I’m currently travelling through Southeast Asia and at the halfway mark on a five month trip. I’m extremely lucky to have the opportunity to take this time for myself, so am not going to go all Eat, Pray, Love on you and suggest the only way to find yourself is to drop everything and travel – I realize how unrealistic that is. Although, I’d highly recommend it. 😉
What I’d like to share is how truly cleansing a leave from work or sabbatical spent travelling can be – and suggest there are key takeaways from the experience that can be applied back in the real world to increase overall health and happiness.
Typically a cleanse will give our digestive systems a break, rid our bodies of toxins, and provide a jump-start to a healthier lifestyle. Through what I’m calling, a Travel Cleanse, you realize the incredible impact travelling can have on cleansing not only the body – but also the mind and spirit. Now there’s something a juice diet can’t do for you!
Clear your mind…
In Asia, you find you’re never far from a picture-perfect opportunity to practice meditation. Clearing your mind through meditation during a yoga class, watching a sunset, or sitting on the terrace of your bungalow helps build a strong foundation for positive lifestyle changes.
While traveling, there’s no time but the present. You find yourself somewhat protected from the chaos you left behind and are truly able to focus on the experience you’re living. You meet interesting people who have life stories so unlike your own, you can’t help but hang off their every word. As opposed to thinking about how you can add or relate to their story, you truly listen. Mindfulness is an incredible skill to have and travelling is the perfect setting to practice.
Having the time to read at your leisure is one of the greatest gifts travelling provides. I’ve taken a guilt-free break from non-fiction. A good novel will flex your imagination, expose you to new ideas, and allow you to travel to even more places.
Back in the real world – try taking a 5 minutes of quiet time after a stressful or even exciting meeting to clear your mind and re-focus. Strive to practice yoga without letting your mind wander to your grocery list or to-dos. Pick a conversation in your day and just listen, no verbal reaction or back and forth. Finally, start a book club with a couple of friends, give yourself a reason to enjoy reading.
Cleanse your body…
While I can’t vouch for long term travel in say Europe, where I’m sure it’s easy to live off cheese, bread, and wine (a.k.a. heaven on earth), a Southeast Asian adventure is extremely well suited to a full body cleanse.Walking, biking, swimming, climbing, yoga, surfing, kayaking – you’re working out every day, while sweating buckets in the 30+ degree heat and averaging a daily water consumption of 3+ litres out of necessity. Not to mention living on rice, fruit, veggies, and seafood. No more struggling with a monotonous gym routine – the landscapes and photo opps are encouraging and the motivation to look good in a bikini is constant.
You feel your body functioning on a whole different level (aside from a couple of unavoidable bouts of traveller’s’ tummy). You’re more regular, less bloated, stronger, and leaner. You have more energy and clearer skin. You also feel physically exhausted by the end of the day, resulting in a great night’s sleep.
Back in the real world – making an effort to eat cleaner is the obvious one. Eat fresh and if you eat meat, make it a complement rather than the focal point of your meal. Less dairy and bread have been huge game changers for me. Keep your workouts fresh as well. Go for a bike ride or run outside your neighbourhood once a week to seek motivation from a change of scenery. Try a new class or different studio. Try meeting friends for a hike on Sunday instead of a heavy brunch.
Nourish your soul…
Exploring remote islands by scooter or walking village farmer’s markets, you essentially have a free pass to smile and say hello to absolutely everyone – the positive reaction definitely nourishes the soul. Faced with their own real world challenges, you still receive group selfie requests from local teens, helpful directions from a weathered man carrying rice bundles twice his body weight, and blown-kisses from a naked baby. Beyond humbling, it’s inspiring.
If you’re travelling with someone, you quickly realize your only time apart is when you go to the washroom. Your level of emotional vulnerability is terrifying and beautiful. I’m blessed enough to spend almost every waking moment with someone I’m madly in love with, who also happens to be a great travel partner. You get to laugh constantly, challenge yourselves through problem solving, and find happiness through your adventure (as opposed to just pleasure seeking).
Back in the real world – these ideas are simple but require a reminder. Surround yourself with people who you love, make you happy, and inspire you. Don’t let your day job become an excuse for ignoring the bigger picture; make an effort to reflect on all aspects of your life and what’s going on in the world. Volunteer. Laugh everyday, even if it has to be at yourself.
Although I’m sure it’s more effective to experience your own Travel Cleanse, hopefully some of these ideas can inspire your journey in living a healthier and happier life.