The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. ~ Mike Murdock
If you’ve been reading my previous blog posts, you may know that when I returned from over two months in Africa this past winter, I felt – well – gross. I felt soft and squishy, low-energy, bloated, stopped up, and quite irritable.
I arrived back to the states utterly spent, and not in the I’ve-climbed-a-mountain-and-earned-my-gluten-free-beer kind of way. It was more like a, “Holy shizzle, my body hates me” kind of way.
I had spent tons of time on my butt (literally) riding on trains and in the back of pickup trucks and on painful plywood benches for hours on end. The parts of Africa I was visiting on this latest trip had minimal access to veggies and fruit, and I found mostly gluten and potatoes to eat. I had to treat my water with nasty chemicals if there wasn’t plastic water bottles (yuck!) to purchase, and drank a cold African beer (or three) daily to take the edge off the rough travel.
It wasn’t appropriate for me to hike by myself in many areas, let alone go running (my “exercise” of choice) when it was either 40 degrees Celsius or when I’d be prey for the lions. We got in some peak climbs and hikes, but as you know – it’s not what we do once in awhile that brings us health – it’s what we do daily.
Every day, amigos. It’s our habits and what we do every day that counts.
I had brought with me my greens powder, which saved my cells and kept my bowels a-movin’ on this trip. I also had digestive enzymes with me. But my body could only take so much before manifesting things like a rounder belly, softer muscles, less energy, a grumpy attitude, and jet lag that lasted an entire month.
We did amazing things and had epic adventures – that’s for sure (read here for blogposts about gorillas (primate and human kind) and other adventures there). But if you’re anything like me (which if you’re human, you are), then you need some basic things like exercise/movement and quality food to feel good in the long run.
And if you travel to places like I do, you know that most places you will be staying in won’t have gyms, and many cultures you are visiting don’t take kindly to westerners running around in skimpy clothes, profusely sweating on purpose – especially if you are a woman.
As I planned our next adventure to Mongolia, where we’ll be able to be more active while packrafting, hiking and the like, I came up with some ways to avoid coming back feeling like crud. I know better than to think that travel in a developing country won’t tax my body just because it’s not Africa, and just because we’ll be more active.
Yes, I did know a lot of these things before our recent trip, but apparently I forgot – or didn’t take the time to prepare more health-related things – because, well, I do stupid things like that sometimes;)
Here are my tips for healthy travel – and this applies for dirtbag and budget travel trips where you are mostly camping and hosteling, as well as for those of you traveling a bit more on the plush side.
Note: I do mention specific products because inevitably I get a slew of emails asking which ones I prefer myself. So I’m just going to tell you up front! But do know that there are lots of options out there. These are simply the ones I have personal experience with. You should experiment with what works best for you too! And if you think of things not mentioned here, please add them in the comment below and keep us all in the loop.
20 Freedom Junkie ® Tips for Staying Healthy on the Road
1. Pack a Greens Powder. This is super important. When traveling to developing countries or on a busy itinerary, eating fresh vegetables can be challenging, or even sketchy. Bring a container of it – enough for a serving or two a day – in something lightweight like a plastic tub with screw top, or a bomber ziploc bag that you can also double-bag for security. I like Green Vibrance, and Hungry For Change has also come out with one that seems healthy too. Kris Carr raves about Amazing Grasses. They all taste…questionable, but I consider them medicinal anyway;)
While it looks questionable in a plastic baggie, I’ve never had problems with it at customs or at security.
2. Bring Digestive Enzymes. To go lighter weight, I like the Advanced Enzyme System by Rainbow Light because you only need to take one capsule with a meal (as opposed to two or three of the less-potent brands). I also like Advanced Enzyme Optima because it has probiotics and enzymes in one. These will help your digestive tract stay healthier and you’ll feel less bloated and gassy eating strange foods. Maybe;)
While Probiotics are awesome, it is admittedly hard to keep them cool enough while traveling. Ones that need refrigeration are out of the question, but even the ones that can survive room temperature won’t be able to survive the temps you may encounter on your travels – like when you have to put your bag in the back of the pickup under the blazing sun for 10 hours.
3. Have an exercise routine you can do in the space that a yoga mat would take up. This doesn’t mean you’d necessarily need a yoga mat (read further for more options), but it means you need to be able to move in limited space. That way you know you’ll be able to exercise between the two beds in your room, or on that small patch of poop-free grass near your camp.
