Interview with Acupuncturist and Traveler: Tyler Lapkin
We know travel throws us off. We can feel it.
Our body feels different. It has more soreness, dryness, fatigue, and digestive issues. Our mind feels more spacey, anxious, foggy, or all-over-the-place. Our emotions can be more on-edge, stressed, frustrated, and on-alert. So what do we do to mitigate these travel symptoms?
Well we can learn from one of the oldest medicinal knowledge bases out there: Traditional Chinese Medicine. What does TCM have to say about travel? Well I interviewed acupuncturist, student of TCM, photographer, and traveler- Tyler Lapkin LAC to find out…
JG: Explain yourself in 20 seconds. Go!
TL: Haha… Well, I am an acupuncturist, surfer, mountain boy, photographer, and traveler and hopefully much more!
JG: Where was your last trip?
TL: I went on a hiking trip through Italy, France, and Switzerland. I did a hiking tour of Mont Blanc, which was incredible.
JG: Could you give us a quick explanation on how Traditional Chinese Medicine works?
TL: Our bodies are always trying to achieve a state of balance…that is what the Yin/Yang symbol represents in a sense. We are always trying to maintain a balanced yin/yang relationship. The two come together as a pair, but when there is more yang than yin, or more yin than yang our bodies become confused. In a practical sense this can happen when we are not getting enough sleep, engaging in too much physical activity, are in a stressful relationship, have an overactive mind, or an improper diet…really anything that puts stress on the body. When we are in a state of balance our bodies are able to function with their innate wisdom and we feel good. When we are out of balance….things can go wrong. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners use diet, lifestyle modifications, acupuncture, herbs, meditation, and movement practices (like Tai Ji and Qi Gong) to help restore balance and health.
Specifically, acupuncture is all about flow. Acupuncture helps maintain balance by keeping the qi (energy) and blood flowing. When things stop flowing in your body it creates pain and disease. Acupuncture finds what is hindering the flow and addresses it (with well-placed needles) so that the body is then capable of healing itself, restoring equilibrium.
JG: What does travel do to our bodies and minds from a TCM perspective?
TL: Well, on the physical level when we are traveling from one place to another we usually are moving less which creates stagnation. This combined with inconsistent eating habits- different foods and at different times than our body is used to- causes us to be thrown off. Our qi flows in certain organ systems at certain times of the day so that rhythm also has to re-adapt to a new time-zone. Also, when we travel we are exposed to different weather and different climatic conditions than we are accustomed to. This can disrupt our protective or “wei qi” making it easier to catch a cold or flu. Commonly all this can lead to stiffness, fatigue, insomnia, irregular bowel movements, and a weakened immune system.
JG: What can we do to get back into balance?
TL: Keep a meditation or centering practice. Even 5-10 minutes of sitting, writing, reflecting can help. When we travel we are constantly stimulated so we can easily lose our center. Journalling can really help keep our mental energy flowing. You get your thoughts out, so they don’t become stagnant. This is especially important when you are traveling alone.
There are some good herbs to take while traveling, although it is good to see an acupuncturist to make sure they are in alignment with your constitution. Some generally good formulas are:
- Gan Mao Ling for the first sign of a cold
- Herbal ENT (a protective blend to support your immune system)
- Curing pills (herbs to take when you eat something weird that your system isn’t used to)
- Ginger tea for digestion and to reheat the body
- YuPingFengSan– windscreen, it helps boost immune system and is good for “cold prevention”
- Huang Lian Su For diarrhea caused by bacterial or viral infection
I also use essential oils. The DoTerra blend OnGuard for flying is great, I put on my hands, neck, and/or bottom feet as a preventative measure to not catch a cold. I use Wild Orange or peppermint for opening sinuses in stagnant air, like an airplane.
Take a bath with epsom salts when you get home, it’s a great way to ground yourself from travel.
Sleep – Don’t let yourself get run down.
JG: Have you ever made a major mistake with your health that has changed your behavior around travel?
TL: Yes. When I went to Italy a few years back, I went all out. I drank the good coffee (I never drink coffee at home), drank some good wine and ate all the simple sugars in the form of pastas and desserts that I could. I was 100% giving myself to experiencing the local fare.
It was great-– until I ended up in the ER with a heart arrhythmia!
The total shift in habits was not ok with my body. And my body made me pay attention to it. After I adjusted my consuming habits, drank more water, reduced caffeine, walked more, my heart went back to normal and I was fine.
“You think you will just give yourself over to fully enjoy your vacation, but there is no better way to ruin a vacation by ending up in the ER with heart problems.”
So now I listen to my body more. I work to find a better balance. It is your choice if you want to go all in, but then you will have to live with the consequences. For instance, if you go to China and eat all the street food you want, you are going to have to live with the consequence of that which will probably end up with you sitting on the toilet for days, not out exploring. I’ve been there….made that mistake too. Walking the “diarrhea line” is challenging.
JG: Such a good point, we often want to go all in, but we may actually get more out of our experience if we don’t!
TL: Travel is also life sped up. New stuff is happening, you are going to learn and grow. You will learn about your relationships if you are traveling with people. How you respond and react to things.
JG: What is your favorite way to get exercise while traveling?
TL: I like to plan trips around exercise. My latest trip was hiking in the Alps, often my trips will involve hiking, surfing or skiing. I love to walk while in a new place. Also if I am traveling in my car I will bring my road bike. Even light exercise is a great way to keep the flow going.
JG: Any favorite travel snacks?
TL: Nuts. Mixed. Raw. They are filling and healthy. I will also bring low sugar energy bars. And always lots of water.
JG: Awesome!!! Well thank you so much Tyler! Great talking with you!
Since this interview Tyler completed walking Camino de Santiago (a huge accomplishment!!!) despite the bed bugs. Here are his bed bug tips:
- Always check your bed and mattress even at a nice hotel…but especially at a hostel or albergue.
- Use a silk sleeping bag liner when staying in a hostel, AIRBNB, or any other place that has a lot of people coming and going.
- Don’t put your bag or backpack on the bed, floor, or close to walls. Try to use a luggage rack…bed bugs love crawling into bags with easy access. They are attracted to body odor/dirty clothes.
- Don’t freak out if you get bitten. But make sure to wash all of your gear and dry at high temperature.
- Take a break if you are on the Camino and have bites all over your feet that have turned into blisters. Enjoy the local tapas…and try speaking Spanish with the locals. The bites will eventually go away and you can finish the walk 😉
- Photography (buy his prints!!!) and follow on instagram @tylerlapkinphoto
- Writings (read his posts!!!)
- Acupuncture (become his patient!!!)
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