Traveling can be a big challenge while in recovery- you’re in a different place, eating different foods, and your routine is different (if it even exists at all)! While vacations can be an “escape” from daily responsibilities, they can’t be an escape from recovery. It’s important to have an idea of what you’re getting into and tools set aside to help yourself when things get challenging. Here are my top tips for traveling during recovery:
P.S. These tips are targeted towards those in recovery from eating disorders/disordered eating, but can also be utilized by anyone! Healthy coping skills and a good traveling experience that isn’t diet/exercise focused is for everyone. Also, COVID-19 is changing many travel plans but I wanted to put this out anyway in case you are still traveling (safely!) or just to have in the future. As a fun bonus I’ll put my favorite travel quizzes from Buzzfeed at the bottom of this post!
Plan meal times into your itinerary
You shouldn’t go into your trip overthinking food, but you should consider it. It can be easy to go from place to place and be rushed/overwhelmed/forgetful, but skipping meals is not an option. Skipping a meal can lead to fatigue, fainting, and impaired concentration- none of those things are good and especially not on vacation. By having a general idea of what you’re doing that day and where you’ll be, you can plan ahead and have a plan for where your meals will come from. Your body will thank you!
Bring snacks- even if you think you’ll “be fine”
I made this mistake while in Colorado last year. I brought only one snack on a hike that I thought was two miles and then…we got lost. It turned into seven or eight miles with only one bottle of water and one snack. The result? I had hypoglycemia and severe hanger that could have been avoided if I had brought snacks! Always. Bring. Snacks. If you know you’ll be in a city, don’t mind spending some money, and feel comfortable picking up snacks as you go, you can probably just have an emergency snack or two in your bag. Otherwise bring more than you “think” you’ll need!
Set up accountability/support beforehand for while you’re away
Especially if you’re traveling alone or with someone outside of your main support system, accountability is important! Have a touch person you can call, check-in with at a specific time, send meal photos to, or text for quick support and make sure you have the number of your dietician/therapist. As far as the person you’re traveling with, it’s a good idea to talk beforehand about what support you think you’ll need. Something like, “Hey, while we’re on vacation I’d appreciate it if you could help be with accountability in my recovery. [Snacks/body image/meals/etc.] may be difficult for me and it would be helpful if you could [offer support/ask how I’m doing/eat snacks with me/not talk about diets/etc.]” can go a long way and lets the person you’re with know how to help you in advance!
My first real trip after I entered recovery was to Chicago and shortly after was followed by Charleston. While getting ready for these trips I felt cool, confident, and like I was about to be doing recovery 100% right. Well, that isn’t exactly what happened. I had a wonderful time (both cities are amazing) but I still was early in recovery. Desserts were challenging, ED was still pretty loud, my body had been through hell and back, and I was still very anxious. I had to take a lot of naps and ask for a lot of help- and that’s okay! Each day and each vacation got easier, but not by pretending or seeking perfection. Be realistic about where you’re at- set reasonable goals, don’t try to do recovery “perfectly,” and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Overthinking things and getting sucked into the “shoulds” and “what ifs” can lead you down a miserable rabbit hole- trust me. Don’t let your mind steal your good time! Do what you need to do to stay present: breathing exercises, short self-care activities during free time, noticing five things, or carrying around a worry stone are all skills that you can use to stay present and enjoy your trip. Remember that your eating disorder is only hurting you and you aren’t on earth to take up less space, count calories, or take the perfect Instagram photo.
Vacation is super exciting but it can be challenging for those in recovery from an eating disorder/disordered eating. These tips can help ease the transition from home to your getaway in a recovery minded and positive way! Don’t take ED on vacation with you and let him ruin it- go prepared and stay present so YOU enjoy YOUR trip.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.
My favorite Buzzfeed travel quizzes:
All content on RecovRoad is based on personal experiences, research, and ideas. Please do not repost/share without credit and be aware that nothing on this blog takes the place of professional help. This is also a formal trigger warning: content about and relating to eating disorders may be triggering to survivors. Please see the “RESOURCES” tab, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 800-931-2237, and remember to take care of yourself.