Traveling Healthy- London > Santorini > Athens
If you follow my @wildtaproot Instagram page you already know this, but I’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling lately. The opportunities to do so just keep coming up, and I keep saying yes! This particular jaunt of roaming began in London and continued on to Greece, where I stayed in Santorini and Athens. While all of the itinerary details and arrangements mostly went according to plan, it’s enough travel to make anyone’s vata deranged.
Over the years, however, I’ve developed some healthy coping mechanisms and strategies to help myself cope with the stresses of travel. That way I can be in the moment enjoying the potential capriciousness of the trip, and, just as important, recover faster when I return. There is nothing worse than feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation, or feel like you need a vacation when you return from one.
Hydration- We hear the mantra of hydration all the time, but as an herbalist, I see the chronic dehydration to which people have become habituated all the time. Most people don’t seem to know how often they drink an actual glass of water, and still others are sure they are drink enough. Of course, how much water we need greatly depends on our individual constitution and our current environment. For instance, if you tend to run dry (dry skin, dry hair, brittle nails, constipation), you’ll need more water during the day to stay hydrated. If you live in a dry or hot environment, you’ll also need more water. If you are typically prone to water retention or live in a humid climate, you will need less than some. But when we factor in our modern habits, like coffee and other caffeinated beverages, alcohol consumption, frazzled days and stress, I’m of the opinion that a bit more water can do us all a lot of good. This is all especially true when traveling. When on vacation, we tend to have early morning flights, jet lag, drink more alcohol, and generally behave badly (and have an awesome time doing it!). While you don’t need to go crazy, making sure to drink plenty of clean, pure water will help tremendously with fatigue and digestion. You can do this by sipping on room-temp water throughout the day. This approach is definitely preferred to gulping down a large glass all at once, especially right before meal times. While it can be a drag to have to carry around a water bottle, I recommend one which is well designed and you will want to carry, like this one or this one in aquamarine from the Stone Collection. Just promise you won’t leave it in a hot car.
Alone Time/ Down Time- One of the most critical parts of remaining sane while traveling is to step away from the group and ensure I’ve had enough down time by my lonesome. Being a somewhat sensitive introvert, too much contact, too much conversation, too much decision making, too much stimulation, and too much extroversion (too much trying) is the perfect storm of a recipe for anxiety. I find that it is critical for me to spend a good long stretch away from people, no matter how much I may love them. In order to ensure I get that time, I schedule it and make sure my traveling party knows I have planned it. After a few days of being all together, I might take a half day and eat lunch by myself. I also give myself longer to get ready for the evenings’ dinner plans, if I can help it. Instead of an hour or half hour to shower, I’ll try and aim for two. That way I get an hour of relaxation and alone time in before heading off to more merriment.
Veggies- Carrots are good for us, not because they contain beta-carotene, but because they are carrots. They are a faultless package of nutrition for a host of reasons we don’t understand, and for some reasons we think we understand (like it containing beta-carotene and fiber, etc). Micheal Pollen beautifully points out in his numerous documentaries, books, and articles this exact point: that reductionist nutritionism has no place in conversations about our health. And I would agree. Let’s stop reducing our food down to it’s constituent parts more often than we talk about eating a diet of organic, whole foods, while leaving out the fake food (i.e. cool ranch chips). It is because of this reductionist nutritionism that we consider taking supplements and vitamin pills in lieu of eating the foods they come from in the first place. Vegetables provide us with incredible health benefits, including protection against oxidation of cells in the body (aging), keeping us regular, feeding the good bacteria in our colons with fiber, and nourishing our tissues with vitamins and minerals it needs to form new healthy cells and function. Seeing as immunity and regularity can often be issues while on the move, don’t forget to include your daily intake while traveling.
