Written by Founder and CEO, Sara Potler LaHayne
I spend more money on the Amtrak Café cart than I do at the bar in my neighborhood. Worse yet, the barista at the café next to Delta Gate 35 at JFK knows me and my order. When we spend so much time in transit from one meeting to the next convening, back and forth from an evening event in one city and a morning breakfast in another, it begets an important task — staying healthy and sane while on the road.
You may think business travel is glamorous and sexy. Sometimes it is fun and adventurous; the first time I went to Mexico City and met social entrepreneurs from across the globe we danced until dawn; when I was in Austin I ate every form of BBQ and fried chicken with educators and school leaders across the country. But more often than not, business travel rocks you from your routine and destabilizes whatever foundation you’ve built to help you move through your day with less push and pull. You’re not near your gym, so you don’t have that Tuesday morning boot camp you love. You’re not sleeping in your bed. You are inevitably up late at night building relationships with new partners at a conference and then returning to your hotel room (or better yet, friend’s couch) to try to keep up with all of the work that’s piled on while you were away from your device. And if you’re in another time zone, forget it. You’re basically working 18 hours, responding to what’s come in when you wake up and what’s come back before you go to bed.
Rituals are scientifically proven to create a sense of confidence in abilities, motivated greater effort and improved subsequent performance, especially during times of chaos, change and stress. As I sit here in the Amtrak Café, for the second time this week, sneezing every 5 min and across from a man who’s hacking through his conference call, it’s time to remind myself and my warrior jet-setting friends of my sacred tips to staying healthy and sane during business travel.
1.) Take an empty thermos on every flight.
Carry your favorite teas in your carry on. Ask the flight attendant to fill your thermos with hot water- there’s no shortage! You can also wash and peel fresh ginger, slice it up, and plop it into the thermos at home, with or instead of the tea. Ginger builds immunity and keeps our sinuses clear, especially during winter months.
2.) Before leaving for the airport, put a tiny bit of coconut oil on a Q-tip.
Gently swab the coconut oil just inside of your nostrils, at the base of your nose and the bottom of the inside rim. This will keep bad germs and bacteria from getting up there!
3.) Stay hydrated.
My husband calls me a camel for all of the water I drink, and when I’m traveling, I drink even more than usual. Avoid alcohol while flying- it’s always fun at the time and then rough a few hours into the flight.
4.) Get on the local time zone ASAP.
Stay up and try to go to bed at a normal time for where you are, or force yourself to rest if it’s nighttime, even if you’re wired. When you land, if it’s day time, get outside and into the sunshine for 20 minutes. This will help with jet lag.
5.) Meet your neighbors.
Some of my most productive networking moments have been with the school principal next to me on the train who heard me on the phone and asked more about my work, or the college professor next to me on the plane who was reading an article on trauma-informed teaching that I couldn’t help but notice and then interrupt. Don’t be afraid to notice the people in your orbit and make the most of your surroundings.
6.) Soul-warming foods are your friend.
When traveling, stick to warm, nourishing foods such as soups, quinoa and lentils, steamed veggies, garlic, etc. Snacks are tempting since they’re all over train stations and airports and easy to gobble down, but they don’t substitute a meal.
7.) Sweat it out, even if you’re tired and you’re in new territory.
Releasing endorphins and moving your body gets you energized for the day, which can help beat jetlag, overcome the tiring late nights of networking, and get you focused for all of the competing demands you’ll have on the road. Running is fun in that you can explore new cities and parks, or try a DIY bootcamp in your room that includes push ups, burpies, sit ups, and lunges. You don’t need a hotel gym to get in your morning movement.
8.) Never check a bag (duh) and keep your essentials close.
If you’re a frequent traveler, then it’s safe to say you’ve probably had your luggage lost before. Always keep a toothbrush, face wash, and wet wipes with you in your bag. When you spend hours upon hours in stale air, sometimes all it takes is a tooth brush and a face wipe to make you feel like a new person.
9.) Commit to where you are.
It’s easy to be in the middle of a conference, engaging with all new people, and feel obligated to respond to the barrage of emails coming from your team. They know you are out of the office, and they will be fine without you. Commit to being fully present wherever you are, meet the people around you, learn and observe what’s happening. Don’t try to be two places at once. Be open to the possibilities of new connections and experiences.
10.) Allow yourself some “me” time.
It can be easy to feel like your whole life is work when you’re traveling for business. Morning meetings bleed into packed days that blur into networking nights and even later night emails where there seems to be no time for you. Part of that comes with the adventure, which is why the morning workout is so critical. But when pockets of quiet open up, and they are there if you are intentional about finding them, allow yourself a chapter of your book, or a few minutes of silent meditation, or a catch-up call with your mom in the sunshine. Traveling on business doesn’t have to make you a martyr.
Don’t make business travel any more stressful than it has to be. Use these tips to stay sane and manage stress in order to be your best self when you arrive at your final destination. For more resources on managing stress, check out our resource library.