my ultimate keep-calm-and-carry-on relaxation travel kit

Photographed with Nikon D300, 60mm macro lens.

I dedicated yesterday to finalizing all of my deadlines that I needed to complete prior to leaving for Chicago tomorrow. By noon, I was so overwhelmed that I found myself spinning around, crazed, like so much Tasmanian Devil. I will never get anything done, I was thinking. I don't even know why I'm beginning.

And just when I was about to throw in the towel and eat chocolate, I decided to do something I hadn't done in a while.

I decided to meditate.

I put Rufus outside, and I turned off the ringer on my phone, and the e-mail notifier on my computer. I sat on the couch in my studio, and closed my eyes. And I focused my mind on my breathing. Every time I found my mind straying, I brought it back to my breath. And I did this for 5 minutes.

When I was done, it was like I was a whole new person. Suddenly everything I had to do seemed more like a manageable list, than an out-of-control mess. I sort of stunned myself, really.

So I've learned my lesson: when things start to get a bit out of hand, I need to stop everything, take 5 minutes, and breathe.

* * * * * * *

Thanks to all of you so much for your relaxation tips and tools! I read through each of them, feeling very inspired by your ideas ... and then I thought, why have I never put together a relaxation travel kit? It just seems so obvious to have one ready to go out a moment's notice, to throw in the bottom of a suitcase or carry on -- or, for that matter, a handbag or backpack, for any time stress hits during day-to-day life. It seems like such a simple idea, yes?

So, below, is my little list of items that I'm going to be sure to have with me on this upcoming trip to Chicago, and any trip from now on. Feel free to modify and make your own. Also, how cool would it be to put something together as a gift for a traveling friend?

My ultimate keep-calm-and-carry-on relaxation travel kit:

  • Two or three tea lights. I've mentioned before how much I love candles, particularly after my mom told me about the Norwegian tradition arounding lighting them when guests arrive. I figure if I check into a hotel, I'm a guest, right? I deserve a candle, by gum.  I'll just drop one of these in one of those spare water glasses, light it (using a matchbox I'll score from the hotel bar), and voila - instant ambiance.
  • A small vial of essential oil. I love the suggestion that several of you had of sprinkling lavender oil or some such on your bedclothes. So yesterday, I ran out to my local Whole Foods and bought this one -- a light, beautiful scent, and I can't wait to try it out. (And for those of you who are men, or who would prefer something less girly than lavender or rose, might I suggest sandalwood -- a far more masculine scent, but equally calming. In fact, I'm currently burning a sandalwood candle in my studio as I type this.)
  • My pashmina. I actually never, ever travel without my pashmina -- it's a far better cover-up on planes than those thin, scratchy blankets (and there are never enough of those anyway), and it doubles as a scarf or a shawl, as necessary for weather or cold conference rooms. Plus, it's so lovely and soft, very comforting. Mine's black (goes with everything), and this time, I might just sprinkle it with that essential oil I just bought. (Again, for men: an organic cotton hoodie might do the trick. Organic cotton is crazy soft. And sprinkled with that sandalwood oil, the hoodie will make you extra calm, and make you smell fully awesome.)
  • Several packets of my favourite individually wrapped tea bags. I love these by Good Earth -- and they're not all that easy to find while on the road. But it's always easy to find hot water.  And there's just something about green tea that totally calms me.
  • Origins Peace-of-Mind. Origins makes my favourite cosmetics, and once while I was shopping there, the salesperson threw a sample of this stuff in my bag. Basically, you just "apply just two dabs of Origins mind-clearing formula on the back of your neck, temples and earlobes," -- and seriously, stress just melts away.  I've used this on nights when I was having trouble falling asleep, and it totally worked for me.
  • EO Hand Sanitizing Spray.  Another Whole Foods find.  Forget Purell -- this organic spray actually smells good when you spray it on your hands, and comes in scents like lavender and eucalyptus.  Great for quick clean-ups while traveling, and gives a great little aromatherapy shot, while you're at it.
  • MP3 player with a calming playlist. Because you know how I love the tunes.  Also, I may download some of my friend Beth's free relaxation podcasts, for good measure.
  • Two good books.  One for the flight over, and in case I finish it, one for the flight back.
  • My moleskine.  It's been ages since I've journaled.  But you've inspired me.  I'm definitely taking my journal on this trip.

So, that's my kit. Some other great ideas you suggested: eye masks, ear plugs, small fans for white noise.  Doesn't this make you want to put one together before your next journey?  Actually, forget "journey": I seriously may just keep this kit in the bottom of my day bag when I return.  It makes me calm just thinking about it.

(By the way, in other news, if you happen to be in Chicago this weekend and you see me, please come tap me on the shoulder. I'd love to meet you.)


SongRoad trippin' by Red Hot Chili Peppers