Staying Healthy While Travelling
First let me say that there is so more to health than eating well and exercising, in fact- health is a deep relationship between the mind, body, and soul. Travelling for pleasure is in of itself a powerfully nourishing experience for the soul, but that doesn’t mean you have to forsake a healthy body in the process.
Exploring a new part of the world means breaking off from your regular routine, which can be devastating for some people’s health journey. I personally find it so refreshing to be thrown out of my regular routine, because although I am definitely a creature of habit- it feels nice to check-in with my values and be given an opportunity to explore new ways to balance fun, nourishment, movement, sweat, and rest… on the go!
I discuss rest first because sleep is truly king, and it's one of the easiest ways to support all the other aspects of your health- even if your movement/ sweat/ diet fall by the wayside during your trip. A good nights sleep works wonders on your body not only short term (like its positive influence on insulin sensitivity) but also for your long term health and longevity.
I wrote 16 tips to optimize your sleep HERE but key takeaways for travel are as follows:
- Synch your circadian rhythm to your new location: boot jet lag as soon as possible by getting into nature, getting in a workout/ movement as soon as you land, try to stay awake until the bed time of your new time zone, and do use melatonin (for the first night or two) as a sleeping aid to help calibrate your sleep routine.
- Get enough hours: studies suggest less than 7 hours per night is detrimental to your body’s insulin sensitivity, digestion, cognitive function, and overall health/ longevity. Optimal hours range closer to 9-10 hours per night. Try not to over commit to late nights and early mornings, to give your body enough time to get a deep sleep.
- Quality is key: pack some ear plugs and a black-out face mask to ensure you can sleep soundly no matter where you are.
- Cut caffeine by noon, or preferably all together: keep your caffeine intake in check, it will affect your body’s ability to get into a deep (restorative) sleep. Learn more about caffeine HERE.
- Get outdoors: exposing your bare skin to sunlight and to nature (earthing) helps set your circadian rhythm and does wonders for your body’s electromagnetic field; spend as much time in nature are possible (especially barefoot!) and get adequate (safe) sun exposure. Learn more about safe sun exposure HERE.
Sand, dirt, or grass: get your bare feet on the Mother.
Key word: nourishment. Food is a deeply cultural experience, and in some countries it is a sacred ritual. Take this opportunity to get to know the local cuisine, and focus on nourishing yourself first and foremost. This doesn't mean you can't indulge, but do so wisely and consciously. Don't embark on your vacation with the mentality of a "free-for-all" when it comes to diet, because the way you nourish your body is deeply intertwined with your self-worth and respect for this human meat vehicle.
- Intermittent fasting: is one of the easiest things to implements diet-wise to support your body overall health. The concept is very simple- eat within a 12 hour feeding window, and allow (a minimum) of 12 hours without food. Studies have shown that this alone (irrelevant of dietary choices) has a profoundly positive impact on insulin and hormone sensitivity, body fat, circadian rhythm, promoting longevity and youthfulness, reduce cravings, promote cellular healing (autophagy), and so much more. If your last meal is 7pm, don’t eat until (at least) 7am. Easy peasy.
- Focus on filling your plate with mostly vegetables: this should be an always rule, but especially when travelling. Although I eat meat almost every day, I consider myself “plant based” because the majority of my plate is always filled with colourful vegetables. Opt for veggies as close to their natural state as possible (deep fried french fries don’t count… sorry), and you will provide your body with micronutrients, fibre, reduce cravings, and balance your blood sugar. Even if you do indulge in other aspects of your diet while travelling, loading up on vegetables will buffer your "damage"- big time.
