When Meg Selig decided 45 years ago that she wanted to quit smoking, travel helped her do it. “I cut down and set my quit day as the first day I would take a road trip west with a non-smoking friend,” said Selig, a licensed counselor and author of “Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success.” “Without the usual cues for smoking around me, and thanks to the novelty of travel, I was able to stop an addictive habit with very little agony.”
Of course, not all habits are bad. When they’re good, we call them routines, and some of these are worth maintaining even away from home. Dental hygiene is an obvious example, but exercise, healthy eating and sleeping routines can also be important. The key to maintaining those is to plan ahead.
“Routines, good and bad, depend to some degree on a predictable schedule,” Selig said. “When you travel, anything can happen, and often does.” So, do a little research about the food and exercise options at your destination.
Try to plan your days so that you can eat regular meals, and pack healthy snacks in case of scheduling hiccups. You might grab a workout at the hotel gym, or even squeeze in a walk or some self-care at the airport. “Get a massage or a mani-pedi. Window shop (but don’t buy anything that you don’t want to carry around with you),” Selig adds.
It can also pay to stay flexible. “I find that when I’m touring, I do plenty of walking, so I don’t worry that I don’t follow my usual structured exercise routine,” Selig said. “In fact, I don’t even bring exercise clothes!” If you’re traveling for work, get creative and exercise with a colleague.
Frequent travelers can even benefit from building specific travel routines. Selig explains, “the more you can routinize your travel preparation, the less time you will have to spend on it.” Also, if you are an anxious traveler, make plans in advance, rather than wing it. Planning is the enemy of anxiety.”
But if, despite your best intentions, your routines go out the window completely, don’t worry too much. “The rigors and unpredictability of travel have taught me that I am a creature of habit. However, when I manage to tear myself away from my usual routines, I find that travel is refreshing – even liberating,” said Selig. “New sounds, new sights, new challenges – the novelty of it all has a positive effect on my mental outlook and helps me realize that there is more than one way to do something.”
To read more articles about travel-related health topics, visit AAA.com/LiveWell.