Stepping away from the habitual has always set me free. Getting out of my box and heading into the unknown is something I find both soul-stirring and seducing, as I know it holds an enormous potential for growth. What I’ve learned through experience, in fact, is that it has the power to unleash a cascade of events that guide me back to myself. With change, I expand. I wake up. I become brighter as my awareness heightens and my senses come back to life. In the moments when my light has dimmed, and I feel like a less-than-vital version of myself, I know there is something valuable waiting for me if I choose to respond. So I do…because to me, this freedom is where life begins.
It’s no surprise then that I’ve taken to a life of travel, and that it is one of my most valuable tools for coming home to myself. It’s as essential to my well-being as my yoga mat. It’s a reset button, my reboot. My secret weapon of ego-destruction, if you will. To some, travel is a form of escapism. To me, the opposite is true—it is an opportunity to bravely dial-in to my present moment reality with eyes wide open. It offers the chance to shed light on my unnoticed blind spots as I navigate the rhythms of daily life. It gives me a surge of vitality and inspiration, and the unshakeable knowing that I am fully embracing this unbelievable experience of aliveness. The gifts of the open road are, indeed, bountiful.
What I’ve learned though, is that just like the rest of life, this abundance doesn't flow with ease if I fall personally out of balance. It all starts with me. In order to fully receive it, it is essential to have an internal compass, a strong mental reference point from which I can safely explore my world but return to over and over again with confidence. While this is no monumental revelation—most of us realize that “balance” is key-- it can be easily forgotten and the precursor to internal distress when we are on the constant move.
Ayurveda, the holistic sister science of Yoga, posits that all aspects of our being--physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual--work together to create a state of existential harmony. Our bodies, just like the whole of nature, are made up of the 5 elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space), which exist in different combinations called doshas.
The 3 Doshas are:
1. Vata (Air, Space)
2. Pitta (Fire, Water)
3. Kapha (Water, Earth)
These doshas manifest in different variations in each of us, and are the very foundation of our Prakruti, or individual blueprints. They are constantly fluctuating with our environment and lifestyle choices, moving in and out of balance. As they shift, it affects of our bodies in inevitable ways. According to Ayurvedic practitioners, we achieve our most optimal health when we understand this relationship and adopt lifestyle habits that support it.
Understanding this interplay within the body or it’s roles in maintaining equilibrium is a complex system that can years of study to entirely grasp. What is important for our purposes here is comprehending how this relates to the body when we are in constant flux. In this way we have a better chance at being able to shift with our environment as it changes, to be in a balanced relationship with it so we can thrive.
We’re looking for smooth operations. All the way.
So, yes, travel does all the things. The GOOD things. It stimulates and excites. It rouses, it refreshes, it energizes. But all of that change is precisely why it can also aggravate Vata Dosha. You see, the inherent quality of Vata Dosha is mobility. Again, think air, think space. It is responsible for physiological aspects of beings like respiration, movement, heart rate - also, less tangible mental processes like thinking and emotional regulation. Yes. See the issue here? The act of travel-ING (moving at high speeds by land and air, stepping out of routine, leaving the comfort of our home sanctuary) can cause mind-body stress and upset our healthy biorhythms. It can leave one feeling mentally cloudy, even anxious, and cause the onset of other issues such as irritability, sleeplessness, sluggish digestion and decreased immune support. In other words, it leaves us feeling ungrounded and disconnected.
For someone like me (and many others inclined to a life of wanderlust), with a predominantly Vata Dosha, finding tools for balance on the road is a must. Here are some of the ways, I come back down to earth, when I’m feeling "vata’ed out”. In this way we can enjoy travel for what it is meant to be: A joyful, kick-ass experience in the here-and-now of our lives that anchors us so we can fly.
CHILL BEFORE DEPARTURE
The most unkind thing we can do to ourselves is approach a big trip with a chaotic headspace. Life moves quickly and it can be easy to fall into the mindset that you’ll “relax when you get there”. You will, yes! But it’s best to shoot for balance before you go. Vata’s inherent nature is mobility, remember, so the very act of change can begin to shake things up. Find ways to stay rooted and calm, even as momentum and excitement build, by planning ahead. Start your packing the week prior to departure. Make sure travel documents are in order and that reservations are confirmed early. Choose your clothing and en route essentials the night before. Stay in your routine as much as possible. Rather than running around frantically the night before, how about a home-cooked meal, soft music, and long bath to pave the way towards your soulful adventure? Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to and during travel. Your body will love you (and thank you) for this. The recycled air on planes and constant air-conditioning is drying to the body and can cause overall dehydration. It causes dry skin, but also other Vata imbalances such as constipation, excess gas, poor concentration, and lethargy. Stick to water and try to avoid all diuretic beverages like alcohol, tea, and coffee. One of my favorite tricks for keeping Vata in check is to drink warm ginger tea before I leave and on travel days. (I either boil fresh ginger root at home or put grated ginger in a thermos that can refilled throughout the day). In a nutshell, cold water cools our digestive fire and can further encourage poor digestion, which is already vulnerable during travel.