- Explore authentic local cuisine: no matter where you go in the world, authentic local cuisine is sure to provide with you surprisingly nutrient dense, wholesome options. Although we have pre-conceptions of foods like pizza and pasta as being “bad” for you- we generally are basing these notions on the westernized version of these foods. Authentic cuisine in countries like Italy opt for less-processed, higher quality ingredients, that are hand made (alchemy of love), and contain much smaller portion sizes than in the Western-remakes. Note that the world is changing, and Western food ideals seem to be spreading across the globe; ask questions regarding quality of produce and ingredients. I’ve heard that mass-production at the expense of quality has begun to spread across Europe (and most definitely exists in Asia and other non-Western parts of the world), so opt organic when possible and look for terms like “heirloom” when it comes to produce.
- Take a cooking class: almost every country has its own style of cooking, and there are many opportunities to take classes to learn how-to cook traditional dishes. From mastering spices in India, to making sushi in Japan, to crafting handmade pasta in Italy, or using wood-fired mud brick stoves in Bali; what a better way to immerse yourself in local culture than to work with local ingredients and get familiar with local spices and cooking techniques.
- Book accommodations with access to a kitchen: to give you the option to cook during your travels. Although you will surely want to experience eating out, it is a magical opportunity to shop at local farmers markets and create food-alchemy with fresh produce in other parts of the globe.
- Shop at the farmers markets: this is one of my favourite activities to do, irrelevant of its health aspect. Shopping for groceries at the markets is a great way to see how beautiful the local produce is, get in touch with the culture, support local farmers, and benefit from higher quality + fresher produce.
- Hydration: make this a priority, especially if you're staying active and spending lots of time in the sunshine! Stay away from tap water, no matter where you are in the world. Tap water in less-developed countries have an increased bacterial content (parasites, etc) which will make you sick straight away; but the parasite-free tap water of developed countries comes at the expense of gut destroying chemicals like chlorine, heavy metals, and neurotoxic chemicals... which will make you sick in the long run. Plastic water bottles are also filled with phytoestrogens and plastic-related chemicals of their own, so opt for the least-toxic load (ideally spring water, in a glass bottle). There are awesome water bottles that come with a built-in charcoal filter as well. THIS bottle removes bacteria (best for water in less-developed countries), or THIS bottle that uses a charcoal filter to remove the chemical additives (best for water in more-developed countries).
- Limit alcohol and drink consciously: in my upcoming trip through Europe I will absolutely be drinking red wine in Italy, but with a few caveats. Basically, quality over quantity; long gone are my binge-drinking party days, and this enables me to spend a little bit more on high quality (biodynamic/ organic, “natural” wines), and truly keep it to a glass. Despite being poison by nature, alcohol does actually relax the nervous system (if you keep it to one serving). Get to know the local wine/ beer/ spirit of choice, and opt for a natural, authentic, spiritual experience with your alcohol.
Movement, exercise, and sweat support a healthy body- no need to elaborate on that point. Although you will be out of your regular fitness routine, travelling actually offers you so many ways to keep moving, perhaps even more so than in your daily life.
- Walk: A no brainer- but walking is one of the easiest ways to stay active whilst traveling. From sightseeing, walking and exploring your new surroundings, to more advanced hikes/ treks- use your legs to catch you bearings and keep moving. Walking after a meal has shown to reduce insulin spikes and improve digestion, so opt to walk to-and-from meals, park the car a few blocks from the restaurant, or go for a wander after you eat at home.
- Take the stairs: this is a typical piece of advice for anyone trying to move more. I actually love running the stairs as a part of my fitness routine, and one of the first things I do (seriously) when planning a trip is google “stairs in *insert city*” to note the locations. Stair intervals under the sun = endorphin high like no other (except perhaps a nice long bicycle ride…). I love integrating sightseeing with a good sweat, and if you too like running stairs, doing so on famous steps across the globe is a pretty neat experience.
- Rent a bicycle: I’m biased towards the bicycle (because it is one of my favourite activities ever)... but renting a bicycle is an absolute must for my travelling plans. Renting a bicycle in Santa Monica and riding all day around the boardwalk to Venice and back was without a doubt the highlight of my time in LA, and I’m most excited about riding through the countryside from Florence to Siena in this upcoming trip to Italy. Bicycles are such a great way to explore and get moving at the same time! Be conscious of where you're travelling to and how bicycle friendly the city is/ what your biking abilities are.
