I’m going to admit something to you now. I used to be a bad traveller. There I’ve said it.
Now, I don’t mean I was one of those obnoxious people who drunkenly make fun of locals or walked around town in a state of undress.
No, what I realised, with immense guilt is that even though I’d been fortunate enough to travel to some of the most amazing places in the world – when I got there I often hadn’t the energy to appreciate them properly.
Rushing from place to place in a desire to tick as many things off some kind of list was part of the issue. As if I’d somehow complete the game called “Travel” if I moved quick enough.
But the real cause of my problems was the fact that I simply didn’t sleep well on the road. Too many late nights, early mornings, overnight bus journeys and sweaty dorm rooms meant my early days on the road was basically a period of constant tiredness. Fun, yes, but not nearly as rewarding or even as adventurous as they could’ve been.
Now, I’m a little older, and a little wiser, I travel a lot smarter. Below I’m going to let you in on a few ways to make sure you’re better rested when away from home.
Hostels are amazing places. They are cheap. They are zero hassle. They make it easy to meet other travellers, share stories, swap information, find travel partners, fall in love and also clean your socks. They are however a terrible place to get to sleep. Too many people in too close proximity. Too much snoring, grunting and body odour. A nightmare for sleep!
What’s the solution? Well, create your own sensory deprivation chamber that’s what. This might sound complicated but believe me it isn’t. All you need is a good pair of earplugs and a $2 eye mask. Don these two super lightweight accessories and you will be away with the fairies before you know it!
The same technique works for night buses, overnight trains and for cheap hotels with their paper thin walls and even thinner curtains. Wearing an eye mask might make you look like your mad Auntie Doreen but you won’t care. Why not? Because you'll be fast asleep dummy!
Don’t be afraid to pack your home comforts
The art of packing is all about knowing what to bring and what to leave behind. Of course, you don’t want to be that person with the backpack four times your own body weight. Girls, leave the hair straighteners at home for Christ’s sake!
If you know you’re a poor sleeper however, don’t be afraid to bring along whatever items will help you find your way to sleepytown. If that means bringing a few home comforts so be it. These might add a few lbs to your baggage but if it means the difference to sleeping or not, then believe me it will be worth it.
Say you have a white noise machine at home, bring it with you. Have problems with cold feet? Bring your hot water bottle. If you know you’re going to be staying in one place for a while pack accordingly even bring your own sleeping gear with you if necessary.
Stick to a pre-bed routine
Travel is all about breaking with the monotony of your normal life – after all that’s why we love it. Unfortunately, when it comes to getting to sleep our bodies love nothing more than a good ol’ routine.
So, while your days on the road might be full of adventure and unpredictability if you want a good night’s rest try where possible to keep to a tried-and-tested pre-bed routine.
It doesn’t have to be anything complicated at all. Mine consists of nothing more than turning off my phone, having a shower, brushing my hair, spending 15 minutes writing in my journal, reading my book and then sleep.
I can pretty much replicate this routine no matter where I am in the world. Sometimes the shower is from a bucket or a stream, but principle is the same. By replicating the same steps in the same order the brain becomes trained to know sleep is on the way.
Well, there you have it – nothing too complicated. Just pay attention to your body and treat your sleep cycles with respect. Travel is all about having fun for sure but it’s also about getting the most out of your destination. It was only when I began to sleep well on the road that I realised what I’d been missing. Happy travels and sweet dreams!
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Hi I’m Sarah. I’ve been traveling for as long as I can remember. In my younger days I backpacked around Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. I’m now fortunate enough to be able to work while I travel which means I can move more slowly and experience destinations in a completely new way. Along with my colleagues at the Sleep Advisor, I research and write about all things sleep. Together we believe that getting a better night’s rest is the secret to happy, healthy and more fulfilling life.