When it comes to staying healthy while traveling, I’ve definitely taken things to the extreme… in both directions. I’ve gone on trips where I abandon any sort of fitness regime, fully committing to the “f&$k it I’m on vacation” mentality… and then returning home feeling sluggish, uncomfortable in my body, and unhappy as a result. I’ve also been so dogmatic in my quest for fitness that I miss out making the most of my trip because I’m spending all my time working out, and skipping delicious local foods (case in point: the first time I went to Paris I did not eat a single dessert… more on this sad story later).
Fortunately, I’ve now come to a place where I’ve found a balance between maintaining healthy habits while on the road, and giving myself the freedom to enjoy myself. Here are some of my top tips:
Staying healthy while traveling starts before you leave home; set yourself up for success by bringing along workout clothes and maybe some gear. Carrying super heavy luggage is one workout I do not enjoy, so I pack smart. I choose multi-functional clothes, and lightweight equipment. I never, ever go anywhere without my Teeki leggings; they are ultra comfy for everything from yoga to weightlifting to running, and because they are made of bikini material I can even wear them in the water (think surfing, diving, paddleboarding). The material dries really fast for quick sink-laundry situations, and they’re gorgeous, so I wear them with a sweater or cute top for a night out.
As far as equipment goes, I pack a travel yoga mat and a resistance band and I’m all set. The resistance band is good for all kinds of workouts (check Pinterest for inspo!) and the yoga mat allows me to take my practice anywhere. I also carry a water bottle with me everywhere, since hydration is key to staying healthy on the road (pro tip: Flight attendants are usually happy to fill up water bottles on flights, to keep you from needing to use those environmentally appalling tiny plastic cups).
Wearing my Teekis for a beach workout in Australia, and SCUBA diving in Thailand
plan an active adventure
This is my favourite way to stay healthy while traveling - planning for an action-packed holiday so the fitness aspect just comes naturally! Go hiking, take a cycle tour, go paddle boarding, SCUBA diving, or kayaking! Active adventures will keep your body feeling good while allowing you to explore parts of your destinations in ways you wouldn’t otherwise get to experience, so it’s a total win-win.
walk... a lot!
Exploring on foot is such a good way to take in local sights, especially if you’re traveling in cities. It’s not unusual for me to clock 25 000+ steps in a day just by wandering through the streets; I’m a geek so I like to keep track of such things; I’ve got a TomTom Spark watch that tracks my steps, but also has a GPS tracker so sometimes I turn it into activity mode when I wander, and end up with a map of exactly where I’ve been. Make sure you wear comfy shoes, and maybe download an offline map so you can find your way back at the end of the day!
book a healthy hotel
Traveling to Southeast Asian cities? Consider getting a hotel with gym facilities… it’s easier and cheaper than you may think. I recently stayed in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where I stayed at Tara Angkor Hotel, a 4* hotel with a great gym, plus free airport transfers, lush buffet breakfast, included massage, and even complimentary bicycles (which I took to cycle around Angkor Wat), all for about $50USD per night! These sorts of deals are pretty common throughout SE Asia, and give you a chance to get in a quick cardio session while you catch up on your fav Netflix show, or bust out a weights circuit before a day of exploration.
build your own fitness retreat
Yoga and fitness retreats are becoming more popular worldwide; however, they’re not cheap! It’s not uncommon to spend 2000-5000£ for a weeklong package of yoga/fitness activities, food, and accommodation. Why not go the DIY route and put together your own retreat for a fraction of the cost?
I'll give you an example for Koh Tao, Thailand, where I happen to own Ocean Sound Yoga (shameless self promotion? Maybe... but it really is an outstanding studio!) An unlimited weekly pass is only 1000฿ (22£), giving you access to 17 classes/week in a variety of styles, so you can really immerse yourself into your practice. The Dearly hostel offers cheap & beautiful accommodation just down the road for 500฿ (11£) per night. Food is famously inexpensive - to be generous, budget for 1000฿ per day, which will be more than enough to keep you full of deliciously spicy Thai food, smoothies overflowing with tropical fruits, and fresh seafood feasts. In between classes, Koh Tao boasts gorgeous beaches, plus world-famous Thai massages (typically 300฿/1 hour). Let's factor in another 1000฿ for massages and snorkel gear rental for the week. So, for 12 500฿ (280£) you can hook yourself up with a whole week of yoga, food, accommodation, massages, and fun in the sun. Pretty sweet, right?!
Of course, physical activity is only part of being fit - what you put into your body is as important as what you do with it. I like to stay in AirBnB apartments or hostels with kitchens so that I can prepare at least some of my own meals. When I eat out, I seek out healthy restaurants online, or choose nutritious menu options (protein, veggies, + some carbs, hold the dressings, sauces, and oils). If I’m traveling to the middle of nowhere, I pack some simple and healthy food. For example, I brought protein powder and instant oats while I traveled through remote islands in the Philippines, and it was a lifesaver! When I book flights I request the "low calorie" option for meals. I get as much food as everyone else, but get things like steamed fish and veggies instead of greasy curries or heavy pasta dishes.
Now, having said all this, please do remember that while it's important to take good care of yourself, it's just as important to kick back, relax, and have fun on your trip! Fitness is about how you feel, physically and mentally, not just about how you look. It's a privilege to be able to travel the world, experience new cultures, and have the amazing experiences travel affords us. So, eat salad, but also feast on cake. Go for a run but chill out on the beach, too. After all, in 10 years when you think back on your travels, you want to remember more than just what the inside of the gym looked like.
Got a great tip for staying healthy on the road? Know of a sweet local deal you want to share? Comment below!
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