How does one stay healthy and balanced during extended travel over several time zones?
I am on day 11 of three weeks of travel in Asia, visiting my two children between their homes in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Below is a look at Travel Wellness based on The Five Aspects of Health- Physical, Nutritional, Emotional, Environmental and Spiritual. Keep in mind that all five aspects overlap as each affects the other.
Physical well being begins a few days before travel. Are you getting good sleep as you prepare for your journey? It can be quite helpful to book itinerary that allows you to rise at your usual wake-up time. Early morning flights are a double-whammy to sleep rhythm, added on to the not sleeping on overseas flights and jet-lag. Bring a good inflatable neck pillow, ear plugs, eye mask and wear comfortable loose clothing to assist with sleep and comfort during the flight. If you are flying Coach, you will be confined to an extremely tight space, potentially for up to 15 hours at a time, or more, with little opportunity to move. To arrive at your destination feeling whole, spend as much time as you can walking and stretching in the aisles and areas of the flight cabin. Yoga poses such as front, back and side lunges are very helpful. While sitting, use a small pillow for low-back support and circle your ankles every hour or so to help leg circulation. Ankle circles are extremely helpful in preventing blood clots which people are susceptible to on long flights.
Reiki is an awesome tool to have during travel. Your hands become a gift as you simply place them on any part of your body and fall into a state of deep relaxation. I have found for flying, Reiki allows me to drop into a place of deep rest and sleep, making the hours of flight quickly pass. Each night, Reiki drops me into deep sleep and has been an awesome healing tool to nurse my legs and feet after walking many miles each day.
If you want to eat well or have specific dietary needs, make sure you bring a good amount of nutritious snacks for the journey- enough to last the trip, depending on what is available at your destination. Bring your own food for flight meals or pre-order a special meal if you have specific requirements.
Flying can be a good time to fast if the food you are offered looks pathetically processed and sugared. The flight offerings of high fructose corn syrup, sugary drinks and alcohol can be quite depleting. Alcohol is extremely dehydrating and the sugary drinks are inflammatory, potentially leading to lowered immunity, affecting your ability to fend off the recycled bugs and germs floating through the airplane. Water is an essential key for staying balanced- drink lots of it on the flight and throughout your entire journey. In many destinations be sure to drink bottled water only, even when brushing your teeth. Dehydration can contribute to exhaustion, headache, illness and inflammation.
When passing through several time zones, it is extremely helpful to take 1 mg. of melatonin when ready to sleep on the plane. Following up with a melatonin each night before bed for the first 2-3 nights after arrival, can help re-set your sleep clock and lessen the effects of jet-lag. Throughout the flight, use a good herbal throat spray, such as Gaia Herbs Goldenseal Propolis or Herb Pharm Soothing Throat Spray; Xlear, Xylitol Nasal Spray or Ocean Nasal Spray. Dosing up with some extra vitamin D-3 and whole foods vitamin C can assist with immune support. A strong daily probiotic is essential for gut and immune support. N.A.C., N-Acetyl Cysteine, is a great anti-oxidant which boosts the immune system, helps detox the liver and works as a powerful mucolytic. I take it every day, whether at home or traveling. I always prepare for emergencies when traveling as I have experienced the painful results of picking up bad bacteria in third world countries. Activated Charcoal and Zeolite clay is always in my emergency kit in case of food poisoning. Food poisoning can often be prevented by either preparing your own food or making sure you only buy food from restaurants and vendors who have clean cooking facilities and bathrooms with running water and soap.
When at home, we have a daily rhythm and routines. Traveling throws us into another reality and each day is uniquely filled with new adventures. Though many of us travel to get out of our daily routines and step into the excitement of the unknown, it can take some initial adjustment. While transitioning, it is important to be gentle with yourself, especially while still settling in and getting through the jet lag. If you you feel emotionally overwhelmed, take the time to step back and rest, nap and not push too hard. This is the time to allow yourself to be present and accept what is. Be prepared for bugs, dirt, snakes, giant cockroaches and bathrooms that are not up to Western standards. (And teeny little ants in your bed). In Taiwan, everyone carries toilet paper with them at all times. Most restaurants offer no napkins or some the texture and size of one square of toilet paper. It becomes quite noticeable while splattering hot broth and noodles all over your face. This is the time to simply notice, breathe, be and let go of any should's, expectations and consumption habits. This is why we travel- to step into a new reality and experience how others live.
Each destination is unique regarding environment. Some choose to travel in luxury while others choose to live like locals or find a balance between the two. While in Hong Kong I sweltered in high heat and humidity with frequent exposures to frigid air conditioning on ferries and inside buildings. Sleeping with an air conditioner unit blowing, called for constant adjustment of temperature all night long to get it just right. Mosquitoes have been ever-present in Hong Kong and Taiwan. I have been treating the bites with lavender essential oil. Living in Oregon, I barely am exposed to smoking. In Asia, it is constant on village and city streets. This afternoon my son showed me around Kaohsiung, Taiwan on his motor scooter. He usually wears a face mask for the exhaust fumes but forgot the masks. We rode through packs of scooters and the exhaust fumes were intense. There are numerous aspects of the environment that affect our health when traveling and all can contribute to a lack of balance and potential illness. Other aspects of the environment can be staying in very small spaces with no privacy, difficult lighting, or unexpected construction noise. Today was my first day in Taiwan and I awoke to torrential rains that were bordering on typhoon conditions. Instead of traveling to a river, I stayed in and wrote this blog. By afternoon, the rain had stopped and there was time for local exploring. When we travel, our biggest tools in dealing with the environment are flexibility and good problem-solving skills. And, sunscreen, effective bug repellent, anti-itch salve, ear plugs, face masks, rain ponchos are just a few of the tools we can use to help. Environmental conditions bring us great experiences and learning- all an essential part of the travel experience.
In the realm of spirituality, I always come back to the practice of gratitude. At, home I meditate daily. In the past 11 days, I have had the time and space to meditate twice and I am grateful for that. What I have been able to do is offer gratitude throughout each day for all that has come to me. This practice began the moment I was dropped off at the airport and hugged and thanked my parents for getting me there, and continued as I said a prayer of thanks for each safe take-off and landing; for my bag arriving in Hong Kong; for a day of low humidity; for holding my daughter and son in my arms and feeling their love; for the rain coming in Hong Kong to break a heat wave; for the rain stopping today, and for safely making it through the crowded crazy streets of Kaohsiung on the back of my son's motorbike. When there is gratitude, there is no room for complaint and one is presented with a beautiful invitation to rest in the present moment.
Many Blessings on your way, Dear Traveler's, Sari