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How This Simple Self-Care Technique Helped When Traveling Overseas

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This past Christmas, when my uncle asked me if I’d like to go on a trip with him to Vietnam in March, my knee-jerk reaction to an invitation on a mostly paid-for trip overseas was, “Absolutely I do.”

When March rolled around and I was in crowded, bustling, loud Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, I didn’t feel like I was allowed to feel anything but grateful — grateful for the opportunity to take off work, grateful to my uncle who generously offered the trip, and grateful for the ability to travel at all. So, on my fourth day there, in the thick of it, when I was fatigued from the jet lag, the heat and the general stress of being in a foreign place, I felt terrible for saying, “I’m going to stay home this afternoon,” while my uncle went for a walk around the city by himself. Instead of being out with him, getting lost in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, I lay alone in bed at our Airbnb, watching episodes of “Bob’s Burgers” on my phone.

Initially, making that decision racked me with guilt. I was only on vacation, in a beautiful, interesting country, for a week. There were dishes to eat! Sights to see! People to meet! Things to learn! My uncle specifically brought me with him because he didn’t want to travel alone. But, there I was, in the dark, watching the cartoons I’d watched at home a thousand times.

After a little rest and time alone, I realized how much I needed time to myself. I’d been around people nonstop for four days. Metropolitan Vietnam was a huge culture shock and as tiring as it was amazing. My senses felt completely overloaded. Plus, my uncle’s stress was rubbing off on me.

Time spent doing something familiar, with the lights dimmed and the noise of the city blocked out, made me feel more like myself. Taking a step back from the constant go-go-go of the trip helped my headspace immensely. I felt less anxious and less overstimulated the next time I went out. Also, I didn’t really feel like I missed much of anything by relaxing for a few hours. I still went out for dinner that night. I had two more days to walk around the Old Quarter with my uncle, and in those days, I think I saw most of the same things he did, save for a market, which was loud, close-quartered and probably would have triggered my anxiety or hypervigilance.

I’m glad I took time off as a mini mid-trip reset. I realized I was allowed to feel grateful and fatigued. I was allowed to feel stressed and captivated. I was allowed to experience the trip fully and take some time to myself. Actually, taking time for self-care allowed me to experience the trip fully.

On future trips, I may schedule time for myself to spend alone, doing familiar things. I will try not to feel bad if I need to step away and into myself. In order to experience a place completely, I need to be in a healthy state of mind. While I may not be able to achieve total health in the quiet moments, the quiet moments definitely help move me in the right direction.

Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash

Originally published: May 28, 2019
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