We all struggle with the challenge of how to maintain a healthy lifestyle on a regular basis even when life is running on a smooth schedule. However, a change to that schedule can disrupt all of our best intentions and being away from home can completely throw us off balance.
Traveling, for work or for pleasure, can be exciting and rewarding but as with everything in life there is always a flipside.
Not having a kitchen means eating out at restaurants and being tempted by menus full of delicious high calorie foods and sinful desserts that we are more likely to avoid at home. Even if you have a small kitchen in your Airbnb or hotel room you’ll rarely have all the ingredients and tools you need to prepare your regular healthy meals.
If you rely on a gym for exercise at home you’ll feel lost without access to the equipment and classes you’re used to. And besides, there’s so much more fun stuff to do than working out when you’re on vacation.
You may be light drinker in your normal life but there’s something about being on a holiday that turns that occasional glass of wine into a bottle. And although you’re sitting by the pool reading a book it’s more likely to be a trashy novel than something that nourishes your mind.
Before you yell at the screen telling me that vacations are supposed to be fun and indulgent, I say you’re absolutely right! But, if you travel often, for work or pleasure, you have probably found that if your only goals are to play hard, over eat, drink heavily and not stimulate your brain, you will pay the price and will return home feeling sluggish in both mind and body.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t indulge yourself in some of life’s greatest pleasures. I’m just saying that finding a healthy balance is important and if anything it will make your travels even more enjoyable.
Our Balancing Act
We believe that living a balanced life is the key to happiness and that doesn’t stop when we travel. It definitely is more challenging though. In order to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle on the go we make a checklist of things that are important to us.
We then use that checklist with the aim to incorporate a bare minimum of three of these things every day, wherever we are in the world. For us that list includes physical activity, healthy eating, learning, giving back, playtime, nature, rest, work, socializing, and culture.
For example, a balanced day on the road for us might be a few hours of work in the morning, then a healthy lunch, followed by a cycling around the town or countryside we’re visiting, and finally an evening splurge of calories at a restaurant which offers local, traditional food and wine. On this day we have balanced not so healthy eating at dinner with exercise and a healthy lunch. We have also balanced work time with play time, and we have learned something about the local food and culture.
On another day we may find ourselves in a busy city where we start off with a huge breakfast buffet at the hotel we’re staying in. That may be followed by a hop on hop off bus tour of the city where we spend much of the time sitting. To balance the high calorie meal and low physical activity morning we would probably seek out a city hike to a viewpoint or maybe climb a few hundred stairs to the top of a tower. Then the evening could be a light dinner followed by a local cultural performance, art exhibit or city square or park where the locals gather to socialize in the evening.
Whatever our day consists of we always look for ways to learn about the places we are visiting, the people and the culture and we also try to contribute in a positive way to the communities we are guests in.
It is so easy to lose your balance when you don’t have a regular schedule and we find this simple checklist really helps keep us healthy in mind, body and spirit.
Read more about our travel life here
Other Travelers Share How to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle When They Are On the Road
Living and working in the wonderful world of travel means that we know many other travelers who have amazing stories and experiences to share. So, we asked some of them for their healthy lifestyle tips, healthy eating habits and personal strategies for achieving a healthy life balance wherever they are in the world.
Confronting the bathroom scale after returning from travels can be a bit stressful. We’ve all been there! One of the biggest things I do stay healthy (and avoid packing on pounds) during my travels is cook balanced vegan meals for myself rather than eating out all of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating out, but it’s just not practical or healthy for every single meal, especially on longer trips.
The first day I arrive in a new location, I head straight to the local farmers market or grocery store and stock up on lots of fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, olives, and breads to fill my Airbnb or hostel kitchen with. I also head to local health food stores for things like vegan yogurt, tofu, tempeh, and granola.
Having these items on hand is especially good for breakfast, to ensure that the first meal of the day is healthy and gives you a big energy boost before heading out to explore a new location.
For lunch or dinner I stick to meals that are super quick and easy to cook, yet packed full of nutrients. For example, whole grain pasta with asparagus, tomatoes, and tempeh is one of my favorite things to make on the road. Even vegan snacks like raw vegan peanut butter oat balls can be prepared pretty easily and are great to pack for a long day of sightseeing.
Preparing your own meals while traveling means that you’ll feel healthy and balanced…and never guilty about that chocolate cake you just couldn’t pass up!
Read more from Randi on Veggie Visa
In the excitement leading up to a big trip, it’s easy to forget about the health preparations you need to take before you leave! This can be something as simple as making sure you are physically fit for any activities you plan to be doing. But sometimes, if you are travelling somewhere exotic, you will need to think about preventing yourself from getting sick too.
As a doctor and a travel blogger, I would advise you to check well in advance before you leave about what vaccinations you will need and whether antimalarial medications are required. Some immunisations require a course over several weeks and others are only available at specific health clinics such as Nomads. Some countries will require proof of immunisations like Yellow Fever before they’ll even let you through the airport!
