January 05, 2009

The travel bug

I've had some really terrible experiences traveling due to illness. And not major illness, but minor things like headaches, dizzy spells, lethargy. I mean, I flew all the way to Brazil a few years ago, and ended up sleeping in the hotel for a huge portion of the week.

Is this my version of the travel bug? There has never been a real sickness, just an overall sense of being wiped out from the effort and stress of traveling, combined with an icky-feeling belly filled with foreign and not-terribly-healthy food. I think my system is just very, very sensitive and gets knocked off balance. What fun.

Needless to say, I was nervous that our trip to Puerto Rico would be more of the same. Since I really, really didn't want that to happen, Max helped me with some measures that kept my sanity intact and belly calm. It worked! We had a great week. Not once did I feel dizzy or lethargic, and we did all sorts of things like snorkeling, kayaking at night in the luminescent bay, and hiking in the rainforest. Plus, I was able to enjoy and not utterly regret some amazing local food! Pictured above is a Mofongo con pulpo (Fried mashed plantains with octopus). Sorry for the bad photo, it was taken on my phone!

I'm wondering if any of you have had similar experiences with your health while traveling? Here are some of the ways I kept myself in balance during our trip:

1. Eat a familiar, healthy breakfast
I couldn't boil whole oats in our hotel room, but I did buy a box of Ezekial sprouted grain cereal, soymilk and fresh fruit. This way I'd get some fresh fruit and fiber to start my day, and that at least one meal wouldn't include animal products or sugar, since both tend to slow me down.

2. Keep hydrated
Why is it that on vacation it's hard to get enough water? Is it just me? In many cases I don't want to drink the tap water, so it's important to stock up on bottled water. Sounds obvious but so often we'll spend the day in the sun, have dinner with wine, and then get a few drinks afterwards...by the next morning I'm dying of thirst. In my experience, restaurants outside the US don't bring water to the table unless you ask, and even then the glasses are tiny. So, I gotta make hydration a priority!

3. Breathe. Breathe.
My nerves have all sorts of reason to act up on vacation – catching flights and hoping the luggage isn't lost, finding our way around on new roads and getting lost, dealing with language barriers, etc. I took time this vaca to stop and breathe slow, deep breaths any time I started to feel stressed. Just like when I'm home and at yoga, breathing techniques work on a deep level to bring me back to center.

4. Balancing Vata
According to Ayurvedic medicine, traveling puts Vata out of balance. Since I'm already a Vata type traveling during the Vata time of year, it was important for me to bring oil for massage during the trip. The practice of abhyanga (self oil massage) is a great way to care for yourself and bring Vata back into balance. I'm planning a blog post about abhyanga coming up shortly to talk more about it! And if all this sounds crazy, well, it kind of is but it's also pretty awesome.

5. Getting rid off expectations

Sometimes we try to do too much, in life and on vacation. I tried this time around to keep my expectations to a minimum. Maybe we find our way to the rainforest, maybe we'll get lost and find a neat place to eat instead. Maybe we'll love snorkeling off the catamaran, maybe we'll get seasick, but either way it will be an experience. I found it helped to lose the expectation of perfectly executed plans.

How were your holiday travels? Even traveling short distances can knock me off balance, so I'm interested in how you dealt with driving to grandma's or flying to wherever home is. And if your traveling is done, welcome home and happy new year!


VeggieGirl said...

Ahh, hope you feel better!!

Jenn said...

I've found that taking the first and last days of a trip to relax and not do too much to be very, very helpful!

Glad you enjoyed the trip! I'm so jealous. ;)

Lori said...

So glad to hear you had a great trip! I've been becoming more interested in Puerto Rico recently. That meal looks awesome!

Travel is pretty much a constant in my life. I used to drive a lot for work and now I try to follow my husband a lot as well as vacation together. Over the holidays we traveled to the States from Brazil, then to Jamaica and back and then to Vegas for NYE. I head back to Brazil in a week.

I get wiped out too. I find both hydration and getting enough sleep helps me the most. I also keep up with workouts if it isn't a really active trip like when we went to Jamaica.

We also keep plans flexible. If we have plans to see a site and find we would rather sit in a pub or something we do it. As you said, each is an experience. I totally agree with your view on expectations. I feel setting them too high is often why people come back feeling as though they didn't enjoy it. Great post!

Ingrid said...

Glad you felt great and this trip was a success, and great tips BTW. We didn't travel this past holiday season, preferring to stay close to home.

Happy New Year and wishing you all the best things you desire this year.

Michelle said...

VeggieGirl--actually i felt great for once!

Jenn--seriously, that first day we just sat at the pool :-)

Lori--you are a travel master! I can't believe you went so many places in the past week. From now on I get my travel advice from you!

Ingrid--many thanks and happy new year to you too!

HangryPants said...

Definitely drink that water. I get so dehydrated when I travel!

Hayley said...

Sounds like you had an awesome journey. So glad you weren't sick, and could enjoy yourself.

Anonymous said...

I get terribly tired traveling, regardless if the trip is 5 hours or 40 hours (yeah, that last one is killer). I end up sleeping the whole first day or so. It feels great. Some of the tiredness comes from the frenzy that happens before you travel - getting things done, etc.

Glad you had a great time!

Not Another Omnivore said...

I loved reading this post!

Whenever I travel, I always find the first day is the hardest, but I also find it helps to just get going. When I flew into Ireland this summer we got in an 6 am and had already been up for a full day, but we kept going with the next day.

That said, I always take the first day really easy. In Ireland we sat on a train, in Kenya we sat around and ate. I always dread getting off the plane and feeling rushed. I like to just take my time.

Making it through that first day is key.


Sophie said...

Puerto Rico sounds fab. I know what you mean about the travel bug. I often don't feel as good as I'd like to on holiday.

I think dehydration from the flight and air conditioned hotels is a really big one so as you say, keep hydrated. Holidays are also the time I eat a little less healthily but I try to balance that with a similar strategy to yours - a normal breakfast, plus also a couple of portions of fruit a day (we usually go out and find a market or shop). Oh and I always take peppermint teabags if there are going to be tea making facilities in the room. These are great if you get a mild upset stomach (or just happened to eat too much!)

lifeinrecipes said...

Ooh, I love pulpo!

I am looking forward to hearing more about the abhyanga.

Going to be doing extensive travel in
February. Bought an essential oil blend that purportedly helps the body acclimate to different time zones. I'll let you know how that works.

Culinarywannabe said...

Very nice points. Especially the hydration one - after flying I'm always swollen and never drink enough water (for fear of having to use the icky plane bathrooms). And can't wait to hear about the self massage thing - sounds like a winner to me!

Maris said...

I'm right there with you. I get terribly off-balance during trips. Also, I think I wind up sick EVERY TIME I fly. The recycled cabin air must disagree with me!