No matter how much you love to travel, it often comes with at least some level of stress. From the rush of the airport to jostling for overhead bin space to landing in—and then navigating—a completely new destination and its culture (and possibly another language), travel can make even the most laid-back types feel a little anxious. Even so, we keep packing our suitcases, because more often than not, the joys of meeting new people and exploring new places and cultures are well worth the hassles along the way.
We are fortunate to live with modern-day transportation and technology that makes visiting other cities and countries around the world more accessible and convenient than ever. Even so, travel still comes with its share of hassles, which can feel more challenging when we’re out of our comfort zone. How do you stay calm when your luggage is lost and you’re in an unfamiliar country without your clothes? How do you live in the moment when you’re jet-lagged and hungry, and all you want is something to eat, but you can’t even read the menu?
Frank Castro, managing director of Conscious Adventurist, aims to manage these potentially frustrating situations with a bigger-picture mindset while he’s traveling. Castro recommends getting present and tuning into your surroundings; acknowledging the discomfort, according to Castro, sometimes can help ease it. But that’s not the only way to combat stress and stay grounded while traveling, so you can focus on what’s really important: the fascinating new people and places you’ll see—as well as the memories you’ll make—along the way. Here are some strategies on just how to do just that.
Start Preparing Before Your Trip
Preparing yourself ahead of time to be better equipped to handle a stressful situation can pay off in a big way during your trip—and it’s also great practice for cultivating a more resilient mindset for all aspects of your life. A few ways to make that happen:
Develop (and stick to!) a consistent exercise routine to combat daily stress and get those endorphins flowing on a regular basis.
Start journaling your thoughts. No matter what happened during the day, spend a few minutes writing about what you are grateful for. Practicing gratitude has been shown to have a variety of benefits, from reducing depression to inspiring acts of kindness.
Practice yoga. This centuries-old practice cultivates mindfulness through breathwork and intentional movement, and research shows it reduces stress. And once you’re comfortable with a few postures, you can do them just about anywhere.
Meditate. This doesn’t mean you have to dedicate an hour every day to sitting silent, still, and cross-legged on the floor. Meditation takes many forms: It can mean taking a walk and listening to the sound of birds instead of scrolling through your screen. It can even be taking a few deep breaths in the middle of your workday. It’s often that simple, and it’s always accessible and can be done anywhere: in your hotel room, on a crowded flight, you name it.
Give Yourself Plenty of Time in Transit
No one wants to be that harried passenger rushing through the airport and barely making it onto the plane right before the doors close. Give yourself extra time to get to the airport—especially if you’re traveling internationally—even if that means you’ll be sitting around for a while. It’s way better to have an extra hour or two that you can use at your leisure (like catching up on that long-neglected reading list) than to rush around and start (or end) your trip on the wrong foot with the stress of running late, or worse, a missed flight.
Remember to Take a Breath
When you start to feel anxiety build up in your gut or anger in your chest, stop and take a deep breath right away. That one deep breath can immediately lower your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as provide additional stress-relieving effects on other systems in your body. Continue to take deep breaths until you feel calmer. Once you settle your system down, you’ll be able to make better (and smarter) decisions—and maybe even see things in a different light. Sure, it’s annoying that your hotel room isn’t quite ready by check-in time. But—deep breath—can you use the time to grab a quick bite in that cool-looking bistro right around the corner that you otherwise may not have set foot in?
Bring a Little Bit of Home with You
Sometimes, it’s hard not to miss the comforts of home, even for the most veteran travelers. So be sure to pack a favorite soap, lotion, or other item that smells like home—scents evoke memories and positive associations, which can help lift your mood when you’re feeling homesick. Conscious Adventurist likes to bring along Prasada, a product from Almeda that uses a blend of herbs and plants to create a superfood powder that can be used as a supplement or meal replacement. Sometimes it’s hard to get good nutrition on the go, and a product like this can be a great backup.
And it’s always helpful to pack a few snacks from home, no matter where you’re headed or for how long—flight delays are much easier to cope with when you’re not “hangry” and forced to shell out for overpriced airport food. (And if you have allergies or other dietary restrictions, it’s even more important to stash some proven sustenance.) Snack or energy bars are always a good bet, and you can also stash a few packets of your favorite tea in your carry-on for a soothing pick-me-up wherever you are.
Be Sure to Factor in Downtime
Who hasn’t returned home from a trip so exhausted that you need a vacation from your vacation? Whether you’re on a solo sojourn or traveling with others, taking time to relax will make a huge difference in your overall well-being while on the road. Read a book by the pool. Explore the neighborhood without a set agenda, popping into places that appeal to you. Take your journal to a cafe and people watch while you write. And be sure to make time to exercise, stretch, or meditate—whatever is important for reducing your stress at home will help when you travel.
Stay Well Hydrated
From those notoriously dry airplane cabins to full itineraries of exploring and adventuring, it’s dangerously easy to get dehydrated while traveling. Dehydration can then lead to headaches or lightheadedness and have the added effect of making you feel tired or grumpy—none of which is ideal while traveling (or, let’s be honest, anytime). Bring your own water bottle whenever possible (and possibly a way to filter or purify your water, depending on the source), but above all, be sure to drink plenty of good old H2O when you’re out and about.
Remember Why You Booked the Trip in the First Place
Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to travel. So when things start to feel a little hectic, remember why you are there—you may even want to express those thoughts in your journal before you go so that you can just flip to a page and read it when you need to. Traveling is a wonderful way to grow as a person, expand your worldview, and appreciate all the blessings of your life. And even though it may test us at times, it’s also an excellent reminder that we can handle more than we think—and have the adventure of a lifetime to show for it. In other words, travel is not always easy, but it’s always worth it.
Written by Abbie Mood for Matcha in partnership with Conscious Adventurist.
Featured image provided by Julentto Photography