Malaria is often ignored but it is in fact incredibly risky to do this. There were actually 216 million cases worldwide and 445000 deaths due to Malaria in 2016 – those are numbers you can’t avoid! Malaria is present in 91 countries – lot’s of people presume it is just prevalent in Africa but this is not the case! In my anti-malarial guide, I explain which anti-malarials to take and how to take them.
Read more from Leanne at the Globetrotter GP
We are currently on a 4 month overland adventure across Africa in a Land Rover Defender and our two boys (ages 2 and 4). Looking after young kids full-time can be exhausting at the best of times, let alone on the road where playgrounds and softplay are few and far between. So it’s important that each parent has some designated downtime for themselves, away from parenting demands.
To do this, we travel slow and take it in turn every few days to take the boys off for an activity, allowing the other parent to savour some ‘me time’. For me, this is time to write. For my husband, this is time to read or go for a run. Just these few hours a week to myself allows me the mental headspace to catch up with myself, process our adventures and appreciate the now. It certainly makes us both better parents and we are very grateful to each other for this time, as I know there are many single parents who travel with their little ones and don’t have this luxury.
Read more form Jenny at TraveLynn Family
One of my favourite ways to keep fit while travelling is to Snorkel and Scuba Dive. There are snorkeling and diving opportunities all over the World, from beautiful exotic tropical waters, to the freeze-your-tits-off Silfra dive in Iceland!
Snorkelling can cost next to nothing, especially if you have your own mask, snorkel and fins and it can be done offshore so no need to catch a boat. As long as you are a reasonably comfortable swimmer, this activity is suitable for everyone. You will frequently see signs along beach fronts offering snorkel gear (and sometimes a guide on a ‘Snorkel Safari’. One of the best snorkel experiences I had was in the Galapagos Islands, the sea lions who reside there are super inquisitive and swim right up to you.
Scuba diving, on the other hand is a lot more expensive and involved BUT the added bonus is that you actually get to see a lot more stuff. There are a load of different dive options, if you’ve never done Scuba before then I recommend a Try-Dive session before forking out a big wadge of cash to train as an Open Water Diver. Some top dive destinations are Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia and Cuba.
Read more from Backpack Becki
I begin each day with a 20-minute yoga routine which combines movement, breathing, and meditation. Yoga is both calming and invigorating and sets the tone for my day. The benefits of yoga are: increased flexibility, improvement of muscle strength and tone, and improved balance.
I start my yoga routine with Breath of Fire and a few minutes of meditation. I try to send positive vibes out to the world through my meditation. Breath of Fire is a rapid and rhythmic breathing technique with equal emphasis on inhale and exhale.
To begin practicing yoga, start slow and simple. Here is a list of 10 basic poses to start you out: Cobra, Cat, Downward Facing Dog, Plank, Tree, Triangle, Warrior I, Warrior II, Seated Forward Bend, Child’s pose. A good source for learning yoga poses is Yoga Journal with step-by-step articles and videos.
A yoga mat is nice to have but not necessary. You can do yoga indoors or outdoors so it’s great for staying fit while traveling. By practicing yoga each day you can put together your own routine and enjoy the benefits of yoga.
Read more form Susan at Solo Trips and Tips
I have been studying martial arts my entire life, since I was five in fact, and there is no better way to exercise your body and your mind. I have been fortunate enough to continue this training as I have travelled all over the world, building on my training in Karate and Judo with the local arts of various countries I have visited, from Tai Chi in China and Muay Thai in Thailand to more obscure arts like Angampora in Sri Lanka and Capoeira in Brazil.
Each art has given me a different form of training but they all cover all the physical strength, flexibility and cardio exercise my body needs as well as the discipline and meditation my mind and mental health requires. It really isn’t difficult to find a local gym or dojo as you travel, all it requires is slowing down a little and devoting part of your travels to improving your mind, body and skill. There is no better form of holistic exercise when you travel and it is a great way to delve deeper into the culture of each place too.
Read more from Michael at Bemused Backpacker
Travel can be a great way to get away from the daily grind, relax and refresh. But travel also comes with its own challenges, a changing routine, different time zones and unfamiliar surroundings can play havoc with your sleep cycle and stop you reaching that zone of calm you have been craving. A great way to ensure your mind stays healthy and your body can get the sleep it needs is to practice mindfulness and meditation.
It has never been easier to incorporate meditation into your life and travel. With apps like Smiling Mind, Headspace and Calm it only takes a few minutes a day to listen to one of the guided meditations. A relaxing body scan to help you drift off to sleep or uplifting breathing to help you focus and energise for the day.
My favourite app is Smiling Mind, a free app created by Australian Psychologists there are meditations to suit even the most restless and time poor of us. The calm colours and easy to use interface make it a breeze to start your practice wherever you are. I use this app and another one paid app call Sleep Well to get a good sleep on long flights and combat jet lag. It works great for me and I highly recommend you try them for yourself.
