Work travel. . . again.

I’m a health-consious person (but you knew that). I set up my daily life to make it easy— walk/bike/public transit. High-quality food in my kitchen, healthy snacks in my backpack, veggies with everything. Breaks for a stretch/walk. Standing and fidgeting as I work. Runs, yoga classes, gym classes surrounding and sometimes interrupting my work day. It’s easy for me when I have control.

But what happens when, suddenly, I’m stuck in an airport, on a plane, in another airport, in a hotel, in a conference center? No vitamix, no yoga studio, no time to seek out a grocery store even. I’ll tell you how I make it work, but I also have a wishlist for the hotels and conference organizers (I’m looking at you, Hyatt Bethesda).

Let’s start with the stuff I can do, no matter where I wind up:

  1. Pack workout clothes. No one can take this from you, even if your schedule is tight. If the weather’s OK and the location is safe, an outdoor run is the best— gets you oriented, helps your body clock, just plain feels good. This might mean packing something warm. If not, there’s almost always a gym. You can find out what they’ve got (pool? bikes? kettlebells?) before you go— website or phone call will usually do it.  Yes, a hotel gym can be a sad place, but I’m like my border collie mix (hi Pippi!)
    black and white dog with wagging tail

    we’re going for a run now, right? RIGHT??

    and if I don’t get at least 30 minutes of exercise in the morning, I’m a nightmare for the rest of the day. I’m not a treadmill person, but I’ll use one in a pinch. I’ve found I’m better off with a little structure for an indoor workout so I don’t quit out of boredom. I tried Aaptiv this trip, which lets you stream or download audio workouts for treadmill, bike, rower, strength training, etc. It got the job done (meaning, I got a good workout in on the treadmill and didn’t die of boredom). I’d do it again.

  2. pink hydro flask bottle

    keeping hydration cute.

    Bring your water bottle. Yes, you have to bring it empty through security. But you can find bottle fillers everywhere now, or at least water fountains. If you have access to it, you’re more likely to drink it (plus my pink hydroflask is just plain cute). And if you didn’t pay $6 for the water, you won’t ration it. Planes (and plane wine, let’s be honest) are dehydrating. Indoor air is dehydrating. Packaged, processed food is dehydrating. Too much coffee (guilty), even, could be dehydrating. Let’s keep things from getting too desiccated, shall we? Your skin, digestion, and brain will thank you.

  3. You can move around, even if the structure of the day doesn’t include it. Stand up at every break and walk outside, upstairs, to the bathroom, around in circles. Go out at lunch time instead of staying in the conference center. Walk to the restaurant for dinner (you can meet them there if you’re the only one braving it).
  4. Take a routine from home with you. I like to meditate, journal and plan in the morning, so I bring Headspace and my planner with me. It helps me keep some normalcy.

 

So, what could the hotels do better?

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France, Food, and Fat

Oh, the french. They smoke like chimneys, drink like poissons, and bread and cheese is practically a religion there. But I can count on one hand the number of obese people I encountered on my trip— and two of them were from Texas. Now, I’m not suggesting these habits are a path to health. Indeed, the idea of the “French Paradox”— that coronary heart disease death rates are low despite high consumption of saturated fat— has been pretty well put to bed (here,  and here). Yet still, obesity is not the problem there that it is here. Why are Americans fat and the French aren’t?

You’ve heard it before, but in my observation, it’s true:
  1. Meals are an event. They are eaten at a table, in good company and with plenty of time. Hardly ever on the go or in the car or at the desk.
  2. Food is high-quality. Organic, fresh, made in farms and shops and kitchens more than factories.
  3. Portions are much smaller than what you get in the U.S. It’s always enough, but it’s less that we’ve come to expect You don’t have to feel completely full to be nourished. Indeed, by lingering over the meal, you often realize you are, in fact, satisfied.
  4. They walk, bike, skate, and otherwise get around using their legs.

Nothing here is surprising, not even a little. But it’s powerful.


FROMAGE

hello, lover.

I just got back from a week in Paris, and despite my living the vacation life, wine,cheese, and croissants included, I don’t feel gross. I like this food, when I have it. BUT: I like it in small portions, when I’m walking six miles a day and enjoying the beautifully crafted and plated meals. And interspersed with beautiful veggies and fruits, of course.

I don’t have the same love for this rich food that I do for fresh vegetables, light flavors, greens and berries and flowers and fruits. Some of it is in the taste and the aesthetics, certainly, but most of it is in my body, my energy. Maybe my spirit too, if that isn’t too woo-woo (I know. I know. It is). I don’t live the French life all the time— sometimes I eat at my desk, or watching Netflix. Sometimes I’m in a rush. So eating a primarilty plant-based diet works for me, at home. But I sure enjoy the reminder to put that food on a pretty plate and sit down for a few minutes to enjoy it.

