Traveling can be challenging, exhausting, and stressful, but for those with sensitivities or chronic illness it can seem nearly impossible. Beyond just feeling overwhelming it can actually trigger a flare-up and increase the risk of feeling awful, or in some cases, even mean needing medical attention. Better just to stay home, right? For a long time that’s the approach I took…avoidance. Then opportunities emerged for events and adventures I just didn’t want to miss out on, so I found a way to make travel comfortable, even for me! I am sharing my personal travel tips & tricks to help you find peace and wellness away from home.
First, I think it helps to be mindful of what happens to our bodies when we travel. With that understanding we can use our intuition to know just what we need to navigate it smoothly. For example, when we fly our bodies prioritize certain functions to keep us alive, mainly pulmonary and cardiovascular (to prevent blood clots [DVT], etc.). Being on an airplane is an added stress on your body (ever notice your smooshed plastic water bottle?), which puts you into a type of fight-or-flight state. This means that blood flow and circulation are diverted to the more crucial organs…leaving your digestion at a halt. Also, the extended periods of sitting on a train, plane, or in an automobile can increase aches, pains, and stagnation. Nothing to fear, just good to be aware of so you can build-in plans to counteract it!
- Success starts in the planning phase of your trip. The first thing I do is RESEARCH! As soon as I know where I am going I try to find nearby accommodations that offer rooms/units with a kitchen so I can prepare and store my own food, if possible. Next I do a search for a local natural foods store, so I can shop when I arrive. Part of my research also includes looking for organic/gluten-free/dairy-free restaurants in the area. You might be pleasantly surprised by how many eateries can meet your needs!
Thankfully some hotels are becoming more aware of things like chemical sensitivities, so I always call ahead to see if it is possible to have my room/suite/apartment (including Airbnb properties) cleaned with non-toxic or unscented products. It’s all about lowering body-burden any way you can!
- I avoid eating on a flight. Depending on the length of my flight, I eat before and after, but not during. I also try to leave about a one-hour-window before take-off and after landing to digest, so nothing gets “stuck,” causing problems later. Also, for those with very poor digestion, try blending all of the food you eat the day before flying (and day-of & day after, if possible). This breaks down your food, making it more easily digestible, which gives your digestive organs a much needed break in preparation for the impact of flying. If you are on a very long flight, or you absolutely must eat to keep your blood sugar balanced, then opt for something like nut/seed butter packets or taking some protein powder with you to mix into your water bottle.
- Speaking of water…hydration is KEY! I can’t say that enough! It is always important, but even more so when traveling. A dehydrated system is an irritated, inflamed, overreactive, constipated, and anxious one. In airports, since you can’t take liquids with you past security, once I am through that area I make a beeline for a place to fill my own water bottle (getting more common) or a place to buy water. I buy 1-2 of the largest bottles I can get (adjust depending on how long your flight is). I also carry my own Himalayan Salt with me to add to the water to keep my electrolytes balanced. Airlines only make the dehydration situation worse by handing out snacks that are drying by nature – chips, popcorn, pretzels. Try to opt for things that have a little moisture in them if you are going to snack (like fruit).
- As I mentioned above, traveling can be stressful (whether you consciously feel it or not). Flying not only can dehydrate you, but it can also irritate your nervous system. In Ayurveda one of the “types” (Doshas), or qualities, they talk about is “Vata.” Vata means air/wind and is characterized by dryness and anxiety (among many other things). I fall mostly into this category. And since “like increases like,” airplane travel can intensify my preexisting imbalances. Once I have my water I also add a few drops of flower essences (like Bach Rescue Remedy) to keep myself relaxed (I use the kids formula, because it is alcohol-free which is gentler on the system…and I can share it with my son if I need to).
- For more calming and grounding I also take a body oil (it can really be any oil…even straight coconut or olive) and put it on my “Wind Gates” – bottoms of my feet, base of the back of my neck (that little indentation), and down the center line of my breastbone. This helps to keep the dryness and “wind” from building out of control, which keeps stress and anxiety at bay. Part of the problem with air travel is that you lose your sense of groundedness, so you have to do things that will be soothing…like deep breathing and meditating, too.
- Once I get where I am going I make sure I clear out and hydrate my passages. This helps with both germs and toxins you may have been exposed to along the way. The most important thing is moving them through so they don’t sit in your nose/throat/etc. and take root or irritate. I use my saline spray to irrigate and rehydrate my nose, and I add more eye drops (I use them before the flight, too) to refresh my eyes. As a preventative, or at the slightest sign of a catch/sore spot in my throat, I use an Olive Leaf Spray, which is not only soothing but is also a great germ-killer! Gargling with hot water/drinking tea helps as well. It is all about avoiding stagnation, which is more common during travel.
- I never leave home without my Activated Charcoal! It helps with toxin exposure, as well as anything I might eat that doesn’t agree with me (must be taken 2-3 hours away from other medication/supplements). Even though I typically bring/prepare most of my own food wherever I go, sometimes I have to eat something from a restaurant. I can usually get some veggies and a protein that have been cooked simply enough, but they typically are not organic or have been prepared in a way (or are from a source) that is not as pure as I am used to. Of course you always want to be prepared in case of food poisoning as well! Charcoal helps with all of these issues and can be useful in aiding detoxification from airplane/airport radiation, too. I also always have my Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) on hand in case of stomach upset and continue to take my extremely crucial probiotics!
- I employ all of my self-healing tools! Knowing a few crucial acupressure points and yoga poses is super helpful. Both techniques have pulled me out of symptoms pretty quickly so I could move on and enjoy myself. For example, there are ear points that help with pain/pressure from flying (great for children, too). Both acupressure and yoga poses really help with digestion, and of course yoga can relieve soreness, stiffness, and overall stagnation.
It is so empowering and reassuring to have a plan and a toolkit to keep yourself well away from home…and to know what to do when a health situation arises on the road. You can be your own “Health MacGyver,” and that ensures many more adventures ahead!