This section includes information on pre-tour preparation. For more information on touring, download the complete copy of Tour Well.
Promoting positive mental health and wellbeing on tour
Our industry is full of unique, passionate people. The success of any tour is dependent on mutual respect for everyone involved, whether they be cast, crew, company, audiences, venue teams, or school groups.
You want you and your touring party to feel as safe as possible on tour, both physically and mentally. Take some time to think about yourself on tour – remembering that the way you work and experience touring might not be the same as everyone else. Try:
- Sharing your story inasmuch as you are comfortable.
- Listen carefully to others.
- Never assume that your way of seeing the world is the only way.
- Identify and communicate your needs consistently and respectfully.
- Sensitivities towards community, family, extended family, and kinship systems, and religious and cultural customs.
- Communication style, body language, and language barriers. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or confirmation, rephrase or repeat questions.
- Perceptions of safety – everyone’s sense of safety differs – be conscious of how you and your touring party feel in cities, regional or remote areas, unfamiliar towns, late at night, or areas with non-diverse populations.
- Check in with your tour party to make sure you’re using the right form of address, acknowledgement, pronoun and pronunciation for them – and share your preferences too!
Everyone has challenges that you don’t know about. If someone seems to be struggling, gentle concern can go a long way.
Touring can be tough – be kind to each other.
Sometimes ‘the tour’ becomes the biggest thing in your life, and the show slowly becomes your whole world. That’s not unusual – you’re doing something you’re passionate about, and you’ve worked really hard to get to this point.
There’s nothing wrong with being passionate and committed, but the risk is that ‘the tour’ starts to become ‘WHO you are’ not ‘WHAT you’re doing’.
Before you head off on tour, have a think about all the other threads – outside of the show – that make you YOU.
VALUES: What’s most important to you in life?
Connecting with your values can help orient you to goals beyond this current tour. Check out the list below for inspiration, then consider, ‘If I had a million dollars and a whole year, how would I live by that value? What about a hundred dollars and a week? Ten dollars and a day? One dollar and a minute?’
It’s a matter of choosing a small way of enacting your values in everyday life, so you’re living a life in line with what you value, rather than focussing on what you ‘should’ do.
PLAY: What made ‘child you’ happy?
We all have a ‘happy child’ part of ourselves that needs spontaneity and play. What made you happy when you were a child? Maybe a sight, sound, smell, taste, texture, object, even an imaginary world.
What are some of the ways you can incorporate that joy, playfulness and surprise into your everyday tour life?
MINDFULNESS: Pay attention to the moment
Mindfulness is promoted constantly for positive mental health and wellbeing – and for good reason! It has proven benefits for the immune system, can improve concentration and memory, and can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Our minds are constantly running, thinking about the past, worrying about the future, or just trying to keep up with today. Our mind, like our body, needs rest and recuperation.
Mindfulness is that rest. By paying attention to the present moment, with an attitude of open, non-judgemental curiosity, it can help anchor you. In the vast uncertainty that is arts work, mindfulness helps you become aware that no matter how difficult things might be right now, they will inevitably change.
Find out more and give it a go – you’ve got nothing to lose by trying it!
I AM: … Not synonymous with my work
Often we label ourselves – “I am a Director / Actor / Lighting Designer” – reinforcing that feeling that we are our work.
- Keep it in perspective – “I am currently touring with [Show] as a [role].” It’s just what you’re doing right now – not your whole life.
- Cultivate your other interests – pack a sketchpad, crossword book, journal – give yourself mental space outside the show.
- Allocate ‘me time’ the same way you allocate time for daily routines such as brushing your teeth. Make self-care a habit, not a bonus.
CONNECT: Remember the outside world
Watch a news update, read a local paper, chat with family and friends near and far – anything that keeps you from becoming trapped in a tour bubble.
Social media can be helpful for staying in touch, but can also leave you feeling disengaged and left out. Social media often paints an unrealistic view of what’s really going on.
Time spent on genuine connections is likely time better spent for mental health and wellbeing – explore the town, make new friends, and discover hidden gems.
Giving to others can have a positive impact on your mental health and wellbeing too. See if there’s a local charity that holds meaning for you in the places you’re touring. See if there’s time to volunteer, or simply drop in and say hi.
Clothes and shoes
- Plenty of socks and undergarments for a full week. Touring schedules can leave little time for washing, and you never know how far away the next washing machine might be!
- Clothes for all weather, and a range of activities (think comfy clothes for travel days through to something fancy for opening night dos or publicity events)
- Workout gear – swimwear, beach towel, goggles – even a bike or surfboard if you have extra baggage allowance!
