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The Best Travel Wellness Tips
Need the best travel wellness tips? I don’t blame you. Travel wellness is hot right now. In a lot of ways, I feel ahead of the curve, talking are caring for yourself and your mental health way back in 2015, haha.
High five for me, I guess?
Anyway, wellness is popular right now for a reason, because, let’s be completely honest with ourselves here. We’re not always the best at making our own needs and mental health a priority in life. With jobs and bills and obligations, sometimes it’s challenging to regain focus on what truly matters in our lives. As a result, our mental health takes a collective hit.
And to make matters worse, we’re even intensely not prioritizing ourselves on our travels! Ever heard of travel burnout? It’s a real thing.
Travel Wellness is SO Important!
As I’ve said, I know “wellness” is a trendy term in the travel and lifestyle spaces. And, uh, some wellness advice demands for us to splurge and use our credit cards ad nauseam. Truthfully, I don’t think that’s fair at all. Wellness shouldn’t belong to rich people only, but I’ll save the rant for another day.
Instead I’ve contacted a ton of travel bloggers to put together a realistic wellness list for you to remember on your upcoming adventures.
And honestly, these travel wellness tips don’t require you to break the bank.
Let’s do it!
Read More: Places that Have Positively Healed Me
1. Don’t Forget Your Favorite Hobbies
I’m a social introvert, which means I need time at the end of the day to recharge and get back to exploring with the same cheerful and go-with-the-flow personality that gets me through the stress of travel. For a while, I rested by binge-watching Netflix in the evenings. Turning off my brain was nice for a while, but I soon realized it made me feel lonely and indifferent instead of eager to explore. Netflix was an unproductive way to spend my time in a new and exciting city anyway.
Maintaining my hobbies abroad is the best way for me to get back to feeling like me after a long day of socializing and exploring. I love learning languages, reading, horseback riding, scuba diving, and hiking. Thankfully, these hobbies are easy to include in my travels. For at least one hour daily, I turn off my phone and focus on developing my passions.
Hiking, horseback riding, and scuba diving are great ways to get me into nature. Exercise is a fantastic way to make you feel happier because exercise increases endorphins (the stress-fighting chemicals in your brain). Plus, in my opinion, there’s no place better than nature to think through cultural differences I’ve struggled with or other issues I faced on the road.
If you have the time and money, a language course at your destination is a fantastic way to meet locals, get involved in the culture, and meet travelers who share similar interests to you. Personally, I mostly engage in online language learning through platforms like Rosetta Stone, Mango, and Duolingo because they work best for me and how I work through the stress of travel. I still have yet to decide which program is most effective, but they all have helped me learn the local language. Communicating with locals in their language often helps avoid cultural misunderstandings and other complications on the road. Language-learning is a useful way to reduce stress while traveling!
Similarly, reading helps me, too. Not only is reading a great hobby for relaxing, it’s easier than ever with e-readers, such as a Kindle. I borrow digital books from my public library and bring them all around the world with me without all my books taking up valuable suitcase weight. I try to read books about destinations I’m about to visit so I can better understand the important figures in that country’s history and cultural differences I may encounter. I’ve always found that if I understand the local population, I can better navigate it and feel less stress on the road
My hobbies help me navigate stress on the road, but if none of them fit your interests, there are hundreds of options. The important thing is to continue doing abroad what makes you happy and relaxed at home.
2. Call Family & Friends
When I travel, particularly when I travel for more than one or two weeks, I tend to get really homesick. It’s always been difficult for me to handle the juxtaposition between my love of traveling and my homesickness. The two things just don’t seem to go together!
Inevitably, I find myself scanning the travel websites for flight deals and trying to justify the expense of an early flight home. None of this has ever made any sense to me but it seems to happen on every trip I’ve ever taken.
In trying to reconcile my love of travel with the feelings of homesickness, I’ve researched and tried many different things to take care of myself when I’m traveling. One of the commonly suggested remedies was calling home regularly to speak with family and friends.
At first, I balked at the idea of spending what seemed like a lot of money to make international calls home (this back in the 90s when using land lines to make long distance calls was still the norm!). But, I was willing to try anything to feel better and talking with my family and friends actually did help a bit.
