Traveling back home: How traveling - and anything that’s disruptive to your routine - can help you prioritize and create smoother transitions in your lifeFeb 08, 2024
Traveling can feel like a big disruptor, but then so is life w/o travel, is it not?
Guests come into town for a week, the household gets sick, holidays and life events happen… also there are project deadlines, you get sucked into “just one more episode,” or into a general malaise time warp, and your to-do list that makes you feel somewhat productive but purposeless is endless
Writing this has me wondering what we think of as life. More people seem busy trying to create a life rather than live a life. I mean, is busyness life? My teacher once said,
That which nourishes is life. The rest is busyness.
24 years later, this still rings in my ears.
I’ve traveled a lot over the last handful of years (with the exception of 2020). I didn’t know I would love it as much as I do. I was actually concerned that it might be more disruptive than it’s worth. It did disrupt, and it was worth every bit of it and more. It disrupted my limited thinking on what’s possible, and what is. For one thing, it forced me to think about how to travel and maintain good digestion. I also got to figure out how to get everything done without getting overwhelmed… and what it means to get everything done.
Travel revealed to me what’s important
- What actually needs to happen before I go?
- What actually has to happen when I get back?
- What will ease the transition so I’m not suffering from travel exhaustion and playing massive catch up when I come back?
- What do I want to come home to?
When I schedule my life around travel, my most important values rise to the top: what needs to happen for me, what commitments are actually important, and how do I make my trip home a happy one that I can look forward to just as much as the trip?
When I’m home, I prep my meditation space for my morning practice the night before so that I experience less friction and more ease when I wake up to do my intended practice, among other things. This solid habit can be applied to travel (and other disruptive events):
- I make sure I come home to a clean house and bed. When I travel, the spaces I stay are set up for me. They are clean and beautiful. It’s part of the joys of being on vacation. Coming home to the same eases the transition and accelerates the grounding needed after a trip away.
- For work I wouldn’t be doing while on vacation, I pace them over weeks prior to my trip to support a better rhythm.
- I plan what I will eat when I get home, and this includes its accessibility. This can be a problem when you come home to an empty fridge or a fridge with old food. Planning your first meal home makes all the difference in the world, giving you the nourishment and energy you need to get grounded and fully relaxed.
- I schedule time with a friend the week of my return - before my return - to have something special to look forward to. You might think, I don’t know what’s going to come up when I get back, or how I’m going to feel, and that’s exactly what’s exhausting. Know what’s going to come up and make it this one. If something else comes up, you can tell that something else you already have a commitment. Put someone you wish to see on your calendar to walk, tea, or cook together, and connect and catch up.
- I start every morning of my trip with meditation as I would at home but shorter. In fact, I keep much of my morning habit stack intact. Sometimes I do a short journal during the day. My boyfriend and travel partner has a different routine, and he keeps his routine intact with some variations to remain flexible. These habits keep us grounded, and both of our digestion operate smoothly throughout the trip. Those who travel know how important this can be. Holding onto my key habits, instead of dropping them because I’m on vacation, is how I don’t lose myself. It also eases “jet lag” and the transition home.
- I’ve found that choosing more relaxed activities and diet on the last day of the trip is super helpful.
- I’ve learned to rally and empty my suitcase as soon as I get home, putting everything back in their place, including the laundry in the hamper, or better yet, straight into the wash. It’s a great hack! Leaving this for later is a visual to-do that can only create more weight and clutter.
- I take a nice long shower or bubble bath when I get home and then into clean clothes. It cleanses more than the body.
- Depending on what time of day I return home, I keep that day, or day after, clear of any scheduled meetings so I can move around on my own time. I might even decide that this is a day to play music, see a movie, create a photobook of my trip, make a healthy home cooked meal, and think about what the next trip could be. I end that day making sure I know what my calendar looks like for the rest of the week.
Looks almost like a habit stack.
How these simple practices support wellness and my life
- I allow myself to break my own rules when I’m away, and that’s super fun. For instance, I indulge in foods I wouldn’t normally consume. You should have seen me in Buenos Aires, the city of steak and Malbec… and beignets in New Orleans of course. The above practices keep me grounded and help me recover after doing the “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” thing.
- These practices reduce the amount of energetic friction that you experience on your return home. And they’re simple. Trips cause you not to take on additional stuff because you know you can’t do them: you won’t be there, and you have too much to do before and after. You get more discerning. You can take this into your regular life.
- You can replace travel with anything in life that can be disruptive to your normal routine. If you have guests in town, or are busy with wedding activities all month, still do your morning and bedtime practices and habit stacks. Guests really and truly don’t require your attention every moment of your day, and neither does your beloved wedding party. Plan when you will enjoy simple meals at home. Don’t drop things all over your house. You may not think it’s a big deal, but your energy will say otherwise. Instead, slow down and cut out an errand, or say no to something else.
Takeaways from trips aren’t just that we climbed a beautiful mountain, found a wonderful restaurant, or experienced something cool that we’re unable to get at home. It’s that we learn what inspires us, and what we want more of.
Beauty, for instance. We seek it when we’re on vacation. We can bring more of this into our lives and home when we’re not traveling. A friend whom I was driving home once said to me, let’s take this route, it’s prettier. This is how I choose my routes more often these days. I feel joy walking into every room of my house now, and when I see things that don't instill joy, I’m quicker to move them on so someone else might enjoy them. Trips are exhilarating and make me curious about other cultures and their temperaments. I learn a lot from them each time, and they help me see more options and ways of being. They bring to light my values and desires, and I get to play with how to bring them into my normal day to day. They challenge the routine a little bit, which helps to break the ceiling of limitations on what’s possible. They remind me to live rather than try to create a life.
Coming home is great.
It’s grounding to be back in the familiarity of routine and environment. And before you know it, you’re ready to plan your next trip. This dream of what’s next is a dream always worth indulging in because it reveals your true loves. It’s a beautiful rhythm of anchoring and flying, attained with just a little bit of planning and decision to bring beauty, exploration, and indulgence home.