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Dr. Aimée Derbes, LAC

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Pack like an acupuncturist : everything you need to know to prepare for healthy travel

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At my offices in Brooklyn (serving Gowanus, Park Slope, and Greenpoint) and Manhattan (Union Square), I see patients who are dealing with chronic pain (back pain, neck and shoulder pain, knee pain, hip pain, and ankle pain), headaches + migraines, digestive issues (IBS, colitis), infertility, stress, insomnia, PMS, women's health, and autoimmune conditions (Lyme, Hashimoto's, thyroid conditions, and many more).

Pack like an acupuncturist : everything you need to know to prepare for healthy travel

Aimée Derbes

When coming home from a trip, have you ever found yourself saying something like this to a friend, coworker, or, say, your acupuncturist?

“While I was at the conference, I had a hard time sleeping because of the jet lag and the noise in the hotel. I was just dragging through each days with no energy, so I started to drink a ton of coffee.”

“There was nothing healthy to eat at the airport, so by the time I got on the plane, I was so hungry. My blood sugar crashed and I felt terrible during the flight.”

“Something in the food or drinks upset my stomach and digestion. I was supposed to be having a good time on vacation, but I was just so uncomfortable, running back and forth to the bathroom the whole week.”

I hear statements like these all the time from my patients. It seems like soon as you’ve got your health routine down, a work trip takes you to another continent, where you’re jet lagged and have no control over food choices or your time. Or, you take a red eye and walk off the plane exhausted, already coming down with a cold. It doesn't matter whether you're following a super-restricted allergy elimination diet, or just trying to eat some vegetables and sleep well while you're out of town -- travel can be tough on our systems! 

I know exactly how challenging it is to leave the comforts of your home / kitchen / routine and enter a series of unpredictable circumstances -- plane travel, jet lag, weird food options, too-cold hotel rooms, and long days at conferences, to name a few. I have my share of work trips under my belt, and I also frequently travel to see family in parts of the country where it’s hard (nay, impossible, let’s be real. I’m looking at you, The South) to get a properly cooked vegetable that hasn’t been covered in, like, cream sauce. But there’s good news -- I’ve learned the hard way the ins and outs of putting my health first, no matter where I am! 

Setting yourself up for healthy travels is super high-level self care. A little bit of one-time preparation, and you’ll be set for a year of trips, with nothing you have to think about or do in between! Simply use my checklist to prepare for your next trip -- you’ll learn a few things you can bring to boost your immunity, eat healthy, adapt and rest well, and keep your physical and energetic space clean and fresh. Trust me, future you will be singing your praises when you stay energized, healthy, and vibrant (and, bonus, successfully avoid all weird plane / hotel food. NO THANKS.).

**Download your checklist here**


Before getting started...

Is there anything you use at home that you’d also like to take with you on the road (such as an eye mask, teas, herbs, natural hand sanitizer, essential oils, and medications)? Save yourself some trouble and buy two. Having everything I need already in my suitcase has saved me so, so much time, and I never have to wonder if I remembered to pack everything. Also, at the risk of being a bummer, anything you take on a plane is getting extra doses of radiation, so it’s a good idea to keep your travel stuff (esp. herbs, essential oils, and flower essences) separate from the ones you’re using at home.

Next, I know that this is a long list; I’ve always been super prepared, and I am more at ease knowing that I have tools on hand for anything weird that might come up during a trip (hint : often, the weird stuff that comes up actually isn’t with me, but with my traveling companions!). If this list seems like too much, then take a moment and ask yourself :

  • What kind of health issues and obstacles do I tend to run into most frequently during my travels?
  • Do I have a hard time finding healthy foods or eating regularly when traveling?
  • Do I mostly struggle with relaxing and getting comfortable?
  • Or do I tend to feel worn down and under the weather during or after trips?

If you know where your challenges lie, pack for your next trip using just a few of my ideas in the area where you need the most support. 

Hardware

  • Bag(s) : Use whatever you want! It doesn’t have to be fancy; I repurposed a shoe bag. I also carry extra ziplocs in my suitcase because they can definitely come in handy.
  • Water bottle / Thermos : I use an insulated water bottle so that I can use it for hot beverages.
  • Castile Soap : A travel-sized Dr. Bronner’s is a good idea so you can keep your water bottle fresh and clean, and also avoid that slimy, difficult to wash off industrial pink soap in most public bathrooms.
  • Utensils + Napkin : for me, these are a sometimes / maybe. I don’t pack them for every trip, but they can be helpful, depending on where your travels take you. Though, if you’re checking a bag, a sharp knife enables you to, say, cut into fresh avocados, which is almost reason enough in my book.

Immunity + Digestion

  • Wool Socks + a Shawl / Pashmina : I’m channeling my inner grandma here, but just staying warm enough on planes or in freezing cold hotels can go a long way towards keeping you healthy.
  • Oscillococcinum : Keep a sleeve of this homeopathic remedy on hand and start taking at the first hint that you might be coming down with something. While all of our immune systems work differently, this can be incredibly effective *if* you take it at the first moment the idea that you’re feeling under the weather enters your consciousness.
  • Curing Pills (aka Culing Pills) : These are great for harmonizing the digestive system. Take them when you eat too much at a holiday dinner, or when your digestion feels weird after drinking that water in Ecuador (true story; lesson learned).
  • Gan Mao Ling : While Chinese herbal remedies are highly tailored to the individual, this one works for most colds, and I keep a bottle in my travel bag just in case.
  • Rhodiola : This adaptogenic herb helps prevent fatigue and stress, acts as an antioxidant, and helps with depression and brain fog. I keep it with me for help adjusting to new time zones and for low energy moments.
  • Probiotics : If you’re not already taken probiotics, pick up a package that doesn't need to be refrigerated from your local health food store or my online dispensary. These aren’t a must, but can be useful to have on hand if your digestion has been upset during your trip.
  • Digestive Bitters : Again, not necessarily a must for everyone, digestive bitters stimulate and aid digestion.
  • Neti Pot : Although not for everyone, if you’re prone to colds / flus / upper respiratory infections, the neti pot will save you.