With the vast improvement in telecommunication technology in the last 10-15 years, I’ve taken advantage of using Face to Face communication while away, primarily Facetime on iOS, but I’ve also used WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. This has made a huge difference in my feelings of homesickness!
It’s a completely different experience to see a loved one’s face when you’re away from home than to just hear their voice. This is particularly true when that family member is young and isn’t so good at speaking on the phone! I’ve Facetimed my grandchildren from all over the world and it’s almost like being in the room with them. It really lessens ‘the stress of travel and the ache of homesickness.
With Facetime and other face to face communication costing little or nothing, I now take the time every day or so to talk with and see my family and friends when I’m away from home. It can be tricky with time zone differences, but I make the time for it as much as possible knowing how much it helps with my feelings of homesickness.
3. Turn on Netflix
If anyone has told you that traveling is all fun and games, they are lying. Traveling can oftentimes be very stressful and demanding on the body. And it is easy to forget that even though you are abroad in this amazing new country, it is okay to not always be on-the-go.
This is especially true for long-term travel. Sometimes, long-term travelers forget what it is like to take care of themselves and just focused on the outside, always thinking of the next coolest spots to see. It’s important, especially for an introverted traveler, to take time for yourself.
Traveling doesn’t mean you have to be constantly on the move, switching from hostels to hostels, meeting travelers to travelers. It is about traveling at the pace you want, whether that means staying in a city longer than usual or spending a day doing absolutely nothing. I find it counterproductive to be always on the move, unable to take the time to appreciate what is really around you.
One of the favorite travel wellness and self-care tips to keep my travel spirit alive is to actually take a day off completely and binge-watch Netflix. A whole season of Stranger Things just came out? No problem. Pair a good Netflix series with a good glass (or bottle) of wine and you will feel much better in no time. Take it to the next level and order some UberEats as well. Why not? This is your day to relax and not do anything. Traveling doesn’t mean sacrificing your guilty pleasure. If you like to watch Netflix at home, then watch it while you are traveling. If you like to eat a tub of cream while doing it, go ahead! Traveling is stressful and everyone should take a day just for themselves and binge Netflix.
4. Random Acts of Kindness
I often have to work while traveling, which means a lot of time spent isolated in front of my computer. This takes a big toll on my wellness.
I realized that I can get so caught up in MY work, MY plans, My goals, MY schedule, and MY trip…that I forget to notice the lives of the people around me.
One day while walking around the streets in Colombia, I felt like I was in a rut. I turned a corner and almost tripped over a homeless guy sleeping in the street. I’d sort of become desensitized to seeing homeless people all over the place, but this close encounter made me stop and think.
For some reason, I felt compelled to do something nice (even if it was something small), so I bought a bag of fresh bread from a nearby bakery, set it next to his head, and hoped it would be a nice surprise for him when he woke up.
I couldn’t believe how good I felt afterwards.
In just 5 minutes, I completely busted out of my rut. I no longer felt worried or stressed. I was rejuvenated.
From then on, I’ve tried to purposely incorporate random acts of kindness into my everyday life on the road.
It doesn’t need to be anything earth-shattering—carrying someone’s groceries, giving directions to someone who looks lost, sharing an umbrella, helping a fellow traveler set up their tent…sometimes simply offering a genuine compliment to a stranger is all it takes.
The weird thing is, this seems to work best (at least for me) if it’s with a complete stranger. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do nice things for your friends and loved ones, but if you really want that “rejuvenating effect”, I recommend helping someone you don’t know.
So, the next time you get in a rut while traveling, try a random act of kindness. It’s an easy way to eliminate stress and reconnect with the world.
5. Make Time for Travel Journaling
Before sitting down to write this post, I looked in the cupboard under the stairs for my travel diaries. I found one from 1990 when I was traveling in Thailand and was suffering from Salmonella. I was 22 then and re-reading my journal I am struck by (a) how little my writing style has changed! And (b) how homesick I was and what a big presence in my life my dad was. I also realised that I have written pretty much every day of my life since I was 10. It has been my way of emptying my head of swirling thoughts, especially the negative kind. I have written as a way of dealing with jetlag, culture shock, sickness, homesickness and loneliness.
