How to find balance and maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling the world.
I honestly can’t decide which of these appeals to me more: a morning full of hiking and smoothies followed by an afternoon run and a huge salad, OR a morning full of napping in a park followed by an evening of fresh bread, bottomless wine, and chocolate.
Both of these days sound like heaven because, yes, I am human, and I love to treat myself but I also love to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I’ve gone through phases of overindulgence and phases of overworking myself, and sometimes while traveling I tend to lean more towards the overindulgence side. It’s hard to turn things down when visiting a new country because you don’t want to miss out on anything. You just can’t go to Brussels without stuffing yourself with waffles and chocolate, just like you can’t go to Italy without trying as many gelato flavors as possible.
But after a few years of hearing my inner health freak scold me for buying bread instead of kale at a farmers market, I’ve managed to find a state of balance. Regular exercise, healthy eating, and a healthy state of mind are all manageable while traveling, and here are some pieces of advice I always carry with me on my trips.
- Walking should be the most used form of transportation. It’s the best way to get to know a new place while exercising.
- Go running to stay in shape, if the landscape allows. Crowded cities or busy streets without sidewalks are not ideal as you could get lost in an unknown city.
- Many bodyweight and HIIT workouts don’t require a gym or equipment, so those are a great way to stay active. I also like traveling with a resistance band because it takes up minimal room in my bag and allows me to do a bit of strength training
- Don’t be self conscious to work out in public. I have definitely been that weirdo using heavy rocks as weights in the woods, doing calf raises while waiting for a train, and doing tricep dips in airport seats.
- Never miss an opportunity to drink tea. It’s delicious, has tons of health benefits, and is often an important part of the culture.
- Always wear sunscreen, especially in high altitudes and near the equator. Skipping the sunscreen in hopes of getting a tan is 100% NOT WORTH IT because a bad sunburn can ruin a trip.
- Moisturize often, especially in dry climates, after a sunburn, and on long flights which easily dehydrate the body.
- On a similar note, drink water at EVERY possible opportunity. Always carry a reusable water bottle and stay hydrated. Many countries don’t have clean tap water and water fountains can be limited, so jump at every chance to refill your bottle because you never know when will be the next time you can find free water.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Definitely try the popular local drinks, but getting too drunk is not only costly, it’s hard on your body. A bad hangover can also turn into a wasted day, so just stay smart when drinking abroad.
- Always have healthy snacks on hand for long travel days or hiking trips. I usually bring as many protein bars from home as I can carry since they tend to be cheaper, but good snacks are always available in other countries. Fresh or dried fruit and nuts are some of my favorite options .
- Try to sample a variety of meals and experiment with new foods. Most countries offer safe choices like pasta, rice, or sandwiches, but it’s the local dishes bursting with colorful vegetables and aromatic spices that are not only the most unique, but probably the most healthy and least processed.
- Participate in active adventures, such as hiking, yoga, kayaking, biking, or surfing. Never turn down an opportunity to exercise while simultaneously having a fun experience.
- Listen to your body! If you feel a sickness coming on, the same day-to-day rules apply for taking care of yourself, but now they’re more important. Sleep often, hydrate, and eat nourishing foods and if necessary, visit a doctor or take medicine. Pushing yourself when you’re too ill to enjoy the experience is pointless.
- When traveling with other people, be sure to take some time for yourself if you feel overwhelmed. Traveling is exhausting enough as it is, but to be constantly surrounded by people can make your head spin. Go for a walk or lie in a hammock alone to recharge if necessary.
- Put down your goddamn phone. With the exception of taking pictures, it’s liberating to enjoy the world around you without staring at a screen. It’s also more polite and rewarding to be present during face to face conversations with new people you’ve met. Use your phone during downtime or when you’re alone by all means, but never choose technology over experiences or quality time with other people.
- Make time for the things that keep you sane. Whether it’s writing in a journal, reading a book, meditating, listening to music, stretching, or any other simple activity, doing the things that bring you happiness are essential when you’re out of your comfort zone.
- Stay in touch with loved ones at home. I usually take time either in the morning or before bed to send messages and connect with my friends and family through social media. A heartfelt message every now and then or even just a funny meme helps me feel close to to my favorite people who I don’t see very often.