My travel rules: model Adwoa Aboah’s advice on fusing frequent flying with self-care

From jetway to runway – the in-flight skin-care secrets everyone should know about
Adwoa Aboah

When travelling is such a colossal part of your career, you have to learn how to make it work for you. Adwoa Aboah is one of those people and the British model and cover star of Edward Enniful’s first issue of Vogue regularly jets across the globe to shoot incredible campaigns, working with brands like Jo Malone London, where she’s a Global Ambassador.

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Aboah’s has also become synonymous with her incredible work as a mental health activist. She’s spoken honestly about her lowest ebbs having undergone treatment for depression, bipolar disorder, and addiction. In 2015 she founded the charity Gurls Talk which she describes as "a community-led organisation dedicated to the mental health and well-being of women and young girls globally." It initially started as an Instagram account, before launching into a successful podcast and events. So what does travel mean to her, and how does she manage all of this and cope with the toll of a gruelling travel schedule? A well-honed self-care routine that works for home and away…

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What travelling means to me

“I love travelling. Like most people, my relationship with travel changed because of the pandemic and to some extent I probably took it for granted. I’ve had the opportunities to go to all these amazing places and looking back now I wish I'd made the most of these free trips. Travel has always been a large part of my job so I do have a positive and negative relationship with it. To a certain extent sometimes it felt like it was always taking me away from my personal life and routine and it does sometimes still feel like that, but I make sure now to have a good balance of travelling for personal reasons and taking trips for myself – not just because I have to go somewhere for work.” Keep scrolling for Aboah’s advice on how to prioritise self-care while travelling…

Create a non-negotiable on-flight routine

“I wipe down the whole area as soon as I get on a plane and that’s not a Covid thing, I've done it for years. I sanitise everything, planes can be really dirty.”

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“I do have an amazing on-flight routine. I am a pro flyer and this really works for me. I know the amount of time I need to be at the airport, and I don’t want to be there any more time than I need to. I bring a lavender spray for sleep, an Olivia Von Halle face mask and the pillow I sleep with – I bring it everywhere with me. I actually stole it from a hotel years ago, and now I can’t sleep without it, it’s a comfort thing. I also have my own blanket. As for beauty, Otto does some great CBD products, such as hand cream and oils and 111 Skin always has great face masks for flights too.”

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“Sometimes the food on planes isn't that bad but I bring my own snacks. What I grab depends where I’m going from, if it’s London it’s a Pret a Manger. I’m not one to put my WiFi on, flying is a great time away from text messages and phone calls. If I need to sleep then it's best I don’t watch a film before I get straight on the flight or I'll stay up the entire time. Because I’m a night owl, if I watch one thing I'll just watch 10 million films, so if I can, I just sleep straight away. I am a bit particular about flying though and which seat I want to be sat in. When you travel so much you need things to be how you want them, so I don’t want to be near the loo, or the kitchen and I want to be in a window seat. Everyone’s going to be like ‘You’re such a diva!’”

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Have a jet lag ‘plan'

“I deal with jet lag quite well, when you have to get off the flight and go straight to work, you just deal with it. It’s better for me if I have something to do straight away, so if I have the time to be jet lagged, that's when it’s a nightmare. Just going straight into work is how I cope with it. I went to LA for a job this summer and I left myself a few days before the job started, and I had chronic anxiety from being so overtired  – that's the most anxiety-making part of it. Jet lag from anxiety feels different because everything feels a little bit discombobulated, and everything slows down.I should have gone just before the job.”

“I’ve never been a massage person before, but I’ve gotten into that which helps. Exercising straight away and elevating my legs against the wall helps too. I do feel the effects of jet lag, but I'm prepared for it these days.”

Seriously prep for sleep

“I’ve always been quite a bad sleeper, so I prepare before going to sleep. Hotels are difficult for me as you’re not at home and not in your own space. I’m a faffer and I'll do 10 million things before I have to actually go to bed, so not watching TV and getting ready for bed hours before you're going to go to sleep works. I have a bath to relax and read a book too. I've just finished Parable of The Sower by Octavia E Butler which was wordy and I’m now reading The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller which is an easy read that feels like binge watching a tv show.”

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Set your own self-care boundaries

“I think it's your responsibility for the boundaries you put into place, they’re not there for other people to uphold. I've become a lot better at demanding my own time and making sure I get time to myself. But it's also my responsibility to make sure that I make the most of that time and that I don't start working or that I make the most of it. I don't want to get to a place of burnout, so I make sure whether it’s exercise – I do pilates on an app or have gyms I visit in London, LA and New York – or seeing friends, that I have an hour or so in the day to do my own thing. I just carve it out, I don't need to make an excuse for that, it's part of what I need. I think before there was too much going on that wasn’t a priority and now it’s a necessity and part of my week's schedule. I don't need to communicate with anyone why I need those couple of hours, that’s just how my week is.”

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Build in a little flexibility

“Today I had a good morning routine: I got up, exercised, had a bath, answered emails and went to work. But sometimes I'll wake up half an hour before I have to go and just leave. I just acknowledge that I might not be feeling that great and not try to fight it. If I need a lie in or if I need to sleep or take some time for myself that’s completely fine. What I go back to is kindness and acknowledging I might not always feel 100 per cent.”

Investigate what self-care means for you

“It's important to figure out what self-care means to you. What works for somebody else may not work for you and I wouldn't be deterred by that. Just be curious enough to work out what to put in place and to make yourself feel safe and looked after. Self-care might be being with certain people, taking time for yourself, listening to podcasts and journaling. Or it might be hours sitting doing nothing. We’re bombarded with this idea of ‘self-care’ and it feels quite one-sided and not multifaceted. The fact is that mental health is jumbled and non-linear and the tools around it are too. So figuring out what works for you is really important.”