Set yourself up for success without making yourself crazy
The first step of my journey to India was the flight itself: 14 hours nonstop NYC to Delhi; followed by a mad dash through 2 miles of high-end shopping, 5 minutes of 5mph bus ride from terminal to tarmac, and 3 hour flight from Delhi to Calcutta. It was a marathon event! And I felt like a happy athlete when I landed: light and loose in body, strong in spirit, and focused in mind.
Here are tips for feeling lifted, light energy throughout your own journeys.
Know your Priorities: Before you go.
Let go of your worries about the future. Before you leave, most of your preparation will be in your present time and place: making sure that your work and home are well cared for. The life that we have created here for ourselves is our foundation, and though we easily take it for granted, consider: what will you want to come home to?
Happy, healthy plants: finding a friend who will care for your home is an art! I always look for someone who has relaxed energy, and a natural way of caring for all that they do. It makes a difference to come home to a space where a good-vibe friend has spent time, enjoying the beauty of your home life.
Tidy: I like to have counters clean, floors swept, empty fridge and trash. When we travel, we return home with a new perspective on the way life can be lived, so coming home to a blank slate gives us the opportunity to integrate our fresh perspectives into our home life.
A full inbox, neglected clients, piled up paperwork. Just kidding. There is a healthy balance of keeping tabs on your work life while honoring the new experiences of travel. In India, I would take about an hour a day to live my "New York life", dusting off my inbox, writing, and posting to social media. The rest, 23 hours a day, I let myself be fully immersed in my life as a guest in an unknown and magical country. Just this practice will allow you to honor the life waiting for you while cultivating your open-eyed presence in the place you are visiting as a guest.
Packing! Your carryon.
The intention is to carry what you need to feel deeply good in body, mind, and spirit. You'll want to have a good balance between packing light, and being prepared.
Know yourself: bring what you'll actually enjoy having with you, even if it's not what you think you're supposed to bring. If the book that you're actually dying to read is a heavy hardcover instead of a little paperback, bring it. You'll get stronger for carrying it around, which might make up, in a minor way, for sitting so still for so long.
I know myself: I have the energy of a toddler, tempered by the meditative focus of a monk. 14 hours of movies would have depressed my spirit; I brought two non fiction books, one novel, a notebook, looseleaf paper, plus assorted pens, pencils, colored pencils, and (crucial) a pencil sharpener. It was such a gift to have a seemingly infinite stretch of uninterruptable time, which I was excited to devote to studying Eastern philosophy and drafting plans for (this) new blog.
Wear layers: Strange but true, I felt the airplane temperature rise after every heavy meal they served. And then the air gets cold and dry again, which is confusing enough without considering that your body may be flying from East Coast winter into the sunset of the tropics. In keeping colds and sickness at bay, it makes sense to bring an extra layer when you're heading someplace cool, and a bit of space in your bag if you're heading someplace warm and will want to take off a layer.
Here is my favorite layer: it makes everyone smile, which is exactly what travelers (and TSA) needs!
Can we be honest and say that plane food is, at best, soggy? The sight of those stacked up, microwaved, plastic trays makes me so sad, as does the prospect of a long flight without super dark chocolate. There is no way to feel truly good unless we nourish our bodies with fresh, nutritious food.
The food system for large flights is a bit mysterious to me, but safe to say that it's prepared in huge quantities, with low quality, inexpensive ingredients, long before they are delivered to your plane seat. I also consider the consumption of plastics: anything heated up in a plastic tray is bound to leech chemicals into an already chemical-laden food.
Pack a few things to bring from home: Imagine what your body will want and need! You will be bored. You will want to snack. Avoid anything salty and dry, since the air is already drying. Fresh fruit is the best - fun to eat, hydrating, sweet, uplifting, and easily digested.
