What a better time to talk about some useful tips and ideas to practice when being away on vacation. Time, food and your mindset are among some of the major determinants for a fun and pleasant vacation. Of course money and whether or not you know the language play a role too, but let’s face it, depending on where you go, you can stretch your money and as long as you know ‘where is the bathroom’ you will be fine.
Last year was a busy year for me and I didn’t get to be on vacation at all, so this time I took 3 weeks off and came to my first home, Lima-Peru. Three weeks seems to be plenty of time; however, I don’t think there is such thing as plenty. In the past, my usual vacations were of 10-14-days and always seemed too short. My time was precious and I tried to rush things out with unplanned trips, tried to accommodate all my visits and meetings with as many family and friends as I could, which never seemed to be enough. At the same time, knowing that I only had a few days to indulge in the food I get to only eat once a year, well, I did indulge indeed, following with bad stomachaches, indigestion and rushing to the bathroom.
This time though, I really acknowledged my body, mind and surroundings and went along with the flow of nature and the universe and let things roll their way. Unintentionally I didn’t bring my planner, phonebook, nor I had a cell phone to be reached at; not to disconnect from family and friends but I didn’t want to feel the pressure that I was there with a purpose to fill my days with all sorts of engagements. I trusted the universe and thought that things would just fall into place. Plus, I also trusted Facebook to keep me in touch, which was a bit risky since I didn’t know how easily I will be connected and knowing that Internet service is a little slow sometimes.
I tried to continue my usual practices to maintain a balanced and harmonious stay by reducing stress on my body and mind. Here are some tips that helped me stay balanced:
Listen to your body and don’t over do things – I know it is easy to get excited when being in a new city/country and the first instinct is to taste as much as we can of the native cuisine. But trust me, you will do your tummy a favor by taking things slow and mindfully. I used to get carried away and would eat whatever plate was presented in front of me. Not just that, but it is hard to say no when I had family and friends offering things even if I told them I wasn’t hungry. First thing first, pay attention to what your body is telling you, whether is feeling satiated, thirsty, or tired, take things slow. Even if time is a factor, it is better to relax and enjoy things as they come and not rush and over work your body physiology. That way, you can actually really enjoy the rest of your stay instead of feeling sick half way into your trip. It used to always happen to me until a few years ago, whether it was catching a cold or stomach problems, I wouldn’t care and keep on with my crammed schedule. Sure enough, it cost me at least the last 5 days of my stay to feel miserable with fever, a sore throat or upset stomach.
Second, if people offer you food but you feel satiated or full, don’t think you will hurt their feelings. This one is hard for me because my meals are smaller than the typical Hispanic plate and mainly consist on plant-based foods, but stick to your gut (literally). Just say ‘No thanks’. This is a tricky one, because I know my family thinks that more on your plate means better, and it’s a way for them to express their love and care for me. Kindly, acknowledge them and explain your reasons, after all it is best to be moderate and enjoy each day rather than over do one night at the table… and the bathroom. This leads to the next tip.
Bring probiotics – which are helpful bacteria naturally found in your body that help in gut function and keep away digestion problems. They do their job by keeping a balance between the ‘bad and the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut. Especially if you know you have a sensitive gut. It helps with indigestion, diarrhea and therefore maintain a good immune system. I recently did a bad mix of fried food and alcohol, should have known better right? But I must admit that after a week I thought my tummy was acclimated to the environment and food, but it turns out that it might take more than a week to completely get used to the food, especially for me since I rarely eat fried food or drink alcohol. So I kept it easy and clean with my green juices, probiotics and plenty of water and in a couple of days I was back at eating pretty much anything.
Hydrate and get plenty of sleep – The body goes through some changes as getting used to the new environment and food and a well-hydrated body could easily adjust to those changes. It is very important to keep hydrated to move along the toxins out of the body (that exit in the form of poop, pee or sweat), to help with digestion and keep a nice supple skin. Beware of what type of water though, make sure that it is filtered or purified from a reliable supplier. Getting enough sleep is also necessary to reboot and let the body heal and rejuvenate. You want to be well rested and with plenty of energy before going on that tour around the city, that hike in the mountains or even lounging at the beach so that those raccoon eyes don’t show in your pictures.
There is always time for Zen – and this one might sound tricky or at least meditating can be a challenge when being in new surroundings, but finding time for yourself is rather easy. For me, it starts with deep mindful breaths while being grateful for the opportunity of traveling. Big inhale, I welcome new adventures, experiences, everyone and everything around me, as I exhale, I give thanks for everything I received and for what will soon come my way. It can be done from anywhere, and I was lucky enough to stay really close to the ocean and have that crisp fresh air early in the morning while listening to some rippling waves hitting the rocks. This peaceful scene set the day for me. Another practice I do is to write in a journal, from factual events or experiences to personal feelings and emotions. Journaling is also a way for me to clear my mind from all the thoughts, worries and to organize ideas that are floating around, specially when being on a trip. I also try to incorporate awareness to the food I am about to eat, a place I’m about to visit and people I meet.
In all, having a wonderful time is about having the right mindset, surrendering to new experiences, being present with all your senses every second, because not two of them will ever be the same.