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 good habits – the very opposite of what your travels 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 good habits
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
You can find guided chakra meditation cleanse which is ag reat way to start your day. Your chakras, which are the seven energy points in your body and control the flow of your life.
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.
So I counteract that by taking hikes or exploring on bikes and then fit in other exercises when I can.
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.
The book I’m reading currently is
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.
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!
What are some of the habits you try to keep when travelling to help you feel a little grounded and sane?
29 thoughts on “Creating Productive and Healthy Habits While You Travel”
This is a probably the best post I’ve read in a while. It made me feel inspired, it calmed down my anxiety (which came upon me for no reason really) and it sort of filled me with energy. The way you express your thoughts is very powerful!
Oh wow! Thank you. I’m so glad it resonated with you and you found it so useful. I’m just so excited to hear that. Thank you
I think this goes overlooked far too often. Journalling, meditation and being grateful and present are amazing ways not just to relax, but to connect to where you are at that moment. These are all incredibly great ways to cleanse the spirit and rejuvenate no matter how hard travel gets, airline problems, train issues, getting from one place to another only to find out it’s closed without notice, no need for stress in a gorgeous place. This is massively helpful and relevant.
Thank you so much Luke. I was wondering whether to publish as I wasn’t sure if people would find it useful. I find my habits so simple, that I was concerned I was writing about basic stuff that everyone knew anyway or probably wouldn’t get too excited about. Simple though can bring the best rewards.
I think this is the reason I don’t get crazy during my long holidays hehehe. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel and have fun but sometimes even all that “excess” of excitement can take a toll in my sanity. I try to wake up early, at the same time every time, the chilling time and taking a shower before going to bed helps me a lot. It sort of cleans my mind of all the experiences.
I try to journal every day when I’m traveling, but that’s the only habit I can seem to stick to :/ Meditating sounds great though, I’ll have to try to get my zen on this summer during my travels! 🙂
Thank you for sharing how you work to stick to your habits while traveling. I’m pretty bad at it, whether it is not getting in that run I swore I was going to do or putting some time aside to work on the blog. The post definitely made me think more about what I let myself get away with while traveling. Hope I’ll do better next time.
I’d focus on changing it to getting daily movement rather than locking yourself into a run. It can be so hard to do, but usually moving every day while you are travelling whether it’s just walking or exploring on a bike is quite easy so you feel more like you are being true to yourself and getting your exercise. Got to try and trick the brain as much as you can!
One more amazing article on this blog. Thanks for sharing.
we’ve been on the road for just over a year, and whilst I love that I never really know what is going to happen that day, what adventures we will have, that I am missing certain elements of my life. Like my gym routine, nutritious home-cooked meals and definitely a previous green smoothie obsession! Thanks so much for this article, I may try and put into practice a few of your suggestions.
Yes! We travelled with a high speed blender so I could maintain my green smoothie devotion!
Very nice article and lots of great tips for travellers who eventually find travelling “too stressful”. I agree, finding a time for yourself and sticking to it is the best thing. Yoga, time to read book, walk on the beach or even just having a coffee and time to chill can make a difference. I like your morning cleanse recipe, might try it:)
I needed this advice. My job constantly has me kept on the move and I sleep where I work so it can become a bit tedious and never ending. I’ve been trying to figure out how to convince my brain that I have left work at the end of my shift when i am only sleeping a few feet from my office. I think teaching my brain cues through, meditation, tea, and Journaling is exactly what I was grasping for in a routine outside of my daily work schedule. I shall put it to practice and see.
All the best with it Megan. I think it will help you immensely. It’s amazing how much the simple things can do
So true. Traveling for almost a year now my body (and brain) sorely misses the habits of home life. Wish I had seen this post before I left! Great ideas on how to maintain some routine while on the road.
My daily 10 minute meditation and prayer is so important every morning for me, keeps me calm. I also have a tea in the morning but just hot water, lemon and raw honey. Afterwards though, I must have my espresso & a small breakfast. Then, It’s the Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis Workout. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep it up during our full-time travels! Great post Caz.
Oh my God Brenda!! I did Tracy Anderson about two years ago. It was intense, but worked so well. I shred the pounds. I remember the very first time I did it, I had her recommended beetroot juice and then jumped into her dance routine and threw up everywhere!!! I couldn’t manage keeping up with it becuase it was an hour workout every day, but she’s awesome.
Caz. Isn’t the universe amazing. This post came to me at just the right time. Just this morning I fell into a pile of soggy tears because I’m in remote New Mexico on the road trip of our lifetime and all I can think about is the fact that we have no internet connection and how am I supposed to build my freedom business, and maybe this is all a big mistake and we should just pack up and head back to our Brisbane suburb, and so it goes on. Funnily enough I have been lax on keeping up my journaling and exercise since moving to this new location. Thank you for the reminder and being so timely. Breathe and enjoy those stunning waves and rainforest runs. The girls will be fine x
This is the article that I need. It’s been very difficult for me to form a habit that will make me do more things. I can’t really explain further because it is something personal and sensitive for me. I want to express how thankful I am that I am able to read this blog. Thanks for the tips, really stunned me on what I am doing wrong in my everyday life.
My pleasure. I’m so happy it could help!
So true! I find daily habits to be helpful for my physical and mental health when I’m not traveling, and it is even more important to keep me grounded when I travel. I try to get in a work out every morning when I start my day. When possible I also like to enjoy a good coffee while I read, write, or organize photos before I head out. And then in the evening, I like to write in my journal (even if its just a couple of minutes).
This is a great travel tip. I was in Israel recently and could have used some more consistency in my day to day. I will definitely try some of these ideas on my next trip! Thanks for sharing.
I totally understand where you are coming from. For me, I don’t do much traveling, but when I do, I treat the whole trip as a project, I just focus on getting from point A to point B and are happy if things go according to plan, I have very little brakes in between the locomotion, maybe ten minutes, and then I just try to put a timer on it and clear my head, take in the experience, really have my own thoughts. I feel that when you do land, wherever you are about to spend the night, little routines like you enumerated are very important. For me a good shower and bath, a hot drink, some TV usually do the trick. I think that getting settled or at least trying to settle in when you get to a destination really helps, especially when you are changing time zones. Living on a different time zone is quite tricky, and what usually happens is you feel tired for days. It is tricky but with little habits here and there it can be done .
Really powerful writing. Really made me think about my day to day activities. I’ve been trying to live healthier and listen to my body more and I often find then when I’m traveling I’m constantly going going going until I need a full 24 hours to veg out and re-energize. I really think that building little habits would be so useful to prevent these full ‘down’ days. Thank you for the great ideas!
I think listening to your body is so important. It takes a while to get used to doing this as it’s not something we’ve been really taught to do, but it will tell you all you need.
Caz! It’s always a pleasure to read from your desk and your wife’s. This is a widely debated and opposed topic regarding travel but your words are very enlightening. It seems like a fresh mind with healthy thoughts and some lemon mix in the morning is all you need to start the day in a routine.!! And it does sound easy!!