How to truly unplug and let go while you’re traveling.
I’ve just returned from a 10-day vacation to Italy with my husband, Greg, and I am doing my best to maintain the mindset of the siesta and la dolce vita back here in the States.
Traveling is high on my list of life priorities: not only because I love experiencing other places, cultures, and food, but also because travel gives me much-needed opportunities to disconnect and take breaks. I’m the type who doesn’t need two full days off every week, and I can definitely put in long working hours from time to time. But when I unplug, I fully unplug - like not just turn out the lights but shut down the circuit breakers unplug.
That’s not always easy to do, and I’ve had to cultivate specific habits and a certain mindset in order to take full advantage of the rest that vacation has to offer. Below are my top tips for taking full advantage of your travel as a way to recharge your batteries.
Mind your technology.
This is the obvious first tip, and I’m sure you were expecting it. Nevertheless, it’s important to address. Your phone can be such a distraction! Yes, it’s a lifeline that connects you back to your life at home: but isn’t that the life you’re trying to put on pause and leave behind for a few days?
The biggest challenge with technology is just breaking the habit of picking up your phone and swiping around to see what’s going on in your world (or the world). Here’s what I do to break the cycle:
- Use airplane mode. I carry my phone with me during travel for two reasons: to use as a camera, and to use in case of emergency (another reason you might carry your phone is to use the GPS feature). 99% of the time, a phone in airplane mode will do nicely. I can always turn airplane mode off if needed, but in the meantime creating one extra barrier between me and the world wide web helps me keep my phone in my pocket and off my mind.
Check email sparingly. Before I check my email on a trip, the question I like to ask myself is “Am I really ready to go there?” In other words, if I log into my inbox and find some kind of problem, am I going to be prepared/happy/excited to deal with that problem right then and there? If not, I suggest staying out of the inbox and letting yourself be blissfully unaware a few more hours or days. If you’re going to check your email, do it in a situation where you have time to actually respond, should a response be necessary.
Set an auto-responder. The reason I feel A-OK not checking email for days is that I set up an auto-responder to my email address. I mention I’ll have limited access to email (self-limited access counts!) and include the date I’ll be back in town. That way the sender knows to expect a delay in my response, and I can stay worry-free during my sightseeing.
Shake up your routines.
As yogis, we l-o-v-e self-care routines. For most of us, an ideal day starts out with meditation, a light yoga practice, a leisurely cup of coffee or tea...you get the idea. But when you’re traveling, things might need to look a little different. Maybe you’re exhausted from walking around a city all day and find sleep is more important than a 20-minute meditation. Maybe you’re staying in a tiny flat with a partner or friends and your morning chanting just doesn’t feel appropriate.
Part of what’s great about travel or vacation is that it doesn’t look like every other day. So embrace the possibilities of doing things a bit differently, and remember that being flexible of mind is considerably more important than being flexible of body ;)
Here are some ways to shake up your routines:
Embrace the local culture. Let yourself join in local habits or customs that look different from the way you do things back home. A perfect example happened on this trip: in Italy, breakfast is often a pastry and espresso or cappuccino, eaten standing up at the counter. So, in Italy, our breakfast was often a pastry and cappuccino, eaten standing up at the counter. (Side note: I DID make my favorite breakfast, kale and eggs, with Tuscan kale, while literally in TUSCANY!!!)
Redefine yoga practice. For me, most elements of traveling fit my definition of yoga: while sightseeing in a new place, my body, mind, and breath are all present together. It’s likely that you’re putting in a lot of miles strolling all over a city or hiking through hills. If fitting in a studio class doesn’t work with your schedule, let your yoga practice be a few minutes of legs up the wall each night before bed. Close your eyes and breathe well. Your feet will thank you for it.
Accept what you can’t change.
There are a hundred things about your travel that will be different than what you’re accustomed to. Embrace that things might be confusing, inconvenient, or even frustrating. Accept that your plane is delayed, that you got lost wandering through the streets, that your brilliant Italian accent is really just a bad Spanish one, and that it’s cold and rainy on the day you planned to spend outdoors in the sunshine. No matter how far you journey, you can’t run away from the fact that many things are beyond your control. Smile. You’ll have a good story to tell when it’s all over.
Take it all in.
One of the reasons I think travel is so amazing is that it produces more mindfulness. When you’re in a new situation or a different environment, there is so much more to notice and be aware of. I can’t say for sure, but I believe the change of location is a big contributor to that feel-good vibe you get from vacation. This moment is new and won’t ever come again. That’s always the case, but it’s easier to connect with when you’re in a place you don’t see every day. Look, linger, take it all in.