Even if you will be doing some hiking or other activity on your trip, unless it is full-on expeditioning, you will likely be missing out on some major muscle groups, so it’s nice to have a daily full-body routine you can do no matter what. If I had to pick one, I’d say a flow type of yoga. But on longer trips, I also like to add in a few more creative things.
A good way to do this if you want to mix things up is to have workouts downloaded onto your iPhone or iPad/reader, which saves weight. Yes, even DVDs add up!
I prefer to have some options that don’t require WiFi or other internet access since that is still hard to come by most places I go. Some programs I’ve tried out and think would work well are:
P90X – The 90-day program is about $130, and the optional iPhone App is about $4. Get to know the DVD workout before you go on your trip, then bring your iPhone with you for a varied workout every day. I like to travel lightly, so I wouldn’t personally bring the DVDs. However, if you are simply doing a weekend trip, the DVDs may not cramp your style at all!
Yoga Audios I downloaded these six classes from Baron Baptiste’s site and found them to be decent for not requiring internet access to watch them. There are single class audios you can purchase as well.
Yoga Journal just came out with digital video and audio downloads as well. I haven’t tried them, but Yoga Journal is pretty solid as a company and the instructors on many of the items are awesome.
If you have access to wifi/internet, try:
YogaGlo Has videos of real live classes from Santa Monica, and Jason Crandall apparently has a great travel yoga sequence posted as well!
My Yoga Online Classes from various studios around the country
Yoga Vibes Lots of Vinyasa classes
Those are just a few. Explore and see which you vibe on better. The ones above are the ones I’ve tried and liked. If you have more suggestions, please share them with the tribe below!
4. Did I say to pack light? Yes, pack light. My husband is king at this. In 2011 he went to West Africa a few weeks before I met up with him there, and when I dropped him off at the airport he had a small black nylon satchel, and that was it. It weighed maybe 5 pounds, and most of that was the Lonely Planet book. I followed after him with my own 8lbs (I get 3 extra pound for girlie stuff;), and I believe our shelter and small kitchen setup was about 4lbs on top of that. The pic of my pack is below, which weighed 12 pounds total.
It makes the biggest difference, especially on hard travel days. Your Freedom Junkie back will love you for it, and when you are hot and sticky, nothing can bum you out more than having to schlep through a polluted town with a big ass bag on your back. And try running after a departing bus, or squeezing onto the back of a pickup with 20 other people with a beast on your back. Not fun.
And you’ll look funny.
It is much easier the lighter you can go. You’ll fit in more with the locals too, as they tend to also pack lightly, and you’ll be much happier in the long run. Plus, you won’t be as disheartened when you realize your guest house is 1 mile further than where you had the truck drop you off.
My friend Roman Dial, a lightweight guru, has been said to espouse three rules of lightweight packing:
- need less. And I mean “need.” We all think we need things, but when you’re huffing it up a hill on a sweltering day after you’ve had diarrhea, you’re going to wonder if you really needed that hardcover novel.
- share (even toothbrushes if you’re getting serious, yo!)
- utilize technology (like titanium pots and pans, lightweight and high-tech clothing, dehydrated food)
And in that order.
Check out Hyperlight Mountain Gear as well, which I think makes totally epic lightweight gear. Shazaam! Their shelters are amazingly light. Remember that you compromise durability with such extremely lightweight gear, so you must be vigilant about taking care of your shizzle.
One thing to keep in mind is that uber-light travel is much easier in warm paces (like West Africa). If you’re traveling to colder climates, use Roman’s guidelines above and do your best. When I worked as an Instructor for Outward Bound’s Alpine Mountaineering courses, I knew some instructors who could get their packs down to 35-40lbs, and that was with 10 days of food, a climbing harness, light alpine climbing rack (rock), helmet, cold-weather clothing, and other types of more extreme gear. I think the best I got was 50lbs…again, girlie-stuff allotment.
Or a need complex…
My friend Gordy says, “We pack for our insecurities.” Yup.
5. ToeSox and Yoga Paws These are AWESOME! I’ve tested them out and can vouch for these two brands. I like the Yoga Paws for hands and the ToeSox for feet. The ToeSox with stripes are super-cute, and that helps me motivate;) You can do yoga on an indoor floor, outdoor hard floor surface, or a rock slab and have less risk for slippage. They wouldn’t be fun to use in dirt or grass, so just go bare for those.
