Trying to keep a routine when backpacking is, as you can imagine, extremely difficult as each day will look completely different. You will be experiencing an incredibly varied lifestyle, however by keeping to some sort of healthy routine whilst abroad it can alleviate symptoms of anxiety…which for me was always a win.
WHAT IS A ROUTINE?
As routine is something that is known, it allows us to feel more comfortable, even if our surroundings are not. Although routine can help to reduce anxiety it’s not a cure unfortunately. However, it’s something that should definitely be included in your handy toolbox of ways to tackle anxiety on a day-to-day basis, whilst on the road.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE NO ROUTINE?
By not having a routine in my life I have found that at times I can feel overwhelmed and anxious. One of the ways I combat this is by planning my trips and researching the destination, including how to get from a-b. So that when I’m there, I can feel more familiar in my surroundings and it gives me the stability that I need.
I guess it all depends on how you feel, in yourself. My advice would be, don’t push yourself to go on a solo backpacking adventure with no routine or plan, unless it feels right. Only you know what is best for you and can decide on the type of trip that is needed.
Sometimes I need to be on my own, not knowing what’s coming next, as it gives me a sense of intense freedom. As I’m sure you’ll agree it’s extremely liberating to be in a new destination and not know where to go and what tomorrow will bring.
Alternatively at other times, I need to have a plan.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM
One of the biggest problems with having no routine while I’m away is, it can really affect how I manage to adjust once I’m home. By transferring some of my home routine to my time abroad, I find it easier to adjust to ‘normal life’ when I return.
Yes, while on holiday for a week or weekend, it’s fine to completely let your hair down and toss the routine out the window, you will see it very differently when you’re away for months or years at a time.
I know this from experience. I have made these mistakes oh so many times. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been away with no routine, living a care free life, drinking and partying all night, not even just for months, but years! (the shame) Yeah I had a good time, but it definitely affected my transition back to ‘normality’. Or maybe just now that I’m getting older I can truly see what helps and what doesn’t.
With the unpredictability that comes with travel, it can provoke anxiety and having some kind of routine when you’re abroad can definitely provide an anchor of predictability. I know it does for me.
Tip – If you’re someone who struggles, it may be an idea to spend longer in each destination.
In a recent trip to South East Asia, it was extremely difficult to have any routine when I was moving from place to place, every couple of days. Although, I did make a conscious effort to think about the food I was eating and timings of my day.
However, when I got to Koh Phangan, this is where I put a routine in place.
By staying in one place for an extended period of time, it can really help you to implement a successful healthy routine, whilst also exploring every corner of that destination. So, not only will you be happy and healthy, you will be an expert in that destination!
HERE’S HOW TO CREATE A HEALTHY ROUTINE ABROAD
MAKE A HOTEL/HOSTEL/TRAIN OR AIB BNB A HOME
Take a photo or blanket with you; I take a pashmina/large scarf with me, the same one whenever I travel. It reminds me of home and makes me feel comfortable. I wear it to the airport, use it to cover a pillow on the train or bus I’m sleeping on, I use it as a blanket and I use it to create a sense of routine!
GET UP & GO
Get up and make the most of each day. By getting up early and preparing for the day you will be able to firstly; fit in more exploring and secondly work out what you may want to skip. Create a morning routine that you’re more likely to be able to stick to. For example, you might want to get up, get straight in the shower, have some breakfast and then pack a bag for the day.
PLAN YOUR DAYS AHEAD
Get in the habit of planning what you’re going to do at each destination, you could use a daily planner to do this. You can either plan this the day before or in some cases you may need to book a tour even weeks or months in advance. This will ensure that you don’t miss out on the activities you want to do most. It will also give you stability in your routine. By knowing what you’re going to be doing, you will be more relaxed and less likely to slip into panic/worry mode. I will normally have researched the destination in great detail (because I love travel) and therefore have some idea of what to expect.