Looking back through the pages of these early travel diaries I wish I could tell my younger self that it was all going to be OK. That traveling and writing would become such a pleasure and passion for me that I would become an anthropologist and later a travel writer. I was at times so sick and so poor, but I was also so much in love and so free and so young!
As an anthropologist we teach students how to go to strange places where they don’t speak much of the language and how to spend long periods there alone. I teach them to create schedules, local maps, and most of all, to write field notes. Anthropologists write their field notes each night before going to bed. It’s a non-negotiable rule (no matter how much you’ve had to drink!).
Writing field notes and writing travel diaries and journaling throughout all of life’s catastrophes and griefs has helped to reinforce my sense of who I am, what I believe in, what is important to me, and what I find beautiful, empowering and inspiring. I see in those early travel diaries a young woman, naive and perhaps a little gullible, but courageous and curious and setting out on a life of travel and adventure.
So just write whenever the world overwhelms you and wherever you are this evening – pour your heart out into your journals. You’ll feel better afterwards, as if a rain shower has passed, and then you’ll be able to appreciate the rainbow!
6. Don’t Forget Longterm Health
As a digital nomad, being constantly on the go can be both exciting and knackering! The point is that you can only push yourself so much until it starts to take it’s toll on your body. For me, it was my teeth – several cavities after a series of international trips that spanned across a few years with trips back in between. During my trips back in-between I was checking in with friends and family to keep up with mental health but forgetting about physical. I realised I hadn’t been to the dentist for about 3 years!!!! Oooops!
As well as needing my cavities fixed and braces at the age of 35, other aspects of my physical health were suffering. My asthma got quite bad in the large Asian cities such as Manila and Bangkok and my endometriosis was gradually getting worse but I was trying to put up with the pain. I had to progress up to 2 inhalers and have excision surgery when I finally settled back in the Uk. One of my regrets is not keeping on top of health issues during my time abroad.
I now recommend that you make sure that you keep on top of your 6 monthly dental check ups and asthma check ups if needed. Also, even if you are travelling long term check in with a doctor on the road every 3-6 months for a routine check. I have been impressed by medical centres and dentists in Europe and Asia. People from the UK have now started to engage in ‘dental tourism’ travelling to Poland and Hungary to get their teeth done because it’s so much cheaper! Most digital nomad cities have good doctors and hospitals with English speaking staff. If you don’t feel comfortable getting dental and medical treatment abroad, fly home, get yourself an MOT and fly back out! Trust me, it’s worth it.
7. Take Breaks & Cook at Home
Traveling is awesome, but at times it can be taxing and stressful on the body. You are away from home which usually means your typical routine is interrupted and the things you do to keep yourself healthy might look different. One way that we try and stay well while traveling is to cook at home as much as possible.
We generally enjoy and practice “slow travel” which means we rent an Airbnb with a kitchen for a month or two at a time. This gives us the opportunity to get to know a place better than if we had just stayed there for a couple of days.
We also lean towards this style of travel as it makes it much easier to continue with our daily wellness habits- such as cooking well balanced healthy meals. We find that we enjoy our travels so much more when we are eating well, and having a kitchen is a must to make this happen.
Our favorite part about cooking “at home” while traveling is that we go to the local market to get fresh produce and supplies to cook! That way we get to learn about what produce is local to that country and try new things that we haven’t tried before. We also absolutely love taking a cooking class when we first arrive in a new country. Cooking classes usually include a trip to the local market to pick up the supplies for cooking, so we get to learn where the best local market is and see it from a locals perspective. We also get to learn how to make recipes unique to that country, and we can cook them at home for the rest of the time we are staying there!
8. Minimalist Packing
Most people often make the same mistake when traveling for the first time: taking too many things with them. Nowadays maybe not so much, because there are multiple online resources with luggage lists for all tastes; but when I started traveling – almost 20 years ago – this was not common. Thus, carrying a lot of weight, anything simple was instantly greatly complicated.
Things like going from the train station of a medium-sized European city to the chosen accommodation (we could be talking about walking 1 or 2 km maximum), were a real pain.
The worst, no doubt, was to get home after the trip and realizing that I hadn’t even used half of the things I had put in my backpack.
To all this, we must add that I suffer from scoliosis and my back was everything but happy with the heavy load.
