These self-care tips don’t require special products and are easy to practice while away from home. These self-care practices have changed how I travel!
Since graduating college, I’ve learned to appreciate self-care more and more. Going straight from a more relaxed college lifestyle to an office job was a huge shock to my system, and it made me value my mental and physical health more than ever before. But it wasn’t until my solo trip to Scotland two years ago that I finally put two and two together and realized that self-care shouldn’t stop when you’re on vacation.
For years, I was a go-go-go traveler — I never rested during the day and felt guilty if I didn’t see every square inch of the place I was visiting. The routines I established at home went out the window as soon as I stepped foot in a new city, and I’d return home from trips exhausted instead of rejuvenated. But my trip to Scotland forced me to slow way down. The weather was fickle, travel plans went awry, and so much more didn’t pan out how I thought it would. But that wound up being a blessing in disguise because it forced me to take things a little more slowly and properly experience that beautiful country, not just see it.
What is self-care?
For me, travel self-care isn’t about hydrating face masks or jade rollers. It’s about regularly checking in with myself and fueling my mind and body. Self-care doesn’t come naturally to me, and it’s something I think I’ll be working on for the rest of my life. The self-care tips I’ve shared below require commitment and willingness on my part, but I’m totally invested in them now because they’ve had such a positive impact on the way I travel.
My Travel Self-Care Practices
The following practices aren’t hard and fast rules — I don’t have a self-care checklist I go through each day or anything like that. I like to think of them as self-care ideas; I do my best to implement these small acts of self-care into my travels, but in the end I’ll simply do whatever will benefit my body and mind the most in the moment.
I Walk Whenever Possible
I love the idea of working out on vacation, but truth be told I can never bring myself to use the hotel gym or do a bodyweight workout in my room. But because being active and moving my body is important to me and lifts my mood, I compromise by walking whenever possible on vacation. Since I live in NYC, I’m used to walking longer distances during the day, so walking a lot while traveling is fine by me!
As a rule of thumb, I’ll walk anywhere that’s 25 minutes or less away. However, if I’m incredibly tired when I wake up I’ll shuffle my plans around to allow for more rest time. I want to make sure I’m listening to my body as best as I can while still taking in the sights and checking items off my bucket list.
I Try to Eat a Balanced Diet
Of all my travel self-care practices, eating well-balanced meals while traveling is the hardest for me. I normally eat healthier meals at home and keep things super simple (bowl of soup or source of protein plus a fresh vegetable side and bread or rice). I feel my best when I eat a variety of simple, whole foods, but it’s tough to eat how I do at home when I’m traveling — for a few reasons.
First, I find that most restaurants lack wholesome vegetable dishes or sides (besides salads, which I get tired of). And second, I love trying new foods when I’m traveling and enjoy eating meals the region is known for. Take my trip to Charleston, for example. The South is known for heartier dishes like fried chicken and collard greens, so many of my meals in Charleston were dishes like that.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I do my best to maintain a fairly normal diet while I’m abroad, simply because I want to feel my best. I usually eat out for lunch, but I always make my breakfast in the hotel or AirBNB. For dinner, I do whatever I’m feeling in the moment. I also avoid sugary drinks and soda, because I want to get in as much water as possible (I get so thirsty from all that walking!).
Eating a well-balanced diet on vacation may not seem like self-care, but it’s so important to take care of your body even when you’re traveling. Physical self-care like relaxing beach days and face masks aren’t all your body needs!
I get 8 hours of sleep
If there’s one self-care idea you take away from this list, let it be this one. I aim to get 8+ hours of sleep every night, whether or not I’m traveling. Getting enough sleep is vital to my physical and mental health; if I don’t get enough sleep on vacation, I often return home with a cold or something else I picked up while I was away. Not to mention that lack of sleep is a guaranteed way to make me dislike the place I’m meant to be exploring — I get so cranky when I’m tired, and don’t have the energy to properly see a new place.
To ensure I get enough sleep each night, I’ve started bringing an eye mask with me whenever I travel. Eye masks sound so bougie, but wearing one has legit changed my life. I’m able to sleep more soundly on planes, and if I’m traveling with someone who likes to stay up late reading I can still get some shut-eye.
Another thing I do to get enough sleep is plan my trip in advance. If I know I’ll be out late one night seeing a performance or something, I’ll only make loose plans for the morning after so that I can sleep in.
I journal my adventures
I’m a big believer in journaling your travels, and I started my first travel journal in high school the first time I visited Germany. Journaling has benefitted me in so many ways. Not only does keeping a travel journal help me remember my adventures, but it also helps me unwind at night. If a day didn’t go as planned, I can vent about it in my journal. And when I’ve had an incredible day, journaling allows me to express my gratitude fully.
Also, I travel solo most of the time and when I’m outside the US I don’t have cell service. In those instances when I can’t call my parents or a friend from back home, my travel journal acts as my companion and soaks up all my thoughts. If you’re an anxious traveler or have trouble falling asleep in new places, I highly recommend buying a lightweight journal and writing about your day while you’re traveling.
I take breaks when needed
This is another self-care practice I’m still trying to get a hang of, but I’m making a conscious effort to implement it into my travels. Real talk, I am so bad about taking breaks when I’m traveling. For years, I was a non-stop kind of traveler and I’d run myself into the ground each day. I’d try to pack in tons of activities each day, and it made me feel on edge and irritated. I’m getting better about slowing down and resting when I need to, but I’m not perfect by any means!
Because I’m a Type A traveler, I’ve learned to schedule breaks into my days. I find it difficult to just sit on a bench and rest, so I typically have an “activity” tied into my rest periods. In Quebec, I scoped out some local tea shops ahead of time and allotted myself an hour each afternoon to sip some tea and sample the goodies from a new shop. Somehow I have no problem chilling out when I feel like there’s a reason for taking a break!
I put away my phone
Even if I’m traveling in the US, I try to use my phone as little as possible when I’m traveling. At home, I have a bad habit of scrolling mindlessly on Instagram and Facebook. But what’s the point of doing that when I’m in a totally new place with plenty of things to entertain me? I find it hardest to put my phone away at night when I’m back in my room, so after I’ve called my parents and checked anything online that I need to for the next day’s adventure, I’ll put my phone on airplane mode and lay it facedown.
One thing I will note is that I do whip out my phone throughout the day to take videos for my Insta story. To prevent myself from getting sucked into mindless scrolling, I’ll save the video to my phone and wait to upload it once I’m back in my room. This way, I’m not constantly checking my phone to see if the story uploaded to Instagram or responding to comments throughout the day.
I stick to my routines
As much as I love adventuring and visiting new places, my body thrives on routine. Even on vacation, I try to wake up and go to bed around the same time each day. I try to eat like I do at home and use the same products while getting ready. While each day of a trip can differ depending on which sites I’m seeing, whether I’m outside walking a lot or in a museum, etc., I do my best to get ready each morning and wind down at night in the same fashion. Having some semblance of routine is crucial to my travel self-care, as it calms me and brings a little slice of home with me wherever I go.
Read more: My Solo Travel Nighttime Routine
Tell me: What’s one way you practice self-care while traveling?
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