1. Drink water—Hydration is the key to healthy travel! It sounds simple, yet is often overlooked. Plane trips are dehydrating, and water keeps you healthy by cleansing toxins and hydrating tissues. Carry plenty of good (bottled spring or purified) water with you for air or car travel, and drink it. Most people need at least two to three quarts of liquid per day, especially in hot weather or with sweating and exercise. If you drink more than this, add some electrolyte solution, such as Emergen-C packets or Power Paks, to your water—or ionic trace minerals, available in your natural food stores. Almost all commercially prepared drinks are high in sugar and are not a substitute for the healing benefits of water. Sun and salt are dehydrating, so balance your need between salt and water. Avoid drinking water that has been in sun-heated plastic containers so as to not consume plastic chemicals. See Chapter 1 on Water in my book Staying Healthy with Nutrition for more information.
2. Minimize the Effects of Exposure—With air travel, you are exposed to chemicals and radiation from planes as well as close contact with people. Protect yourself with the right supplements (see below) and water, and minimize your exposure to germs. Wash your hands with natural, non-scented anti-bacterial soap or carry a natural hand sanitizer with you. After you land at your destination, you might try a cleansing hot bath of sea salt and baking soda (one-half cup of each, and carry some with you), and soak in it in the hot tub for at least 30 minutes. You can also use Epsom salts. For dry skin, carry and use nourishing, natural body lotion or oils (great after your bath). While enjoying the sun and outdoors, protect yourself from overexposure to sunlight by wearing a hat and using natural sunscreens without excessive chemicals. Carry some Aloe Vera gel for overexposure; its cooling and healing effects will soothe any sunburn. For clothing, cotton is best since it breathes and energy moves through it. The synthetics are easy to wash and may dry more easily but the chemicals and lack of ventilation are possible problems. Have layers of clothes to wear to protect you from ticks, poison plants, scratches, and from overexposure. Also, take good sunglasses since excessive sunlight can cause headaches and dehydration.
3. Exercise—Be aware of your activity level. Sometimes it's actually easier to be active when you're away from work and everyday chores. Go easy and don't injure yourself by overdoing it at first. Ease into exercise. Enjoy the gift of unscheduled time, and the stimulation of a different environment. Experiment with your exercise routine. Monitor your progress to see what's most effective and most pleasurable. Then, when you get back home, you can incorporate these new activity habits. When traveling on business, be sure to exercise to clear your mind and body. Aerobic activity is important for keeping the heart strong and healthy. Get plenty of refreshing activities–hiking, biking, and swimming—in these hotter months. Even short bursts of aerobic activity can de-stress and dump toxins through sweating. Breathing is a most necessary component to health. Pay attention regularly to your breath and your state of stress.
4. Foods—Enjoy Nature's bounty wherever you travel by eating fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables at their organic best. Depending on where you travel, be aware of the cleanliness of the local foods and take precautions. Many cities have farmer's market; ask the locals where they go for fresh foods. If you do find a good resource, buy some simple and nourishing snacks that will eliminate the need to buy quick junk foods. Good snack choices include apples and other fruits, almonds and sunflower seeds, and some good protein bars. Also, be sure to wash all produce before you eat it. Avoid excessively salty foods and alcohol when on airplane trips as they cause further dehydration. Bear in mind that too much sugar can also weaken your immunity and put you at greater risk of infection.
5. Picnics—Picnic foods should be safe and healthy. Use a cooler or ice to keep items cold. Watch out for eggs and mayo and other foods that could become contaminated away from refrigeration. Some picnic food ideas include bean salad, tabouli, a quinoa dish, or fruit salad. What are your favorites? Take some protein foods as well, such as nuts and seeds, yogurt, cheese, or tofu salads. Also, make fresh choices, such as organic grapes, watermelon, apples and other fresh seasonal fruits. Pack your foods separately in Ziploc bags or closed containers, and then place in your cooler. Sandwiches and other finger foods like cut-up vegetables and dips are easy. Make your sandwiches fresh once you arrive and keep the spreads and fixings on ice. Even if you're just carrying healthy snacks in a purse or backpack, you can include a cold pack to safeguard your food and avoid a mess. By not mixing ingredients in advance, you'll keep the spoilage to a minimum.
6. Inner Healing and De-stressing—Prepare for the enjoyment of outdoors. Plan a fun trip of hiking, camping, playing at the river, or a few days resting at the ocean. Rekindling your Earth connection has benefits that last beyond this season, continuing to enrich the whole of your life. Relax and breathe. Enjoy yourself. Practice letting go of your stresses, leaving them at home or the office when you're on vacation. Find a great book to read on your trip. Get out in Nature. Be aware of vacation burnout. You don't need to see every attraction or experience everything a new place has to offer to have a fulfilling trip. Build some time into every day for rest and replenishment. This might entail letting yourself just sit for a while watching the clouds, the surf, listening to music, or reading a good book. Try being a wave or becoming the sky. I love an affirmation used for relaxation when I lie down, especially in a meadow, "My mind is the sky, and the clouds are my thoughts; I just watch them float by."