It was then, a long time ago, when I decided that light travel was the only option for me and I began to use smaller travel bags every time. My journey to minimalism had started.
Today, I travel with a small cabin backpack – even for several weeks trips – and I couldn’t be happier with this decision.
To the benefits of not having to check-in luggage, not carrying weight, and going faster through airports and stations; there is the addition of not having to worry about losing your luggage, of needing someone watching over your stuff while you go to the bathroom, or being able to simply walk around a city where you have a stopover of several hours without leaving your luggage in storage.
Try it, you will not regret it.
9. Protect Yourself from Mosquitos
Every now and then we go on vacations, to some distant places right in the middle of jungle or beside a lake or maybe an exotic place in some underdeveloped countries. These places tend to act as an magnet for diseases and mishaps happen. Although enjoying vacation is very important, still protecting yourself should given priority too.
Mosquito bites can be more than just annoying and itchy, they cause many diseases like malaria, dengue, west nile virus, yellow fever, chikungunya etc. If treatment is too late, these can also be life threatening.
Some of the best tips to follow while travelling are:
- Wear mosquito repellent in your clothes. This is the best way to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Your safest bet is to sleep with windows shut and air conditioning on.
- Always hang mosquito nets, if available.
- Wear protective clothing, like long sleeves, pants and socks.
- Mosquito tend to grow in regions with stagnant water, avoid such places.
- Mosquitoes are attracted sweat, so it’s best to take a shower and freshen up always.
- Pack fly spray, mosquito coils, candles with insecticide.
- Consult your doctor and take proper vaccinations.
- If travelling with kids, drape mosquito nets over prams, strollers and infant carriers.
10. Reduce Stress & Back Up Photos
Travelling full time and being a full time blogger and content creator means I have a lot of photos at the end of each day. I have had discussions with other people about how they cope with the amount of content they create. I recently travelled with someone who has all their photos on different SD cards and has no idea which one holds which photos from which trip. I also used to be guilty of not backing up photos and having the stress of searching for photos and full SD cards. I had an interview recently with a newspaper and the journalist told me that the last blogger they interviewed had just finished a month long trip and had only then started to back up all their millions of files. They said they spend ages organising files after a trip!
The way I reduce stress and everything piling up at the end of a trip is to do everything on the go! I have a hard drive where I back up all of my photos at the end of each day. Within the hard drive I have all the dates and separate destinations. Within this I have the specific dates. This way, when I write a blog with an itinerary, I know exactly what I did on each day without having to remember. Also, if someone asks me to use a photo, I can easily access the photo and share it. I also use bus and car journeys to begin editing photos throughout the day. I like to share photos on my Instagram stories, and this way I can download them onto my phone quickly and have them edited on my Lightroom app on my phone. Usually I have all my stories and photos edited by the end of the day, and then a back up and I can relax for the rest of the evening!
Some people might ask what is the point. You never know when someone might ask to buy your photo! If you travel full time, the content you are creating might be useful to someone else. My boyfriend who I travel with full time and he sells his photos regularly. Therefore it is important to have the high quality files on a hard drive, as the photos you download onto your phone already lose quality in the process. It is always best to have them on an external hard drive so they are safe and high quality. Overall though, it means you don’t have a huge pile up and have to spend hours at the end of your trip!
11. Build in Relaxation Time
I am often guilty of trying to cram too much into a short time. Especially as I travel during my annual leave, I want to make the most of every second of my trip building busy itineraries to make sure I see as much as possible in a short time. This usually means that I go home feeling exhausted.
To avoid this travel fatigue which can end up leading to the travel blues, I am making a concerted effort to factor in more ‘me time’ into my travels. My plan going forward is to allow 2 free days for every trip that I plan, one after arriving in a country to sleep and get over the jet lag and another on my final day to relax and ensure I go home feeling rested.
On my first day in the country, I plan to NOT plan! Instead, I will spend the day relaxing with a book in a coffee shop, catching some rays on a beach or snoozing under a tree in a park somewhere! If I do have any unexpected energy, then I may consider doing a walking tour to familiarise myself with the city ready for the next action-packed day of exploring.
My last day will be spent on a beach or somewhere relaxing, enjoying the scenery and eating my favourite foods before I get on my flight.
