This article originally appeared on the Under30Experiences Wellness Blog on February 1, 2017.
HOW TO MAINTAIN HEALTHY HABITS WHILE TRAVELING
You work your ass off to stay healthy. Don’t let your vacation set you back.
Many of us put a tremendous amount of time, energy, and effort into being the healthiest versions of ourselves every day.
Whether following a specific diet and keeping our bodies active and fit through yoga, running, Crossfit, or cycling, we do it because we feel great when we take care of our bodies and minds!
So why do we let these healthy habits slip when we travel?
I often hear friends who’ve just returned from a vacation or a business trip say they’re “doing a detox” or they “need to work off those five pounds they gained” on their trip. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
With these four simple tips, you can easily maintain your healthy habits wherever you go and keep feeling great.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a globetrotter starts with understanding what your destination has to offer for food, exercise, or whatever other wellness practices are important to you. Especially if you have a strict diet, food allergies, or health habits that require special planning.
It is important to research what your options are ahead of time so you aren’t taken by surprise and left stressing out on your adventure. We all know there’s nothing worse than being hangry with no Internet access to find food you can eat in a country where you don’t speak the language.
Like your other travel research for lodging and transportation needs, researching your healthy living options can be as straight forward as googling, for example, “[your destination] + vegan” or “+ yoga” and combing through the results to see what piques your interest.
You can spend 5 minutes or 5 hours l making your list local healthy hotspots – whatever you need to feel like you are in control of your health during your adventure!
Here are some questions to consider before departing:
- Will you have quick access to snacks that fit your normal dietary preferences?
- Will your hostel/hotel/Airbnb have a full kitchen? A refrigerator? A microwave?
- Do your accommodations have a fitness center or basic workout equipment?
- What are some local dishes that fit your dietary preferences?
- Where’s the nearest Crossfit/yoga/cycling studio if you need a workout?
- What healthy restaurants are close to your accommodations?
Answers to these questions will lay the foundation for your travel plans as well as what you may want to include in your suitcase.
For example, as a paleo eater, I know that grass fed protein bars will not be readily available so I’ll pack the bars I need to get me through my trip. Or, if the fitness opportunities are far and few between, I’ll tuck a jumprope into the pocket of my backpack for an easy cardio workout.
Whatever your healthy habits are, make wellness research a part of your travel planning. I guarantee this preparation will reduce your stress levels and set you up for a successful trip both mentally and physically!
When we travel, we often give ourselves a free pass to eat whatever we want because hey, it’s vacation, right?
That “free for all” mentality can quickly turn into days and days of stuffing your mouth with refined sugars, simple carbs, and processed foods. Now let’s think about this for a minute. If your “normal diet” typically consists of organic vegetables, quality proteins, and gluten free grains and then all of a sudden your “vacation diet” becomes pizza and ice cream, how do you think you’re going to feel?
Now, I’m not trying to be the food police here. I firmly believe that eating the local cuisine is a quintessential part of experiencing a culture, but there’s a simple way to balance vacation indulgence with clean choices to keep your digestion running smooth and your body feeling great.
I call it, “pick and choose.”
Pick the cultural foods that are an important experience to you. It could be a baguette with jam from an outdoor market in Paris, a bowl of artisan-crafted gelato in Rome, or a plate of fried dumplings from a street cart in Beijing. Choose the local specialties that are part of the cultural narrative you’re immersing yourself in and enjoy the heck out of these tasty treats.
To create balance between these local food experiences, choose healthy foods that fall in to your “normal diet.” If you’re starving at an airport while waiting for your flight, choose a simple veggie salad with protein instead of the breaded fried chicken tenders. Or if you’re packing snacks for a day of exploring, choose your usual protein bars and trail mix instead of candy and cookies.
This simple awareness is an easy way to ensure you enjoy all the unique and delicious foods a culture has to offer, while giving your body the nutrients it needs to keep you feeling your best.
Remember that quote from the movie, Legally Blonde?
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make people happy. And happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.”
Why do we feel so good after a workout? The adrenaline? The outlet for blowing off steam? The sense of accomplishment? If exercise makes us happy, why do we excuse ourselves from getting our workout on when traveling?
Not only do your workouts improve your mood with a surge of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, but they also build muscle, strengthen your cardiovascular system, and boost your immune system.
Don’t risk losing those mad gains you’ve worked so hard for. Plus, travel can stress our immune system and the last thing you need is to get sick while you’re trying to enjoy yourself. Staying active can help prevent that.
There are so many fun ways to incorporate exercise into your travel adventures–and like eating the cultural food–participating in fitness activities are also a great way to get in touch with the local experience.
Here are some ways to keep your body active while making it a memorable part of your vacation:
- Instead of using Uber or public transportation, get your steps in and walk! You may be surprised by the unique buildings, artwork, and people you stumble upon.
- Check out the local trails and natural scenery with a hike.
- Find a crossfit box or yoga studio in your area. They generally welcome drop ins and you’ll get the opportunity to make friends with some like-minded locals!
- Check the local events calendars for community fitness events and sign up! Yoga at Red Rocks Amphitheater, anyone?
- And if you just need to sweat, find a nearby park or an open space to do some bodyweight exercises or take that jumprope you packed for a spin.
By maintaining an exercise routine during travel, not only will you feel energized and happy, but it’s another way to add to your cultural experiences. And let’s be honest, it makes getting back to the gym after a trip that much easier!
MAKE TIME FOR SLEEP
I know what you’re thinking: “I make time for sleep at home, so why would I spend my vacation sleeping when I could be out dancing until 4 in the morning?”
Just hear me out.
Sleep might not be the most glamorous topic but quality sleep is an essential part of being a healthy human being no matter where your travels take you.
Staying healthy is even harder when you’re traveling in unfamiliar territory, under stressful conditions, surrounded by new bacteria, questionable foods, and unknown illnesses. So even though you’ve got great sleep habits at home, those benefits aren’t going to serve you if you don’t keep it up on the road.
Here’s what happens when you get those 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night:
- You boost your immune system to help fight off infections
- Your cognitive functions stay sharp
- Your body’s stress tolerance increases
- You feel energized and happy
- Your body has time to repair cellular things that need repairing
- Your ability to emotionally cope with stressful situations increases
That’s a pretty good deal for something that’s fairly effortless to do. And these benefits become even more important when you’re out of your element, blazing your own trail.
So with that in mind, go dance! But, perhaps the following night, hit the hay at 10pm and give your body a chance to catch up so you can be the best, most resilient globetrotter version of you.
Keeping your healthy habits up while you’re traveling the world is absolutely within your reach! It can take some trial and error to figure out what nutrition, fitness, and sleep strategies work best for you when you’re on the road but if you persist and commit to making these small changes with each adventure, eventually your healthy travel hacks will become second nature, setting you up for a lifetime of good health!