On She Goes

Hold On: Creating a Self-Care Routine For Work Travel

On how to prioritize yourself so you don’t get lost.

Meron Medhanie
Meron Medhanie
January 2, 2018
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“Be leery bout your place in the world.”
—“Weary” by Solange

One day I woke up and realized that I was traveling every other week from Portland to San Francisco for work. The younger me would have been thrilled. I’ve always thought that travel was glamorous. To say that I get to travel for work? It made me feel important. And there’s a part of me that is still in awe and grateful for what I get to do.

Traveling for work, staying in hotels I could never afford, and being upgraded to first class became the norm over time. Talking about racking up travel points and being elevated to a higher mileage status was common small talk. Complaining to my partner that the service at Shutters is not as good as the service at the Four Seasons and the conversation we had afterwards became an eye-opening, grounding, and humbling moment. We talked about gratitude and privilege. Here I was, in Los Angeles, steps from the beach, in a beautiful place, complaining about the tiniest things. I had worked more than 12 hours that day, and it triggered me to overreact to everything—even this really nice hotel room that I would never book for myself. Privilege and entitlement had me acting like a snob about the smallest thing, while completely forgetting about all I had in the moment.

Who have I become?

“’I’m gonna look for my body, yeah
I’ll be back like real soon.”

I grew up putting everyone before myself. The parts of my identity that were celebrated were how easygoing I was and happy to compromise to make someone else feel better. I used to proudly say I was a chameleon that could adapt to any environment. But I realized that was also how I got lost. My own needs were getting buried. I’ve found it helpful to always try to make space to center myself when I’m in situations where I feel overwhelmed or when I’m not being who I want to be. These are a few notes to myself that I hope will help me find home everywhere I go. I hope they help you too.

Turn to a routine
The one you have at home, even if you’re in someone else’s space and on someone else’s time. My evenings are usually unpredictable because of work (late nights happen regularly and unexpectedly), but mornings are mine. I tend to wake up three hours before I leave the house, so I’ve started a routine where I can center myself during this time.

I started packing my crystals, sage, books, and journal so I can have a spiritual practice on the road. I often search for early morning yoga classes to help me connect with myself before I start my day.

A peak inside my travel bag.
photo by Meron Medhanie

Do what you need to stay healthy
I pack Emergen-C, vitamins, and tea, and always grab a big bottle of water as soon as I get off the plane. The last trip I took, I walked to Whole Foods and got everything I needed to cleanse after the heavy-ass Mexican food I had to eat because I was in Texas. I’m becoming more comfortable with not drinking at happy hour and choosing healthier foods at dinner. To be all the way real, I haven’t chosen to eat healthy and skip drinking as much as I’d like to on work trips, but I plan to and I’ll let you know how that goes.

Protect your energy
In many industries, relationships are everything, and bonding moments happen in social settings. I’m learning that some settings aren’t healthy for my body and spirit. Those settings are usually hitting up a bar or karaoke after happy hour. Most times, I’m not doing it for myself, but I’m doing it to be a team player, and out of FOMO. Sometimes the person I want to impress the most may be detrimental to my energy and bring out not-yet-old habits that I’m trying to overcome (aka approval, acceptance, people-pleasing). Choosing to walk away won’t ruin me or my opportunity. Excusing myself to the bathroom is my way to reset and get centered. Give yourself permission to excuse yourself.

Pros & cons for getting my hair braided.
photo by Meron Medhanie

How I feel is more important than how I’m perceived
This one hit me hard today. I wrote a pros and cons list for why I should get my hair braided for a weeklong business trip. The last item on the cons list states “worried about first impression.” This fear of how I will be perceived was handed down to me, from my parents and the society we live in (see this). And this fear is the reason I’ve been carrying a few pounds of hair products, contemplating straightening my hair (which hasn’t felt a hot comb or flat iron in a couple of years), and questioning whether the convenience of braids is worth my safety (especially abroad) or image on this work trip. Please choose your comfort and convenience over your assumptions about others’ comfort and perception of you.

I repeat all of this to myself three times. As much as I need to.