Travel is Exhausting. Self Care, Self Love

by Stephane Alexandre /
Stephane Alexandre's picture
Dec 23, 2016 / 0 comments

There's a saying that we use in our study abroad program whenever someone wants a break, and I'm sure you've heard of it: self care, self love. As in: self care IS self love. I'm 21 years old and I'm exhausted. But I also think I'm invincible, which can prove to be dangerous, given my insatiable desire to explore the world around me. In the past few years, I have been learning, re-learning, defining, and re-defining what self care, self love means to me.

Travel is Exhausting. Self Care, Self Love

View from restaurant where we ate and AMAZING Argentinian steak (to celebrate our last night in BA)

Last summer when I co-lead an interfaith group to Rwanda, we discussed extremely difficult topics: genocides and mass atrocities, US role in foreign governments and policies, and race. As you can imagine, it was an emotionally taxing trip and it took a lot out of me to not break. Even though I had visited the sites a year prior to leading the trip, I still broke down at the museums and tomb sites; I wept like I have never wept before. There's a clandestine truth about traveling that we must all acknowledge: it's exhausting. It's exhausting to walk around and take it all in. 

Buenos Aires. From Travel is Exhausting. Self Care, Self Love

And that's ok. You know why? Because it is imperative to practice self care, self love. Before the Rwanda trip, we had each student write how they practice self care, self love and how they worked through receiving criticism. Indisputably, if you are going to discuss certain topics as a group, there are bound to be disagreements. Some students said listening to music, going for a run, talking, journaling, etc.

Buenos Aires. From Travel is Exhausting. Self Care, Self Love

And for the most part, the trip was a success because we knew when to take afternoons off to reflect, sleep, listen to music, etc.

Buenos Aires. From Travel is Exhausting. Self Care, Self Love

However, here I was a year and a half later in Peru being a hypocrite. If you want to learn from your mistakes over and over again, travel! Peru and I have a difficult relationship; it is such a beautiful country to explore, but oh, goodness, at an unfortunate altitude.

When I arrived in Cusco in late October, I wanted to see everything! We dropped our bags at the hostel and started walking around the city, marking maps for good, cheap foods, and snapping pictures along the way. It was exhausting. I did not practice what I taught. Soon the altitude sickness knocked me off of my feet and I started having asthma-like symptoms. It was terrifying. But here I was, a Community Health major who ALWAYS reminds everyone to drink water and stay hydrated…and I was exhausted and dehydrated. After Peru, I went home and stayed in bed for 2 days, my host mom wanted to take me to the hospital because she was very worried. In short, something invaluable is at stake: your health.

It is incredibly important to take time for yourself. For me, I love sleeping and journaling. It gives me a great opportunity to reflect on my travels and what I want to explore going forward. It also helps rejuvenate your body to take on the challenge. Traveling for us always means walking a lot; in Buenos Aires, we averaged about 20 thousand steps a day. Also, your body responds to the environment - when we landed in Montevideo, we were FULL of energy, but at 33 degrees Celsius, a small walk along the beach wiped us out and we ran back into our air-conditioned hostel.

Montevideo. From Travel is Exhausting. Self Care, Self Love

Third time's the charm! We got back from Patagonia, and I am delighted to announce that we put the self care, self love rule into practice by taking a day off! When we arrived in Patagonia, we had been traveling for about 10 days straight with 2 flights, 2 cities in 2 separate countries, a ferry ride, and a lot of melatonin pills. (Do 21 year olds think they're invincible? Yes, we do). I slept for 13 hours that Sunday and I woke up a better and stronger Steph because of it. I journaled quite a bit, too. We all need to be re-calibrated every so often, and if you find yourself needing to take that time, I hope you see it as an investment and not a burden.

Buenos Aires. From Travel is Exhausting. Self Care, Self Love

Taking time to care for yourself is always an investment in your travel. After planning a trip, paying for flights, surviving airplane foods and tight seats on a plane, it would be a shame if you don't get to explore all that a city has to offer. Take time to rest and reflect. And then, move forward. It is my sincere hope that you listen to your body carefully while exploring the many gems this wonderful earth has to offer. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

"That first peak is the best place to pause and look back, to see if you took the easiest route, to learn the lessons from the first climb. And it is the best place to examine the terrain ahead, to change your plans and goals, to take a deep breath and begin climbing again."-- Michael Johnson


Enormous chair in Buenos Aires. From Travel is Exhausting. Self Care, Self Love

A HUGE chair we saw outside of a furniture store while walking around.




Stephane Alexandre is the Intercultural Immersion Editor for Wandering Educators. A Tufts University student, she is currently studying abroad in Chile - this is her last day!

All photos courtesy and copyright Stephane Alexandre