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Tips for healthier travel

Getting ready to leave Fuerteventura once again, the thought of lengthy layovers, untimely flights, delays, and the serious disturbance of my circadian rhythms was making me anxious.

Early morning in the airport, Dublin, Ireland 2013.
Early morning in the airport, Dublin, Ireland 2013.

As I write this, I’m more than halfway through my journey home to the West Coast. I left the sunshine in Fuerteventura Saturday night, arrived in Dublin, Ireland at 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

Pamela, a friend whom I made at Azul, offered to pick me up in Dublin and give me a warm bed to sleep in, infinitely better than kicking it in the airport overnight until my next flight. I got some shuteye, had breakfast with Pamela, and actually got to SEE a little bit of Ireland before I left. We took a stroll to the beach, which was moments from her house. Looking out over the Eastern coast into the Irish Sea was the best way to start my morning. A hot shower, great company, and the balmy beach breeze to wake me up.

A very Irish coastal home.
A “very Irish” coastal home.

Despite a serious lack of sleep, sitting for hours upon hours, and mild jet lag, I feel fantastic. I attribute this to a little pre-trip planning. Air travel– being in a sealed vessel, traveling at such high altitude and speed really messes with us. I have many friends who travel often for pleasure, or work, and I have a few simple tips pertaining to food, fitness, and overall well-being. These things make all the difference for me, I hope they come to use for you!

1. Pack light.

Even when I have spent months away from home, I take only carry-on bags — one big backpack, and a smaller one for food, drinks, and writing material. Ask yourself, where am I going? What will I be doing? What do I really need for this trip? This instantly decreases the stress of travelling — no lengthy queues to collect baggage, no potential lost luggage, no worrying about the safety of your many belongings, especially if you hop through hostels, and your back will thank you by the end of your journey.

2. Bring snacks & eat light.

There’s nothing worse than being stuck in an airport, having to eat crap food AND pay too much for it. Especially if delays or emergencies pop up in your travels, it’s always good to have extra food for you or a hungry new friend. My small backpack is stocked with raw unsalted nuts, healthy bars (homemade or store-bought — just read your labels and know what you’re getting into), fresh and dried fruit.

If I’m not able to pack a meal before my travel, I will buy something in the airport. In my opinion, it’s always better to eat something when you’re hungry, just keep it light and easily digestible. A Panera panini will weigh me down for the entire length of my travel, and contributes to lethargy; think about how limited your physical activity is at an airport and consider how much you actually need to eat. My best bet has been salads, fruit, sugar-free juice/smoothies, yoghurt. It’s a challenge to find fresh food in any airport, so opt for brown bagging your lunch.

3. Stretch it out.

Between flights, before and after, take a moment and stretch. Risk looking ridiculous for the benefit of better health. I like to travel in stretchy clothes for this purpose exactly. You never know who you’ll meet doing yoga in an airport.

I met Steve-O in London Gatwick last year, en route to Iceland and got to see his comedy show the next night in Reykjavik.

Truly though, travelling aka sitting and standing for long periods of time leads to stiff legs, hips, back pain, fluid retention and/or swelling in your legs and feet. Some great airport-friendly yoga poses are Forward Bending, Ragdoll (fold forward and let the upper body hang loose, sway side to side), Triangle, Revolved Triangle, Pyramid, Wide Legged Straddle Bend with hands clasped behind your back, arm circles, standing quad stretch. These are all accessible without getting on the airport floor. If you want, laying down with legs up a wall, or elevating your feet in any way help re-circulate blood flow, and drain some of the fluid that gets stuck in our legs.

4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

The humidity in an aircraft is much less, like half to three times less than that which we’re used to. This can leave us feeling dry in the eyes, nose and throat. Combat this by drinking more water than you normally would. Take a refillable bottle, and fill it up after security check-points. Bonus, this saves you money too. Drinking alcohol on the flight will only increase dehydration with it’s diuretic effects, so try to avoid that as well.

Airport travel is a necessary evil for our outlandish adventures and stories, but when you’re able to maximize your time there, it can bring more joy in the journey, not just the destination. Wander on friends!

About the author

stella_hutsonStella Hutson started her yoga journey at just 15 and has found her world opening up ever since. She’s a much-loved guest member of the Azul team and has travelled to the Fuerteventura retreat all the way from her home in Seattle, America, to teach yoga and explore her love for nutrition and food in the Azul kitchen – all with an inspiringly can-do attitude and the aim to help others as much as possible. Visit her online at Savouring Stella where you’ll find a mouthwateringly juicy combination of beautifully photographed, wholesome food recipes and empowering stories about her journey to step up to the challenge of playing it big in the world.