Travel is an ongoing state of infinite possibilities. From the moment you leave your house, a whole world opens up of chance encounters and thrills. The buzz of the unknown is intoxicating, it keeps our senses raw and alive, and reminds us that the lackluster dullness bred by routine can be swept away by fresh surroundings. Travel is dynamic, and that’s why it captivates all but the timid. It’s like becoming a child again, where the world is a fascinating place full of discoveries to be made. Uncovering them by experience, and not secondhand, propels us forward through a maze of surprises, enriching us without the usual exertion of self-education. Travel in its ideal form should feel simple, even effortless. But when the reverse becomes true its time to slow down and reassess your strategy.
Grace as a Response
To expect travel to be easy all the time is too simplistic. “Effortless” doesn’t mean hiccup-free, but it refers to the state of grace with which we deal with challenging moments. In a sense, travel frees us of our usual responsibilities and allows us to step outside ourselves. If you always get stressed by taking the train to work when you are running late, now you can experiment with schedule breakdown without repercussions. If your work doesn’t depend on location but by being connected, choppy internet is probably a reality while traveling. Once you accept this unavoidable truth, flowing with the reality is easier than resisting it. Usually there is a solution to be found with a calm and patience. However, the virtues brought by travel aren’t necessarily permanent. When we find ourselves experiencing travel as a source of frustration or conflict it may be time to reassess.
Travel Fatigue as a Syndrome
Have you even been to the same place twice, but experienced it completely differently? When you reflect on the experience, you probably found it strange that the place hasn’t changed, only the strength and quality of your perceptions. In other words, its you who’s changed. When our experience starts to change negatively, likely it’s due to a syndrome known as “travel fatigue”. This condition is experienced as extreme weariness brought on by too much stimuli. Landing in a new city requires a successive firing of synapses – how to take a cab, how to pronounce the destination, what to eat, where to eat, is it hygienic to eat? All these thoughts occur in a split second. Multiply that by your time on the road and its safe to assume that your nervous system may be slightly overtaxed. When this occurs the remedy is not to keep pushing forward (thinking you are the problem), but to engage in simple, comforting processes that sooth overstressed nerves. The worst thing you can do is carry on as normal.
Regroup and Recoup
What are the remedies? Each person has their own unique comfort blueprint, habits most likely formed over time. Prescriptive one-size-fits-all recuperation recommendations can be generic. Yes, exercise is good, but no, if fitness isn’t your own brand of high then taking up power yoga to recoup may do more damage than good. That said, with common sense there are some recommendations that may help recuperation.
Staying in One Place Longer
Staying in one place has a double pick-me-up effect. You limit the sensory/information input and it also gives you the chance to develop a micro-routine. Even if it only means wandering down to the same coffee shop every morning, keeping the same work/relaxation schedule, and watching movies every night, routine gives the mind a chance to disengage and relax. The repetition of routine takes care of life so the brain doesn’t have to do the grunt work of figuring it all out. Stabilize meal and sleep times, which are the milestones of our day. Once you settle into your space, faces will become familiar and deeper relationships can be formed. You may connect with the person on a 1 hr flight, but how profound can it get in that scenario? Staying put allows for relationships to be deepened, nurturing the grounded feeling that makes us feel safe and cared for.
Yes, we are always breathing. But that doesn’t mean that all inhales are equal. Travel fatigue triggers a stress response, which may shorten our patience and good humor in difficult moments. Our heart rate goes up, we breathe more heavily (requiring more oxygen) and our blood vessels constrict. To activate the relaxation response, you need to take slow, deep breaths that fills all of your lungs. This action is scientifically proven to provoke the parasympathetic response, which helps us to calm down. You don’t have to attend yoga class to get pranayama. A light walk in the park will stimulate deep breaths of fresh air, which is better than any indoor studio.
Of course we can’t live without technology. But we can be smarter with it. If your nerves are already overtaxed with information, staring at a screen without interruption will further spike stress levels. Instead make technology your ally – measure your current usage and draw limits, use it to call family and friends to get the loving feeling, watch a guided meditation, or boost endorphins with a comedy. And then go outside.