STICK TO A BEDTIME PLAN
It can be difficult to stick to your usual bedtime plan when you’re away as you could be coming and going from different hostels or hotels and also flying through the night. Try to when possible keep your routine; clean your teeth, read your book, spend time unwinding before bed. I know the feeling when I may have had a few bevvies the night before and I haven’t cleaned my teeth (I know…). I didn’t read, I didn’t get a glass of water, and I just fell into bed after way too many glasses of wine…This does not help when I wake up the next day (oh why do we do it to ourselves???). I don’t feel productive or ready for the day. By doing all the things you do at home, this will help your body get ready for bed and reduce any anxiety.
HEALTHY BODY, HEALTHY MIND
By eating the right foods and drinks it will help to keep not only your body healthy but your mind. I always feel much more positive when I’m eating the right foods. (look up pros) I like to try to eat at the same time each day. Not always possible, but can really help to create a sense of routine. With the variety of foods you will be trying around the world it is important to think about not just when you’re eating but what you’re eating and how what you eat can affect your anxiety…that’s a conversation for another day.
PLAN YOUR WORKOUTS
Finding the motivation to workout when you’re abroad, is for me possibly the most difficult aspect of sticking to my routine. By keeping to your workout regime and planning your sessions, you can create a routine that can promote positive energy. That’s why when you’re looking at booking your accommodation, you may want to think about whether you choose a hostel or hotel. What is the main goal for this trip? If you are flexible on budget, you can book yourself into a hotel with a gym or pool to help encourage those sweat sessions…whilst if you’re on a tighter budget you may want to check out some YouTube videos (I swear by Joe Wicks – The Body Coach and Do You Yoga).
I’m a true believer that you can work out anywhere for FREE around the world.
Try to incorporate at least 10 minutes of meditation. This one should be easy while you’re away! You can do it on the beach or in bed when you wake up. I always find it easier when I plug-in my headphones and then put on a guided meditation.
By cancelling out the other sounds around me, I can focus on the calming music or the voice of the person guiding me. I just pop into YouTube ’10 minute guided meditation’ and find one I like the sound of straight away. Over time you will be able to add some to a playlist so you know which one is right for each session.
You can close your eyes to really focus on clearing your mind or sometimes it was nice to sit at the beach and just watch the waves lapping the shore.
Give yourself a certain time of day to sit down and reply to messages from friends and FaceTime friends at home. It’s vital that we communicate with people at home while being so far away and it’s so easy to do this now. If you’re a dedicated reader of my blog you’ll know that I think it’s a great idea to have the WiFi box with you, as it allows you to connect wherever, whenever you are, to a WiFi network.
GET SOME RAYS
Brief exposure to sunlight has multiple benefits, like boosting your mood and supporting heart and overall health. Incorporate it into your routine…see a routine isn’t so bad! Pick a time of day that you will sit in the sun, although the middle of the day can be the sunniest, it’s so important to think about how powerful the sun will be at that time. Why not decide to head to the beach at around 3pm and have a couple of hours before the sun goes down. You could then check out the sunset whilst doing your 10-30 minute meditation?! (See there’s method in the madness).
WRITE A JOURNAL
This is a great way to create a book full of memories to look back on, but it also has the added benefit of working out what is real and what is irrational anxiety.
I find that by writing down my thoughts and feelings and then reflecting on this I can determine what I need to worry about and what I don’t. It gives you a moment to take some time out to reevaluate the importance of some of your thoughts.
If you know me at all, you will know I love to read. Fearne Cotton has developed a fantastic little journal companion to her bestselling book HAPPY. It’s helped me to discover new ideas and write a little bit of happiness into every day of my travels.
Although I write a blog online, I don’t actually journal my thoughts on a daily basis on here. I still LOVE a good old-fashioned paper journal.
Have you thought about starting your own blog? It’s a great place to get your voice heard and it can be on whatever you want. It doesn’t have to be about travel…