you don’t suffer from a life-changing illness, traveling can be pretty demanding. Things are also only going to get harder with the social distancing measures coronavirus has thrown upon us.
How to practice self care while traveling
Self care is ideal for keeping a balanced body and mind. Continuing with your usual self care plan can be tough when traveling because your usual routine goes out of the window. Read more about creating your own self care plan.
This means self care can easily be forgotten, only to be remembered when you are feeling low.
Read on to find out how to make sure you keep doing all the great things you incorporated into your life without much difficulty.
Self care preparation – what to do in advance of your trip
Organization is key. Put in a little extra effort before the trip and it will all go so much more smoothly. You are probably thinking that in your busy life you don’t have five minutes spare, but it will be well worth doing so.
- Pre-book taxis. Check that they can accommodate a wheelchair, if needed. Get dropped off door-to-door; let someone else worry about traffic. This first tip will alleviate 50% of stresses already!
- Book seats on the flight and tell the airline of any special assistance you might need.
- Pre-book meals. This will stop you from giving in to will-power at the last minute and eating the unhealthy option.
- Ring the hotel to verify and confirm that the place is suitable for you. Do you need a lift because you cannot manage stairs? Are the hallways wide enough for a wheelchair? Does the room have a fridge to store medication?
- Ask your hotel to provide the contact details for the local hospital, doctor’s office and pharmacy in case you need additional help during your stay. Call these venues to find out whether they speak your preferred language, and if not you might need to put in place a plan to deal with that (such as get key phrases translated in advance or find another doctor, etc).
- Discuss the activities available at the destination with your travel agent. Find out which you can get involved with a wheelchair or with the restrictions you need to enforce. Will there be opportunities to sit and rest, in case your joints begin to ache? Is there someone available to take you to a medical professional if the need arises?
- Plan how to incorporate key aspects of your self care regime into life on vacation. For example, you normally practice your 10 minutes of meditation just after waking. On vacation, that means you will probably be doing it with a hangover… that does not sound like a recipe for success. Instead, maybe you push your meditation into the evenings, just before dinner?
- Pack self care essentials for the trip: warm socks for the flight, a bottle of water to stay hydrated at all times and to ward off jet lag, noise-canceling headphones so you get some much-needed sleep, face cream for dry skin, medication on hand, a good book, your mobile phone charger, a sleeping mask and whatever else you deem important.
Traveling with a wheelchair is hard work. I’ve got more tips on the subject in this article.
Self care on the outward and return journeys
So, you are all packed and buzzing to go. The taxi has dropped you off at the airport entrance and you are getting so close to being at your vacation destination!
Unfortunately, there is that thing called ‘the actual travel’ in between now and the warm sand / white snow / or whatever it is you are jetting off to. Don’t let the flight, drive, train journey or ferry crossing throw everything off kilter.
Here are tips for alleviating stress en route and retaining self care as part of your daily schedule:
- Meditate and take time to think things through.
- Drink lots of water, especially if you are flying.
- Exercises in your seat or in the aisles, where possible. Get the blood flowing. This reduces the likelihood of DVT, makes you feel less stiff and will improve your chances of fighting jet lag.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol, especially at altitude on a flight.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the cabin crew for assistance if the need arises. Possibly even tell them in advance if you have any specific concerns. This way you and the airline know what is needed to make the journey comfortable for you.
- Get a massage or do some stretches. If you have a stop-over, you are likely to find a massage chair or even a spa in the airport where you can get all sorts of relaxation treatments.
Self care at your destination
It is so easy to forget self care on vacation. You are feeling super happy and in great form. Most of your stresses are mentally boxed away for your return and you don’t feel the need to stick to your self care plan.
This is fine for the first few days, but after that you may notice how much you miss the benefits. So, plan to stick with it. Other advice in terms of taking the best care of your self include:
- Take any gadgets that improve your life along on vacation. For me the Toto travel bidet has transformed the awkward moments of going to the bathroom and not knowing how to complete the task and come out smelling like roses. This is one that is useful the moment you leave home.
- Nip jetlag at the bud. Plan your flight times so that you arrive close to evening and can quickly get to bed, go for a run when you arrive at your hotel, take a nap… do whatever works for you.
- Relax, do nothing. Sometimes you have to remember that doing nothing is doing a lot. Behind the scenes your body will be repairing your body and re-energizing, getting you ready for your next adventure.
- Call friends or family. For the first time in ages you have time for a quality conversation. And you can do so relaxing by the pool with a cocktail in hand. Bliss!
- Unplug. Yep, you heard me. Switch your phone off. Take all the pictures you want but wait for that depressing trip home to start uploading them onto social media.
- Create a schedule of planned activities and time for spontaneity. This way you don’t miss out on the bits you really want to do, but still have time to go with the flow.
- Immerse yourself in the local scene. Staying poolside and eating from the hotel buffet does not give you any sense of the place you are visiting. Step outside of the resort perimeter, explore the local culture, eat some interesting new cuisine. It will all add to the experience.
- Catch up on sleep. Nap during the day and sleep longer at night if that’s what you want to do. Who is going to stop you?!
- Practice mindfulness. If you’ve never given it a whirl, now might be the right time. Mindful.org provides a good introduction on the subject.
- Above all, listen to your body. Let it dictate what you do for a change, instead of the busy life back home.
Self care and how to get back into your routine once back home
Usually I pack as much of my vacation into my days off as is possible. That means I get back incredibly late, and suffer for it for the rest of that week. I’m now trying to be a responsible adult. Though I don’t know why.
Here are some rules I now put in place to make sure I don’t have an almighty low when I get back from vacation:
- Have food in the house for the day of your return, so that you don’t eat at McDonald’s on the drive back from the airport (and then feel super guilty). If you are gone too long for food to stay fresh, plan what you will buy on the way home in advance, so you don’t ‘accidentally’ go off course.
- Plan the return flight so you arrive home at a reasonable hour, giving you time to unpack the essentials and get ready for the next day and into work.
- Book in an exercise class with a friend for the next couple of days, so that you don’t fall into the trap of going a week without.
- Go for a brief walk once you arrive home so that you don’t have a pure day of travel.
- Plan your meals for the week of your return. Order a food delivery for the day or day after your return, so that you can get straight back into your healthy diet.
Traveling is stressful at the best of times. I really worry what it will be like now after this coronavirus pandemic and wonder whether measures will be put in place to accommodate and help people with disabilities too.
Lockdown has not yet lifted, but once it has I will be going on a trip to test things for myself. Watch this space and I will update you on how it went.
How are you taking care of yourself when you travel? Tell me in the comments below!