Destinations Magazine

Tips and Traps on Staying Healthy While Traveling

By Livingthedreamrtw
Tips and Traps on Staying Healthy While Traveling Often the last item on any traveler's mind is personal health.  Sure, we all get vaccinations and avoid drinking local water sources in an effort to not get sick, but personal health goes well beyond that.  With the busy and often hurried lifestyle of traveling, the other aspects of physical health like eating right and getting enough exercise goes straight out the window.  We are guilty of this just as much as the next traveler as it is incredibly easy to fall into common traps that can ruin a diet and set the ball rolling for an inevitable sickness.  But fear not!  With a few changes to your daily lifestyle your road to healthy traveling becomes easier and the inevitable days of sickness start becoming few and far between.  (Photo "Legs of a Young Man Running" © cienpies.net)
Don't Miss Certain Food Groups
Tips and Traps on Staying Healthy While Traveling
When we travel, we often find ourselves eating the same kind of meals over and over again.  Whether that is daily dishes of pasta in Italy, a disproportionate amount of curry in Thailand, or a pita centric diet in the Middle East, what we eat tends to be a bit one sided to one or two food groups.  While you can't really counteract this when eating every meal at a restaurant for weeks or months at a time, what you may start noticing is that a few of the major food groups begin disappearing from your daily diet.  (Photo "Waffles" by jupit)
To use Italy as an example, I ate so much pasta and pizza my last time there that my only intake of dairy was with the cheese that topped my daily lunch and via gelato.  Vegetables were few and far between other than pizza toppings and lets not talk about real fruits.
This trend continues in many places we as travelers visit, and forgetting entire food groups is something that will catch up with you over time.   In order to balance this issue we always try and make a stop at a local market every day or two to grab a fresh snack of fruit or a local, healthy delicacy.  It may not be as convenient as the corner store, but the taste and flavor is something leaps and bounds over a pack of potato chips and candy.  Why does the fresh fruit satisfy our appetite?  It is not because it is local and fresh picked (although that is a perk), but rather because our body is craving a food group that we haven't had in days or weeks!  In this respect, listening to your body's cravings can work wonders in keeping yourself healthy while on the road.
But snacks are not the only way to sneak in the missed food groups. The same goes true for breakfast, one of the most important meals of the day that many of us skip or eat junk in an effort to save time.  While we aren't going to argue with those who like to get an early start to the day, when you do get breakfast be sure to eat outside of the carb heavy diets that most cultures offer in the mornings every once in a while.  Not only is this one of the best times of the day to find fruit on a menu, but you can also get a large dairy and probiotic fix with a big cup of yogurt in nearly every region of the world.  In the end your body will be much happier with that over the giant waffles smothered in heaps of sugar (unless, of course, you're in Belgium, then ignore that last bit and eat away).

I'm Active, I Don't Need to Exercise - Right?
Tips and Traps on Staying Healthy While Traveling
An interesting thought into staying healthy while on the road is if travelers need to go out of their way to exercise.  After all, most travelers are walking upwards of 10 to 20 miles per day for several days on end.  Certainly that must negate all of the food one eats when on the road for a net gain in health?  In a short answer - it depends on the person.
Those, like us, who tend to be on the "I should probably workout more" thought process will get a big diet boost from travel.  Your daily walking will be a super charged boost to a sedientary lifestyle that working at a desk often provides.  Trust us, we know that one all to well.  For travelers who fall into this category you'll find that your body will feel a great energy boost all from the simple fact that you are moving around.  For you, travel is a wonderful diet no matter how much you gorge on local cuisine. (Photo "Snow Hike" by rolve)
But for others who work out on a fairly rigorous routine at home, you may find yourselves becoming a bit sluggigsh while traveling.  Our point is not to say that those who are more active at home will instantly gain weight when traveling, but it is all a matter of workout intensity.  For those who workout multiple times per week on an active regimen of weights, cardio, and other styles, switching over to 10 to 20 miles of pure walking in a day may seem like a downgrade from the usual routine.  Add in some more food and alcohol than you would consume at home and you have a recipe for adding on a few pounds.  Although your already strong metabolism may carry you on short vacations, keep the option open to get a little extra exercise every once in a while when you are on a longer adventure.
Is this backwards logic fair? No, not at all.  But in our experience it has remained quite true for every vacation we've been on throughout each phase of our healthy and *ahem* less healthy body shapes.  So if you fall into the latter category, don't be upset!  Those extra few pounds will melt away as soon as you return home as long as your pre-trip regimen is restarted right away!
What To Do When you Do Get Sick
Tips and Traps on Staying Healthy While Traveling
No matter what, most all travelers will get sick every now and again while traveling.  Between new water sources, pollution, and the general stress on your body from traveling (especially long-term), a sickness is bound to happen.  Much like our favorite book The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, we can only say one thing: Don't Panic.
The first thing anyone should do when sick on the road is take a moment to calm down and assess the situation.  Are you run down and need a day off to sleep and watch movies?  Are you stressed by your current environment and need a new, non-travel activity to perk you up (aka, a travel rut)?  Or do you have a medical issue that needs more than sleep and time to be addressed?  For the purpose of this post, we're going to discuss the latter. (Photo "Ambulance" by linder6580)
When sick, it is important to keep the region of the world in mind when you are determining the proper treatment method to pursue.  In the United States, where medicine is fairly regulated, a difficult sickness may warrant a trip to a doctor or urgent care facility in order to get a prescription or recommendation on how to get better.  In Thailand, where medicine is regulated a bit differently, all you may have to do is go to a pharmacist who can prepare a diagnosis and give you the medicine at the same exact time for a very low cost.  As every country around the world regulates medicine differently, the best choice for all sicknesses is first your local hotel or hostel worker.  They know their system better than anyone else, and will tell you exactly where to go for the condition you have.
If your symptoms are bad enough that you have to travel to a doctor or hospital, be safe and use the buddy system.  If no one is able to go with you, always let your hotel desk know so they can call and check up on you. In many cases they may be nice enough to go with you or drive you, making the process that much easier!
Whether you are looking at keeping your immune system strong, staying in shape, or recovering from sickness on the road healthy choices are not an incredibly hard thing to incorporate on a daily basis.  After a while these minor changes become a common feature in your travel routine and you may forget that you are even doing it in the first place!  After all, if a little diet change and extra walking will help avoid getting sick on the road, it is worth the adjustment.
Tips and Traps on Staying Healthy While Traveling

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