The most wonderful travel experiences are those that surpass your expectations in all of the best ways imagined and hoped. But even when you appreciate the life you love living in your everyday, the life you are returning to after your travels abroad, far, wide and near, settling back in well can be difficult which is why it is good to know it is a skill. And it is a skill that has taken some time for me to learn as well.
Whether we know it or not, our travels have expanded us, stretched us (whether the stretching was embraced or not), and we have grown. We have expand our perspective, broadened our mind, seen new and experienced different ways of going about life. All of this is to say that as much as we may want to settle back in to how it was, to do so would to be a disservice to the opportunity we were given.
The lengthiest amount of time I have traveled abroad was one month, but most often when I have the opportunity to travel back to Europe – my destinations have thus far been France and Great Britain – I am away for about a week or so. The time change certainly creates the need for us to be patient with ourselves, but whether your travels hopped over many time zones or none at all, the skill of settling back in is helpful to acquire.
Sometimes we have a choice as to when we can arrive at our destination as also when we arrive at home via the flights available. For myself, the return trip goes most smoothly when I leave Europe early in the morning and arrive on the west coast in the afternoon as I arrive tired and nearly ready for bed, but can do my best to stay up until at least an early bedtime. By doing this, already I have seen that my jetlag is subsiding far more quickly, and my body clock is adjusting more swiftly. However, it still does need time to adjust.
As I am currently in the process of settling back in from my recent week-long trip to France, I wanted to share with you ways that I have found from previous experiences as well as what as worked far better this go-round, to ease the adjustment period as well as adapt the life we love living to incorporate all that we had the opportunity to experience and wish to incorporate into our updated everyday way of living.
Before the Trip
1.Choose Arrival and Departure Times Thoughtfully
Depending upon when you are reserving your tickets by plane or train, you may have many or few choices. As well, depending upon where you are traveling, the options may be vast or narrow. But keeping in mind your sleep schedule, choose times of arrival at your destination and arrival upon returning home that will help you expedite the alleviation of the jetlag.
While there are many theories on combating jetlag, accepting that it will be something to acknowledge and having patience with it is half of what is needed to get past it in a manner that improves the overall travel experience. If you can, try to arrive as swiftly as possible at your destination (a direct flight), or break the travel up into longer stretches so that the adjustment is less abrupt. Again, knowing yourself is incredibly helpful to knowing what will work best.
2. Prep the Home for Your Return
In chapter nine of my first book which focuses on traveling the world, I share a detailed list on what to do to prepare your home for a welcomed return. Tending to this task that is often the last thing on our mind as we want to rush out the door to begin our holiday or vacation makes settling in much more enjoyable.
When I travel I usually have a house and dog sitter, and I feel very fortunate that they take wonderful care my boys (bien sûr! Trés important!) and leave my home clean and welcoming for my return.
3. Prep the Kitchen for the First Meal You Will Enjoy When You Return
Last year I wrote this post about the importance of planning the first meal you will want to indulge in when you return from your trip. As much as you may have loved the food you ate while traveling, there is something quite comforting about the first meal at home. Whether you plan to cook it or order in, have everything ready so that you won’t have to think too much, find extra cash or spend too much time. Your tired mind and famished appetite after a long day of travel will thank you.
Case in point, all I asked of my house-sitter, as I wanted her to enjoy my home and kitchen, was to leave me a few eggs and lemons, and the rest was stocked in my pantry ready to go when I returned (I love a good simple pasta dish).
Upon Returning Home
It may sound like the last thing you want to do, but while my mind is still fuzzy, and if it isn’t the middle of the night when I return, I appreciate returning everything to its permanent place in my bathroom, closet and office so that I can find it where I expect it to be as I go about my everyday routine.
4. Give yourself as much time to yourself as needed
Depending upon whether you live with others or not, I have gradually learned that I need to have time with myself before jumping on the phone with my family or grabbing a coffee with friend to talk about my trip. While I will text and let those close know I have arrived safely, it is only my intimate partner (should I have one in my life) and my dogs that I want to be around when I return. And even then, I just usually want to snuggle or relax. Gradually, the time to talk about the trip will unfold naturally in conversation, and that is a lovely way to relive the trip.
5. Slow doses of the media you were away from for so long
Everyone will define “slow doses” differently depending upon their job and responsibilities, but each time I travel abroad I rarely have watched or listened to the news, let alone any media as days have been filled with exploration, relaxing and the sounds of the places and people I have been surrounded by in my destination far from home.
Last year, about a week after my month-long travel to France, I wrote this post – Why Not . . . Let Your Brain Calm Down? which was inspired by the reintegration to the media we previously were used to prior to our trip and how to adapt or change how we welcome media back into our lives. For me, since that trip, I have permanently changed how much media and what type of media I welcome into my everyday life. This is a lesson I am happy to have been taught and thankful to have been able to apply. However, I do enjoy certain programs, and so at the moment I am tickled to have returned home to as the Tour de France has just begun and Wimbledon is in full swing. Each morning, I will watch about 20-30 minutes of the most recent stage of the Tour, fast-forwarding through the commercials and viewing the French countryside in all of its splendor. In the evening I will watch a match on the grass of Wimbledon, and that is all I need to feel I am in touch with the world without completely reimmersing myself into it.
