by Lara Alexiou
Traveling is unpredictable but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Too often, somewhere between the excitement of planning and actually stepping out the door, our dream vacation tailspins from adventurous excitement into disappointing stress. The welcomed change of routine arrives mired in drama from difficult flights, long drives, and uncomfortable family reunions. Transform “vacation overwhelm” into “holiday zen” with these five mindfulness practices:
- Know your nature. With a little self-reflection, we can all discover the personal tendencies traveling uncovers. For example, as a planner, I am most comfortable with a pre-scheduled itinerary and definitive action plan in hand before the outset of any adventure. My travel companion husband is the exact opposite. He thrives on the unknown and, beyond a reserved plane ticket, prefers the whole trip to unfold organically. To avoid smothering his easy nature, or allowing my anxiety to hijack our getaway, we learned to compromise. I handle the logistics of flights, trains, and lodging, because knowing we have a reserved seat alleviates my panic. He captains our daily schedule, choosing to fill it as adventures arise. Discerning our unique travel temperaments maximizes our holiday compatibility and solves problems before they begin. When we can plan ahead according to our strengths, travel’s own unpredictable nature becomes much more manageable.
- Pack light. In post 9/11 air travel, most of us fly solely with a carry-on bag whenever possible to avoid extra fees. A downside to the ease of one simple suitcase is we jam pack it to the max! I resolved I wasn’t going to be that helpless person in the aisle who couldn’t hoist her own bag into the overhead bin. After one embarrassing incident, I learned to pack light. About a week before the trip, I lay out everything I need. When the final packing moment arrives, I’ve had enough time to mull over my choices and remove any cumbersome and unnecessary items. I zip up that suitcase with less than half of my original pile. Travel is about creating new experiences, not about dragging our regular old stuff around the world.
- Drink plenty of water.This may be an obvious one, but beyond simple hydration, even our mood is affected by the amount of water we consume. According to Taoist qigong practice, the body’s internal physiological systems and mental states are symbiotic. The philosophy suggests that being internally dried out taxes our emotions, resulting in increased irritability. I’ve personally found this to be true and so has my loving travel companion, my husband. He carries extra bottles of water everywhere we go and reminds me to drink up, especially when he senses my foul mood lurking around the corner. Try it for yourself and notice the difference.
- Exercise. Whether by car or by plane, traveling drains the body, and dormant pains – including sciatica, migraine headaches, and backaches – can reawaken. Maintain a healthy dose of exercise to recalibrate your system. While your regular workout routine may be impossible to replicate, some form of movement is always possible. During our annual stay with family each year in Athens, we forgo calling an Uber after dinner and, instead, walk through the Old City back to our flat. Although no replacement for my regular vigorous yoga practice, soaking up the local vibes while stretching my legs is equally recharging for my soul. Even easy physical activity like walking, infused with the right intentions, can clear away the unwanted physical and mental stress vacationing provokes.
- Say yes. The more people involved in a vacation, the more personalities, the more choices and the more people to please. Under these circumstances, relinquishing all control can be the most effective sanity saver. Say “yes” to everything, as much as possible, even and especially foods and activities that are not your preference. Vacations are a time for exploring different aspects of ourselves and saying “yes” opens the door to new adventures. It also keeps peace when family tensions begin to rise. Since agreeability is contagious, a simple, sincere “yes “may diffuse the next family vacation showdown and simultaneously improve the entire group dynamic.
Understanding our travel nature can help maximize the fun, restorative aspects of vacationing while mitigating the discomfort that comes from leaving our routine. Don’t let vacation dread derail your plans for a fun, relaxing time.
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Lara Alexiou is the author of Become the Architect of your Body, Mind and Soul and owner of Steamtown Yoga. She has been helping people transform their lives through the Eastern Healing Arts for nearly two decades. For more information and to read Alexiou’s yoga and wellness blog, visit her online at Steamtown Yoga and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.