I am notoriously terrible at vacations.
I have a long history of vacations spoiled by bringing work with me or the inability to completely unplug or getting very sick within hours of vacation starting and being completely out of commission for a few days.
This superfun tendency started back in college and has stuck with me ever since, like toilet paper on my shoe.
Anyone who knows me or who has followed this blog for awhile, knows that I’m not wired for rest and relaxation. I’m wired for, well, being wired.
It’s only recently that I’ve embraced restorative yoga as a necessary part of my daily routine. For years I scoffed at the practice, weirdly suggesting it to others who were rundown or depleted, but rejecting it as a beneficial practice for myself.
I finally realized that I was burning myself out and if I wasn’t careful, I might not have the energy or good health to enjoy my life as I get older.
I’ve been trying to take a similar approach to vacations.
Although I love the idea of getting away from the crazy of everyday life, I get stressed out thinking about how it’s going to yank me out my comfortable routines that help keep me happy, healthy, and more balanced.
I know, I know. But these daily practices are what hold me together when life sometimes feels like it’s pulling me apart.
I can’t bring many of my self-care practices with me on vacation. Travel light, and all. Plus, not all of them mesh as well with travel or vacation “schedules.”
A few of my self-care practices are extremely portable. They’re also among the most important to my daily well-being.
Here’s my list of 5 Self-Care Practices I Always Take With Me on Vacation (plus 1 bonus!):
1. Full Body Oil Massage:
Yep, you read that right. In Ayurveda, this is known as abhyanga, a daily ritual of massaging your entire body with warm oil. I don’t go the whole 9 yards and warm up my oil, although that sounds lovely. I warm up the oil a bit in my hands and the rub myself down, top to bottom. I start with my arms and work inward towards my heart. I oil up my belly and rub in a circular motion. I get my legs and try to work upward towards my belly, although that’s a little more difficult. This takes about 5 minutes. It makes me feel grounded in my body as I begin my day.
I usually don’t sit for very long. Maybe 5-10 minutes in the morning. If no one else is awake, it might be even longer. When I do this, I feel a little more clear-headed and centered. Even if I only get 3 minutes in before I am interrupted by a 4 year old who needs help wiping her own butt, it’s better than nothing.
3. Morning Movement:
On vacation, this is almost exclusively yoga. I don’t travel with weights (so my HITT classes are mostly out) and it’s a little tricky sometimes to do a led practice from a video because it needs to be loud enough to be audible, which can wake up the people you’re sharing space with effectively killing that workout. Yoga takes up a little less space, requires fewer accoutrements, and has the benefit of being a bit quieter, usually.
4. Gratitude Journal:
Thanks to a good friend and fellow mama who gifted me a gratitude journal a few months ago, I’ve been faithfully keeping this daily record of at least 3 things I am grateful for. Every so often, I flip back through the pages and inevitably I smile at the memory of what I’ve written in the past. I keep it next to my bed so I can write in it each night before I go to sleep. The journal is very small, so it’s also very portable, making it easy to add to a bag for vacation without adding too much weight or taking up too much space.
5. Bedtime Foot Massage:
And we’re back at massage again. This is one of my longest kept habits. This nighttime ritual has followed me through 2 pregnancies and the space in between. I almost always use oil, although occasionally I don’t. I can’t really say enough about the benefit of self-massage. There is no greater expression of self-love, gratitude, or appreciation than rubbing on your own muscles and skin. If the idea of self-massage makes you uncomfortable, it’s worthwhile to ask yourself why. Why are you resistant to touching your own body with love? Why don’t you want to spend, at most 5 minutes working out the kinks in your neck or your thighs or feet? Yes, massage given by someone else’s hands always feels “better” but the truth is, no one knows what you need more than you do.
I bookend my day with self-massage as a reminder that I do love myself, I do care about my own wellbeing, and I have the tools to take care of myself better than anyone else.
I also bring one more self-care practice with me when I go on vacation or travel, if that vacation includes a Monday. This habit is actually a “once-a-week” habit as opposed to a daily habit, but it’s because absolutely essential as a guiding practice through my week.
6. Monday Mantra Magic:
Every Monday morning, I sit down with my watercolors and I paint. While I paint, I come up with a mantra to help me navigate my days with more skillful attention. I use the mantra to remind me of what is most important or how I want to act or how I want to feel. I wrote all about this last week and the last time I traveled, I brought my watercolor set, brush, and a small watercolor pad. Not only did it help me release some of my pent-up creativity but it painting with watercolors is a bit of a meditative act for me. It’s quiet and internal. When I add the mantra, it’s the icing on the cake. Extra icing is when Milly joins me and we have a watercolor party together.
These 6 practices are indispensable in my daily life, but they are also extremely portable and travel-friendly. I don’t have to modify them much and they benefit me on vacation as much as they do when I’m in my happy, familiar routines at home.
What are your favorite self-care practices to travel with or bring on vacation? Share in the comments below!