6. Dive head-first into your healthy eating routine
As much as I love French cuisine and did not shy away from a croissant whenever I had the chance or a few nibbles of fromage, getting back to my regular eating routine was something my body was craving. Having steel oats is not an option in France, so that alone was something I eagerly anticipated upon arriving back in Bend.
After one day of eating well (and exercising – see the next point), my body began to feel like itself again which meant my mind began to feel better and I began to feel better overall.
7. Exercise to help your mind transition
Often what is causing the acclimation to be most difficult is that our mind is trying to adjust to all that we have asked it to do (which time zone do you want me to adapt to? It asks). And because our mind is already full of new experiences and trying to make sense of those as well, but at the same time our whole being is exhausted and fatigued, we don’t have the willpower to control our mind as we typical do when everything is running well after proper rest.
I have found that by jumping immediately back into my daily exercise routine – walking 2-4 miles each morning with my dogs, weekly yoga practice, meditation and strength – my mind focuses on that task, doesn’t wander too far away (which is good because I cannot control it as I normally would due to the immediate return from the trip), and it also aids with my sleep or nap later in the day.
So not only is getting back into our exercise routine helpful for our physical health, it is also extremely helpful for our mental health.
8. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
While I enjoyed my wine in France with nearly every lunch or dinner, I didn’t drink all that much as I was constantly trying to drink more water which for me is always more difficult when I travel. Hydration is the free medicine to strengthen our mind and body and that includes our skin and our appetite.
During this most recent trip, I carried with me in my tote (because I have a pocket for it!) a water bottle that I did my best to always have filled with water, and also did my best to drink regularly from. However, it is a routine that makes it easier to remember to drink the water we need, and when we travel, our routine is different (which is a very good thing, just not for drinking water :)).
Upon my return, I have been drinking water with every meal, guzzling it frequently to help my body out as it settles back in. Yes, that means I am running to the bathroom frequently, but as opposed to my travels when I wasn’t, my body is thanking me.
9. Slowly adjust your sleep times
Depending upon how much of a time difference you are adjusting to, be patient with yourself, but with each day, make a subtle adjustment. For example, I basically passed out at seven in the evening when I arrived home on Monday after being awake (I only caught an hour or two cat nap on the plane) about twenty-five or twenty-six hours. I did my best to make it until eight or nine, but my body couldn’t hold out any longer. The next night I made it until eight and each night I go to bed one hour later, I wake up a few hours later as well. Eventually, when you find the time schedule you want to be at, your body will know what you are asking of it, and the sleep routine will be able to set itself again.
10. Journal when you are ready
Some of us will journal prior to leaving our travel destination, some may write it all out on the flight or train ride home, but others, like myself, will need some time to process. However, don’t take too much time after your trip so that you forget all that you want to remember.
I have found that when I rush to make my lists and record my thoughts, I often have not processed it fully or understand completely what it was I experienced. Due to the exhaustion and fatigue my mind is overwhelmed with, the depth of understanding is limited and misinterpretations are still lingering. As my energy increases and as my routine takes shape in my everyday, I carve out an hour or so here and there and just write, savoring the trip yet again.
11. Incorporate the changes after understanding why and how to do so
Did you enjoy a particular way of going about life at the destination you visited and wish to incorporate it into your life at home? Making these discoveries is the awesome inspiration travel provides. And depending upon what you are adding or changing, use the time when you journal to make sense of why you wish to include it in your life as well as how it will work.
Understandably it will be easier for some of us than others depending upon who we live with and what the change is, but it is always possible if we ourselves understand the motivation to make the change.
For example, one immediate change I was able to make last year, as I live alone, was sleeping on linen sheets that I had found at brocantes in France. Having slept on many linen bed sheets during the month abroad last year, I knew I wanted to sleep on linen in Bend, and did so the second night I was home, never looking back. However, other changes have been gradual – letting go of a “perfectly” decorated home and falling in love with making my sanctuary one that works for me but maybe not a home decor photo shoot. Or shopping for seasonal food – this has been a wonderful change in my life and inspired TSLL’s Cooking Show, but I had to learn how to do it in the town that I live in, and that took time.
Every travel excursion upon which we embark will bring with it gems of ahas. The return and reintegration into our everyday life can sometimes feel shocking or akin to an ill-fitting shoe; however, often that is the lack of sleep playing a role, and with patience, time to reflect, and attention to what our body and mind need to function at their best, we can incorporate all that we have discovered to elevate the quality of our everyday lives even more than we ever could have imagined prior to our departure.
~SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Doubt the Default — How My Trip to France Woke Me Up, episode #218
~How to Cultivate Surroundings for Everyday Contentment, episode #219
~International Travel Prep List, episode #183