Traveling has always been an important part of my life. Growing up, I was privileged enough to have a family that went to different places every year for a family vacation. At 13 I went on a month long road trip to the West Coast on a school trip and fell in love with the beauty and diversity of nature. At 16 I went to Paris to visit my cousin who was studying abroad and fell in love with European city living. It was on that trip that I took my first photos that sparked a creativity in me that I’ve never been able to shut off. In college I lived in Venice and study art history and photography and learned the joy of making a meal out of bread and cheese and wine. And 2 years ago I packed up and moved to Berlin to live indefinitely.
Throughout my life travel has been almost like a haven for me to explore not just new places, but my own creativity and curiosity. You learn so much about yourself when exploring new places. There’s something that just comes alive when you get kicked out of the usual routine and also this quiet introspection that can only happen when traveling.
Living in Berlin we would explore at least one new place every month. When I got diagnosed with Hashimoto’s 6 months in, that all changed. I knew if I wanted to keep up with traveling like we were I’d have to do everything it took to get healthy. This meant the Autoimmune Protocol — which meant no more carbonara from the Italian place down the street, no more dumplings from the German place on the corner, no more cheese and bread from the farmer’s market every Thursday, and most of all no more careless travel plans. It seemed like a worthwhile exchange to get my energy and mental clarity back. To be able to walk all day and take photos without crippling fatigue and brain fog.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I could never again just sit down at a random cafe for a glass of wine and a cheese plate. I’ll never eat a local favorite from a cart on the street while walking along whatever river is running through the European city I’m in. I can no longer explore unfamiliar foods with abandon.
As much as prioritizing my health has given me, there is a strong grief that comes with it. I jumped right into AIP, not considering the long term implications these changes would have on my life (good and bad). Because once you start healing, there’s no going back. No matter how much I grieve the loss of that careless traveling and eating, nothing could ever make me go back to the way I felt before. As much as I’ve lost from those experiences, I’ve gained so much more. I can now travel without crippling fatigue (for the most part), and I now understand why my body feels the way it does so I can react and care for it instead of fighting it.
That grief is tempered when I consider how much my new lifestyle has changed my outlook on travel. Instead of finding the most authentic place to eat local food, we find the best lookout point to get the perfect view of natural beauty. Instead of crowded city streets, we pass fellow hikers as we make our way through the woods to get to a secluded beach. I have grief that my life no longer includes exploring new foods, but there’s also a freedom that comes from living a life that no longer revolves around food. The food is never the main event anymore, and that’s forced me to look outside of that for enjoyment which has given me a stronger connection and appreciation for the natural world.
I’ve put a lot of myself into my healing, but I still have a long road to go. Even so, I still refuse to let my autoimmune disease get in the way of traveling. I know someday this will get easier, but for now I do everything in my power to support my body in my everyday life, and even more so when traveling. Sometimes this means a long recovery after a trip, but that’s okay.
For me, traveling well started with refining my diet. Before getting into the specific tips that I now follow, I will say that since changing my diet and finding the foods that work (and don’t work) for my body I am able to travel 100% nausea-free. If you knew me in the past, you’d know that I had a SENSITIVE stomach. 20 minutes in a car or on a train or any time a plane took off/landed/hit turbulence and I’d be reaching for some ginger candies and scoffing down wheat thins to settle my stomach (yep, this celiac thought wheat thins were the answer to motion sickness… that’s a rant for another day).
Traveling is ROUGH on anyone’s body so I wanted to share some of my tried and true tips on how to travel well. This routine has been tested and refined over the last 2 years of a lot of air travel. While most of this is in response to keeping my autoimmune diseases under control, these tips can be applied for anyone wanting to protect their health.
All this to say, everything needs to be a well rounded approach. If you’re starting off with a good baseline then you’re setting your body up to be resilient and these are just added protections.
I’m going to start off with the obvious one: traveling with essential oils. I don’t know how I ever managed traveling pre-oils. These are the oils I don’t leave home without for any trip:
- Rubbed around my eyes (DO NOT GET IN YOUR EYES) for migraines/headaches. I can get very sensitive to light, especially on a plane, so I use this on any nighttime flights where the blue light from the TVs can be assaulting.
- Drops along my spine pre and post flights for inflammation and general feel-goodness. I’ll keep this going every morning and night that I’m traveling (see the anti-inflammatory blend below).
- Rubbed on neck and shoulders to prevent muscle tension
- Because you never know when that turbulence will hit and you’ll need to settle your stomach.
- I start applying this to my spine and feet a night or two before the flight, then again when I get to the airport, and periodically throughout the trip for immune support.
- Also known as the “Grounding Blend”, Balance is perfect to ground anxious energy when flying. Put a couple drops on your root chakra and back of neck or in your hands then inhale with deep breaths.
- I’ll also repeat this throughout the trip to help with jet lag.
- Frankincense + rosemary + copaiba + turmeric + yarrow pom
- When traveling, and especially when combatting jet lag, I rub this combination of oils on my spine every morning before showering and at night before bed. When I’m home I’ll do the same before I sauna. Doing this pre-shower/sauna allows the oils to be absorbed more easily because your pores open up in the steam/heat.
