Self-care is how we take care of our mind, body, and spirit. It helps us prevent burnout, re-center ourselves, and protect our well-being so we’re better able to show up for ourselves and others in our lives. When many people think of self-care they typically think: a spa day, putting on a face mask, or even drinking a glass of wine in the bathtub. All of these are great things- but I'm here to tell you why you also NEED to include travel in your self-care routine:
1) Detox from your device
First & foremost, it's always a good self-care routine to unplug from technology for awhile. Get off Instagram, Facebook, and whatever else consumes you on the internet. Go out into the world and see things! Experience things! When you start to unplug and detox from technology, you start to realize how much it can influence your daily thoughts and actions.
A lot of times when I travel, I don't even get an international SIM card. This means I can only use my phone when I'm somewhere with wifi. So I'll download my offline maps and hit the road! When I was in Myanmar I would rent a motorbike for 10-12 hours every day, so I'd wake up and just start exploring. Pretty much ZERO phone or technology time, until I got back to my hostel at night. It honestly was such an amazing time because the times where I usually would pull out my phone & scroll, I did yoga, or wrote poetry. I even did a 3-day trek through the countryside- with no wifi or phone at all. It was a much-needed detox!
2) Get out of your comfort zone
It's always a good form of self-care to push yourself out of your comfort zone, even just a little bit. You don't want to get stuck in the exact same daily, weekly, or even monthly routines and wake up one day to realize you didn't try anything new! Even if you hate it or feel extremely uncomfortable- hey, at least you tried!
My very first solo trip was from Los Angeles to Costa Rica. It wasn't supposed to be a solo trip, but you know, things happen. So I had a choice to either go solo or not go and lose all the money I had already spent. Even though I was pretty terrified inside, I thought why not just try. And I will definitely admit sitting in LAX and even when I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica I was thinking to myself: "WHAT AM I DOING?"
The first day was extremely hard. I got super lost. I couldn't communicate properly. I ended up waiting in this dirty, old "bus station" for over 3 hours before finally a bus came to take me where I wanted to go. It was so rough, I just wanted to go home. But after that, I was able to do all the amazing things I wanted (zip lining, white water rafting, canyoneering...) and met some awesome people!
After that trip, I was hooked. Now I've been on so many solo trips I can't even count. It was the best form of self-care I could've given myself because I grew so much during that trip and learned a lot about myself!
3) Learn about others
Not only is learning more about yourself a great version of self-care, but so is learning about others and their culture. You might think, how is learning about someone else helping MY self-care? But when you learn more about the world and you hear other people's stories of what their lives are like every day, you really do learn more about yourself. You start to have an appreciation for the life you have, and learn to respect and appreciate all these different cultures at the same time. It's a beautiful thing.
One of my favorite things I've ever done in my life was move to China for a year. Not only is the country itself filled with infinite natural beauty and amazing sights to see, but the people forever touched my heart. I made so many friends who I would talk to about their childhood or family life or even Chinese traditions- and it was amazing to see how different our lives were, yet similar at the same time.
In Chinese culture, the people might seem distant at first to strangers, but once you open up and get to know them- you are FAMILY. I learned so much about their culture: Chinese New Year, traditional tea houses, eating hot pot, KTV (my personal fav), and so much more. The more I learned about the Chinese culture, the more I learned about myself. It truly was one of the greatest experiences of my life!
4) See beautiful sights you never thought you'd see
Appreciating beauty is a crucial part of self-care. You should appreciate the beauty in you (both inside & out), while also appreciating the beauty of the world around you. The tasty food. The birds chirping. And all the incredible sights to see on this Earth. Why not go see some of them in person? I promise, it will change your life. Hashtag ultimate self care.
I've been fortunate enough to travel a lot and see so many beautiful things I can't even count. But I truly have to say that one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen is Kuang Si Falls in Luang Prabang, Laos. I can't even begin to tell you how much the pictures and videos of this waterfall don't do it any justice. My boyfriend and I just sat silently for so long staring at it, because we were simply in awe.
I also have to talk more about China when it comes to natural beauty because OH MAN, this country is FULL OF IT. It's outrageous. I lived and traveled around the country for a year and still haven't scratched the surface. I still daydream about Yangshuo, Zhangye Danxia (Rainbow Mountains), Zhangjiajie (Avatar Mountains), and all the other amazing, natural wonders of China.