PACK YOUR OWN FOOD
The body needs time to adjust when we upset our daily rhythm. During travel, we often find ourselves eating (and being fed) at times when we’d otherwise not eat. The body doesn’t understand this timetable. This routine upset, combined with the often heavily processed foods served along the way, can cause a build up of Ama, or toxic residue, in the body. We can honor the body best by eating a solid, grounding meal before we leave home, and packing healthy foods that we can enjoy when hunger strikes. Nutrient-rich foods like nuts and fruit (which are loaded with fiber and water), are great choices. Upon arrival, slowly slip into local cuisine, eating light and warming foods until your system recalibrates to it’s new environment.
RESET YOUR BIO-CLOCK
Regardless of when you arrive, middle of the day or evening, respect the time change. Our circadian rhythm (24-hour clock) can take time to adjust, especially when jumping time zones, so being mindful will do you a lot of good. At first chance, soak in some sunshine and plant your bare feet on the actual earth…dirt, grass, sand, or even asphalt. This will start to reset your internal clock. Even if you’re feeling wide awake at local bed-time, go to bed. FYI, journaling is a great grounding tool. Make it a point to avoid sleeping-in your first morning even if you’re tempted. Rise and shine at the same time you would at home.
ORGANIZE YOUR SPACE
We all know how hectic a disorganized space can feel. Vastu Shastra, the Vedic science of architecture and sacred space (which shares the same origins as Ayurveda), views clutter as an environmental stressor that can upset our sense of internal balance. Think of it as physical “congestion” that can lead to unclear thinking and a hindrance to the free flow of prana or vital life energy. Make your space your own, by unpacking your bags neatly. Clean out your carry-on bags, removing accumulated travel-day clutter and organizing receipts. Become familiar with and arrange your new space. Strip the bed and put on your own sheets (cool colors and natural fibers are best). I always feel immediately secure by bringing a small bag of special items from home - family photos and items from my personal altar - to place around in view.
ESTABLISH A DAILY ROUTINE
Your first day is about re-establishing a healthy rhythm. Yes…and keep it going. Try to continue this thread of routine, as your adventure continues. Don’t get lost in the hustle. As we’ve established, being on the go comes with its physical challenges. We aren’t shooting for rigid here, but predictability can serve as an anchor. The more we can maintain some semblance of our tried-and-true daily rituals, the easier it will be to adapt to the changes as they arise. Maintain sleep and eating schedules when possible. If you have a workout regimen, keep it going. The back-pocket survival tools you utilize in daily life will likely serve you on the go as well.
PRACTICE YOGA AND MEDITATION
Nothing soothes excessive Vata like simple relaxation. Wellness practices like yoga and meditation are the perfect antidote for dealing with the stressors of change. They restore the baselines of homeostasis in the body and recalibrate the nervous system. In general, all yoga is good for grounding, though some practices are better than others. While my typical personal practice is a healthy combination of active and restorative styles of yoga, I tend to opt for calming practices in the early stages of travel or whenever I am in travel overdrive. Fast-paced sequences can be aggravating to the system when Vata is imbalanced and we are, therefore, already prone to anxiety and mind-body fatigue. My favorite travel practice is a very slow, deliberate, Hatha Flow session with longer holds, followed by bolstered Restorative postures.
One step at a time, Love. Seizing the day isn’t about living on full throttle, in constant go-go-go mode. It’s about living mindfully with the heart WIDE open and available to receive. With the best of intentions, we can all get caught up thinking so much about future plans that we forget to enjoy the moment at hand. Stop. Enjoy stillness. Take a look around. Listen. Your journey will be so much more enjoyable if you let go of the need to control every aspect and let things unfold as they will. Seek out simplicity, and most of all, be grateful. Gratitude is a call for immediacy—and binds us to the beauty of the NOW.
May these tips guide you towards your most perfect ebb and flow as you explore. Here's to more life-transforming adventures!
The purpose of the article is to provide information and is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention or cure of any disease. By reading this article, you acknowledge that you are fully responsible for your own health decisions. If you have any personal health concerns, please consult a trained physician or other trusted health professional who can fully assess your individual needs and address them effectively.