My fridge was still full of fresh veggies from the farmers market the day before I left for India, so I cooked a feast for my parents and brought the leftovers onto the plane, along with a perfectly ripe avocado, fresh berries, and enough dark chocolate to share with the motherly woman next to me as well as the super sweet flight attendants. It felt wonderful to connect with people - we were all on a long, difficult journey together and the sense of community is always strengthened through sharing food!
Know your Priorities: In Flight.
The air on a plane is drier than desert air! The first thing I do at my seat is reach up to turn off the air stream that automatically points to our faces. Then I set myself up to feel like the queen of my tiny kingdom, arranging my books and pencils and dark chocolate and little bag of in-flight-spa essentials. This is also the time I low-key scope out my seat mates, who usually get very interested in all the weird/joyful things I'm doing.
I keep an already-packed bag of essentials, so that when I'm packing last minute (I wasn't even wearing pants when the Uber came for me), it's easy to grab several travel-sized versions of my favorites.
It is such a nice practice to take breaks from whatever in-flight activities you are enjoying, in order to care for your skin. Take the time (you have plenty of it) to work the creams into your hands and cuticles, give yourself a bit of a facial as you massage creams onto your face. It will keep the blood flowing, which is great for glowing skin and happy mind.
I typically prefer light oils to creams, but on a plane, I like a luxurious feeling! There's also an essential oil in there, to refresh your vibes. And speaking of refresh…
Bring a toothbrush and one of those tiny tubes of toothpaste that accumulate in alarming numbers from years of dentist-office goodybags. Nothing brightens your mind like a fresh mouth. Take your brush to the bathroom when you get up from a nap, or just finished eating, or are feeling sort of grimy. Instant happy.
I keep kid's sized toothbrushes (4 for $2, Target), which are not only cuter in design but also easier to fit into my little pouch.
Health perk: it's easier to reach your back teeth when the brush is small.
Other essentials: Rose water spray is an in-flight life changer. Made with just two ingredients, I bring an Indian-sourced spray that is as refreshing to mind as it is to face. I like to think it creates a bit of humidity in the air I'm breathing, but I know for sure that the light hydration plus the scent of roses feels heavenly (which is exactly how you should be feeling, flying high above the clouds with the greatest of ease).
After every trip, part of my "unpacking" is restocking this little bag as needed, while my experience is still fresh in my mind. Then it's easy to just pick it up for my next trip, no last-minute-errands required.
I always carry-on an empty thermos and empty glass water bottle, which serves so many purposes:
The water cups provided by planes are tiny! Having full sized, 16oz containers will give you a feeling of plenty, so that you naturally drink more.
Plus: Better for the environment. I hate to think of how many plastic bottles and cups are wasted on every flight. Bringing your own bottle will give you the pleasure of enjoying the taste of water from glass or stainless steel, reducing your impact on the environment, and probably inspiring the people around you! Every flight I've taken, I've made friends with the cabin crew members who fill (and refill, and refill) my glass bottle with plain water and my thermos with hot water.
The domestic flight I took from Kolkata to Cochin was the best - I went to the back, where the hostesses were hanging out, and asked for warm water. We ended up sharing lunches of sliced fruit and dark chocolate, talking about their health journeys and world travels. When we were getting ready for landing, and the girls were walking around to check on seatbacks and tray tables, they asked if I would stay a moment after landing to take a selfie with them! Such a sweet moment. Every aspect of the journey is an opportunity to connect with and learn from people.
Know your Priorities: On the go.
Enjoy what is happening! Let go of your past and future for maximum living of the Now. You will never experience these "first times" ever again!
Balance your desire to "capture" everything (photos; insta stories) with the natural desire to immerse yourself fully in the moment. For me, traveling is an opportunity for digital detox. Let go of the regular habit of checking out/ checking in, and let your phone be just a camera. I frequently turn off cellular data when I'm out of the country, just for the pleasure of it.
Keep your daily practices up! Morning mediation and asana will help your body and mind integrate all the new experiences, so that you feel fresh and light for a full day (and night!) of enjoying all that you are doing.
Happy travels, my friends!