- Check out a local gym or fitness/ yoga class: this is something I do wherever I go, mostly because I absolutely love gyms, and will jump at any opportunity to see a new facility. Take the opportunity to do what you love in a new environment, or get out of your comfort zone and try one of the popular local ways to exercise.
- Pack some gear: There are a few super-lightweight tools I like to throw in my bag to enable me to get in a swear no matter where I go: resistance bands, and a jump rope. If you're really into yoga, consider a light-travel mat too!
- Use a backpack: as your luggage! Not only are backpacks built-in exercise, you'll also likely pack lighter/ more consciously (which is great when you're on-the-move) and they are so much easier to travel with (lugging around a wheelie suitcase through cobblestone streets or unpaved muddy roads? No thanks!) I have THIS one, and I absolutely love it.
- Don’t forget to pack your runners: lots of walking and exploring requires proper footwear. If you're into natural movement/ supporting the biomechanics of your body through proper foot/ arch strength (as you should be!) check out THIS company. I just ordered a pair of the Circadian sandals; not only are they light (perfect for travelling), but the sandal is crafted to enable your foot to spread out naturally (unlike the foot prisons that are modern day shoes), and they have a copper conductor that runs from the sole of the sandal up the laces: hello earthing while still wearing footwear! (Honestly they're not the sexiest things, but the way I look at it is I'm looking to attract a partner who values this lifestyle and the benefits of earthing/ natural movement over fashion so... Jesus sandals #ftw.)
There are so many books and websites that offer travel guides, take advantage! Jot down a few key active activities (ha!) for each place you will be visiting. You don’t have to make your whole trip revolve around exercising (unless that’s your thing), but noting a famous hike, or a classic running trail, as well as the details for a local gym, fitness, or yoga class you might want to check out will make it easier once you’re on the go. Make notes of where to rent a bicycle that has reliable reviews online, and pre-plan your basic route if you're planning on doing a more elaborate ride. You can also plan ahead for meals, to ensure you have not only healthy options (scout out venues with high-quality ingredients and take note of the days/ operating hours of farmers markets) but also plan ahead to ensure that the more indulgent meals you do have are worth it. Splurging (money and food-ethos wise) and the meal ending up being a dud? No thanks!
Check out the Becoming Fully Human Healthy Travel Guide to Maui, Hawaii HERE.
Check out the Becoming Fully Human Healthy Travel Guide to Sydney, Australia HERE.
LIVE YOUR LIFE.
Health is not the be-all-end-all goal of existence. I used to be a degenerate partier that drank enough alcohol for 12 lifetimes, would go days without sleep (hello drugs and caffeine), took antibiotics, went to get my flu shots, drank tap water, and gave little to no concern about eating consciously… and I regret none of it (except maybe for the vaccines...). My goals and priorities have changed as I grew into myself, and my current pursuit of health and wellbeing is something that genuinely makes me happy. I don’t feel deprived or like I’m trying to live up to some standard that society has set out for me against my will: I choose this life, and this path makes me feel happy and whole.
Don’t go about your life living to fit into the mould of another's expectations. You should seek out a path that brings you joy. This path will inevitably change along the way as your own notions grow and your relationship with your Self transforms. If you feel overwhelmed with the health industry- just focus on loving yourself. Self-love is the foundation for any sustained positive transformation, and this is a never ending journey of self-discovery. Don’t be hard on yourself- meet your Self where you currently stand. If that means a degenerate week of bar-hopping and sleep-less nights: soak. that. shit. in. and enjoy every second of it. God knows I did in the past, and every step along my journey has played a pivotal role in teaching me what I do and don’t want out of this life.
May your travels be glorious and enriching!
...and check out my Ultimate Guide to Flying Healthy HERE.