I absolutely love traveling, but it’s not without its challenges. While traveling is great for me, it’s not as great for my headaches. Being an introvert and having anxiety also provide unique challenges as a traveler. Here are some of the things I do to take care of myself when I travel:
Sleep, eat well, and exercise
These are basics that everyone should try to follow, but all of them can be fairly difficult while traveling. Sleep is often the hardest, as the little sleep you get on planes and buses is generally not the best quality. One thing that I’ve found that helps is timing my flights. If possible, I try to schedule my flights for the early afternoon. That way, you can take full advantage of your bed until you have to check-out of your hotel or hostel, and generally by the time you get to your destination, it’ll be time to check in. This means you can rest or take a nap if needed when you arrive.
Eating can also be a challenge. When you’re eating out constantly, the food generally isn’t the healthiest. I let myself indulge in the local food, but try to balance it out with vegetables and good sources of protein. Just in case of a migraine, I also try to have some food with me in my hotel or hostel room. That way, if going to a restaurant just isn’t an option that day, I at least have almonds or something to get my blood sugar up.
Exercise is generally the easiest of the three. Much of traveling involves hiking or walking around cities for hours. However, I would recommend doing a bit of yoga or stretching on travel days. This can help with post-flight tension headaches.
Spend a little more to be comfortable
Travel is expensive. However, as someone with migraines, sometimes paying the extra money for a private room at a hostel or a hotel room is worth it. Although staying in a dorm at a hostel is the best way to meet people, having a bunch of roommates is really difficult when you have a bad headache or are an introvert. If you can, I think the ideal situation is to alternate between hostel dorms and hotels. That way, you can meet new people some days, and recharge on your own other days.
When you have a string of bad headaches, however, hotels are by far the best option. This was the case for me during my time in Sydney. I can’t tell you how nice it was to be able to order room service, rather than struggling to walk around and find take-out when I was still dizzy and in pain. Again, it’s expensive, but sometimes it is well worth it.
Do something special for yourself
This past trip, I was away from home for my birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. I knew from being in Ireland last year that spending Christmas away from family is tough. One thing that has helped me is to do something special for each holiday. I spent my birthday with new friends on the island of Koh Tao, hung out at my hotel’s rooftop pool on Christmas, and did a tour of beautiful Milford Sound in New Zealand on New Year’s Day. Having these things to look forward to made the lead-up to the holidays easier. It also helped me enjoy the fact that I was away, rather than just sitting around missing friends and family.
Don’t be afraid to take days off
While I was interning in Thailand, I sat in while another staff member talked to the participants. I remember him telling them not to stay in and watch Netflix, and instead to push themselves to go out into the community. While in general this is good advice, for some people it’s not the right advice. For me and many others, my instinct while traveling is to use up every moment, as I may never get the chance to visit the country again. However, I’ve learned traveling is much better if you don’t constantly force yourself to make the most of every single moment.
Some days, you may be tired. I find I enjoy the day much more if I let myself sleep in for a few extra hours, rather than seeing a few more things, but being exhausted the entire day. Traveling can also be very mentally and emotionally exhausting. As an introvert, I need a lot of alone time. For me, sitting alone in a cafe doesn’t cut it; I need to be truly alone, in my own space. When I’ve gone a few days without much time for myself, I’ll get some dinner to eat at the hotel and spend the evening in. This also gives me a break from things that trigger my anxiety, and generally puts me in a much better place emotionally.
Pay attention to your body and your emotions
Overall, my advice is to be kind to yourself. Are you tired? Let yourself sleep in. Getting irritable after constantly being around people for a few days? Give yourself some alone time. Exhausted from pushing yourself to try tons of new things? Take a rest and meditate. Take notice of the way you feel, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have the “perfect” trip. One of the best parts of traveling alone is doing what you want, when you want. Take full advantage of that, even when you want to do nothing.
All my love ❤