6. Yoga mat? Again, because I am a lightweight kind of Freedom Junkie, I like to ix-nay the yoga mat. Hence, the items I mentioned in #5.
However, I had one lightweight mat recommended to me that I’ve used at home as a tester: the Manduka eKo Superlite Travel Mat. I dig it. It isn’t very padded (because it’s lightweight!), but it is sticky. It still weighs 2lbs, so for me that is too much to take on a long-term trip. But I’ll be bringing this for weekend/week-long trips for sure! It folds up like a sweater.
7. Make requests for vegetables (or other specific foods) ahead of time. If you are staying at a guest house without veggies on the menu, you can ask the cook if they can please serve up some yummy greens for your next meal. Often they won’t buy vegetables without knowing someone will eat them because without refrigeration, they will go bad quickly. But if you make a request ahead of them, they just might be able to run to the market and grab you some yummy pumpkin greens!
Sometimes you’ll have to plan ahead for market days if you really want this to happen. I did really want this to happen, so I got the local market schedules wherever we went to try and find out when we could make special food requests. If we’d been offered only rubbery chicken for days, I’d ask ahead of time to please get some fish for us – then I’d eat fish as much as I could until we set off for gluten and potato and rubber chicken land again.
Don’t be afraid to ask for something not on the menu!
8. Nutrition Shakes and snacks. As you all know, I am a whole-foods advocate. However, when I am on the road, I find myself faced with poor food options a LOT, whether that is because of tight travel schedules, remoteness of location, or myriad other reasons.
When I am on a shorter trip, I like to bring along one nutrition shake a day/every other day for the times when I think I’ll end up eating crap just because I can’t find something healthier. I like Shakeology for their vegan version and for supplementing for workouts, and Isagenix for taste and as a more filling shake (this shake hands down tastes better). Both have super foods in them and are of excellent quality. Plus, they are better for you than potato chips, sistah!
Ideally, you can also pack some healthy snack like nuts and bars. While on longer trips, hauling snacks from home isn’t practical except for a few treats, but for shorter trips, they can be a lifesaver.
9. Handheld/small blender. This is obviously for those without baggage weight concerns. If you know you’ll be in a hotel near a grocery store – like the last conference I went to in Atlanta that was a block from Whole Foods – you can make your own smoothies in the hotel room. Be sure to pack the container in which you’ll be blending things too (lightweight is possible!). Toss in some greens powder that you brought along, and voila!
The Magic Bullet Blender is awesome, and Mush, the manual baby food processor from Boon, is smaller and comes highly recommended by the ladies in my Spring Superfoods Cleanse for mixing up your own simple shakes and smoothies (not for chopping, but for mashing up softer things and blending powders). MUSH doesn’t require electricity, but the Bullet does.
10. Natural bug spray and loose clothing. The natural stuff doesn’t work as well as DEET, but you won’t get cancer from it. Nuff said. Heinous bugs? Cover up with loose clothing and a mosquito head net (wear it over a rimmed hat to keep it off your face). That way you don’t have to use any kind of spray. This is my preferred way to deal with the bugs.
The best top is a tight-knit long-sleeve button down men’s shirts. I say men’s shirts because women’s are often too tight and the mosquitoes will bite through them. I buy my “bug shirts,” as I like to call them, from thrift shops. They can be found in uber-groovy colors;)
Note: If you are using the evil DEET juice, be sure to use it on top of your clothes and never on your skin, and if you touch it, immediately wash your hands.
11. Go to the local market and buy yummy food – bring them back to the hotel/hostel/guesthouse and cook them up on your own, or ask the cook to make them up for you. If you’re going to eat raw, wash your veggies in a hydrogen peroxide mix or iodized water to avoid nasty stomach bugs.
12. Minimize the alcohol intake. Dehydration, excess simple sugars, hangovers that only beer from developing countries can muster… it isn’t worth it to be excessive on a regular basis.
13. Hydrate hydrate hydrate! This is also the antidote to #12. Drink lots of water when you can. Remember to pack your own water bottle (just make sure it’s empty before going through security) so you don’t have to rely on cabin service to hydrate! I like Ecovessel’s filtration water bottle to help me feel better about drinking tapwater no matter where I am – and it works for giardia and cryptosporidium too! Sawyer makes more hard-core filters.
14. Search out local yoga studios where you’re at. Just because you can’t go to class in your hometown doesn’t mean you can’t check out a new place!
