Photo of Chelsea, addiction peer coach in Colorado Springs, CO

Wellness while traveling

Meet Chelsea
In addition to her own wellness from alcohol, Chelsea (she/her) has extensive experience as an impacted loved one. She’s all about helping people meet their goals, find what makes them happy and accomplish their dreams. She wants to be the source of hope she didn’t have.

Q: How can I maintain my wellness while I travel?

A: I love this question! I wish it’s one we would keep in mind more. Many of us put so much time into our travel itineraries, but we don’t spend as much time thinking about prioritizing our wellness needs.

These are just a few of the many considerations and tips that may be helpful while you travel.

Sleep is foundational to all the other elements of self-care and wellness. It doesn’t take much to throw off your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal time system, which will affect your digestion, energy and more. Going to bed and waking up around the same time each day will do wonders for how you feel physically and mentally. Be aware of the factors that might make that difficult, like jet lag and changing time zones.

  • Do your best to maintain your at-home nighttime routine, even if it needs to be shortened. For example, I usually read a chapter of a book before going to sleep. I may only read a few pages before bed while I travel, but that act still lets my brain know it’s time to sleep.
  • Come prepared with downloaded white noises or sound frequencies, a sleep mask and ear plugs. You may not use them, but you’ll at least have them if you’re having trouble sleeping.
  • Make your bed as homey as you can. Bring your pillow or blanket – something sensory to get you comfortable – if it’s possible. 
  • Avoid strenuous activities and using your phone right before going to bed.

Nutrition & hydration
Trying new things and experiencing a culture’s food has always been an important part of travel for my family. I’d never want to stand in the way of that for anyone else.

I aim for balance as much as possible when it comes to eating on trips. I want to try new things, but I also don’t want to overindulge too much. I’m a big believer in looking at restaurants before you go somewhere. I try to look at menus beforehand and pick something relatively healthy, or at least something that won’t upset my system.

  • Keep snacks with you. When I used to travel frequently for work, I’d always keep a few pieces of fruit from the continental breakfast with me. That helped hold me over in between meals.
  • Have a list of your emergency contacts, doctors, medications and foods you’re allergic to with you. Print that list and keep with you in your wallet or phone case. If you have a serious allergy, let your travel partners and airline know. I’ve been on flights before where peanuts weren’t allowed on board, for example.
  • Drink a lot of water, especially if you’re traveling to a high-altitude area. I start drinking extra water and lessening my caffeine the week before I travel. Eating well the week before you travel will also be helpful – your body won’t have to work as hard to digest your food.

Small-scale self-care
When it comes to self-care, it’s important to remember to just do what you can. Try not to put so much pressure on yourself. Remember your time is limited and there will be factors outside of your control while you travel. 

  • Make your routine work for you as much as you can. Go through the motions, even if you have to shorten what you’d normally do. Maybe you take 10 minutes to stretch, walk for 15 minutes on a treadmill to start your day, listen to a short guided meditation while commuting – whatever you can do to integrate your normal self-care routines.
  • Get your body the movement it needs. Think about the resources at your disposal, like a hotel gym or pool, and how you can integrate movement into your itinerary, like walking to dinner or to and from meetings.
  • If you’re someone who struggles with travel-related pain, there are a number of things you can try. There are supportive accessories like neck pillows and back braces, over-the-counter pain relievers and more natural supplements, topical or oral CBD, K-tape — these are just a few of many that could help.

If this is the first time you’re traveling alcohol-free, there are a number of steps you can take to prepare. 

First, take some time to think about the triggers you may face. You may face stressful travel situations like missing a flight or losing luggage, or emotional triggers like loneliness, culture shock or homesickness. You won’t be able to predict everything that happens, but you can make a plan for when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Consider making a playlist that makes you feel happy or peaceful, having a quick breathing exercise to rely on, stepping away from your travel group to take a minute for yourself – anything that will help you feel calm and ready to face challenges.

  • Bring wellness or self-help books, downloaded podcasts or other literature for your downtime. 
  • If you’re someone who goes to meetings, look a few up in your location beforehand and have the list with you in case you need it. 
  • Depending on where you are and what you have planned, you may be able to remove a few triggers proactively. For example, you can ask hotel staff for a room without a mini fridge or request restaurant seating away from the bar. If you would normally drink during your downtime, consider planning a lot of activities to keep you busy.
  • Don’t forget the trusty tactics of always having a non-alcoholic drink in your hand while in a drinking setting, asking someone to stay sober with you and/or making an exit plan in case you find yourself triggered. 

I hope a few of these ideas have been helpful. Don’t forget to communicate your physical, emotional and mental needs to whoever you’re traveling with. Let them know what you need and how they can support you.

Most of all, don’t forget to relax and enjoy yourself! Travel safe!

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