Away-from-homeness is tough when you’re working on a healthy lifestyle. A week at the beach? No, I’m in Kansas. Even though I’m at my daughter’s home, my healthy regimen is taking a hit. Who doesn’t have a blood pressure monitor? I’m not doing my neck exercises and beginning to feel stiff. I think I’m allergic to drywall dust.
Travel is often the first thing people dream about for retirement (but don’t wait to travel, you never know how things are going to turn out). It’s a little harder for the 50-plus crowd because the physical recovery can take much longer.
Getting up at 3 am for that 6 am takeoff will ruin anybody’s day. If you’re one of those lucky people who can sleep on a plane and wake up refreshed, I envy you. I really love my bed at home and seldom get better sleep anywhere else. Knowing that my mind begins to dread the sleep pattern disruption, which makes it worse.
Circadian rhythms control how we feel and how our systems work. If you move to another time zone, it takes a day to adjust for each hour. My first instinct is to increase caffeine but that adds to the off-cycling. Melatonin helps me go to sleep but not to stay asleep. Research shows that focusing on light and dark at the appropriate times is the best way to adjust.
Eating and hydrating
Narrow food choices lead to digestive chaos for me. Travel goes better with food pre-planning but you have to leave room in your carry-on for food. I never get on a plane without my own drink. I bring an empty bottle through TSA screening and fill it with water on the other side. (Recently, a fellow passenger was incredulous at the end of the x-ray machine: “They let you through with a water bottle???”) On the flight in, we hit turbulence and got no beverage service.
There’s a precarious balance between hydrating and bathroom trips. Typically in the middle seat, I hate climbing over other passengers and always keep my seatbelt buckled, so I don’t get up to use the bathroom unless it’s a long flight. This situation gives one insight into what it’s like for the disabled elderly, who often don’t drink enough because of the struggle to get to the bathroom. I’m usually either thirsty or racing off the plane in discomfort but sometimes manage to get that balance just right.
Some general goals of my healthy regimen are balance, consistency, and regularity. The same holds true for my digestive system. People don’t talk about it but irregularity is a common issue while traveling. You have to worry about when, where and how. The anxiety makes it worse. A consistent diet and stress reduction are helpful. Some rely on anti-diarrhea medication but that just delays the impending, unpredictable catch-up.
We can only control our own reactions to other people and things that happen to us. Travel can be extremely difficult but if you plan well and are flexible, you may be able to mitigate the stress. Preparation is key, as everyone knows but few seem to take action. Don’t want to spend $10 on Immodium at the airport? Bring a couple with you. I pack everything that I’ve had to buy for a premium price because I suddenly needed it on a trip. I’m the person people come to for that item they didn’t think they would need. Do I have an aspirin? bandaid? safety pin? rubber band? Ziplock? Yes, I do. The trick is to restock the supplies.
After 17 hours of travel time to get back home, it took me more than a day to recover. The digestive system is still a few days away from a Zen state. It’s great to get away but so nice to be back home.