My work requires a lot of travel to meet with and present to clients. As the recent news stories about high altitude disputes over reclining seats on airplanes suggest, business travel can be stressful. That stress can eat you alive if you let it. Over the years, I’ve adopted some routines that have helped me stay healthy and sane when I travel for business. I thought I’d start to share some of them with you today. Let’s call them travel tips for the mindful road warrior.
As I discuss in my forthcoming book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, I think being intentional about your routines in four big domains—physical, mental, relational and spiritual—can help you show up at your best most often than not. What I try to do when I travel is keep up my routines as much as possible. It requires some preparation and flexibility to do that but I’ve found the payoff to be worth it.
Today, I’m sharing what I’ve learned about the physical routines that work for me when I travel. In the weeks to come, I’ll share the mental, relational and spiritual routines that help me stay more mindful on the road. Of course, I don’t think I have a monopoly on good ideas. Please share any tips you have to share for the mindful road warrior in the comments section at the end of the post.
The big three physical routines for me (or just about anyone) are movement, sleeping and eating.
My preferred form of structured movement is yoga. I travel with a towel called a YogiToes that is the size of a yoga mat. I’ll spread that out on the floor of my hotel room most every day on the road and will do anywhere from a 15- to 60-minute class from one of the instructors on MyYogaWorks.com. I’ve also been known to do a few nonobtrusive, low-key stretches in the aisle of an airplane while waiting for the restroom.
Sleep can be a big challenge on the road when you’re dealing with a different bed, spotty climate control, noise and time zone changes. A few changes I’ve made in the past year have really helped with sleeping on the road. One, I don’t eat for a couple of hours before bedtime. Two, melatonin helps me fall asleep when the local clock says I need to but my body clock doesn’t agree. Three, I’ve quit reading on my iPad in bed as I try to fall asleep. The blue light from the screen disrupts the body’s sleep pattern. If I’m lying in bed waiting to fall asleep, I’ll sometimes listen to a podcast instead of reading. I’m usually asleep before it ends.
Finally, I’ve also learned a few new things about eating that help keep me healthy and mindful on the road. First, I eat gluten free at home, and I do my best to on the road to help manage an autoimmune issue I have. Fortunately, that’s a lot easier to do when eating out than it was a few years ago. Second, I usually order one or two small plates when I eat out on the road instead of a big entrée. I almost always find that the small plates are enough. Third, I travel with snacks I like—usually a bag of mixed nuts and a couple of healthy fruit bars. My latest trick to get a substantive meal that’s good for me when I’m on a cross-country flight is to grab a banana in the airport and then, when it’s mealtime, spread a packet of Justin’s Hazelnut Butter on it and eat it during the flight. That is one tasty treat.
So, those are some of the physical routines that help me be a little more mindful on the road. What’s working for you, fellow road warriors?