Between the odd long haul flight, seemingly endless bus journeys and train rides across countries, and small towns where you end up just snacking on white buns and pre-packaged foods when passing through, travelling can sometimes leave you feeling unfit and unhealthy.
If you don’t take good care of your body while travelling, you can wind up feeling exhausted. It’s natural for travellers to want to make the most of their time in a new place and pack in as much sightseeing as possible. Too often though, that’s at the expense of their health and fitness, and eventually leads to a complete travel burnout.
When you’re travelling, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to make the most of your time away. Being smart about what you’re eating, how much exercise you’re getting and how you’re travelling will pay off when it comes to keeping healthy while travelling.
Here are my seven top tips for keeping fit and healthy while travelling:
When you’re travelling, it can be tempting to throw away all your good eating habits and go a bit YOLO about eating street food and sweet foods. Avoid eating any processed foods, too many deep fried foods or anything overly sugary too often. It won’t stop you from trying out new foods or sampling most regional specialities – it will just mean you’ll be more selective about which dishes you try.
Eat as the locals eat! It’s not uncommon to see “tourist food” being cooked up by locals who then just eat rice and veg for lunch. Look and see what foods locals are actually eating and where.
Cook for Yourself
Many travellers find that eating out can cause them to stray away from healthy eating habits that they usually have at home. Just because you’re abroad, it doesn’t mean you can’t cook for yourself, and actually one of my favourite ways to enjoy local food in a new country is to cook with it. When you have access to a decent hostel kitchen or if you’re lucky enough to be house sitting, then head over to a local farmer’s market to pick up some fresh veggies – and especially some that you’ve never seen before! – and experiment with some healthy and wholesome home cooked food.
Healthy Eating Travel Tip! It can really pay off to prep some healthy snacks before a day out hiking or a long bus journey. It means you don’t just have to grab the nearest undesirable snack to fill the hole and stop yourself from getting hangry. Raw oat and peanut butter energy balls and 5-ingredient granola slices are two of my favourite box-and-go snack recipes.
Exercise in the Morning
We had so many days while we were travelling where it was all sitting buses and boats for hours to get where we were going, or working remotely from our house sit to make up for lost time, that I started to feel sluggish and de-motivated about exercising. I found that keeping workouts short and doing them first thing in the morning before breakfast was the best way to get them done. Luke and I are quite regimented now and usually do three resistance workouts each week and one session of pure stretching on the weekend.
Travel Workout Tip! You don’t need to go to a gym to workout abroad! Luke and I do all my morning exercises on an eco-friendly lightweight travel yoga mat which we can roll out on hard floors or even head outside with to a park for an outdoor workout. Luke and I also have an awesome yoga towel each to stop from slipping, a skipping rope that we can easily stuff in our backpack, and we substitute equipment with what we have available.
Forget taking taxis around a city. Instead walk everywhere you go or rent a bike if you have to get further afield. Not only is walking a good way to get in some exercise, but it’s also an awesome way to explore new places. Luke and I walk an absolutely mad amount when we’re away, and we’ve discovered some of the best little hidden gems and seen some unexpected aspect of local life while on foot. If you’re super organised, grab a map before you head out and plot a walking route around the city. If you like going off-piste, then get up into the mountains, into a forest or onto the beach!
Do an Active Outdoor Activity As Often As You Can
In between all the local markets, museums, art galleries and cafes, challenge yourself to do at least one awesome active outdoor activity each week. There are incredible hikes or countryside walks around nearly everywhere, and often in relatively close proximity to cities too. For the more adventurous travellers, look out for activities like kayaking, rock climbing, river tracing and even volcano boarding. Ask some other travellers or a local hostel and they’ll usually be able to point you in the right direction of an awesome outdoor activity or walking route if you can’t find anything on Google.
Active Travel Tip! Pack with an active travel lifestyle in mind. If you don’t have the right gear then you’ll always end up finding an excuse not to be active. If you’re only going to pack one pair of shoes, then make it a comfy pair of trainers that you can run, hike, and bike in. Luke and I have awesome trainers that we couldn’t do without – these are my trainers and these are Luke’s.
Get Enough Sleep In
Getting enough sleep is so underrated but actually your body just can’t function properly without it. Not having enough sleep is bad for your health. If you doubt me, then give Freakonomics podcast on the economics of sleep a listen. Of course, getting good night’s shut-eye isn’t always that easy on the road, but spreading out long journeys, travelling slowly and staying in accommodation that’s located in a quiet area are good ways to improve your sleeping. Make sure to leave a couple of free days to catch up on sleep after long flights when you know you might be jetlagged too.
How many hours? Luke and I always try to get in 7-8 hours of sleep a night and we don’t stare at any screens (no matter how tempting!) at least 30 minutes before bed.
Try Slow Travel
The backpacker life where you whizz through countries, spending only two or three days in each place along the way, isn’t a sustainable one. Any long-term traveller will tell you that in order to keep travelling for an extended period of time, you need to slow down. Slow travel is the perfect way to find a balance where you can enjoy your time abroad and also keep healthy while travelling. Slow travel is all about taking your time, pitching up in one location for a couple of weeks and enjoying local life and local travel experiences.
Slow Travel Tip! House sitting is a brilliant way to travel slowly without breaking the bank. Looking after other people’s homes and pets while they’re away means you’re able to have an extended stay in one area and get to know the local community, as well as having plenty of time to get in the rest you need, enjoy healthy home cooked meals and try local fitness classes like the aerial yoga class we tried out while house sitting in Costa Rica.
What are your favourite ways to keep fit and stay healthy while travelling? I’d love to hear about your travel fitness techniques and favourite healthy foods on the road. Comment below or tweet me at @CharlieOnTravel.