The Pack: Jesse Israel
The founder of The Big Quiet is a big believer in hotel room bathtime.
Travel feels like a major part of my life. I go to Los Angeles a lot because my family’s out there and I was born there, but I also travel a lot for The Big Quiet and speaking gigs. This fall we’ll be doing a Big Quiet tour where we’ll be taking it to five new cities, which will be a pretty cool experience.
It’s really important for me to stay connected to myself and not get drained, and meditating allows me to most fully show up with whatever I’m doing.
I have some boundaries I put in place when I travel. One is that I always make sure to get in two meditations a day when I’m on the road. It’s really important for me to stay connected to myself and not get drained, and meditating allows me to most fully show up with whatever I’m doing. The style of meditation that I practice is a mantra-based meditation, so it really allows me to practice anywhere I can sit down; I don’t need quiet and I don’t need calm to practice.
I’ve done a lot of meditation in busy and loud spaces, like airport terminals. In the past if I heard sounds I might get frustrated by them, but accepting them as part of the practice makes it not much of a challenge; I allow the sounds of the space to be part of the meditation, and through that I let go of what’s around me.
The second boundary is I like to make sure I have alone time. I like to have at least an hour a day. It’s the best way to recharge, so I actually schedule that. If I try to do it without saying it, it can come off to people that I don’t want to be with them, so I find that if I’m upfront and clear about why—I usually express to them that I need some solo time to recharge—people respect it and don’t take it personally.
I’m definitely a minimalist and I take great pride in my ability to pack lightly. I can do a one-month trip with a carry-on. For me it’s really just letting go of feeling like I need variety and honoring a few versatile essentials. I just make sure that I can do laundry on the road; it can be expensive, but for me it’s worth it to get a laundry session in now and then.
The misconception I’ve found is that we need lots of different shirts and tops; I can get away with one button-up shirt. I also really like non-collared long-sleeve shirts because they can look casual or dressed up with a nice pair of pants.
I can also get away with two or three pairs of pants—one of those pants may be an athleisure pant, so I can wear it casually or exercise with it. I find the athleisure category really useful; it’s that versatility. One of Lululemon’s ABC varieties, they’re great because I can dress them up with nice shoes, but also wear them really casually. They’re my favorite pants. I like Outdoor Voices, too.
I’ll bring two pairs of sneakers: one that works in a nice setting and one that works in an exercise setting. My exercise pair I can also wear out casually during the day, and then the other shoe—like a full-white pair of Vans—those can work if I’m going to a sort of nice dinner, but also if I’m going out on the town.
Saje has Arrive Revived, a peppermint type of essential oil blend that you can roll onto the temples and forehead that I love traveling with—it gives you a little pep. I sometimes travel with a small neti pot. It’s a little plastic squirt bottle and I’ll buy a bottle of distilled water like Smart Water, I’ll pour it in there with a salt pack, and cleanse my sinuses with that. It clears out any potential infections, so it’s really helpful—and super soothing—when I’m doing a lot of traveling. If I can wait to use it at a hotel I prefer to do it there because it’s cleaner, but I will do it in a public bathroom if that’s what it takes.
People that travel and cut it real close? I can’t stand that, it’s not my style.
I get to the airport one hour (or more) before a domestic flight, always. If I do any less than an hour, it’s too hectic and not worth the intensity of trying to hustle. People that travel and cut it real close? I can’t stand that, it’s not my style.
One of the greatest challenges of traveling and staying healthy is how pre-packaged and unfresh airport food feels, but I very rarely bring my own food. I usually try to find healthier options at the airport, which can be tough. Not overeating when I fly is important, especially if I’m going to another time zone, so I’ll eat light. I never drink alcohol when I fly—the whole flying experience is draining on my system and already dehydrating, so alcohol just doesn’t feel helpful in any way.
I bring a backpack on the airplane and in that I include my laptop, my Kindle, a sleep mask, earplugs, and usually some sort of sweater for when I’m chilly. A phone charger, big time. I’ll also bring a ball that’s kind of like a foam roller but circular—I’ll roll my hips on that and it really helps my back. I love that thing. I’m 6’4″ and I’ve got long limbs, so I always stretch at least once on the flight.
The other thing I like to take when I travel is ashwagandha, to help me sleep. I’ll take it an hour or two before. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping because of my height—I very rarely take red-eyes unless I’m going to Europe, and in those cases it can be challenging for me. I usually get to sleep, but it’s not very comfortable.
I love meditating on airplanes. It’s really simple, because you’re just sitting there, and there’s something about the hum of the engine that I find soothing when I’m meditating.
I love meditating on airplanes, and I’ll get at least one [session] in at my seat. It’s really simple, because you’re just sitting there, and there’s something about the hum of the engine that I find soothing when I’m meditating. The other thing I really love about flying is my seat becomes my office when I fly. There are limited distractions because wifi is usually pretty shitty on flights, so I just get in the zone—between New York and LA I get five, six hours to really focus.
The other thing that’s really critical when I travel: I’m a huge bathtub guy, so whenever I travel I try to make sure there’s a bathtub at the hotel or wherever I’m staying. And I love my bathing salts and Epsom salts, and I’m a huge face mask guy, so I’ll take them with me. It’s rejuvenating and I love having that when I’m traveling. Especially if I’m traveling for vacation—and I do three different vacations with my family a year—I like to maximize my relaxation experience. Having masks and bath time is perfect.
I love robes and when a hotel has a robe? I’m the happiest guy. I don’t travel with a robe though because it doesn’t fit into a minimalist packing routine. I wish I could remember the name of the hotel in Vietnam I stayed at two years ago on a family trip, because they provided these delicious silk robes covered in floral print [laughs]. That’s how I spend my alone time when I travel: bath, face mask, robe time.