Our Top Mental Wellness Tips for Travellers

It’s been nearly 11 years since Andrew and I quit our London lives to travel the world and we still can’t stop exploring. Nomadic life is the norm for us now, whether we’re road-tripping in an RV across North America, renting an apartment in Portugal for the winter, backpacking through India or simply pet sitting somewhere new in the UK.

Us at the Lockhart Tea Fields in Munnar, IndiaWhile we love our lives of constant movement and adventure – and we recognise how lucky we are to have such unlimited freedom – nomadic life does bring with it challenges, particularly when it comes to mental health. Living out of a backpack, working remotely with shaky internet and only a hotel bed for a desk, missing friends and family, and often not knowing where we’ll be sleeping next week can take its toll. That’s why, over the last decade, we’ve developed these key strategies to help maintain our mental health on the road.

Establish a routine

We love to travel partly because of the constant change and lack of a daily routine and schedule. One day we could be hiking through a rainforest, the next, snorkelling in the ocean or getting lost in a brand-new city. However, amid the chaos, we’ve found that it’s important to establish loose routines to balance work, travel and downtime, which keeps our mental health in check.

Us riding backs along the Keralan Backwaters, India Often, we’ll plan our trips so that we work in the mornings and explore in the afternoon, or we’ll set aside a few days each week to do our sightseeing. When we stay a little longer in destinations, we get into a really good routine; in Chiang Mai, for instance, we rented an apartment with a pool so that we could swim every day, joined a local yoga class, found our favourite restaurants and made friends with other travellers in the city.

Practise mindfulness and meditation

Travel is a constant whirlwind of new people and places, endless sites to explore and history to uncover. Often, it can be hard to switch off with so much mental stimulation. Daily meditation can be a powerful tool to stay present and manage stress. Spending just a few minutes each day to practise breathing techniques and meditate can make a hugely positive impact on your mental health. Don’t know where to begin? There are plenty of mindfulness apps that offer guided sessions, making it accessible even for beginners.

Prioritise sleep

Getting quality sleep is highly important for mental and physical health. As we know all too well though, travel can really mess with your sleep patterns – think jet lag and adjusting to different time zones, sleeping in a new bed every few nights, dealing with noisy guests in the next hotel room – the list goes on. To try and combat these challenges, we spend time winding down before sleep and try to go to bed and get up at roughly the same time each day. Wherever we are, we try to create a conducive sleep environment by packing essentials like an eye mask, earplugs and noise cancelling headphones.

Think ahead and take precautions

As you know, we love to plan ahead when it comes to travel, but that means more than just booking flights and accommodation. According to the Australia Post travel team, around 25% of all insurance claims submitted are due to lost luggage or travel documents. With that in mind, we keep our valuables and passports in our hand luggage when we travel and ensure there’s somewhere safe to store them wherever we stay – we even installed a safe in our RV in North America. We also make copies of our important documents and store them, along with spare bank cards and key contact numbers, in a secure location separate from the originals. Most importantly, we never travel without insurance.

Us on the beach in Varkala, IndiaStay connected

Our nomadic life often means being away from family and friends in the UK for long stretches of time, which can leave us feeling disconnected and guilty. Fortunately, thanks to technology and social media, it’s easier than ever to stay connected. We try to schedule regular video calls with loved ones, connect via WhatsApp and social media and schedule as many trips as possible with our favourite people. Throughout our journey, we’ve also found it important to make friends with other nomads who can relate to our lifestyle and interact with local people in the destinations we visit.

Embrace slow travel

When you travel full-time, it can be easy to succumb to the pressure of ticking destinations off a checklist or quickly racing through a city in a bid to see all the important sites. However, we quickly realised that this only leads to stress and burnout. Instead, we prefer to travel slowly, ideally dedicating at least a month to each country we visit. Over the years, we’ve spent even more time in places we love; a year teaching in Hanoi, three winters in the Algarve, countless stints in Thailand and month-long stays in apartments everywhere from Prague to Medellin and Split. We like to delve beneath the surface of a destination and seeing what it’s like to actually live in a place. Travelling slowly means you have a much better chance of balancing work, travel and relaxation.

Stay active and eat well

Physical activity is a natural mood enhancer and stress reliever. Throughout our travels, we’ve found incorporating exercise into our travel routine has made a big difference to our mental health. This could mean everything from a yoga session (or retreat) to an afternoon swim or a day hiking in the wilderness. We look for active ways to explore, such as city walking tours or following national park trails, combining our love of travel with exercise.

Delicious vegan food in Fort Kochi, IndiaEating regular, healthy meals is also extremely important for mental health – a lesson we’ve learnt the hard way time and again. I’ve lost count of the amount of hangry arguments we’ve had because we skipped meals or survived a long bus journey on crackers and crisps alone. Being vegan also adds another challenge when we’re in countries with meat-heavy diets. These days, we often rent apartments with kitchens so that we can cook our own meals, prepare snacks, and seek out vegan restaurants online when we get to a new destination.

What are your top wellness tips for travellers? Share in the comments below.

  • Rhonda
    Posted at 18:15h, 29 February Reply

    All good tips friends. Hope you’re still enjoying India…as we’re currently non-nomadic, lol, we’re embracing following all of our travel friends as they explore the globe.

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:42h, 04 March Reply

      Thanks Rhonda – hope you get out on the road again soon 🙂

  • PlacesofJuma
    Posted at 16:42h, 09 March Reply

    Thanks for the great tips Amy! I think the food is almost the most important thing for me. It can be difficult to eat well and, above all, healthily, especially when you’re on the road for a long time.

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:50h, 05 June Reply

      Definitely! It can be a real struggle depending on where you are in the world.

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