Greetings from Kansas City, friends!
Another week out of the office prompted by spring travel season, college fairs, and high school visits. I swear, I was born with imaginary wings because if I stay cooped up in my office for too long I immediately get the urge to pack up and go. Travel season, for me, is the great release after being confined to my office for 6+ months during application review season.
But traveling quite often has its downfalls, especially when you’re routine flies out the window and oh yeah, you’re also battling mental health issues. For the most part, traveling for my job is pretty isolating and while I relish in my solitude and loner characteristics, I can feel pretty homesick for the comforts of a set schedule. A lot of downtime in between visits and fairs and meeting families for coffee can give my mind the chance to wander…and that’s NEVER a good idea when you’ve already got a hyperactive imagination.
A while ago, I wrote a piece on staying sane while on the road. I went back and realized much of the post needed to be revamped, badly. Haha! For starters, I have been in therapy a lot longer now and use different coping strategies to pull me out of my funk. I’m also devoted to my yoga practice which has shed light on the power of focusing on my breath instead of popping anti-anxiety pills. So if you’re a road warrior like me and travel often – whether for business or pleasure – here are some tips for those who experience the pangs of homesickness.
1. It’s not really homesickness. It’s more or less the lack of structure/routine that has you bent out of shape. Home can quite easily be wherever you set up camp. All you need a few elements to make your space feel like you’re only 7 minutes away from your real house as opposed to a plane ride away. When I’m on the road now, I bring my yoga mat in my suitcase. Lululemon’s version of The Mat 3mm had me at “I travel well in suitcases.” BINGO. SOLD. HERE’S MY FIRSTBORN AND I DON’T NEED A BAG, THANK YOU. It was the best $58 I ever spent. And because the cities I travel to don’t have CorePower studio locations, I do my research ahead of time by mapping out local yoga studios, prices, their proximity to where I’m staying, etc. Ohm is easy to find if you know where to look. I also use my per diem on groceries – healthy little snacks I can munch on instead of driving through a fast food restaurant for every meal. And I don’t skip workouts. My workout regime has focused mostly on yoga for the last 2 months but I’m slowly getting back into running. Whether it’s running outside on a trail or on a treadmill in the hotel gym, get your happy on! 🙂 I also love to read and drink coffee, so I am all about doing both at local coffee shops. I do it when I’m at home so it’s only natural for me to do it when I’m away. Whatever you do in your hometown, recreate it in another city! The truth is we don’t necessarily miss the actual bricks and mortar but rather the familiarity and comfort of knowing where everything is back home. Explore, find some spots that feel a bit like your neighborhood, and maybe you’ll find a second home in a city you’ve never been to before!
2. Embrace friendly folks and conversation. I just did this with a barista at one of my favorite coffee places in Kansas City. She had a rad haircut and I told her so! We chatted a bit about style and Chicago and some fun restaurants in Kansas City and that was that! I mean, we aren’t besties now but it was sure nice to talk to someone. Anxiety and depression can sometimes make us feel like retreating. It makes us cut off communication from even our closest friends and family. But I secretly am looking for just a friendly “hello” or warm smile when I go to my dark place. We happen to dance a fine line between wanting total alone time to “someone please talk to me.” It has helped tremendously if I force myself to be personable when I don’t even want to get out of bed. Make an effort even if you stay hidden behind your laptop at a cafe. Be among others who may or may not acknowledge you by first name but you won’t feel alone.
3. And finally, breathe. Gosh darn it, if you take away anything let it be this. Just freakin’ breathe. I can tell when panic is creeping up inside me. It starts as a dull rumble in my stomach and works its way up to chest, throat, and head and down my arms into my clammy hands. At this point, it’s an automatic response now for me to close my eyes and simply inhale deeply through my nose and exhale audibly through my mouth. Some call this Lion’s Breath in yoga. Its purpose is to relieve nerves, excess heat, and calm your heart rate. And trust me – it works. There is a tiny voice in all of us that starts speaking negatively, telling you you can’t do something. That voice is a liar. Once you focus on your breath, that voice disappears, growing softer and softer with each exhalation. Just taking 5 minutes to meditate on your hotel bed or in your rental car can bring reassurance that you are, in fact, more powerful than this voice. Control the breath and you learn to control your mind.
I was inspired to write this after my first leg of my travel left me feeling weirdly unsettled. I felt an urge to jump out of my skin, to book a flight home and I started to write down all the things I missed about home. I realized it wasn’t so much the physical home I wanted to run back to but more the places and thing that make up my home life.
So I’m sitting here in Kansas City now, blogging about what I wrote in my journal with an iced Fresh Mint Latte from Kaldi’s Coffee next to my laptop and a cat on my lap. It is good to get away for a while but it will be good to head back to the Windy City and return to my familiar yoga studios and the cozy feeling of my own bed – something we all look forward to at the end of a journey.
Namaste, my friends.