15. Walk. Move. A lot. Like I said earlier, it’s the daily things we do that count, Freedom Junkies. Take every opportunity you can to walk, walk, walk. This means wearing comfortable and lightweight shoes while you travel. As long as I’m not mountaineering, I generally travel with a pair of flip flops and a pair of lightweight running/approach shoes. It’s nice to have the lightweight flip flops to change into after the end of a long day, or to keep feet cool when it’s hot. I have historically brought Chacos or something, but these days they are so heavy, I have moved to my present combo.
I like Salomon’s Speedcross shoes as well as Brooks Pure Grit ultra-lightweight running shoes. They won’t hold up for long trips on gnarly trails, but both have lasted me months on the road while doing some hiking as well.
I bring one of those with a pair of flip flops. I dig Keen’s flip flops for the extra toe protection, which has TOTALLY SAVED ME from tetanus so many times! I know I can buy cheap flip flops overseas, but they have broken on me a bunch, and instead I can bring light ones with some semblance of arch support too.
If you know you won’t be hiking much and that you’ll be relatively warm, Chacos are still a good bet for a one-shoe option. Wear them with socks when it gets chilly or for some extra foot protection. Socks will also keep your feet from stinking in them sooner than later.
16. Stretch in the morning. This will help your back to stay supple and not cramp up on the long and awkward plan/train/automobile/camel/donkey rides you’ll be partaking in. It will loosen up your body, and the mind tends to follow. If you can add a bit of meditation into the mix, you’re golden!
17. Pack a resistance band. I especially do this when I think I’ll be relying on P90X for my daily workout, because there is a lot of weight/resistance work. You can do most all of the P0-X workouts and any other resistance/weight exercises you like with a resistance band, which is lightweight and portable! If you don’t have one, you can create your own “resistance” by flexing your muscles AS IF you had a weight in your hand. Try it and do a bicep curl right now like you are trying to arm wrestle Popeye – it works better than nothing! I like Black Mountain Products’ resistance bands.
18. Get adequate sleep. This is huge. The body repairs itself when you sleep, and if you aren’t sleeping, you aren’t repairing and restoring. It WILL catch up. Plan rest days and lounging around days. I ALWAYS bring earplugs because SO MANY PLACES in the world seem to have talkative nocturnal dogs or early-rising roosters. An eye mask is also nice if you think you’ll be needing to sleep past sunrise a lot.
19. Wash you hands. This is the #1 way to prevent getting sick. I travel with a small bottle of hand sanitizer as well, which is super helpful when you don’t have access to clean water, or if water is scarce. Wash before eating, every time. This will dramatically cut down your risk for getting parasites, colds, the flu and other annoying bugs that cramp your style.
20. Plan a few days when you are NOT moving locations. Be strategic about where you place these – use them wisely, like after two weeks of daily galavanting across the country, or after a full three days of just getting to your destination. In our nearly three months of travel in Africa last year, Thai and I stayed at a place in Malawi for 3 full nights. Whoa! Other than the time we spent working at the refugee camp in Uganda, that was the longest we stayed ANYWHERE, and boy, did I absolutely relish taking out my toiletries knowing I wouldn’t have to repack them for three days, and sleeping in because there wasn’t a bus to catch.
I understand that when there is limited time, we can tend to want to Go! Go! Go! and not stay in any one place for too long, lest we miss out on something cool (read more about being a Freedom Junkie with FOMO here). But you will certainly miss out on something cool if you’re pissy and grumpy because you’re burned out.
Remember that no matter what top 20 make it onto your list, the best thing you can do for your health is to FEEL GOOD. So take a moment to ask yourself, “What could I do right now that would help me feel better?” Then get on it!
Those are my top 20, and there are MANY more! So please do share below and let the tribe in on your healthy travel tips and secrets.
Note: Ana Verzone (Neff) is a personal life coach, guide and Freedom Junkie ® She helps passionate people awaken their lives of freedom, adventure and purpose. Her monthly Ziji Up! eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her blog posts stem from her commitment to live full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row – which she just couldn’t stop. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting FreedomJunkie.com
* Just so ya know: the links for P90X and Shakeology take you to my coaching site for them because you can get them both for less there than if you go direct to beachbody.com. For full disclosure, yes, if you order through me, I may get some sushi money. But you certainly don’t have to use that site to make your purchase – just to save;) Also, I never affiliate myself with something I think sucks. Ever.