Have you ever wondered how to stay zen while traveling abroad? From airport security to currency exchange to language barriers, there are always plenty of things to worry about. The good news is: there are things you can do to lower your stress levels so that you can relax and enjoy the experience.
As you probably know, Nolan and I were living in the Spanish Canary Islands for the past two years. We recently moved out of our cozy home there and are setting off on a nomadic journey. We’ve chosen to slow travel our way across the world with no end in sight.
Our life in Tenerife was mostly quiet and low-stress. We’d go to the beach in the winter, hike mountains on weekdays, and learn new things about Canarian culture and language every day. Staying in Tenerife for such a long period of time allowed us to settle in and avoid living out of a suitcase.
But even when you slow travel, there are always things to worry about. In fact, no matter what you do or where you live, there’s always something you can make yourself stress about. For many people, those worries are amplified when they’re traveling.
That being said, I know from experience that it’s possible to relieve the stress of being in an unfamiliar place. I’d like to share some of my favorite techniques for slowing down, becoming in tune with your emotions, and finding overall lightheartedness in your travels.
Our life experiences play a huge part in how we see the world. So before jumping into specific tips for lowering stress, I’ll give you some perspective on my life.
I grew up with three siblings. We lived in a quiet neighborhood between Suburban D.C. and rural Maryland. Despite the peaceful neighborhood, our home was the epitome of liveliness. There was none of the tranquility of the little creek that ran behind the house, no sounds of crickets. It was loud, exciting, and chaotic. I believe to this day that the house itself was alive with energy.
On the weekends each of us would have friends over. There’d be shouting, laughing, dancing, and the occasional tears when things got out of hand. I realize that I’m fortunate to have had a childhood so full of laughter and love.
I sometimes wonder if the exciting environment I grew up in has contributed to my inclination toward adventure. At the same time, the lack of privacy in my childhood has likely led to my dependency on alone time and stillness in my everyday life.
With work, volunteering, social life, and hobbies, it’s not always easy to remember to make time for yourself. I’m sure this is a sentiment that resonates with many people. I think that especially when traveling, it’s important to create time for silence and stillness.
So how can you actually implement this kind of “zen” into your own life? I’m still learning, but I do have some easy techniques that should help you on your own path.
I’ll definitely be writing more about happiness and mindfulness in the future but for now, I want to share five tips that will help you slow your busy brain down throughout your travels. They all involve using a notebook, so you should probably pick one up next time you have the chance!
(Expert tip: use a small, light, notebook. Choose one that fits in your pocket or your bag so you can bring it with you on your travels.)
Once you’ve got your notebook, it’s time to start filling it up! Here are five ways in which I’ve used my notebooks that have helped me to stay zen while traveling.
Get in tune with your senses
When traveling in a new place, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the visual experience. Try using your notebook to get more in tune with the rest of your senses. Here’s how: throughout the day, take your journal out and write down things that you feel, smell, hear, and taste. To start, I would suggest closing your eyes and setting a timer for five minutes. You can do this anywhere- on a park bench, on the subway, at the kitchen table, etc. During that time, become aware of all the rest of your senses. After five minutes, write down what you experienced during that time. This technique will calm you down and help you get in tune with your senses.
At the end of each day, write three to five things you’re grateful for from that day. Here’s what I do: I close my eyes, and I journey back through the whole day in my mind. I notice the little moments that stood out as beautiful and write them down. For example, an encounter with a friendly dog, trees swaying in the wind, the smell of a bakery, laughter shared with a friend, etc. I try to focus on little things, as opposed to things like health, relationships, and so on. I do this because I find that however much I focus on small pleasures, my gratitude for the big-picture things becomes greater. Also, ever since starting this a few years ago, I have become much more aware of the pleasurable details of my day-to-day life. I have begun to notice and recall small moments much more vividly.
(Expert tip: when starting with the gratitude journal, try to limit yourself to 5 things per journal entry. It’ll be easier to form a habit if you cut yourself off before getting overwhelmed with extensive lists.)
Write thank you notes
Another great way to feel and express gratitude is by writing thank you notes. Saying thank you makes people feel good. And what feels better than making other people feel good? Whether you choose to write a note to a Couchsurfing host, a relative back home, or yourself, saying thank you will make you feel happy and full of love.
Simply write down what happened to you, and how you feel about it. If you’re anything like me, you probably forget a lot of what happens to you over the years. Nights out, trips where you meet 100 new people, insightful conversations with friends. All of these things can be important and yet easily forgotten. Make a note because you might want to look back on it someday.
Stay organized by making lists
One of the most important things about stress-free travel is organization. You’re bound to run into messy situations while traveling so it’s best to stay on top of the things that you can control. For example, you could make a packing list with all of your most important travel items (passport, chargers, etc.) I have one that I reference every time I’m packing for a trip, and it’s so helpful!
(Expert tip: put your notebook in a place where you’ll always see it. The key is to form a habit of writing in it. The more frequently you see it, the more likely you are to use it.)
That’s all for now, fellow vegan travelers!
We’d love to hear from you! What’s your favorite way to use your journal while traveling?