Increasingly, public health work requires travel—and travel requires stamina. "As many more countries have developed expertise in delivering public health programs," says Chinyere Neale, program manager for the SPH Office of Global Public Health, "fewer of our graduates will have jobs where they live abroad. More often, their jobs will require them to fly in a couple times a year to provide very specific technical support or engage with partners at the start-up or assessment phase of an initiative."
Together, Neale, SPH Dean (and million-mile flyer) Martin Philbert, and Dana Thomas, program manager for the SPH Office of Public Health Practice, offer these tips for nourishing body, mind, and soul before, during, and after a journey:
- Avoid moving walkways at the airport. Use your feet as much as possible.
- Stay hydrated. Increase water consumption and forgo diuretics like alcohol and coffee. Once you reach your destination, consider stocking up on water—especially if the local water is contaminated or tastes strange.
- Respect personal space. No passenger enjoys a neighboring stranger’s head or arm encroaching on their space.
- Keep yourself and your area sanitized. Wash your hands nonstop, don’t tuck used tissues into seat pockets, and use airline napkins and a 3.4 ounce or less–sized Purell bottle to wipe down the top and back of your tray table.
- Periodically get up and move. Stand, stretch, or even just change positions in your seat when flying.
- Sleep when tired—but not through an entire flight if it’s nighttime at your destination. Be smart about transitioning to a new time zone—and remember that mental fortitude can help overcome physical exhaustion.
- Get help adjusting to new time zones. Launched in April, the U-M-designed (and free!) Entrain app generates customized suggestions for periods of light and dark exposure to help expedite the process of resetting your Circadian rhythm.
- Eat healthily, but try local foods. Unless you’re in a high-risk area, aim to strike a balance. Realize, too, that your dietary habits may not make sense to others, and be prepared to explain them. In high-risk areas, it’s a good idea to eat only cooked foods.
- Prepare for your trip. Have a conversation with yourself about concerns and questions—then address them as well as possible before you leave.
- Be choosy about airport lines. Note which travelers (such as families with children or passengers with lots of luggage) may cause delays, and avoid those lines.
- Have a plan for your destination, but be flexible. Realize that even if you’re prepared, things never work out exactly according to plan.
- Remember that you’re still a student. Yes, you’re a professional, but you’re always learning.
- Do what you need to refuel. Whether it’s exercising (in a safe place), reading, or meditating, take time for yourself.
- Know that in many countries, the line between personal and professional doesn’t exist. Be mindful of the fact that every moment is a public one unless you’re in the privacy of your living space.
- Seek out depth, not breadth. Immerse yourself in the community you’re visiting and learn all you can from a variety of perspectives. (It's harder to do this if you’re visiting every other nearby city, state, or country.)
- Bring a few items that remind you of home. You’ll be more comfortable, especially if you’re feeling culture shock.
- Try journaling rather than blogging. With blogging, you’re writing to tell others; with journaling, you write for yourself. (Consider sending yourself e-mails or postcards.)
- Keep in touch with friends and family back home, but not too much. Don’t miss out on engaging with people in your new location.
- Take in the beauty. Just because you’re working in a professional capacity doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore the culture, music, people, and scenery around you.
- Reciprocate. Be aware of how generous people are with you—even those who have little in the way of resources—and extend the same generosity.