I love to travel. I love to stay fit. I love to eat but don’t love the idea of getting fat so much.
A lot of people seem to think that travelling the world is bound to be unhealthy and they may as well just accept failure before they even begin. Once you are away from your reduced-fat ‘diet’ foods & without constant access to your plush £100 per month gym, that healthy lifestyle you claim to live becomes a whole lot more difficult.
Add to this the plethora of cheap street food and the widespread use of alcohol as a social lubricant in possibly every hostel known to man, and suddenly the idea of staying healthy in these circumstances to you seems absurd.
But what I have found is, like so many other areas of health & wellbeing; it all comes down to your mind-set. Get your mind-set right, and travelling can actually be one of the most health enhancing experiences on offer.
In order to get your mind-set right, all you really need to do is believe how easy it can be. If you aren’t convinced yet, I’ve compiled 4 lessons I have learnt to help you have faith that you don’t need to start planning the post-trip diet before you even leave.
- Eating healthily abroad is not a slog
I want to let you all into a small secret here. You don’t need to follow a regiment of constantly weighing food, eating only specially prepared pre-packaged meals, drinking special kinds of detox tea or cutting out carbs completely in order to be healthy. All you have to do is nourish your body with real food, and nowhere can this be easier than when you are backpacking.
Fruit & veggies are worldwide staples. Unless you are travelling in Western countries, finding processed and/or fast food is often much more difficult than finding the local stuff, and much more expensive as well. When you can get an avocado from a street stall for less than 10p and are presented with a choice of about 20 fruits to add to your fresh fruit smoothie, greasy Big Macs and melted chocolate bars suddenly don’t seem so appealing.
Don’t get me wrong, you should never deny yourself the occasional treat or the opportunity to try some of the great local delicacies, whether or not they are deemed “healthy”. But what I’ve found from experience is that that is exactly what they do tend to become – occasional treats.
- The world is the best gym out there
When it comes down to exercise – it really is all about making that CHOICE. If you want to exercise, it can be just as easy as when you are at home. All you need to do is make a conscious decision that you will try and exercise when you can, accept that you may need to adapt your exercise routine, commit to it & don’t just give up if you find you are unable to fit it in for a few days.
My personal preference is to try and incorporate exercise into my daily routine. A trek up a volcano, a snorkelling trip in the ocean or an early morning city exploration run are all examples of how exercise can be used in your travelling experience. However, I get this isn’t always possible everyday – this is where bodyweight exercise are your best friends. Push-ups, squats, lunges & planks are all possible with no equipment whatsoever. Add a set of resistance bands to the mix, and you really have no excuses with a selection of exercises like these shown here to choose from.
- Alcohol is not always your best friend
What I have found is that whilst many backpackers will go without meals costing more than £3 all in the name of maintaining their “budget,” alcohol is a staple that they are not prepared to let go of.
Full moon and jungle parties are always going to lure gap yah boppers in, and who can resist an ice cold beer while swinging in a hammock on a tropical beach? Frankly there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
However, learning that you don’t NEED alcohol to have a good time, to make friends or to get a well-rounded travelling experience, is one of the best things you can do. You do not have to be reliant on alcohol to have a good time; again it is all about mind-set. Developing the ability to make new friends in a hostel without the use of alcohol is a fantastic way to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and increase your self-confidence.
I wouldn’t for one minute suggest you shouldn’t go out and enjoy yourself or have a good night out once in a while, it’s fine. We all do it. I know I did and still do. But is getting so drunk the night before your snorkelling trip that you spend the entire next day being sick into your snorkel really what it’s all about? I’d suggest not.
- Variety is one of the healthiest things to incorporate into your routine
Finally, I honestly do believe that being pushed out of your comfort zone and not having the access to all the amenities you may have had before, is mentally one of the most health-enhancing steps you can take.
Don’t get me wrong, it ISN’T always easy. Facing an 8 hour bus journey with the knowledge that there is no possible way to fit in a workout that day, not being able to cook your own meals for weeks on end and a reliance on restaurants with menus that use a 2-word description of their meals is a sure-fire way to give anyone with an interest in fitness and nutrition a panic attack. But is that mind-set really healthy?
The knowledge that a day without a workout won’t kill you, that a jungle hike can do your body just as much good as a spin class & that you won’t turn into Mr Blobby overnight after consuming 3 meals out per day are important life lessons that can allow you to return home without the reliance on certain gym machines or nutritional supplements that you may have believed you couldn’t live a healthy lifestyle without.
Have faith in your body, eat real food and utilise the surroundings you have been provided with.