Bitters or Aromatics- Depending on your constitution, many folks would benefit from either a bitters formula or aromatics formula while traveling. Hell, most folks would benefit from taking a bitters or aromatics formula everyday, never mind special protocol while traveling. So how can you tell which would be better for you? Well, that’s a whole other article. Let’s just leave it at bitters being cooling and drying while helping particularly with the digestion of fats, and aromatics being warming and astringent while being excellent at dispelling abdominal gas and bloating, generally. But I find the best digestive formulas are a combination of both bitters and aromatics, and thankfully, there are many options while traveling to choose from. Just ask your friendly barkeep! You can ask for their suggestions of digestif cocktails they make, or you could try an Amaro or Campari with soda and a twist. Both Amaros and Campari will deliver bitters and aromatics. I can’t say, though, that I like to solely rely on these cocktails to get me through. I don’t always want a whole shot of liquor, nor am I always close to a bar (uh, 10am anyone?). So, I find its best to carry a small tincture with me. You could check out Wild Taproot’s NeoClassic Bitters formula for a great all-around bitters plus aromatics formula, or Better Belly for an elegant three ingredient aromatic remedy.
Herbs- Beyond bitters and aromatics, there are a few other herbs that I tend to keep on my person when I travel. The first is Milky Oat Tops. I find that taking a steady course of Milky Oats tincture a month before travel and taking throughout travel is the most effective, as it has an accumulative effect in the body. I find it keeps my nerves from getting frazzled, helps me sleep, and keeps my anxiety level much lower.
The second is an Elderberry-Echinacea tincture. I basically combine this formula in equal parts. That is to say, one part elderberry to one part echinacea. Elderberry is a superb preventative against colds and flus, as it disables the “scissor” mechanism of viruses that help it invade healthy cells. This prevents it from replicating as fast, therefore aiding the body in getting on top of the virus more effectively and reducing the duration of a cold or flu. Echinacea is an immunostimulant, bringing those white cell soldiers to the front line of defense. Again, I might take this before I leave, but only for about a week to begin bolstering my immune system. That said, no herb or herbs will replace quality sleep, adequate hydration and healthy diet for immunity, so in addition to an elderberry-echinacea tincture, I suggest passing up on the late nights, alcohol and twice-a-day coffees, and instead, really focus on a steady routine.
Sun Protection and After-Sun Care- If living in Florida has taught me anything, it is to embrace the heat. Don’t get me wrong, there are many moments I think to myself, ” Damn, it’s hot,” but when you can’t change your environment or circumstances, radical acceptance is a healthy coping mechanism and it involves some visualization. For example, I try to focus on the Southern heat as being a quaint character that we tolerate well here, rather than one we rue. It helps tremendously, however, to be prepared. Southern heat is a lifestyle. So when I was on my trip, I left feeling very prepared for Greece’s summer sun and heat. The first thing you absolutely must have is a hat. I find it prevents eye-strain and the resulting headaches, a sunburn, and the accumulation of sun damage over time (which gives many an old-timer Floridian their leathery look). Don’t get me wrong- please, for the love of all that is of value in life embrace laugh lines, but let’s not be myopic.
The second thing I’ll mention is after-sun care measures. If you’ve spent a day in the sun, drink something cooling and apply something to your skin that will be cooling as well. Aloe vera does a beautiful job for after-sun care, and I keep an entire bed of it at home for this purpose. It just feels that good. When traveling, find a gel or spray that is natural, meaning most of the ingredients are comprised of just aloe vera. I found my Tulsi Ma complexion water to be my sun companion all trip.
This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but one of thoughts and ideas, items and herbs I found useful for this trip in particular. I should also note, that while I may take my daily herb routine with me if there is room, more often than not I prefer to heavily edit while traveling. Or rather, since I’m adding other herbs to the routine, I prefer to take others out, so as not to schlep my whole apothecary with me. But when in doubt, remain calm. Don’t stress about which to take or which to leave. Just do an assessment of which you feel will benefit you most throughout your trip, and go with it. Trust your instinct and enjoy the trip!
***This article is not intended to replace the council of a trained herbalist who knows your individual medical information, nor the advice of a medical doctor. It is not intended to cure, diagnose, or treat. May the force be with you.***