Self-Care for Travel: How to Be a Mindful Traveller
I write a lot about beauty. How to make your skin glow. How to make the most of a hot spring or thermal spa. How to spot a cool new beauty brand around the world. But as much as I adore my beloved travel beauty kit and a long spa day (especially if it’s a little unusual), nothing matters to me more than the beauty that comes from within. Because looking good always starts with feeling good. Call me cheesy, but nothing makes you glow more than feeling confident, happy and centred on the inside. And so many things factor into creating this inner goodness. Everything from getting enough rest and eating right to spending time alone and making time for mindfulness and self-care.
The funny thing is, when you’re travelling - especially more longterm as a backpacker - it can be hard to practice self-care and keep tabs on all the little things that impact what’s going on inside. You’re always on the move. You have sleepless nights in hostels and overnight buses. And many times you’ve just got to grab whatever food you can get so you don’t miss your next ferry. Usually that’s a bag of strangely-flavoured crisps.
So as any traveller will know, the backpacker (or just frequent travel) lifestyle can quickly take its toll - on your energy levels, your mood, your skin and even your confidence. But fear not - there are plenty of ways you can incorporate mindfulness and self-care into travel. You’ve just got to get a little creative. Here are my travel self-care habits that have kept me healthy - and sane - on the road. Pick and mix from the self-care rituals below, then sprinkle in your own mindfulness habits and you’ll be sure to maintain that beautiful inner glow no matter where you are in the world. [Insert shooting star emoji here.]
1. Carry your favourite essential oils: I love a good essential oil. Nothing relaxes me more than a couple drops of lavender on my pillow before bed. And a bit of bergamot in my morning bath always does the trick if I need a little energy pick-me-up to start my day. Essential oils can have a really powerful impact on your mood and energy. So pick out a few of your favourites, or read up on the different varieties and choose a selection for different travel situations and moods and pack a few bottles for the road. Use them on your pillow, in your bath, on your temples (if they’re gentle on the skin) and on your yoga mat.
2. Mediate to your favourite app: Before hitting the road, I trialled a few mediation apps and finally chose my favourite, Calm. But Headspace is great too. And I get it, it’s hard enough to squeeze meditation into ordinary life. But even if every day on the road looks different, try and find a 10-minute pocket for a meditative time-out. The health benefits, as I’m sure you already know, are endless - reduced stress and anxiety, greater self-awareness, mental clarity and so much more. It’s also a great way to pause and reflect on your incredible travel journey and experiences. And as much as many gloss over the stresses of travel, backpacking can be very challenging at times. So use meditation to centre yourself so you can handle your next travel crisis with more grace and ease.
3. Do some Yoga with Adriene: To tap into both body and spirit, turn to yoga. Of course, you can’t pop in to see your favourite instructor as you move about the globe. But you can turn to your virtual favourites to get you through. I adore Yoga With Adriene. She’s been to go-to for 7+ years. It makes travel life so much better when you can switch on your phone or laptop and get your yoga fix no matter where you are in the world. I’ve Yoga With Adriened on the Isle of Skye, in a Brooklyn brownstone and off the balcony of a Thai bungalow. She’s especially handy when you’re suffering from jetlag and need something to do at 5am or after a long-haul flight when you’re desperate to get your muscles moving again.
4. Book yourself a hotel room or hostel with a bath: After a few weeks of travel, I go a little stir-crazy without a bath. Baths are truly my favourite self-care ritual. I like them piping hot, to the point where it even stings to get in, though I get that’s probably not for everyone. But what everyone can appreciate are the sheer benefits of a long bath soak - everything from better heart health to relaxed nerves to moisturised skin and a balanced body temperature. And even on the road you can create your perfect bath - use a few drops of those essential oils, grab your latest book or travel guide and switch your Spotify to a meditation playlist. I even buy travel face and hair masks and apply these whilst I soak.
5. Sleep somewhere decent at least once a fortnight: Whilst you’re at it, make sure to book yourself a decent night’s sleep every now and again. It’s easy to get caught up in all the action of hostel life and forget that sometimes your body really just needs a little rest and recovery. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a princess when it comes to sleep, so I always book a private room or share with close family and friends. If you’re someone that can simply crash anywhere (I’m jealous), this may be less essential but remember to prioritise your shut-eye every now and again.
6. Drink a detox juice on the daily: If you’re backpacking frugally, I know this will hit your daily budget, but when you see and feel the impact on your energy levels, immune system and skin, you’ll understand why it’s worth it. Fresh exotic fruit juices are probably one of my very favourite things about travel, particularly is certain parts of the world where they’re more affordable and come straight from the tree. I’ve tried everything from Lulo in Colombia to Dragonfruit and the infamous Durian in Asia. And I never tire of a punchy juice. You can mix and match your favourite flavours or turn to certain fruits when you’re after a specific boost. I especially love a pineapple juice for the hits of Vitamin C and collagen that make my skin look glorious. Just make sure you always ask for sugar-free options or all their goodness will be counteracted.
7. Go as long as you can without connecting to wifi: I’ve never bothered getting access to data on the road, so I quickly learned to live with only wifi. And I can’t recommend it enough. Being forced to switch off from my phone for days, sometimes weeks, at a time has been phenomenal for my mental health. Don’t get a local data plan if you don’t have to. And then, don’t connect to the wifi at every opportunity. Go for a meal and bring a book instead - and simply forget to ask for the wifi password. Or head to the beach, just you and your blanket, and listen to the sound of the waves instead of endlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed. You’ll be astounded by your newfound mental clarity and sense of tranquility. And honestly, the most vivid places from my travels - Mexico and the Philippines - are the ones where I switched off from technology the most.
8. Be present: The good news is that travel makes this relatively easy. I mean, it’s kind of the reason we go in the first place, right? To really live the moment, and live it richly, soaking in new and unique life experiences to their fullest. So take full advantage. Put that phone down and really experience each place - and its people - as much and as often as you can. Get lost in a local market, with hawkers’ bargains ringing in your ears, the stench of fresh fish flying through your nose and each neon-coloured fruit vying for your attention. Admire the local fashion, eat random delicacies and inhale the sights and sounds at every new turn. There is no time like the present - and nothing like travel to help you really live in it.
9. Practice gratitude: Travel, probably like few other things, also gives you countless reasons to practice gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to see the world beyond your shores. For the health, freedom and wealth to go. For the chance to see how others live - many times with so much less and yet somehow so much happier. That’s probably what’s struck - and stuck with me - most. I’ve met and befriended countless locals on the road - many who can barely put food on the table or keep a roof over their heads, but still carry a smile that stretches from ear to ear. And a laugh that’s seriously contagious. There’s nothing like travel to remind you that you’ve already got everything you need - and the best way to live is just to enjoy it.
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