By booking 2 extra days, it also allows for adjustments in the itinerary just in case you come across something you absolutely must see but hadn’t factored time for! It also meets you will return feeling like you have actually rested on your holiday!
12. Experience Nature
All too often when we travel we gravitate towards urban centers, and it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of world-class museums, attractions, restaurants and nightlife. Then you come home from vacation needing a vacation. The solution? Give yourself a nature break. Connecting with nature elevates our sense of wellbeing and helps us to feel part of a wider world – it can slow us down, re-energize and relax our minds. What’s not to like?
One way to put more nature into your trip is to mix up your city stays with trips to smaller towns where the natural landscape is closer at hand. Best of all are spa towns such as Baden-Baden in Germany or Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, as traditionally, gentle exercise such as walking and hiking were part of the spa cure in these historic spa destinations and you’ll find superb walks in the woods around town, often with historical backgrounds, the occasional monument or even a pub.
If you are staying in a larger city, consider a day trip to a nature reserve, national park or popular hiking destination. Even a couple of hours away from traffic and noise will help you renew. If you don’t have time for that, seek out a large urban park. There are plenty of other activities that will get you out into nature: try kayaking, canoeing, swimming in a lake or in the ocean – and there is nothing like a beach stroll at sunset. When it comes to adding nature into your travels, slow travel is best. Stay mindful. Stop thinking about all the things you’re going to do, and think about what you are doing, so that you can let go, soak up the atmosphere and get the ‘calm’ back into your life.
13. Try Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation technique that brings people into a totally relaxed state of body and mind. It is something that people of all ages can do, and takes only 10 minutes of your time to reach the state of “yogic sleep.” The app that I use is Yoga Nidra – Deep Relaxation Practice by Elizabeth Papadakis, available on the App Store.
Yoga Nidra is not similar to yoga where you are moving your body, stretching limbs and working your muscles. There is no body movement involved, and you should try to lie completely still. It is similar to yoga in that you are concentrating on your breathing, as guided by the app’s verbal instructions. There is also a guided “body rotation”, where while you are in your lying down relaxed state, you focus your mind on, and feel, the different parts of your body as they are mentioned by the instructor. Starting with one thumb and rotating around the entire body to the other side, it is a powerful trance-like experience that brings you in touch with your inner self.
I love to practice Yoga Nirda using this app wherever I am traveling to. Popping in some headphones and doing a 10-, 20- or even 30-minute session of Yoga Nidra will take me to a mentally relaxed state, no matter what my surroundings are, and no matter what kind of stresses I had endured from a day of traveling. Even when I am already feeling relaxed, like on a hostel rooftop alone, or at the beach, or at a park, it’s a great way to re-set your mind and body. While physical self-care is important, often times mentally it is difficult to shake off the stress and anxiety of travel. I think Yoga Nidra for me has long-lasting effects of self-confidence, mental sharpness, and being in tune with myself.
14. Indulge in Local Retreats
Traveling long term is fun and exciting, however it can definitely take a toll on your physical and mental health over the months. In fact, even a quick trip can be stressful! One of my absolute favorite ways to practice self care on the road is by attending local yoga classes. This can either mean a single class at a new studio or a multi-day yoga retreat. A multi-day retreat can be an awesome way to hit the pause and reset buttons, practicing slow travel for a bit.
Yoga is an amazing practice that has been known to heal the body and de-stress the mind, my kind of self-care for sure! Yoga is a combination of physical, spiritual, and mental sequences that are practiced on the mat. Many times those traveling long term spend endless days walking and hiking to new sights, often carrying a heavy bag or luggage. Taking the time to stretch out those muscles is a great way to relax physically, as well as mentally.
Taking a class at a studio abroad is also an amazing way to immerse yourself in a local community, and perhaps get to know the culture a bit better. Some of my favorite international yoga experiences a private session on a local farm in Southern India, a small, hip studio in Malaysia, and a beachfront session in Mexico.
For those of you looking to practice yoga internationally, I recommend visiting countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Mexico, where studios are abundant.
What are your best travel wellness tips? Share all your thoughts in the comments. And BIG THANK to all the bloggers who contributed their suggestions to this post. You all are amazing.