Pourquois Paris?

There are multiple modes of travel. And I mean vacation, leisure travel, not the business travel I wrote about last week. The kind where you get to take the wheel and plan (or not plan) a trip that’s just for you. What do you want, here, now? Why are you itching to escape?

Maybe. . .
  • You need to relax, and not think. You’re working like a dog. You’re stressed. You have a crazy sleep deficit. You want (need) a real vacation. An all-inclusive somewhere sunny, maybe? With a swim-up bar?
  • You need to shake it up. You are having an existential moment and are thinking of backpacking in Asia for a few months.
  • You have an adventure in the works! You’re doing Ragnar, or climbing Kilimanjaro, or some other big goal. Yay, you!
  • OR: You want to celebrate, revel, and explore. You want to go somwhere different, with a language that gets in your ears and a cuisine that you dream of and street style that makes you swoon. This, mes amis, is me at the moment, and the reason i’m in Paris (!!?!) with my sister.

Do I love my job and my routine and my gym and my husband? Sure do. Does a week with my best girl in the land of croissants sound like the best idea I ever had? Mais oui! So after walking (walking A LOT, according to my apple watch) through Paris for a week, I’m in love with my life again. This week was my favorite. There was art. There was shopping. There was coffee. There was wine (beaucoup de wine), and girl talk. I’m full of appreciation and fun and time outside of worrying. And I’m just about ready for my regular life back- but with un petit pen de panache that I didn’t have before.

Using the legs to settle the mind— travel edition

Sorry for the short break. I’ve been traveling. I do a reasonably large amount of traveling— I’m not George Clooney in Up in the Air, but I travel for work a few times a year and for fun whenever I get the chance. Sometimes you go to Barcelona, sometimes you go to Indianapolis. What can you do?
Traveling can be a little taxing on everyone, but for the hardcore introvert (TM), air travel is a special kind of torture. Robbed of personal space, forced into small talk, bombarded with the airport and airplane noise, too close for comfort with the sounds and smells of thousands of strangers, lacking an escape route. This is the stuff introvert nightmares are made of. But it’s part of the deal, if you want to get from point A to point B in a timely fashion, which I do.
I arrive with a disorienting and uncomfortable fog over me. Every. Single. Time. All the standard travel advice in the world doesn’t seem to fix it— not hydrating properly, not xanax, not the perfect chic travel outfit. But one thing does help: using my legs, as often as possible. If I’m not home, you better believe I am moving myself through space using my legs.
starve log

anything to brag about? no. immensely helpful to my state of mind? absolutely.

I schlepp my stuff around from terminal to terminal at the airport, rather than sit at the gate. I go outside when I get there and walk around the block. I go out for coffee instead of going to the Starbucks in the lobby.  I find a body of water (there’s always a body of water!) and go for a quick jog. And it settles me, a little bit. Enough, usually. That leg-brain connection that gives us our best ideas when we’re a few miles in? Same magic here, I think. Do you have any tricks to settle the restless mind when you’re traveling?

Rx: Vacation. Stat.

Did you take a vacation this summer? How about last year? Did you really go on vacation, or were you checking email on the beach (oops). Were you relaxing, or were you feeling guilty? (yup, that too).

How did it get so hard to actually take a real vacation from work? Where is this coming from? It’s not like this everywhere, you know– the world won’t come grinding to a halt if we take a short, planned, and total break. I think it comes from a combination of workplace culture and career anxiety. And you know where it’s really rampant? Healthcare. We don’t even want to stay home when we’re sick.

This is total BS. You can’t pour from an empty cup, you need a full charge to give a jump start, etc. Healthcare peeps know this. We know about burnout and compassion fatigue, too. We preach the gospel of self-care and stress management. But then. . .  we freeze up. So here’s the rx: someone will cover for you for a week. You won’t check work email– you’ll have an out-of-office message up. You won’t respond to phone calls– someone else will be designated to handle urgent matters. You won’t feel bad about it, because you are entitled to vacation and there are systems in place to cope with your absence*. You will spend this week doing something that makes you smile just thinking about it.

me? i went on a road trip with my sweetie, slept in a cedar cabin, cooked on a fire, kayaked in caves, ran by the beach, drank wine, went to museums, and ate at fancy vegan restaurants. and, ok, i checked my email a few times. . . but i’m working on that!

*sometimes you have to build these systems. . . but it’s worth it!