In preparing to go to China, I sought out the advice of others who had been, in order to prepare myself as I anticipated that there were going to be some significant cultural challenges. The recommendation that came up over and over again from the folks I spoke with was to bring comfort food from home (such as oatmeal if that is how you start your day). Generally, I bring something with me that I find comforting. Usually it’s a book, or photos on my phone, or my face lotions (yes – lotions plural – I’ve hit that age range where you need to start applying more than one). But rarely is it food – mostly because I know that I fare better eating internationally than I tend to in the U.S.
The lead up to this trip has caused a lot of anxiety. It’s one of the first times where I am not involved in any of the planning – therefore the logistics are out of my control. This includes my actual time while in China – where I don’t know how much free time we will have or how much of the day is scheduled out. The thought of being isolated – both in a country that speaks very little English as well as technologically where Google is inaccessible – was particularly worrisome. Although I’ve been going to therapy for my anxiety in general (and to address my control-freak style of getting stuff done), the entire trip has made me really start to think about how to manage self-care while traveling.
This isn’t something I tend to focus on for myself. I do a good job at telling other travelers to think about ways they manage stress at home – whether it’s reading a book, running, listening to music – and find ways to do that while abroad. When I have time to think about it, I know that bookstores and libraries help to keep me calms and so I tend to keep an eye out for those spaces if I’m feeling overwhelmed or panicked. But the thought of running outside in China – where the temperatures and humidity are worse than Philly in June – was not particularly appealing (also more recently I’ve decided that running in general is not appealing to me. I’m in the market for a new cardio workout if you have any suggestions).
While I take a yoga class every Sunday in Philly, yoga is something I’ve rarely sought out or managed to do while traveling for work. Partially because I overwhelm myself with finding a studio nearby where I’m staying at a time that I know I can make (insert your own excuse here). But also because I never invested in a travel yoga mat. Until now. After taking a workshop a few weeks ago called “Rhythm and Balls” at Three Queen Yoga (which I highly recommend in case you were wondering) – which focused on self-massage work with tennis balls and a yoga mat – I knew these were my new essentials while traveling.
More recently, I’ve been investing in face masks at home. I know that the last few times I’ve traveled to Asia, I tend to fall asleep early and wake up early. I figured face-masks would be a great way to spend some down time before going to sleep would be to bring some individual sized face-masks with me – especially to just treat my skin after long plane rides, humidity, and the new environment.
In therapy, my counselor indicated I could probably fill a journal while I am abroad for two weeks. I don’t fully know how to take that statement but I packed one just in case. I also threw in a Lisa Frank coloring book (shout out to my 90s girls) and colored pencils into the mix – why not throw them in a suitcase where they take up such little space?
Traveling is exhilarating – and exhausting. My hope is that by packing these items which are reminiscent of home and my normal routines I can manage my energy levels and culture shock (because you know that’s happening at least once if not more). Plus, in using up these supplies I’ll have a little extra room in that suitcase for some gifts or tasty treats to bring back home