Of course I could go on and on about all the beautiful things in every country I've been to (because every country has so much to offer!). But I'll just end this with one more- Indonesia. Wow. Of course we have all heard of or been to Bali, which yes, is BEAUTIFUL don't get me wrong. But all of Indonesia was absolutely stunning. From the pink sand beaches, to the rice terraces, to the wildlife - it never stopped surprising me!
5) Appreciation for what you have
Another important part of self-care is appreciation. Appreciation for the life you have been given, and the steps you've taken to help better that life. Sometimes when you are stuck in your usual routine it's hard to appreciate what you already have. It's a natural part of our society to be jealous or wish we had other things or even someone else's life. But once you travel to some places that don't have clean water, seated toilets, or even electricity/technology, you will quickly start to appreciate all the little things in your life.
Now this isn't to say, "yes let's go to a poorer country and feel better about ourselves!" Of course not. In some of the poorest countries I have ever been to, I have seen the HAPPIEST people. Kids running around kicking a "soccer ball" made of trash. Adults eating and conversing with one another with the biggest smiles on their faces. By no means are they living a "bad life," but of course it is just very different.
In Cambodia, I saw some of the poorest living conditions I have ever seen. Houses made of leaves and trash, with no running water. People carrying large baskets of food or goods to sell at the local markets, that look extremely heavy. It makes you appreciate the fact that you have running water, or you have means of transportation to get to work. Things you might not normally think twice about.
Another place that really made me appreciate what I have was Sri Lanka. First off let me tell you, that Sri Lanka is one of my FAVORITE places I have ever been. It is a country filled with beautiful sights, amazing wildlife, and delicious food. But the public transportation system is INSANE. The good part is you can pay roughly $1-3 USD to take a bus practically anywhere in the country...BUT, it will be packed like a can of sardines. So many times we tried to hop on the bus, but people were literally hanging outside the bus holding on to the window! We couldn't believe our eyes! It made us super grateful for having our own cars back home.
6) Meet like-minded travelers
Another important part of self-care is sharing and bonding. We all know that relationships are extremely beneficial to our overall well-being. So when you travel and meet other travelers- you are doing self-care! Why? Because you are able to share travel stories, get tips on things to do, or hear about places you never thought about going before. The act of sharing and bonding with like-minded people is an essential part of your self-care routine.
Pretty much any time you stay at a hostel, it's almost guaranteed you'll meet at least 1 person that you can have a good conversation with about travels. One of those moments that sticks out to me the most was when I was solo traveling in New Zealand. My first night in Queenstown, I was in my dorm room trying to figure out my plans for what I wanted to see and how long I'd stay in the country. I really wanted to rent a car and drive around, but I was scared because I was alone and had never driven on the left side of the road before.
Then, a girl named Piper came in and we got to talking and she told me she just finished driving around the whole country in her rental car by herself. She gave me her exact itinerary, all the stops along the way, even hostel recommendations. It truly inspired me and allowed me to have the courage to rent a car on the spot, and I left for my road trip the next day. She was such an amazing woman whose story ended up giving me one of my favorite trips of my life.
Another time that really sticks out to me was when my friend Paul & I were on a cruise in Vietnam, and we ended up meeting a man named Mike who was solo-traveling. We got to talking and found out he's retired from Chicago, so every winter he always just travels to warmer places to avoid the brutal Chicago winters. He ended up joining us after the cruise to our next couple of destinations in Vietnam. We hiked, rode motorbikes, and explored so much together as a group. He truly was a special person that inspired us to never stop traveling! Such an awesome memory and experience.
7) Time to reflect
A vital part of self-care is self-reflection. A time where you look at your life, what you've accomplished, future goals...anything! Self-reflection helps you grow by understanding who you are, what your values are, and why you think and act the way you do. You are exercising introspection and attempting to learn more about your fundamental nature and essence. Obviously you don't have to travel in order to do this, but it can definitely help provide a beautiful canvas for you to do so.
I remember my solo trip to South Korea so vividly because I had so much time for self-reflection. I made it a goal for the trip to find one place everyday to sit & admire the view, while also meditating and self-reflecting. I did the Igidae Coastal walk one morning, and just had hours of self-reflection time, while admiring the amazing coastal views. Another day, I went to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and just watched the waves crash over the rocks of the temple for hours while I self-reflected and meditated. It's a beautiful way to appreciate a new place, while also allowing yourself to indulge in the moment as much as possible.
Travel is an essential part of your self-care routine. It can help you in so may ways that you don't even realize it. So what are you waiting for? Go plan that next trip to Europe, Asia, or even domestically in the USA. Love yourself! Take care of yourself! You're worth it!
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