Travel can be extremely taxing on your whole self: physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. The constant planning and movement from one place to another exhausts your energy and drains your brain.
Your brain likes to use as least energy as possible and so craves efficiency, structure and daily habits – the very opposite to what travel can give you.
Travel gives you endless surprises and constant adaptability. For most, this is what the adventurous and curious side of us seeks and why travel can be so addictive.
This freewheeling lifestyle does have negative consequences and I never noticed it being a problem until this road trip around Australia.
Perhaps it’s because I’m older now and more interested in things like taking care of my body, embracing my spiritual journey, and contributing in a significant way.
Or perhaps, it’s because I now travel with two extra challenges: running a business and travelling with kids. I’d love to hear your thoughts on if you think that makes a difference in the comments below.
Travel interrupts habit forming
I’ve clearly noticed the strain of my brain grasping to cope with the chaos. I feel as if every day a whirlwind comes in, picks me up and spins me around. I desperately reach out to cling tight to a tree branch to keep me grounded.
We arrive at a camp ground with a gravel site and the daily yoga practice I’ve been consistently achieving for a week slips away.
A tour starts at sunrise and my morning meditation disappears.
We’re stuck out in the middle of the Aussie bush, with no way to replenish supplies, and I can’t have my morning tonic tea or my green smoothie.
A tour finishes late or the girls can’t get to sleep due to their little brains adapting to a new environment, and I can’t start my work until 10pm (if the internet is working), at a point when my brain is completely frazzled from spending the entire day trying to understand how it fits into this new world yet again.
Nothing is the same when you travel and this is taxing on our entire body. People looking at the highlights reel of your life don’t understand that long-term travel is, in fact, chellenging.
Travel is work that can drive you a little insane – you can’t grow any roots and so often feel unsure of who you are.
Maintaining a daily habit is essential for having a little bit of sanity in a very abnormal world. We need to give our brain a fulcrum to feel connected and assured so it can actually get some leverage to work effortlessly.
This really struck home for me listening to an interview on our long drive the other day with Ramit Sethi and Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business.
He explained how mentally exhausting it is when our brain always has to make decisions. This is why it’s vital for us to form habits, so our brain can go on autopilot during various parts of the day.
No wonder travel is exhausting, each day your thrown into endless new decision making experiences, often times without a fulcrum to help you grab meaning or to make sense.
How to form a habit
The brain craves habit as it involves less energy.
Forming habits takes time and the best way to do it is to have consistent cues and rewards around a behaviour. Usually, we try to do it the other way around.
So your cues should be the same time of day, place, the presence of people or routine.
Before you practice the behaviour, envision the reward, plan for it and enjoy it without guilt. Your brain will start to develop the fulcrum it needs to create the habit. And you will feel a little less insane and exhausted.
So if you want to develop the habit of daily exercise, a cue would be to lay out your exercise clothes each evening beside your bed, so as soon as you wake up you’re cued to go running. A reward could be a piece of chocolate, which sounds counter-intuitive, but it will trick your brain into forming a habit around the behaviour. The desire for the chocolate will soon leave, but the habit will stay!
You can see how a travel lifestyle can really interfere with your ability to create these cues.
Before you set on your adventures, try to formulate a simple daily habits plan and ritual. Don’t try to form too many habits as it will be too challenging and you don’t want to beat yourself up. Pick the three or four that will bring you the most sanity and physical nourishment.
It might be a morning jog, evening journal reflection, or a sunrise photography session each day to satisfy your creative thirst, improve your skills and capture the memories.
Here’s a little insight into the daily habits I try to make regular. I succeed possibly 90% of the time. The other 10% I try to let go of the guilts and disappointments otherwise I just beat myself up too much.
The whirlwind does it enough for me.
The daily habit essentials – morning routine
If I can’t grasp these tree branches each day, it shakes my brain and spirit to the core and I feel very unstable.
I do the following first thing in the morning, which makes the habit easier to form as each one acts almost as a cue for the next behaviour.
Starting my day with meditation gives me that balance and grounding. I like to meditate for an hour, but 20 minutes works if time is tight.
I’ll often slip into Zen mode when travelling or I get a few spare minutes throughout the day to help me breathe and connect.
Here are some resources that help me maintain my daily meditation habit.
Guided Chakra Cleanse
This is a 30 minute guided meditation CD, which guides you through cleaning your chakras, which are the seven energy points in your body and control the flow of your life.
