In the amazing city of Kyoto in Japan, I couldn’t take in the beauty and Zen right in front of me at Fushimi Inari Taisha, home of the 10K beautiful lacquered gates. What I could do was “surrender” by sitting on the ground in front of the here and cry.
Giving up was a first for me while traveling, but I just had nothing left to give at this time. You see, my husband and I had biked 30 miles that day and walked an additional 12 miles on my mission to see all and do all in Kyoto. This was on top of 5+ days of similar activity across our week in Japan. I wasn’t sure when we’d be back to this country, and I didn’t want to miss anything.
In my quest to enjoy Kyoto (which truly is one of my favorite cities to visit), I wore myself down to exhaustion and spent the next several days sleeping to recover. The thing that I loved doing the most -traveling this world- had become unhealthy for me. If I wasn’t so tired, I’d be majorly pissed off.
I believe that there are lessons to be learned in all experiences in life, and this one was no different. I made a conscious decision: no longer would I measure my travels based off a checklist of “things to do and see”. No longer would I sacrifice my well-being for a shrine, monument, or a park. No longer would I forsake my own health for things less meaningful. From now on, I would find a better way to take care of myself when traveling.
My changes started right away. On my next trip, I didn’t pick up a tour book and added in time to do absolutely nothing instead. With some time, and effort, my travel experiences made a turnaround and became so much more enjoyable and fulfilling. Really made me wonder why I accepted less for myself before?
In an effort to help you take care of yourself when vacationing, I’m sharing my lessons learned across my travels:
1) Pick only a few things to see each day and give yourself double the amount of time expected to see “this” and do “that”. Remembering that in the end, it’s not really about the attractions, but rather the experiences you have along these journeys. To share the concept another way, the Eiffel Tower is amazing, but what’s even more awesome is the Frenchman who takes you into his store and convinces you to try all of his favorite wines (really took little convincing too!). These experiences are richer and far more memorable.
2) Seek balance in all of your travels: from sightseeing, to eating and relaxing, and connecting to your travel mates and the country visited. Too much of anything is not good for you. Yes, that even applies to eating salad and yoga. Moderation is the key here. Eat some gelato in Rome, but not for lunch and dinner every day. Go hiking up a mountain in Switzerland, but take the next day to recharge before pushing off again.
Experience the good life, but keep your health and your body’s needs balanced at the center.
3) Start your day by working out first because this will be the last thing on your mind at the end of it. Don’t go crazy though (see #2 above). Just get your heart rate up for 15-30 minutes with some cardio, and add in some push-ups and planks. You’ll feel better and won’t beat yourself up too much if you have a second mojito later in the day.
4) Accept that your travels will never be perfect. But don’t freak out when the unexpected happen. Instead embrace the messiness that comes with traveling. There’s a Japanese term I love that comes to mind here. It’s called wabi-sabi (that’s fun to say). It’s a perspective that can help you discover more happiness and deeper contentment during your travels by celebrating the imperfections and encouraging authenticity above all.
• Like the flight delayed in Bangkok, the rain in Hawaii, or the missed train in India, let go of what you can’t control. These expectations will only cause you extra stress in the long run. Seek acceptance for the hand that you’ve been given by showing some flexibility, without the need to bend and shape all aspects of your travels.
• Be real and don’t worry about things going exactly as planned. Travel (and life for that matter) doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful!
5) Live in the moment, across your travels. Easier said than done, I know. When you are overwhelmed by the foreign languages, crowds, and the smells before you, take a moment to pause, breathe deeply, and take it all in. This will slow down your brain and allow you to be present.
6) We are a very connected society, and we often feel the need to share our experiences. Be conscious that keeping your phone or camera in hand distracts you from what’s in front of you- life. Take that photograph, if you must, after savoring the sites first. Put aside your phone afterwards and remain fully immersed in whatever you are experiencing. Promise you that your travel companions will be happy to have your full attention too.
I’m happy to say that I’ve kept my quest for health across my travels and have no future plans to “see-it-all” across Kyoto, or any other city for that matter.
Hoping you can take these five well-being tips with you when traveling across our amazing world.