As many of you know, I’m currently on a 16-city tour to promote my new book, Your Personal Paleo Code (published in paperback as The Paleo Cure in December 2014). I’m a little over a week in, and I have about two and a half weeks to go. Needless to say, the travel schedule is pretty hectic, but I’m happy to report that I’m feeling great and continuing to enjoy myself. (We’ll see how I feel at the end of January!)
With an itinerary this grueling, self-care becomes even more crucial than it is in my day-to-day life. Here are my top tips for staying healthy and sane while on the road.
#1: Stay active
Staying active can be difficult while on the road, since travel often involves long periods of sitting (whether in airplanes, trains, or cars). Yet I’ve found that it’s one of the most important things to make sure doesn’t slip while I’m away from home. Exercise stimulates the immune system, releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals), and keeps your brain sharp. Here’s how I stay active during my travel:
- Head to the hotel fitness center. Whenever I book a hotel, I make sure it has a good fitness center—or at least a connection to a nearby fitness center if there isn’t one in the hotel itself.
- Walk as much as possible. When you’re in a walkable city or town, walk to appointments, restaurants, etc. rather than taking a cab.
- Do chair squats. If I have a long flight I will often do some chair squats to give my muscles some stimulation. (Hat tip to Dan Pardi for this one!)
#2: Wash your hands!
One of the biggest challenges of air travel during the winter is protecting against colds and flus. Being on an airplane with a bunch of people coughing and sneezing is a great way to get sick. But frequent hand washing (or use of hand sanitizer) can make a real difference and help keep you well. I keep some hand sanitizer in my bag for those times when a faucet and soap aren’t available.
#3: Eat well
This can be a real challenge when you’re staying in hotels and don’t have much time to cook. But there are a few things that can make it a little easier:
- Bring snacks. I travel with a LunchBots stainless steel food container. I load this up with Paleo-friendly snacks like beef jerky, macadamia nuts, berries, olives, and dark chocolate. When I’m running low, I head to the local health food store to replenish.
- Eat a big meal before you travel. If I have a long travel day, I’ll make sure to have a hearty breakfast and/or lunch before getting on the plane. Then I’ll just eat the snacks in my LunchBots container while traveling. This saves me from terrible airport food (which is, admittedly, getting better in many places).
- Don’t be afraid to fast. Sometimes if there’s nothing I want to eat available I’ll simply fast. Occasional fasting was certainly built into our Paleo ancestors’ lives, and I think travel is one of the best opportunities to give it a shot.
- Plan in advance. I typically choose hotels that have at least a kitchenette, and preferably full kitchens. While I may not have time to shop and prepare full meals, this allows me to at least have hot tea and pick up some kombucha or kefir that I can keep cold. I will also choose hotels based on the menu of their restaurant, or the proximity of other restaurants I’ve checked out nearby. That way I don’t get myself into a situation where I’m starving and the only thing available to eat is something that won’t make me feel well.
Meditation is a great way to reduce stress, sharpen your mind, and increase your awareness. I’ve had a sitting mediation practice for more than 20 years now, and it’s an essential part of my daily routine. Whenever I’m on a plane, I designate the first 25-30 minutes of the flight to meditation. I can’t quite remember when I developed this habit, but it has stuck and it serves me well.
#5: Rest and sleep
Just as exercise is especially crucial while traveling, so is rest. Travel is inherently stressful, and it can be difficult to find downtime especially when you’re traveling for work. What works for me is scheduling periods of rest into my day, just as I would schedule any other appointment or commitment. That way, when things get busy and I would otherwise forget to rest, I get a little reminder on my computer or phone that tells me it’s time to take a break.
Along the same lines, I do my best to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep on the road—just as I do at home. This isn’t always possible, but it makes a big difference in keeping me healthy.
#6: Get TSA Pre-Check
TSA Pre-Check makes air travel like it was before 9/11. After signing up and getting approved, you get a “known traveler ID” that you provide the airline with when buying your ticket. You can then use a special TSA Pre-Check security line (which is almost always completely empty), and pass through the security process without taking off your shoes, belt or jacket, or removing your laptop or liquids from your bag. This was hands-down the smartest thing I did in preparing for my tour. I regularly passed through security at large airports like O’Hare, SFO, Denver, etc. in less than one minute. (I am not exaggerating.) Seriously, it’s the best thing ever.
One tip for the sign up process. After you fill out the application, you’ll have to visit a TSA office at an airport to get fingerprinted and complete the application. The first appointment time I was offered was four months away! I was devastated because my book tour was only four weeks away. But I found out that if you go to the TSA website to reschedule your appointment, you can usually find cancelations that are much closer. I was able to find an appointment only a week away from when I completed my application.
#7: Be flexible and adaptable
Let’s face it, things don’t always go the way we want them to when we’re traveling. From delayed or canceled flights to mixups at the hotel to bad food experiences, travel can be a real drag. But rather than struggle against things that are beyond your control, why not use these unpredicted events as opportunities? Flight delayed? Maybe it’s time to catch up on those phone calls you’ve been putting off, or write that email or blog post you’ve been procrastinating on.
And don’t forget the 80/20 rule—it’s especially important while traveling. If you’re starving and feel shaky and agitated because you haven’t eaten, but there’s no 100% Paleo-friendly food available, sometimes it’s better to go ahead and eat anyways so you’re not miserable for the next several hours on your flight. In most airports you can at least get a salad with some chicken on top or perhaps a burger with no bun and some lettuce and tomato. Not particularly appetizing, but it will tide you over. Along the same lines, while you may not have time for your full exercise routine, even doing 15–20 minutes of activity in the gym will often make a big difference in how you feel that day.
I hope this helps you to stay sane and healthy during your next trip. Now I’d like to hear from you. What are your top travel tips?