School of the Modern Mystic
This course created by Belinda Davidson teaches you about the body’s chakra system and how you can clean them every day yourself. I did the course last year and have learned some fantastic meditation and healing techniques. I no longer need the Guided Chakra Cleanse CD above. I’m excited to be diving deeper into more courses with Belinda this year.
Life has been super intense for the past few months and I’ve just not been able to get up to do my morning meditation myself. I’m just too exhausted. So enter a cheating method, called Holosync, which has helped me do my hour meditation daily for the past three weeks.
Even though I cheat by popping the audio in my ears at 4:30am and then slip back to sleep for the next hour, I can definitely feel the effects of it. It allows you to meditate like a Zen monk without doing the years of deep meditation work to get to that skill level.
Holosync is very good at helping your brain cope with chaos. I think it’s part of the reason I didn’t fall apart when my computer broke lately and I’ve just been fluffing about for the past few weeks.
Now that we’ve stopped traveling and when I recover physically, I’ll be back into doing my chakra cleanse daily meditation.
(Update: Good news is I’ve been cleansing, so am back getting up early of a morning with vibrancy to meditate. I now do Holosync as I’m falling to sleep.)
This has become such a habit that I feel the taste of this tea sliding down my throat the minute I finish my meditation. I’m not happy if I don’t have my morning tonic. It’s a greater kick start to the day then the coffee can ever give.
- Hot water
- ½ lemon juice
- 1 inch ginger
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- A small bunch of parsley
Journalling or reflection
I like to start my morning with some spiritual or self-growth work. I try to do this while I’m having my morning tonic and sitting outside with the chirping birds and early morning breeze. I’ll either journal, read a spiritual book or do some inner cleansing and introspection tasks set out by others.
Here are a few that I’ve been reading and working with lately:
- A Year of Miracles – Marianne Williamson
- 21 day consciousness cleanse by Debbie Ford
- The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer
- The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte
- My 30 day money cleanse (My crazy life is another reason this has not been released yet. So sorry and thanks for your patience.)
This is pretty easy for me to do with our daily explorations. I was trying to do daily yoga, but it just didn’t work. I was also attempting running and other forms of exercise. I find this the hardest habit to form and this lifestyle just gives me too many excuses.
I now have a membership to Grokker, an online health, fitness and wellness site.
The have expert-led instructional videos, but in four wellness areas: yoga, meditation, fitness & exercise and cooking. I’m not just interested in doing yoga, so the other exercise videos are useful to me. PLUS I’m always on the hunt for healthy recipes and there are plenty of them within the membership site with instructional videos as well.
I love how Grokker has challenges you can sign up for. I have signed up for the intermediate yoga challenge. I select the videos I’d like to do and they slot it into a schedule for me, which is quite motivating for me to show up.
It’s really cheap as well – $14.99 a month, or you can sign up for a yearly membership at just $9.99 a month. Check out more here.
Bedtime habit ritual
A herbal tea helps me gently unwind and is the perfect cue for me that it’s time to shut off and sleep. If I don’t have this, I can be quite restless when dropping off to sleep. My latest flavour is peach with a squeeze of orange.
Do you have one you can recommend?
Read a book
I tend to read a book just before I go to sleep. I usually only get about 15 minutes before the eyes droop, but I think that helps me to unwind and let go of the day. Plus, I end up reading a ton of books just by dedicating 15 minutes a night.
Again, due the transient nature of our life, I have often left my gratitude journal in a different place. Either a bag taken to the apartment we were staying in for a break or it has been thrown in a drawer somewhere. Again, putting to the importance of having a cue to help form a habit.
I like to write three things I am grateful for before I go to sleep. If I can’t find my gratitude journal I tend to run it through my mind, but I feel writing it out is more powerful.
(iPhone lovers, I just found this great five minute journal gratitude app. Wish it was on Android!)
I cheat again of an evening. I have a different meditation set from Holosync that I fall asleep to. It’s one that has subliminal messages for youthful aging and coping with change. It also goes for an hour. I’m considering purchasing their sleep Suite series which helps you have a deep sleep and then wake up energized. I LOVE cheating!!
These somewhat daily habits are the only things that make me feel sane in my daily whirlwind of a life.
I’m so excited to be finally having a base on the Gold Coast (and a fulcrum) to rest my brain and make some solid progress in many areas of my life that travel couldn’t quite cater to!