Lemon + Cypress + Peppermint
- I bring these oils to diffuse in the hotel room to keep the air fresh.
When it comes to protecting myself from germs on a plane I am a Naiomi Campbell level of extra. No joke, I watched this video of her on a plane and starting at the 2:30 mark it’s almost my exact routine!
I always travel with my OnGuard sanitizing spray as well as nontoxic disinfecting cleansing wipes. I constantly use the sanitizing spray on my hands, and wipe down every surface of my seat area as soon as I get on the plane. Literally every surface. Anything that I or any of my stuff could possibly come in contact with I wipe down — Seatback pockets, seat belt, arm rests, the entire seat, tray table (both sides), screen, everything!
Did you know that Seatback trays are one of the dirtiest places on a plane? They’re a great place to find norovirus, MRSA, and the flu and they are rarely disinfected.
“a 2015 study by TravelMath that tested samples from hard surfaces in planes found that tray table surfaces had more than eight times the amount of bacteria per square inch than the lavatory flush buttons.”(TIME.com)
This is a step that I don’t mess around with.
Filtering Face Mask
Okay, so admittedly this one is definitely extra. But, you know what? After the amount of times I’ve ended up with a respiratory infection or a cold that ends in an autoimmune flare after a flight or train I don’t care anymore. I actually got some compliments from the flight attendants on my Vogmask. It not only filters germs from the recycled air, but also chemicals from air fresheners, other people’s perfume, and mold.
The mask also comes in handy for taking Lyfts with 8 chemical air fresheners (no joke – the last Lyft I took home from the airport had EIGHT Christmas tree air fresheners. EIGHT. I don’t want to know what you are doing in your car that you need eight air fresheners). No need to let those toxic chemicals into my body ever.
Since using the mask I’ve noticed a decrease in migraines and headaches, less nausea, and when I got off the plane I didn’t have my usual post-flight brain fog and heavy fatigue feeling.
I recently came across this study that showed jet lag can impact the gut microbiome. I definitely notice this when traveling — even if I stick to strict AIP my digestion gets funky. This is something that seems unavoidable, but I do my best to keep it in check. Starting off on a good baseline of health is the most important part here.
Leading up to and after a flight I refrain from alcohol and try to eat food that will be easy to digest, like smoothies, slow cooked meat, puréed soups and only cooked veggies. Depending on the timing and length of a flight, I will fast before and during to avoid the stress of digestion on my body. I bring a travel mug that I fill with hot water once I’m through security (I don’t drink the hot water from the plane) so throughout the flight I can drink tea with collagen. I also drink A LOT of water (I always sit on an aisle seat so I can get up as much as I’d like). I do take some Chomps and plantain chips as backup if I get hungry — listening to your body is key here.
As I mentioned, I stick to strict AIP as much as possible when traveling (but sometimes there’s no avoiding crappy oils at restaurants). I also drink LOTS of bone broth, collagen, and Pique tea throughout the trip. Lastly I don’t leave home without my digestive enzymes and supplements, especially Glutenza to make sure I’m protected from potential glutenings.
Red Light Therapy
This is another one where consistent use is helpful vs. only using it when I travel. Red light therapy can improve sleep, increase collagen production, improve circulation, and reduce joint pain and inflammation. I travel with my Joovv Go to keep up with my daily treatments, and get these benefits post-flight.
We’re exposed to so many toxins when traveling that it’s important to support your body’s natural detox pathways. I try to hit up a sauna after a flight whenever possible. If that’s not possible, I stick to dry brushing with doTERRA’s Zendocrine blend essential oils every morning before getting in the shower to stimulate lymph flow.
When I get home I make sure to get back into my routine of using my sauna every morning. Before getting in the sauna, I’ll layer my anti-inflammatory blend of frankincense, copaiba, turmeric, rosemary, and yarrow pom on my spine.
At the airport I choose to opt out of the big full body scanners. This can take up more time because you have to wait for an agent to perform a pat down, but I’m not messing around with the high levels of radiation and EMFS potentially produced by the scanners. If there’s even a margin of doubt that something is safe, I’m going to be cautious.
Prioritizing sleep is so simple, but can be the hardest part of traveling. First of all, jet lag. Second of all, you want to go out and do all the things and have all the fun! I try to listen to my body and rest and get to bed when it feels right.
The article mentioned above under digestion suggests that the gut microbiome can be affected by disruptions to circadian rhythm. To help make sure my sleep doesn’t get impacted too much, I take melatonin 1 hour before bedtime every night I’m away. Even if I feel like I’m going to sleep well I take the melatonin anyway.
I also keep up with my adrenal supplements. These are herbal supplements from my doctor, but you could try the mushroom elixirs blends from Pique Tea. Everyone can react to adaptogens differently, so I would try them out or consult your doctor before traveling to see how your body responds to them.
Lastly I follow my regular sleep hygiene protocols: noise machine and limited screen time (or making sure my Apple devices are on night shift) before bed.