Travelling is a great way to see the world, gain new experiences, and enjoy different cultures. However, travelling is also a great way of piling on the pounds. I should know – the heaviest I have ever been was following my first Euro trip with my girlfriends when I was 20. Apparently pastries for breakfast and two-course meals twice a day take their toll.
I love travelling, however, I travel in order to help me become the best version of myself, and I don’t believe you can be the best version of yourself unless you take care of your body. This means enjoying some regular exercise and eating healthily most of the time (some days cheesecake is unavoidable and that’s OK).
That’s why I have worked towards a style of travel that allows me to fully embrace new cultures and experiences without compromising my healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips I have learned since that Euro-trip where I gained a bit of, ahem, excess baggage.
This first one might seem obvious, and yet how often do we wimp out and take the bus, catch the underground, or worst of all flag down a taxi?
So long as the weather is OK, then walking is the best way to see any city. Not only are you right in the thick of things, but you can also let yourself be carried away on a whim at any time (which is hard when you’re on a bus headed in the opposite direction). And that is really the best way to open yourself up to a new place!
Walking everywhere is also a great way to stay in shape while you’re on the road. Walking is an eternally underrated workout. Just consider the amount of steps you take while touring a city sans public transport, when compared to the amount of steps you take on days that you go to the gym.
On Day A, I went to work all day and did a gym class in the evening. I walked 10,000 steps (seven kilometres). On Day B, on the other hand, I didn’t do a gym class, but I spent the whole day walking around Zurich. I walked 43,000 steps (30 kilometres).
Don’t overindulge in the local cuisine
If you go on holiday once a year, then completely disregard this tip. Eat ALL the pizza in Rome, eat ALL the Paella in Barcelona, drink ALL the Weissbier in Munich. If, on the other hand, you are like me and travel on a regular basis, it’s easy to get overzealous where the local food is concerned, and the calories pile up in the process (let’s be honest – national food items don’t tend to get famous for their health credentials).
That doesn’t mean you have to swap the spaghetti for carrot sticks, or forego the tiramisu in favour of a fat-free yoghurt. Just learn to strike a balance. Before you go on your trip, ask yourself which are your must-try food items, and try to limit yourself to one a day. Then you can stick with a sandwich or salad for the other meals.
Not only will you feel better and lighter throughout the day (I can’t be the only one who’s let a local food coma take the lustre off their travels) you will also find that when you do indulge in some local fare (and oh boy – you really should!) you will savour it even more in moderation.
Vegetarians aren’t just hippie animal-lovers. They also typically enjoy a more heart-healthy, nutrient rich, and calorie-light diet. If you really can’t handle eating salad while travelling, challenge yourself to try vegetarian dishes from the local cuisine.
And if you think you’ll be skimping on deliciousness, think again. What do French onion soup, aloo gobi, and puttanesca all have in common? That’s right – they’re all vegetarian. And seriously delicious to boot.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian restaurant or health food store while travelling, try Happy Crow. They have listings in every city I have been to so far.
Go easy on the cocktails
One of the most calorie-dense habits a traveller can indulge in is happy hour. The average pint of beer contains the same amount of calories as a slice of pizza. That Cosmopolitan may as well be a waffle.
Now, I’m not saying to ditch drinking altogether. Some of my favourite travel memories have taken place over a sneaky glass of white. Or Radler. Or Caipirinha. Or Ouzo shot. You get the point.
Just limit yourself to a glass or two, rather than a glass or ten (this is also a great way to ensure you spend your next day travelling minus the hangover from hell, which is always nice).
And if you are looking for a not-so-naughty tipple, your best options are wine (75 calories a glass), or a mixed drink such as vodka, lime and soda (76 calories), or gin and tonic (97 calories).
Always carry a healthy snack
If you’re doing a lot of travelling you will often find yourself in airport lounges, bus stops, and railway stations. A necessary evil of adventuring, these places are synonymous with boredom and bad food (which is an unbeatable combination for calorie overload).
When I’m travelling, I always pack something healthy to nibble on (a piece of sturdy fruit, or a packet of trail mix) for when I inevitably get peckish. Or bored. Or both.
Just make sure you fasten that lid tightly, as six months on from my trip to Morocco last year I am still finding cashews and almonds down the bottom of my backpack. Argh.
Learn the best way to see a destination – during a morning run!
Last year I was training for a half marathon and travelling at the same time. I got to ‘train’ in some pretty cool locations: along the Seine, on the banks of the Tiber, and through the Parc de la Ciutadella.
If you find you generally lack the motivation to get out for a run, then let me tell you – it doesn’t get much more inspiring than running past Notre Dame or Westminster and hearing the bells toll on the hour.
For months I was lugging my running shoes around in my luggage in addition to several other pairs of shoes. This always intensely annoyed me. But recently I had the brainwave to buy a pair of street shoes that could double as running shoes. They’re not as good for my knees as my usual running shoes, but it is a lot easier to justify the weight in my suitcase – even in my carry-on for weekend trips.
I also have lots of fun looking up running routes in every destination (try Map My Run). Plus, running gives me the chance to see a city from an interesting new perspective (not to mention it’s a great way to sample the local talent – in tight pants no less).
See your hotel room as your own personal yoga studio
It seems like every man and his downward-facing dog is into yoga these days, but would you ever consider pulling out your yoga mat before heading down to the breakfast buffet? Probably not.
However, yoga is a great way of getting in some exercise while travelling. The best thing about yoga is that you don’t need much space. A typical yoga mat measures 182 cm by 60 cm, which will easily fit into any hotel room (even Europe-sized ones).
You don’t even need to bring your standard-sized mat: get yourself a travel mat (I use this one and it folds up really easily into my luggage). If you don’t have a mat – or don’t wish to add one to your luggage – don’t stress. I have just as easily used a towel, or even a carpeted floor on occasion.
The next thing you’ll need is a sequence to follow. A good app to download on your tablet or smartphone is Yoga Studio. It’s $3.99, but you can download a variety of classes before your trip and follow them when you’re on the road (even when you’re out of WiFi).
I am also a big fan of yoga blogger Yoga by Candace, who posts a new yoga video on her YouTube channel every week. I pin my favourites to a board on Pinterest so they’re easy to find later. Her 15-minute chest and shoulders is a particular favourite after lugging heavy suitcases around airports all day.
I have whipped my yoga mat out in all types of accommodation, including hostel rooms. Sure, feeling comfortable getting your yoga on in a mixed dorm takes a bit of getting used to, but if you are travelling in a private room or a hotel, then you have no excuse. And if you have a terrace or balcony adjoining your room then you would be crazy not to.
This is the view I had for my morning yoga practice while holidaying in Menorca, Spain.
Top resources for staying healthy on the road
Vegetarian restaurants – http://www.happycow.net
Running routes – http://www.mapmyrun.com
Travel yoga mat – http://www.amazon.com/Gaiam-05-57821-No-Slip-Yoga-Towels/dp/B00A3Q32J2
Yoga on-the-go – http://yogabycandace.com
About Candice Johnson, My Seasoned Travels
The purpose of My Seasoned Travels is to show that anyone can travel – all you need is weekends, public holidays, and a sense of adventure.
Candice is a bookworm, yoga-addict, and healthfood nut.