Conference Health

I am writing this as I sit in an airport waiting for my flight home. This week, I presented at a conference. This one was not my usual gig, and I felt a little out of place. The good news is that I hung out with some really wonderful colleagues. The presentation went well and was well-received.

Many academics travel for work on contracts or for conferences. How do you stay on track with your health and fitness on the road? I must admit the gym in my hotel was a little lackluster, so the workout clothes stayed in my suitcase. My body was screaming for sleep anyway, so I took advantage of the quiet hotel room to do that.

When I had a consultancy contract a few years ago on the other side of the country, I learned a few tips and tricks for traveling light yet professionally. A lot of times, I was staying in the middle of nowhere. There might be a restaurant if I was lucky – but most times, the hotel breakfast buffet needed to last me. Not a lot of choices, right? So how did I stay (mostly) on track?

  • Airport > Rental Car > Grocery Store. I would land in a rather urban area, which meant I had a choice of groceries. There, I would pick up things like toiletries, protein powders, bread, and other non-perishable items. Dried fruits and veggies are a decent stand-in for the real thing in a pinch. So are protein powders. One thing I know now is that I always over-buy, so I would purchase enough items for half the trip. Which brings me to point #2:
  • Pack for half of the trip. I realized that carry-ons are the way to go. I packed three days’ worth of clothing for a 6-day trip. An old tee shirt works as a laundry bag, and you can use the sleeve as a pouch (it’s washable, too!) Here is a tutorial to make one, although I hemmed the “handles” and the bottom. Halfway through, I would do laundry. At the end of the trip, I would do the same. That way, I never had to do more than replace worn out items when the next trip rolled around.
  • Water? Extra hydration is a must in dry environments or when you know you’ll spend too much time in a dry hotel. Bottled water can be expensive. The tap can be sketchy, but ask the locals. If they drink it, you can, too. At first, I purchased a bottle with a carbon filter. Not sure if the technology has changed, but that did not work for me. Now, I either buy a jug or refill at the hotel gym water cooler.
  • Take some time for relaxation and renewal. I look at business trips as a retreat in a way. Yes, you have to do what you came to do. I don’t recommend busting out of a conference for a spa day. But are there little things you can do to make sure you are relaxed and renewed when you get home? I often take time to work on projects that have fallen by the wayside. I’ll also look for little out of the way things and places to take up my free time. I’ve found beauty schools that the locals didn’t know about, manicure places, and hot yoga spots. The quiet of having your own room might be conducive to meditation or journaling before bed. Or that deep conditioning treatment. The only thing I don’t recommend is trying some new product on your face. You never know what will trigger an allergic reaction.
  • Use the time on the plane to do something relaxing. Repeat after me: I will no longer start my presentation on the plane to the conference. Is there a book you have been dying to read? A podcast you want to catch up on? I don’t find flying fun, and anything to make the time go by more pleasantly is awesome.

Speaking of cool travel items, here are a few I highly recommend:

  • Earplanes-My ears are overly responsive to pressure changes. When I would have pressure issues on a plane it was a migraine trigger, which made me irritable, which meant I was difficult to live with when I got home. These things were a game changer. They are specially designed to normalize the pressure in your ears. I find them especially helpful on takeoff and landing.
  • Buckwheat neck pillows – The nice thing about buckwheat is that you can microwave it if you need something to ease those tight muscles.
  • Dr. Bronner’s castille soap – You can use this awesome-smelling soap for laundry, as a shave cream, or for dishes. Just don’t use it as a body wash (I did so you don’t have to).

Share your travel trips and tricks below!

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