The Earth is 24,902 miles wide at the equator. In March, I flew close to 21,000 miles spanning three continents and seven time zones to nearly circumnavigate the globe.
I traveled through Bangalore, London, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Koh Samui. While I didn't manage to hit every continent or the full distance around the world, it was pretty close. India and Thailand are only four hours on an airplane away from each other. During this momentous travel I practiced yoga at awesome yoga centers, in hotel rooms, on rooftop terraces, in my home and at the Cathay Pacific lounge in Hong Kong airport.
Yoga helps me adjust to the exhaustion of changing time zones, sitting on airplanes for endless hours and being in new places all the time. Since travel can be upsetting to the nervous system, I have some travel guidelines that my days as a yoga road warrior have taught me:
- Drink as much water as possible when you are en route. Just being in the airplane is dehydrating. Most shorter flights only have sub-par food for purchase, so pack some healthy snacks like dried fruit and nuts that are easy to travel with. On the day of travel prior to a long haul route, eat as lightly as possible to help your body prepare to relax for the travel and pre-adjust to the new time zone. When you arrive at your destination, eat a meal on the new time zone to adjust your digestive system to the new schedule. On overnight flights, sleep or rest as much as possible. If you don't sleep well on airplanes, use a meditation or mantra technique to concentrate the mind within instead of just zoning out and watching a dozen movies. Simply closing your eyes while giving the body and mind rest will help you feel more balanced when traveling.
- Be prepared. When the occasional travel delay or lost baggage situation happens, it helps to have a change of clothes, basic toiletries and supplies for two days in your carry-on. Keep any essential items needed for your trip with you at all times. Bring some comfy clothes to lounge in on the airplane for long haul flights. When you board the airplane change your clothes into cozy sweat pants that so you can sleep for the flight. With intercontinental travel sometimes the total journey exceeds 24 hours and spending that entire time in the same clothes feels icky. Changing into lounge clothes for the flight leaves you feeling fresh when finally land. Once I traveled first class on Cathay Pacific with my air miles and they gave all the First Class passengers a pair of pajamas. It felt so nice to sleep on the overnight flight in something really comfortable that ever since that trip I always change into sweat pants for any flight over six hours.
- If you have a long layover or a long flight get up and do some yoga postures either in the galley at the back of the airplane, at your seat if you're in business class or in the lounge area of the airport when you finally land at your connecting airport. If you sign up for either American Express Platinum or some of the airline frequent flyer programs, you will have access to the lounges where they have showers, WiFi and snacks. Taking a shower after any flight more than six hours refreshes the mind and body. It's generally quieter in the airline lounges with more privacy and space. When I connected through Hong Kong airport on the way to Koh Samui I had nearly four hours to kill. Instead of wandering aimlessly through the airport shopping I found quiet corner and did my yoga practice. I made it through a full one hour practice without anyone discovering me. I felt like a yoga ninja hiding in a corner, but it was totally worth it to get some movement back into the body after 16 hours on an airplane, before my next 6 hour journey. After spending a long time in one position the smallest amount of movement can make a big difference. Just a little travel yoga stretching and deep breathing can help relieve neck and back pain. San Francisco Airport even has a Yoga Room in the international terminal for connecting passengers. Too bad there's not a shower so you'll have to find lounge access after you break a sweat.
- While most of my travels have been pretty easy once in awhile I hit a catastrophe. En route to India this year I got delayed at London Heathrow due to two measly inches of snow that brought all travel in the area to screeching halt. Over 10,000 passengers were displaced on one day and over 20,000 bags were delayed. We were originally set to fly to Bangalore but the only city that British Airways could get us to was Chennai, which meant we had to take two flights to connect to our final destination in Goa. Our bags were delayed by about a week and one is still missing more than three months later. We spent close to3,000 buying new flights, new hotels rooms and replacing items of necessity while two of our three bags arrived. The one good thing is that British Airways was great about reimbursing us for all our costs.
- Be compassionate. The best piece of advice that I can give anyone caught in weather or unexpected delays is first and foremost to be nice to whomever you are speaking with. They usually know very little more than what the standard protocol is and they are tired, underpaid, overworked and stressed out. Use your meditative mind to practice patience and acceptance, but don't take the experience lying down. While you can and should remain calm and friendly, you must also advocate for yourself and your interests. Instead of just waiting in endless lines, I recommend calling the main call center of your airline in the U.S. Usually travel delays happen at odd times and sometimes local agencies are not open. The U.S. time zone is open for long periods and some airlines in the U.S. have 24 hour call lines. If you can get through to someone who can re-book you over the phone, that can often be faster than waiting in a long rebooking line at the airport. As soon as you know your flight will be cancelled, book a hotel room in the area if you cannot rebook for that day/night. Rooms are limited and sometimes stranded passengers end up stuck at the airport. When we got stuck in London there were only 3,000 hotel rooms in the London Heathrow area and many travelers slept at the airport waiting for a new flight. We were lucky and got a hotel room and a flight out the next day, but some people were stuck in London for two or three days without a hotel room. Due to the frequency of winter weather delays I try my best not to travel through snowy areas during the winter, but sometimes it is unavoidable.
Embracing the unexpected and the new experiences that traveling opens up are two of the most important reasons why anyone would want to travel. If you just want to have the exact same creature comforts as you do at home then traveling will be a challenge. Going to new places means being open to trying new food, new clothes and new lifestyles. When you return home you'll appreciate everything you love about your home even more. Experiencing different cultures also helps open the mind to possibility that there is more than one way to do things. This open-minded consciousness is an imperative for the current era of global citizenship.
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