How – and Why – to Add a Ritual to Your Travel

15546530359_4f0d1da9f4_zHabits and rituals are trending. Or so it seems. There’s a whole body of literature on the subject now, and it’s a market that does not yet seem saturated. (A book I’ve particularly enjoyed on the subject is Daily Rituals, How Artists Work.) The theory is that habits, particularly morning habits, reduce cognitive load, preserving our limited decision-making capacity for later in the day when it’s really needed.

I have a morning ritual. I awake before the rest of the household, check email, do 10 minutes of spiritual reading, then head outside to exercise (usually a run). After breakfast and getting the kids off to school, I meditate and then write a little strictly for fun. Then I buckle down to work. I’ve been doing this, in the same order, for a few years.

After a while, I noticed I threw these habits out the window when I traveled. Maybe I figured the ritual would be disrupted because my travel days were disruptive. Or maybe I thought I needed a break, because travel is harsh. Or maybe I was just being lazy. Who knows. But one day, it occurred to me that I really had no excuse.

There was no reason NOT to do this when traveling. Especially without the “getting the kids off to school” part, I could pretty easily get up at the same time as at home, do it all and be ready for a breakfast meeting at 7:30. By now, I’m pretty devoted to my routine even when I travel, because I’ve felt the payoff. The ritual anchors my day.

By no means am I perfect. Sometimes if I’m out very late at a dinner the night before (which never happens at home), I’ll skip. Or if I’m getting sick, I’ll sometimes take the extra sleep. But I’ve found that a ritual makes my whole trip go better.

Travel rituals don’t have to be grand mirrors of your at-home rituals either. Even small gestures, done routinely, can bring on a sense of stability and home when you travel. (I used to buy a bag of M&Ms at the airport before every trip, and there was something satisfying about the tradition of this treat. Then I discovered the “240 Calories” in big type on the front of the package forgot to mention that’s per serving, with two servings per bag. My new snack ritual is a Kind bar.) Some people tap the plane’s fuselage as they step into the aircraft. One of my friends puts a framed photo of her family beside her hotel room bed. These little things can really ground you, even on a trip.

Whether it’s big or small, think about adding a ritual to your travel life. I guarantee you’ll be more at home, wherever you are in the world.

Photo: Flickr/Diana Nguyen

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