Rest + De-stress

  • Earplugs + Eye Mask : Because naps, privacy, etc. 
  • Flower Essences : Bach’s Rescue Remedy is the classic for stress-relief and relaxation, whether you need to get in a nap on the train ride or keep your cool when your connecting flight gets delayed. This flower essence blend can also protect against harmful environmental influences. Get the pastilles if you want to free up a little space in your gels / liquids bag.
  • Essential Oils : Lavender is the classic for anxiety and stress, for good reason, but there are other options if you want to branch out: clary sage is especially good for women, geranium is stabilizing and good for insecurity, ylang ylang enhances sensuality and self-esteem and optimism, and lemongrass moves stuck emotions and supports clear thinking. You can get them all online from Stillpoint Aromatics, Enfleurage, Snow Lotus, or Floracopeia.
  • Supplements : For stress relief, my favorites are adaptogen mixes, such as Moon Deli’s Calming Adaptogen, or individual tinctures of ashwaganda, tulsi, or kava. For help with relaxation and sleep, my go-to is magnesium glycinate, at a dose of 200-400mg 30-60 minutes before bed. Other people prefer valerian root tea. You can pick these up through my online dispensary.
  • Good Headphones : These are definitely not a must, but if you’re a frequent traveler and have the cash on hand, consider picking up some noise-canceling headphones.

Eat + Drink

  • Brown Rice Protein Powder : This is a must for me. When traveling, I just don’t totally know or trust the quality of animal proteins. With brown rice protein powder, I always have a backup for a snack or meal, and I never have to eat eggs or meats that are of questionable origin. I bring one serving for each day of my trip, in a ziploc. Single-serving packets are easier, but the kind I like (brown rice protein only, no other stuff I don't need) doesn't offer them.
    • Shaker Bottle : This is a new addition for me, but it has upgraded the whole protein powder experience. The one I use is glass (I avoid plastic for food / drink containers when possible, so there are no extra chemicals leeching into my food), but that, of course, makes it a little heavier for the carryon bag. Also, if you don’t drink hot beverages, you could do without a thermos and just use this bottle. It’s up to you!
  • Assortment of Teas : Another must! I travel with so many teas because I just love tea, especially when I'm on breaks from coffee.
  • Green Powder : I’ve found this especially useful when I’m going places where I expect to not see a lot of green vegetables on the menu. I tend to use chlorella and / or spirulina alone, but the options, in single-serving sizes for packing ease, are many.
  • Supplements / Herbs / Medications : Of course, don’t forget to pack any supplements, herbs, or medications you take everyday. 
  • Healthy Snacks / Food, as fit your trip : What to bring will totally depend on how long your trip is and whether you’re checking a bag, but here are my go-to, yummy, actually healthy snack ideas, sans added sugar and wheat/gluten (since those aren't part of my diet at the moment):
    • Pumpkin seeds, nuts, single-serving packets of nut butters
    • Packets of applesauce or other fruits (vegetable baby food can actually be good too! No joke.)
    • Dried fruits (the kinds with no added sugar, no sulphur)
    • Kale chips, Mary’s Gone Crackers, seed chips
    • Fresh fruits
    • Single-serving packets of coconut oil (multipurpose : put it in your oatmeal, your coffee/tea, on steamed vegetables or grains; use as a moisturizer; do some oil pulling/dental care; whatevs. Coconut oil is the best!)
    • Single-serving packets of salmon, sardines, or tuna (of course, not to be opened in confined public places, like planes, unless you want to get beat up)
    • Dark chocolate, obviously (note: there is sugar in this, but you can find small batch brands that use small amounts of lower-glycemic-index / minimally processed sweeteners)
    • Protein bars (if there’s a bar that you love made out of actual foods, not processed stuff and sugar). Or, Epic Bars, for you omnivores.

Cleaning + Clearing

  • Natural Hand Sanitizer : CleanWell does the trick.
  • Clearing Spray : Many of the people I work with are sensitive, in various and diverse ways, to the unseen world. While this may seem pretty woo-woo to you, I’d still recommend taking a space-clearing spray with you on the road. Instead of focusing on clearing out old energy left over in the room from previous guests, think of it as helping you freshen up the room and make it your own. Try Purify by House of Intuition (or get it in person at Help Your Self).
  • Essential Oils : Tea tree is a strong broad-spectrum anti-infective, and can be used, diluted, topically (or used to clean surfaces and doorknobs...). As for energetic clearing, consider palo santo, white sage, lavender, cypress, or lemongrass; I tend to just stick with old faithful, palo santo. You can get them all from Stillpoint Aromatics, Enfleurage, Snow Lotus, or Floracopeia, or get them in person at Help Your Self.
  • Sage / Palo Santo / Crystals : Ok, I concede that most people are probably not going to travel with dried sage leaves or sticks of palo santo and have a cleansing ceremony in every hotel room they encounter. But, I kept these on the list because, if this is part of your routine, you’re not alone! 

What have I missed? Is there anything nourishing that you don't leave home without? Send me a message or let me know in the comments!