When you’re traveling, your regular routines of going to the gym or eating healthily — if you’re lucky enough to have these routines at home — definitely fall by the wayside. And that’s probably not a good thing.
You’ll get a lot more out of your trip if you’re able to stay fit and healthy, so if you’re traveling for more than a short-term vacation, you should check this list of ways to stay healthy while you’re on the road.
#1: Jog (Around the Kremlin)
Yes, you’ll need to pack your jogging shoes. If you’re wearing them every day anyway, you’re one step ahead here, but if not, and you love to run, it’s worth packing them. Going for a run is something easy to fit in either early in the morning or in the evening.
There is something pretty special about taking a jog through some famous place half way around the world. In Poland I spent a night in the Eagle’s Nest camp where Hitler stayed for much of the war, and my boyfriend was able to take his morning jog through the ruined bunkers and green forest before all the tourists arrived. He also enjoyed circumnavigating the Kremlin in Moscow. As for me, I’m not really a jogger, but I do walk and swim: see the next tips.
#2: Swim (in a Hungarian Hot Spring)
Another thing for your packing list, if you prefer water to land: include your swimsuit. You might be surprised how often you get the opportunity to take a decent swim.
Say you’re camping around Australia: most camping grounds and caravan parks have a decent-sized pool you can use for free. Hostels might have agreements with nearby recreation centers or gyms where you can swim for free or cheaply. Perhaps some twist of fortune will have you check into the kind of hotel that even comes with its own swimming pool.
As for me, I’ll swim anywhere, any time. It doesn’t have to be a summer holiday. When I traveled around Hungary in fall I became addicted to their hot spring baths and found a surprising number where I could stretch my limbs and have a swim. Sure, most of the people are there to slowly sink into the water, but if you get in during an off-peak time there’ll still be room to stretch out with a bit of freestyle. It’ll make getting back into your regular lap pool seem pretty boring, though.
#3: Skip the Bus and Use Your Feet
If you’re traveling on a budget, chances are that you have more time than money. So kill two birds with one stone: skip a bus or train ride around a city and use your feet instead. Not only will you help your health and your hip pocket, but you’ll also see — really see — a heck of a lot more of the city than you would from behind a bus window.
One of my trips to Paris was full of walks like this: we calculated at the end of the trip that we’d probably walked ten miles a day for a week, but I’m telling you, I feel like I know Paris now. My feet ached at the end of each day, but feet recover, and the fun stuff remains. And I wouldn’t have found my all-time favorite crÃªpes stand if I’d been on the metro.
#4: Avoid Junk Food
Eating junk food while you’re traveling is a very easy solution to the everyday problem of finding something to eat. You can kid yourself that it’s cheaper than real food (granted sometimes it might be) and that there’s no way you can stand the line in the hostel kitchen to use the one rusty saucepan available just so you can have some cheap two-minute noodles.
But there are two big reasons why you shouldn’t eat junk food while you’re traveling. The obvious one is that it’s not good for you (haven’t you watched that movie Supersize Me? That put me off junk for life). Traveling, especially backpacking, is pretty strenuous work so you want healthy food that’s going to give you energy for the day and not give you strange mood swings and sugar lows.
The second reason is that it’s heaps easier than you’d think to eat well: either by checking out small local diners selling local-style food, or by heading to the supermarket and creating your own masterpieces. My personal preference is for some freshly baked bread topped with ripe tomatoes and some local bonus, perhaps cheese, sour cream or chili sauce or any combination you like. Your Swiss army knife is the only tool you need here, really, and maybe a plastic spoon or two.
Bonus reason to avoid junk food: by looking around locally as you hunt and gather, you’ll learn more about the culture and habits of where you’re traveling.
You want to stay mentally health on your trip too. You’ve thrown yourself into a completely new set of circumstances; you’re probably out of your comfort zone; and all semblance of daily routine has gone. Set a new routine: for example, decide what kind of schedule you want to keep and get up at a regular time most days. Keep a journal so you can track your impressions and feelings without trying to hold all this new stuff in your head. And if you’re traveling with a partner or group, make sure you grab some alone-time on a regular basis.
Got a healthy travel or backpacking tip to share? Let us know in the comments below!