Note: this is a guest post by Adriana Pope, a full-time vegan traveler & smoothie aficionado. She is also the creator of the first 100% vegan restaurant review website Veg Nomad. Adriana has been trekking throughout all of Southeast Asia with her husband Nathan in search of the very best vegan food for two years.
Trying to stay healthy while traveling is actually more challenging than it might seem. Most people equate traveling with indulgence. Often times over-eating, binge drinking and not getting enough exercise are normative behaviours when taking that much-needed vacation. In a study conducted by British Medical Journal, they concluded that both men and women could increase their longevity up to 5 years by incorporating healthy eating and exercise into their daily routine.
In this article, I’ll share with you my top tips & tricks for staying healthy while traveling. Whether you’re taking a two week backpacking trip through Southeast Asia or living long-term in a far away country as a digital nomad, all of these recommendations will help you kickstart and continue a healthy lifestyle while traveling.
Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling
1.) The 5 minute “Hotel Breakfast”
This might sound simple, and it is… but most people just don’t remember to eat breakfast before heading out on their next big adventure. Beginning your day with healthy choices is the smartest way to ensure that the rest of the day will follow suit. One of the best things to do when waking up, is to eat breakfast at your hotel or hostel.
If your accommodations don’t provide breakfast, you can try picking up some fruit and oats at a local market. Simply mix in some bottled water into the oatmeal, cut up a banana into thin slices, and you have yourself a meal! Travelers who forfeit breakfast typically will find themselves confronted with strong hunger cravings by mid-afternoon. If you eat in the morning, you’ll be more likely to make healthier decisions by the time lunch and dinner roll around.
2.) Get your Sweat on!
Using your own body weight to exercise is one of the easiest ways to stay fit even when you don’t have a gym readily available. Having traveled through Southeast Asia where gyms aren’t very common, I’ve found that it’s a good idea to learn how to get your heart pumping without fancy machines.
The good news is that practicing yoga without a mat or a studio membership is now possible. Pick up a pair of Yoga Paws for a mat free experience in which your palms become portable mats. There are also some great yoga Youtube Channels out there like Boho Beautiful as well as Yoga with Adrienne that cater to folks practicing in the comfort of their own home (or hotel room). You can also do dips, squats, push-ups, and crunches in your hotel room before heading out for the day!
3.) Use your Legs!
Exploring a new city by foot can be more fun than sitting in a cab or waiting around for a subway to arrive. It’s also better for your health because you’re burning calories while walking to your next destination.
When I was traveling through Bangkok Thailand, I walked several miles every night to get in some daily exercise. I realized that walking allows you to see more of the place your visiting.
When you’re zipping by in a tuk tuk, you might miss out on all the little details that make the city so wonderful. Of course, if you’re in a rush then it makes sense to take public transportation. However, if you ever have the option to walk from point A to point B, try it out and see how amazing you feel afterwards!
4.) Avoid Becoming a Junk-food Burnout
When you arrive to a foreign country, your senses will be kicked into overdrive. You’ll probably find yourself trying to visit as many tourist attractions as possible while eating whatever you can find along the way. Chomping down on some french fries and downing a soda in between taking pictures with the Statue of Liberty isn’t exactly going to make you feel the greatest. This leads to the inevitable junk-food burnout. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to do some research before arriving to a foreign city. Planning out where you’re going to eat at before you actually get to a new destination can help you find healthy, plant-based options nearby. You can find vegan restaurants by using a website like Veg Nomad to identify healthy options worldwide. Making a list beforehand allows you to choose restaurants that fit your budget, meet your dietary restrictions, and are highly recommended by other travelers.
6.) Get your Snack on!
The number one reason travelers eat unhealthy is because they were in a time crunch. Perhaps they were rushing to see the Mona Lisa or on their way to Central Park and they just needed a quick bite. Carrying healthy snacks around with you as a traveler, can help you curb those hunger cravings. Try picking up some plant-based protein bars, a bag of nuts or seeds, or even a piece of fruit to carry along with you on the road. Eating small snacks throughout the day and in between meals can help maintain a healthy blood-sugar level and keep you energized throughout your adventures. Also, sometimes healthy snack options might not always be available so it’s good to stock up beforehand and bring them along so you can have something to munch on!
7.) Visit a Local Farmers Market
One common thread between local markets all around the world is that they typically have a great selection of fresh fruits and veggies. Visiting a local market in Banos, Ecuador provided me with a plethora of exotic fruits such as sour sop, papaya, mango, and star fruit. Local farmers markets are a great place to find affordable fruits that you can snack on throughout the day or bring back to your hotel room for a quick 5 minutes hotel breakfast. Local markets also normally have a food stall area where local cuisine is being sold. You can often find healthy salads, vegetable soups, and smoothie stalls in South America and Southeast Asia.
8.) Learn a little bit of the Language!
Teaching yourself a couple key words and phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting can help you immensely. If you’re headed over to Thailand, it’s helpful to learn the words for eggs, milk, and sugar. If you don’t want sugar in your smoothies for example, you can learn the phrase for “without sugar” (mai ow naam-taan). If you want your pad thai made without eggs, you can also learn the phrase for “without eggs.” Learning the words for the ingredients that you are allergic to or simply don’t want to eat can help you order food more easily. Keep in mind that most street food stalls in Southeast and South America have owners that don’t speak English. Figuring out how to communicate your needs is the best way to get what you’re looking for.
9.) Find Healthy Street Food
When I first started traveling, I used to have the preconceived notion that all street food was unhealthy. However, this is not the case at all. In Southeast Asia you can find food carts selling healthy smoothies made with local fruits, tons of Buddhist (vegan-friendly) desserts and meat-free noodle dishes. Don’t be afraid to ask a food cart to make a substitution such as rice vermicelli noodles instead of egg noodles or to hold the dried shrimp paste. Although most street food tends to lean on the greasy side of the spectrum, finding healthy choices is not as difficult as it may seem. Keep an open mind and make sure to Google dishes you might be unfamiliar with. For example, in Thailand there are many street food dishes that are accidentally plant-based such as steamed veggie spring rolls and coconut ice cream. If you make an effort to look for healthy street food, you might be surprised what you’ll find!
10.) Get out of the city!
Staying in a busy city like Istanbul or Kuala Lumpur can be exhausting. You might feel yourself getting worn out from the pollution and congestion. Make an effort to visit a park or public garden to surround yourself with some greenery. Parks are a great way to relax and detox from the craziness of a metropolitan area. You can also plan a day trip to a nearby National Park in place of a city attraction. You can pack a healthy lunch and have a picnic at the park. Surrounding yourself with nature will help clear your mind and induce clarity.
Healthy traveling, made easy
As you can see, staying healthy while traveling is not very difficult to accomplish if you follow these simple tips. Changing your perspective about travel and welcoming positive opportunities is a great way to encourage healthy habits. You can implement these strategies on your next trip and see if they help you feel better. Your well being and mental clarity is what matters most, so make sure to take care of yourself and your travels will naturally be more enjoyable.