7. Hygiene for Travel—Wash your hands often with antibacterial soap or natural disinfectants; you can carry some in a small container in your travel kit. I prefer and suggest more natural disinfectants without harsh chemicals. Avoid jumping in unfamiliar waters unless you know they are safe. And what about all those door handles, ATM machines, store pens, and gas pumps that you handle? There could be potential germ contamination, so that's a time for antibacterial soap. I always have my own pen to sign receipts at stores. Consider carrying a small first aid kit on trips or in your car. Available at camping stores, they are compact and easy to use. "Don't be scared, be prepared." If you already know how to use homeopathy, the homeopathic home kits are very practical.
8. Nutritional Supplements—All the antioxidant nutrients are helpful for the stress of travel; vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and selenium are the main ones. Others are alphalipoic acid, pycnogenol, and L-cysteine. I use B-vitamins as tablets or sublingual drops as well for balancing travel stress. Also, it may be helpful to have some spirulina, chlorella, or blue-green algae tablets for energy support. Store your supplements out of the sun or in the cooler. Herbs like Siberian ginseng may also help you deal with the stress of travel. When traveling across time zones, melatonin taken at your new bedtime can help reset your biologic time clock. Even low doses can be effective, so easy does it. The Emergen-C or Power Pak packets that contain extra B-vitamins, C, and minerals are also very helpful for travel and exercise replenishment. Put a pack in your drinking water.
9. Get Back on Track—If you do eat the wrong foods in your travels (or on any dietary program), either out of necessity or lack of proper nutritional preparedness take steps to get back on the right track. Carry simple remedies with you, such as antacids or baking soda, acidophilus (probiotic) cultures for upset stomachs, zinc lozenges for sore throats, as well as echinacea with goldenseal root tincture to protect you from bacteria and other germs moving in on you and ruining your vacation time; (note that those in alcohol base have natural disinfecting qualities). Another nutritional aid is flaxseed oil liquid or capsules; keep in a cool, dark place if not refrigerated. If you become excessively dry, take a few caps or a tablespoon twice daily, as this will give your body the right lubrication. I always carry a GI tract dis-infector and soother to rebalance any upset gut or bad food during travel. One I like by Nutricology is called Gastromycin, containing aloe, bismuth, grapefruit seed, and licorice.
10. More Tips On Travel— Leave no trash trace, and carry a recyclable garbage bag when traveling locally or going into nature.
- For foods, compact and nutritious nuts and seeds or ‘trail mixes' are good for hiking. However, watch out for trail mixes that are too high in sugars, such as with chocolate pieces and excess dried fruits. You can fortify your trail mixes by adding extra of your favorite nuts and seeds.
- Bug proof your vacation. Be prepared. Check out the new, non-chemical bug repellents before you begin your nature journeys and make sure you can tolerate the aroma and that it prevents the types of bites and stings you might encounter. Be aware of other creatures such as ticks, bees, or snakes– they live here too! Inform yourself about how to avoid problems, such as Lyme disease. Take info on who to call or where to go if anything does happen. If you do get stung, the ice in the cooler is one of your best instant healers; you can carry some fresh aloe leaves in the cooler and soothe your sun exposure. For all activities, practice safety. Make sure you have life jackets for water play, and that they are up to safety standards. Children and seniors should be watched by a qualified swimmer who has had some training. Use common sense for any hazards you encounter; above all, have fun.
- Prepare your home before you go away so that when you arrive back, things are organized and you can relax from the adventure of your journey. Keep a journal, watch out for unusual plants, and what about those birds? Are they orioles, finches, or woodpeckers? Take some lightweight binoculars so you can track what you are seeing, or if you'll be away from cities, take a portable telescope to better see the night sky and become part of the cosmos from which you are made. Connecting with Nature can be so awesome and replenishing.
Elson M. Haas, MD
Elson M. Haas, MD is a medical practitioner with nearly 40 years experience in patient care, always with in an interest in natural medicine. For the past 30 years, he has been instrumental in the development and practice of Integrated Medicine at the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (PMCM), which he founded in 1984 and where he is the Medical Director. Dr Haas has been perfecting a model of healthcare that integrates sophisticated Western diagnostics and Family Medicine with time-honored natural therapies from around the world.
This educating, writing doctor is also the author of many books including Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, 21st Century Edition, The NEW Detox Diet: The Complete Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, & Detox Plans and more. His latest book is Staying Healthy with NEW Medicine which integrates Natural, Eastern, and Western Approaches for Optimal Health. Visit his website for more information on his work, books and to sign up for his newsletter.