How to Travel Injured and Keep Your Sanity

Traveling is fun. Traveling injured not so much... But it's all about perspective right?

I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned on the dozen trips I’ve traveled injured the past couple years, including four trips on crutches in the last four months.

1) The 5 year rule: I love traveling but with my penchant for getting sick or injured right before trips, it can also make me anxious… Will I be able to keep up? What if my jaw or hip flares up? How will I get around? It’s easy for thoughts to spiral – that’s their nature. When this happens what I like to do is take a breath and ask myself “will this particular injury or issue be something I even remember five years from now when I think back on this trip?”

You see five years ago, I sprained my ankle very badly the night before studying abroad in Spain for the summer. I ended up being on crutches the whole time and I’m sure my freak out levels were off the charts at the time but now when I think back on that trip, I don’t even remember those stress emotions… The trip wasn’t defined by being injured. I worked around it and had an amazing time.

Most of the time, it hasn’t even taken five years when I think back to these last two years of injured travel in one form or another. The emotional memory of the stress emotions vanishes pretty quickly after getting back from the trip, leaving positive memories of the adventures had. So what’s the point in worrying about something in the future that may or may not actually happen? That is, the fear that the injury or whatever else you’re anxious about will ruin your trip. Instead, try a dose of mindfulness and treat your anxiety like an old friend you’re just observing “oh that’s anxiety paying a visit and worrying about something that may not even be a problem” and kindly and gently remind yourself that you probably won’t even remember whatever it is you’re worrying about in the future. Definitely not five years from now!

2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help: I get it. Asking for help, especially from strangers can be hard, but here’s the thing, people, strangers and friends alike, are usually more than happy to help if you ask nicely. We all like to be needed after all. So, don’t try to do it all alone whether that’s asking a friend to carry your suitcase (shout out to all my wonderful friends who have helped me!) or a stranger to put your bag in the overhead compartment on the plane.

3) Saying no and that little voice telling you you’ll miss out: That no pain, no gain thing? It’s a myth and more like “with pain, no gain”. For instance, there have been several occasions where a mild injury turned severe just because I was ignoring pain and not listening to my body because I either didn’t want to stop whatever activity I was doing or disrupt the groups I was traveling with. Simply put, it’s not worth it. Just speak up and say no. Your body will thank you.

4) Packing your “just in case” items: For me, having a small selection of “just in case” items when traveling especially for international or remote travel really helps give me peace of mind. My “just in case” items might include anything from things like athletic tape, instant ice packs, blister band aids, Advil and cold meds (nothing worse than getting sick on top of being injured am I right?) and that way I know I’m prepared for travel contingencies.

5) Meditating on the go: Try adding a little peace and mindfulness to the stress of travel with some meditation on the go. Meditation doesn’t have to be a formal hour long practice. Studies show that even just five minutes is beneficial! I love using free apps like Calm or Insight Timer for a little guided meditation on the go. Especially helpful for those long lines and pesky flight delays…

6) Stretching while traveling – it’s ok to look silly: Traveling invariably includes long days and you’re not always going to have a private area to stretch or do any physical therapy exercises but so what! Pack the travel tools that work for you (I never go without my mini foam roller stick and tennis ball to roll on) and use them. All you need is a few feet and a few moments to do what stretches you can wherever you are. And as for you lucky non-injured folks, travel stretching is still good for you too to help prevent injuries in the first place.

What travel tips work for you (injured or not)? Share in the comments below :)

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