One of the biggest issues with extended travel is sacrificing yourself for the experience. No no, I’m not talking about offering your heart (literally) to a forgotten tribe, I’m referring to your fitness and physical wellbeing. Whether we’re vacationing on the beach for a week or backpacking through Southeast Asia for a month, it’s natural to eat and drink to our heart’s content – but shouldn’t there come a point when we ought to start paying attention to our personal fitness and wellness especially when we’re traveling for an extended period of time?
It’s all too easy to eat street food, booze till the early morning and do nothing more than walk a few blocks each day which can very quickly add up to love handles and a depressed immune system (nothing sucks more than being sick while traveling!). Here are five tips on how to help take care of yourself while traveling.
How to Stay Fit While Traveling
1. Eat more frequent meals throughout the day
The worst thing you can do for your metabolism is stuff your face once a day and then not eat until after going to a bar or club at 3am. Financial constraints might be a factor for budget travelers, but if you eat 5 to 6 smaller meals throughout the course of the day, you will actually keep your metabolism revved up, providing you with sustained energy with no afternoon crashes. You will also burn a few extra calories just in the digestive process!
Eating in this manner will also let you try a lot more types of food while in your destination. Try and stay away from eating too much carbs (bread, rice, and pastries) as these types of foods are fast digesting energy sources, so unless you’re walking all day or exercising, your body will most likely store them as fat because you’re not in need of the extra energy.
Try and eat small balanced meals that have some sort of protein (meat, dairy, soy), some vegetables and good carbs like whole wheat breads and pastas. Avoid processed carbs like white bread, boxed cookies etc.
2. Do some sort of physical activity twice per week
You want your body to be physically strong while traveling for multiple reasons including bolstering your immune system and lugging bags across cities.
I personally like to get a day pass at a local gym wherever I’m traveling to check out the local gym culture which I find comical/interesting. Even visiting a gym once a week will help you maintain whatever strength you have built up and going 2 or 3 times per week will definitely start to show you strength improvements. You can even do things like pushups, crunches, squats and arm curls with nothing more than a couple of filled up water bottles, once you build up a little more strength, try lifting your suitcase or bag for added resistance!
If the gym isn’t your thing, there are plenty of ways you can get your body moving like heading to a local park, go hiking in the countryside or playing some pickup basketball, soccer or frisbee, all of which are great ways to meet locals.
3. Walk, Walk, Walk!
One of the best ways to burn off excess calories is by walking. If you can make it to your point of interest on foot without taking up the whole day getting there or killing yourself physically, then just walk. You’ll get to see all the sights along the way, save money on transportation and get some physical activity in. If you’re in Somalia, then yes, armored Humvee is a definitely more intelligent decision, but otherwise, walking is the way to go.
4. Get your rest
If you’re traveling for months across time zones and borders, chances are you’re going to be worn out getting from place to place. Do yourself a favor and take a rest when you get to your hotel or hostel and make sure to sleep enough at night.
Of course you’re going to want to see and do as much as possible, but adapting to time differences, eating new foods and of course partying will take a toll on your immune system and not getting enough sleep will put you in the hospital sooner than you know it. I personally am a huge proponent of naps as they let your body come back down to a basal metabolic state for a bit in the middle of the day, letting you enjoy the rest of the night. Sleep well, live well. Trust me on this one.
5. Limit how much alcohol you drink
If you don’t drink, more power to you, but if you’re like the rest of us, going out at night while traveling offers a great and relaxed way to meet new people and experience the nightlife. The problem comes when drinking in excess and then not being able to resist the late night munchies which usually results in some sort of deep-fried delight.
The issue with drinking too much alcohol is it is very high in calories, and believe it or not, alcohol is a preferred energy source for the body like carbohydrates, so if you’re not very active right after drinking, your body will turn it to fat for storage and later use.
The best thing to do is have a drink mixed with water like a vodka and water or a light beer, only have a few, and, you guessed it, dance! Dancing is a great way to be active while have some drinks to limit how much your body will store as fat later on, so get that drink, put on your dancing shoes and moon walk the night away!
These are just a few tips for keeping your body a temple while exploring the world. Do you have any other tips on how to stay healthy while traveling?
Jeremy is the creator of The World or Bust, a travel blog with funny personal stories from his frequent international trips, tips on how to make travel a reality on any budget and guest posts from like-minded travel heads. He is based in Miami, FL and runs an internet marketing business.