Real Talk: The Stages of Self-Care on a Road Trip

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We just got back from a road trip across the country—41 hours of driving in 70 hours, to be exact—and it wasn’t the normal uber-cool #VanLife trip you read about. This was an all-business get-home trip because we were done with work in California and both of us needed to be back East for a few days. I fly back to California next Wednesday, so the longer the trip took, the less time I’d have to see family, get work done, and get everything in place for what’s going to be a HUGE week.

As the drive progressed, I kept giggling about how my progression of self-care was going, and plotting the timeline I wanted to blog about. Because, you see, road tripping is not a time when self-care is easy, and all the blog entries about how to stay decent on the road in the world won’t change that after 41 hours in a car, you’re not at your finest.

Let’s dive in and have a laugh at my expense, shall we?

Day 1: Virtuous

The start of a road trip, for me, is always ahhh-mazing. You probably know the drill: you download a bunch of great, inspirational, informational audiobooks and podcasts, cue up your best playlists, and make plans to drink green juice, meet up with someone to hike, take gorgeous sunset photos, and have amazingly adorable selfies of you doing yoga at those gas station fill-up points, impressing everyone around you. You might even do a sheet mask to keep your skin glowing.

Day 2: Smug

You not only went on that hike with a new friend in the middle of the desert, but you also finished listening to one audiobook, rocked out to some nostalgic tunes, and you even got up early after snoozing in the van at a truck stop so you could stretch a bit, enjoy the sunrise, and hit the showers at said truck stop. (Not as gross as it sounds, and the feeling of a proper shower/sink setup cannot be dismissed.) You’re feeling clean, perky, and ready for anything—no one road trips as well as you.

Day 3: Greasy

You realize you’ve drunk way more coffee than water, but can’t seem to stop yourself. You get a decent few hours of sleep at a rest area, but no shower in the morning, and you start feeling it by around noon when you realize it’s time to admit that your hair can’t be left hanging down anymore. It goes up in a ponytail, secured by your hopes and dreams. The audiobooks continue, but the podcasts get viciously picked apart for their gross optimism. Who do they think they are? The sins of your fast food stops start to catch up with your stomach, which feels sluggish and heavy.

Day 4: Giving Up

As the clock ticks below 14 hours of drive time til the destination, you’re all in. Gone are the morning rituals, the gas station stretches. There are brief pauses for jumping on and off the internet to stay in the real world, but time has lost meaning, except for that countdown. You’re road people now. You try to wash your face at every stop, but the persistent feeling of being greasy and not quite clean lingers.

It’s 3 AM when you pull into the driveway and stagger inside. You should wash your face, maybe meditate, maybe hydrate, but you just pass out on the bed.

Day 5: Ahhhhh…

Relief is here! And, like the last 72 hours never happened, you pop out of bed feeling virtuous again as you head to the shower, scrub everything twice, shave your legs, do some stretches, chug some water, chug some green juice and boot up your email to kick into the workday. Road trips are the best, you think, the last 1500 miles of hell completely forgotten.

 
It is possible to stay calm and collected (if not perfectly Instagram-ready!) while on the road:

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