How to Avoid Burnout: Tips From a Touring MusicianKeep sickness and fatigue at bay with this kit.Published: January 06, 2020
The best person to ask what it’s like to travel for work is a musician who’s just started touring. They’re not yet acclimatized to the perpetually shifting climates, hotel rooms, and time zones; they still remember what it’s like to work a normal nine-to-five, sleep in the same bed every night, and wake up to the same city every morning. To touring neophytes, the itinerant lifestyle is still fresh and exhilarating and awe-inspiring. It is also, at many times, plain exhausting.
To understand what it takes to live on the road, we met up with Raffaella, a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter who just spent five weeks traveling all over America for her first national tour. To hear her describe it, being on tour is demanding in the same way many jobs in the gig economy are: “You’re not allowed to get sick, work and life become one thing, and you’re exhausted most of the time... but you’re also having fun,” she says. That situation might ring true even if you’re not a freelancer—simply owning a smartphone and being on social media are enough to cause legitimate burnout.
Early into her trip, Raffaella realized that tour life isn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds. She recalls a lot of little things adding up, like “not being able to wash my hands before I put on makeup in the van, staying in different people's homes or hotels every night, traveling and living in a van... your back is all f-ed up, you smell bad like you've never smelled bad before, you don't understand your body.” To combat those less than ideal conditions, Raffaella fashioned herself a survival kit: a tote bag chock-full of wellness products to placate mind and body stress. She says the bag became a kind of teddy bear, something she held onto for comfort while everything around her was in flux.
Read on for a summary of Raffaella’s on-tour survival kit. Though a few of the products are specifically geared to treat tired vocal cords, most of them are applicable for anyone with general lethargy or a worn-down immune system.
Why: “I used this as my wellness bag. I would just stuff everything in here. It wasn’t the most organized, but I learned to recognize the shapes of each thing. [The print] reminds me of home and my childhood… When I see this I smell Barnes and Noble.”
Why: “I discovered this in one of Ariana Grande’s Instagram posts. This is an investment but it's worth it. When you're sleeping in a bunch of different places and when you're traveling a lot, there is not a lot of humidity in the air and that can dry out your throat very quickly. So this proved to be a saint.”
Why: “Honey is my favorite thing in the world. It is delicious and consistent and I could find it pretty much anywhere [on tour]. I had these honey drops and I would just pop ’em in like candy before a show.”
Why: “Right before I went on [to perform], I would squeeze this straight to the throat. It's just really good for your voice. It's like a lubricant… it heals any feelings of discomfort.”
Why: “This is a very aptly named product. If you feel hoarse at all, it's a way to make your voice stronger and feel less fatigued.”
Why: “Your lungs are compromised when you're traveling a lot, when you're using them a lot, when you're breathing a lot of stale air. The purpose of this supplement is to support your lung health, and it really helps. I didn't expect to use this as much as I did.”
Why: “These are the best. They are very helpful for supporting your immune system and very tasty. You can only have two but I usually sneak four.”
Why: “When we're on tour, we're not around a lot of sinks. And washing my hands at gas stations sometimes just made me feel more dirty. So we would use these a lot. They smell amazing.”
Why: “A lot of the time we were driving from places like Nashville to D.C., which is a 13 hour drive. You're just kind of uncomfortable when you're sitting in the same seat every day. This helped with comfort and sleep.”
Why: “Lavender helps me sleep at night and tea tree is really good for mosquito bites (there are a lot of mosquitos in this country). I would put the eucalyptus on my chest if I was feeling congested.”
Why: “I probably wore sweatpants and a sweatshirt 95 percent of the time, and then the other five percent was when I was singing onstage.”
Why: “I would journal about day to day things like the songs we were listening to and the people we were staying with. Just so I can remember the small things that I feel like I've already forgotten.”