Travel improves our lives in a lot of ways. We’re exposed to new cultures and sights and smells, taught humility and patience, and, well, we have a lot of fun along the way. What travel also does, however, is wreak havoc on our health.
I’m not just talking about the odd bout of Delhi Belly here; I’m talking months of poor sleep. I’m talking your eyes turning grey and dull because you’re not getting enough essential nutrients. I’m talking your skin breaking out due to excess pollution, muscles slacking, and cargoes growing tighter because you’ve had a straight week of eating fried noodles for dinner and snacking on Oreos because they’re all that’s available.
Staying healthy and fit on the road is a challenge. You can’t always get hold of the foods you know are good. You can’t always bank on a good night’s sleep. You can’t always get to a doctor who speaks your native language. On top of that (and many will scoff at me for this), there is often travel-related stress bubbling under the surface. Stress accounts for more health failings than you think.
Follow these tips to stay 90% healthy while travelling. (Can’t promise 100%, sorry — that’s just the lifestyle).
Tip one: cook your own food.
This is a toughie for those countries and regions that don’t commonly supply kitchens in the apartments (*cough* Southeast Asia *cough*). However, if you can wrangle even one hotplate and a pan, you can stir-fry some vegetables and other not-so-oil-laden ingredients. Buy some produce from a local market and load up on some colours.
Tip two: frequently practise resistance exercises.
Few people like to exercise while travelling. (Hell, few people like to exercise at all). But doing even a small amount makes a big difference to your health and stress levels. You might be thinking, “But I walk loads, and sweat buckets while I’m travelling!” That’s a great start — really — so keep up the good work. However, simple muscle training (push-ups, squats, sit-ups etc.) will often yield quicker, and longer lasting, results.
Try doing three sets of 12 leg, “push” (chest and triceps), and “pull” (back and biceps) exercises per day — it only takes ten minutes, but adds up to a heck of a lot of muscle activity. Better yet, pop on the Seven-Minute workout — Google it.
Tip three: for the love of God, try and get an early bedtime.
It’s boring, but just do it. Sleep is most effective when had between 10pm-6am. This isn’t always possible while travelling, I know — but pack a sleep mask and some earplugs and try your best. Your health and wellbeing will fall spectacularly to pieces if you’re not getting some quality Zs.
If you’re a stress-head and a light sleeper (like me), try just lying still in bed, breathing deeply, and calming your thoughts. I used to freak out when there was noise, because I knew I wouldn’t get any sleep — and, as a result, I didn’t sleep because I was flipping out about it. Try and make peace with your surroundings, even if they’re not ideal. Agree to disagree, and be glad when you can get away.
Tip four: practise a guilty pleasure or two.
Well, it doesn’t have to be a guilty activity, per se. However, engaging in activities that aren’t travel-related, but relax you (whether you’ll admit it or not), boosts your mental wellbeing. And without your mentality, what are you? For example, I watch a lot of movies and TV while I’m away — it’s the only thing that really quiets my thoughts — and carry giant headphones so I can fully immerse myself in music. When I’m stressed, I tune out, and it really, really helps.
Whatever your hobby/pleasure, don’t let others tell you it’s stupid — just enjoy it. Trust me, your tuckered-out brain needs it.
Happy (and healthy) travels!