- Skincare, nail care, haircare
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth wash, dental floss
- Hygiene products
- Deodorant or crystal stick
- Perfume or cologne (be mindful of your tour party’s sensitivity to fragrances)
- Make up / make up remover
- Stain remover stick (perfect for a quick basin wash or the odd stain)
You never quite know what you are going to get in a hotel kitchen! You might be able to fit:
- Good knife and small chopping board
- Tupperware container and zip lock bags
- Basic cutlery/utensils set and your favourite mug (even your preferred pan/wok/baking dish if space allows)
- Single serve blender for on-the-go nutritious smoothies
- Basic ingredients (herbs, spices, salt and pepper, small bottle of olive oil, packed in a plastic bag) to save you buying them over and over in each city. Be sure to check biosecurity laws first.
Home away from home
- Comfort food
- Special piece of clothing
- Favourite blanket
- Photos of family and friends
- Scented candle or oils
- Your pillow (or if it won’t fit, pop your favourite pillow cases in your luggage for a touch of home).
Electricals and entertainment
- Phone and CHARGER (pack a spare – someone always leaves theirs behind!)
- Adapters (if travelling overseas)
- Cards / games
- Spare pens
- Items of cultural or religious significance. Check the calendar before you go for any days of cultural or religious significance that might happen while you’re on tour so you can plan appropriately.
- Any medications (and copies of prescriptions)
- If you have any ongoing medical, physical or mental health concerns, a referral letter from your GP can be helpful if you need to seek assistance on the road
- ID (passports, licenses etc.)
- Download your favourite tunes before you go on tour – music does much more than just entertain us. It can also:
- Trigger biochemical stress reducers
- Reduce the perceived intensity of pain
- Increase workout endurance and performance
- Speed up post-workout recovery
- Elevate mood while driving – crank up your tunes if you’re feeling cranky in the car!
Check (and double check) your luggage allowances, and always check with Company Management if you want to pack something on the tour truck.
FEELING CONNECTED WITH OTHERS: A BASIC HUMAN NEED
While you might be around others on tour, being away from family and friends can take its toll.
Before you go, have a chat with your loved ones to come up with solutions for staying connected
What would be a reasonable expectation for how often you will be able to be in contact? Are there any periods that contact will be not possible? Would you prefer to work out a set communication routine, or would you prefer to be spontaneous?
Make the best of technology
Call, text, Skype, message, email – whatever works to stay in touch. Consider a closed social media group if you don’t want to ‘spam’ your friends with tour updates!
Figure out what would make you feel more connected while you’re away
Perhaps mates could send postcards to be waiting for you at the next town, or you could find a way to bring your partner for a visit.
Check for any important events
For example, birthdays or anniversaries that might take place while you’re away. Chat about how you might celebrate from afar.
Work out a plan for managing potential crises at home
Who can help coordinate things and keep you up to date while you’re away? There are times when life throws a curve ball, like an accident or an illness, and you can’t be there – you’ll feel better knowing a plan is in place if the unexpected happens.
Notice if you’re feeling lonely
It sounds simple, but keeping an eye on your feelings can help you to take action. The antidote to loneliness is connection and you can seek it in many ways. Connect with a human or an animal in the community where you’re staying, seek support from your tour mates or direct your attention back home.
TOURING WITH A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION
If you have an identified mental health condition, planning will be key.
Talk with your GP, specialist or psychiatrist before you leave and get their advice on how to manage your medication while you’re away. The effectiveness of certain medicines follows the body clock, so interruption or reversal of the sleep/wake pattern can interfere with treatment.
If you need advice about medication while you’re on tour, you can call 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) from any state or territory between 9am and 5pm AEST (except NSW public holidays) or Nurse on Call (24/7 Victoria only) 1300 60 60 24.
Seeing your psychologist
Chat with them about whether you can continue having sessions while you’re away, perhaps via video-conferencing or phone.
Schedule a pre-tour session to consider stressors and triggers to feeling unwell, and develop specific management strategies to implement while on the road.
Sharing your story
Consider disclosing to at least one trusted person on tour so you have someone to seek support from if needed.
If you work for an organisation you feel supported by and feel comfortable sharing your mental health journey, talk to them about what you need. It can be worthwhile to share with company management, too, confirming that you are prepared for touring, and you have a management plan in place.
You might need to be quite firm about your needs and boundaries. That’s OK – your health is the most important thing.