So you're going to be traveling. Whether it's a road trip, a weekend away, backpacking, a long plane ride, or a luxury cruise, these are all scenarios that take us away from home. Away from our routines, our kitchens, the gym, and often our of our comfort zones. How do you manage this and keep your health a priority? How do you enjoy your trip, make the most of where you are, yet still come away feeling healthier and happier than ever?
It's important to recognize that healthy travel will mean something different for everybody. For some it may mean sticking to a specific food plan, maybe getting enough exercise in, maintaining a full sleep schedule, or maybe just refraining from junk food or excessive alcohol. The following tips are not a one size fits all solution. They are merely suggestions as to what you can focus on to keep healthy in a way that fits your definition of what that is. Use what feels good to you and leave what doesn't!
1. Be flexible and prioritize.
I'm not talking about yoga (though that may be a good idea...), I'm talking flexibility in your definition of what staying healthy means.
If at home you normally eat strictly vegan and go to the gym 2 hours each day, do you need to maintain those same things when you're away? Is veganism that important to you, or perhaps is switching to vegetarianism and choosing vegan options when you can a better option? And do you need to exercise for 2 dedicated hours each day? Or is incorporating lots of activity throughout the day while traveling enough for you?
Personally, I am vegan but while traveling I have been known to eat eggs and cheese on occasion. I still eat vegan when I can, but this way if I go to a really cool local restaurant or end up in an unexpected place with no vegan options, I know I can still have a great meal and not fret about it. This works for me and keeps me healthy and happy while allowing me to fully enjoy my trip.
Decide what you want to be strict about and what you're going to be lenient about before you leave. If your healthy choices require a time commitment each day, then work that into the itinerary beforehand. Prioritize what's important to you and decide where in your day it will happen. That way you can relax on your trip and be happy with where you are in that very moment.
2. Incorporate activity wherever you can.
If you're going to do a bus tour, maybe take a walking tour instead. Going to go for a drive? Why not hire a bicycle instead? In a beautiful place? Go for a hike! This is one of those things that once you expand your mind you'll see that travel is full of options to incorporate activity into your day. When in doubt always take the active option instead of the sedentary one.
If you're stuck on a long haul flight or car trip, then stretch and do what you can where you are. On a plane get up each hour, walk the aisles and stretch your legs, neck, and back. In a car stop each hour or two so you can get out and stretch. And if there's a scenic place you're driving by, you can pull over for 10 minutes and go for a walk or jog.
Incorporating little bits of activity where you can is a great way to keep your body healthy, keep your energy levels up and to keep you happy too!
3. Gym-style exercise can be done anywhere.
This is part of being flexible and may require a bit of creativity depending on your unique circumstances and of course the type of travel you're doing.
Some gyms are national chains, so with certain types of travel, like a road trip, you may be able to find a location that fits in with your itinerary and schedule actual gym time. And many hotel and resorts have dedicated fitness centers, so you can always look into that when booking your trip too.
But if that's not an option, say when camping, and at home you go to the gym and lift weights each day and you think "a hike just isn't the same" then time to think outside the box! If you're in nature then find something heavy and lift that instead! Rocks, branches and tree stumps are all very available when camping and make great weights. If you're a die-hard treadmill runner, why not run through a new park or down a natural trail? And if you love the stair climber then a difficult hike with a big incline or an open-air stadium with stairs that you can run can be a good stand-in.
Then there's the class style workouts like HIIT training or yoga. Though these may be things you generally do with a trainer or in a class setting, chances are if you do these at home you will have some capacity to do them while traveling too. Whether that's following a YouTube video instead of a live class, or simply using your imagination and the knowledge you already have, if this style of activity is important for you to maintain as part of your routine while traveling, then there is a way to do it.
4. Do your best to keep a regular sleep schedule.
If you normally go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 6am, it may be smart to try and keep this same sleep schedule when traveling if possible. This will keep you feeling rested and keep your body systems happy.
Also if jet lag is a factor, getting in a regular sleep schedule as quickly as possible is key to adjusting and getting your body caught up. Setting your phone to the time where you currently are and going to bed at 10pm (even if it feels like 7am to your brain), using ear plugs, an eye mask, or relaxing essential oils (such as Lavender or Frankincense) are all great tools to help with this. If there's something you do at home to help you sleep, try doing it on a trip too. Perhaps a certain pillow, music, or scent will help. I know someone who even brought her essential oil diffuser with her to a resort in Fiji just to help her and her family get a good nights sleep... If it works at home, take it on the road if you can!
5. Keep stress low by managing your trip expectations.
Oftentimes travelers get stressed because they want to see and do absolutely everything a destination has to offer! To walk every street in London, see every museum in Paris, or hike every trail in the Italian Alps is just not possible on a single trip!
The stress of trying to squeeze everything in at once can cause you to focus on all that you're missing rather than all you're experiencing. Prioritize what you want to see and where you want to go in any given time and focus on that. If you get to do more then great! But don't stress about it. Your mental health is so important and by focusing on your biggest priorities you can enjoy your trip and keep the stress levels low.
This is part 1 of the Healthy Travel series. To be continued next week with Healthy Travel How-To's Part 2, where we dig further into some more travel tips and talk about healthy food options on the road!
Until then, keep happy and healthy.
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