Read more from Kaylie at Happiness Travels
After traveling to 47 countries in 2016 and then 20 countries in 2017, I knew I had to make a change, as I had gained way too much weight during my traipsing across the world. I have been able to lose about 40 lbs of that weight since then and one of the things that I have employed in my quest to try to stay fit, healthy, and balanced during my travels was to choose and find the perfect protein meal replacement bar to have with me everywhere I go.
I also use this protein bar to replace almost every breakfast that I have while traveling abroad. I simply just don’t need the extra calories of having 3 meals in a day. It also works for those moments when you find yourself starving (low blood sugar) and you need a quick pick-me-up without mega calories, like french fries, potato chips, and crackers. My go-to brand is the THINK bar.
Read more from Cacinda at Points and Travel
Although I like to think my habits are healthy, it is really empowering to receive expert feedback and advice. A wellness resort visit is one such way to do that. Reputable and progressive wellness resorts focus on instilling healthy habits for diet, exercise, and overall well-being rather than just the traditional weight loss stigma.
On my visit to Skyterra Wellness Retreat last year, I learned to walk properly (to reduce stress on joints), realistic portion sizes to eat and drink (tough adjustment for me), proper exercise form (I have been doing push ups wrong all these years), and stress reduction techniques. Wellness resorts are located in invigorating environments (Skyterra is in the North Carolina mountains), which naturally encourages guests to adopt healthy habits and actions. Now it is up to us to transfer that to our everyday life. You can do it!
Read more from Charles at McCool Travel
Exercise Your Mind
Taking the time to learn a language while travelling is the perfect way to challenge yourself mentally and also allow for a deeper cultural immersion experience. There are many language schools around the world that cater to transient travellers who want to spend a week, a month or more immersing themselves in the local language and culture. These experiences force one to slow down and shift from being a tourist to a guest in a local community.
We spent a week at a language school and eco-enterprise in a small town in Nicaragua and it was an incredible experience for the mind. We were challenged each day with intensive, one-on-one Spanish classes, spent the afternoons seeing the nearby sites and the evenings in our homestay practicing our Spanish and being immersed in Nicaraguan life.
During our two-hours of conversation classes each day we had the opportunity to speak with local people about their lives and see the social enterprise projects funded by the school. It was a fantastic way to challenge ourselves, while supporting a community based eco-tourism organization.
Read more from Dawn at 5 Lost Together
Modern life has a lot of stress, and a major thing for me personally is feeling like I can never concentrate on anything for longer than a moment. To combat this overwhelming feeling, I decided to do a walking pilgrimage for eight days. This was partly to do a digital detox to help me connect with the real world without a screen in front of me and partly to see if I could reconnect with my spiritual side. I am a pretty cynical person by nature, and it’s easy for me to get away from spirituality when I just plow through life.
I personally chose to walk the last 113 KMs of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, but there are walking pilgrimage routes all over the world you can choose to do if you’re looking for a similar experience. Some of the most popular are the Kumano Kodo Trail in Japan, Pilgrim’s Way in Wales, and Italy’s Via Francigena. Now that I’ve started going on pilgrimage, I’m completely hooked, and I’m already planning my next one which combines my love of pilgrimages with my love of Bulgarian monasteries by hiking the seven-night pilgrimage from the Rila Mountains to Rila Monastery.
Read more from Stephanie at Sofia Adventures
One of the best ways to stay fit when traveling is hiking. Whenever we are far away from home, it is hard to find a good place to keep our typical fitness routine – whether we go to a gym, a swimming pool or even a good park or trail to go running. Especially in developing countries, there is a lack of such facilities.
But in almost any country around the world, it is possible to go hiking on either day hikes or, even better, multi day ones such as the 5 day hike to Poon Hill, in Nepal. Hiking is a great way to reconnect with nature, breathe in some clean air, and move the entire body thus burning calories and fat. It’s a fantastic body exercise as well as a great way to relax the mind and soul. And since most hikes go to either forests or mountains and isolated places, chances are you will be forced to stay away from the internet, and thus get a full break from whatever may be causing you stress.
In order to make sure you make the most of a hike, do carry enough water and sip it regularly. Also carry some snacks such as fruits and dried fruit, protein bars, crackers and some light sandwiches.
Read more from Claudia at My Adventures Across the World
Sometimes, we indulge ourselves in tourist places enjoying the delicacies they are famous for. But if we travel frequently and keep over-indulging, we are bound to destroy our health and fitness. Fortunately, there is an easy solution for this problem. Keeping track of your food with a good app on your smartphone is an excellent way to avoid overstepping your calorie limit for the day.
I like ‘Lose It’ and ‘Healthify me’ apps on my android phone. My friend uses ‘MyFitnessPal’ to track calories on his iPhone. These apps are super cool because they can keep track of your calories for any food you eat as well as track the calories you are burning through activities like walking and running and then tell you how many calories you can still afford to enjoy for the day.
Read more from Priyadarshini at Glorious Sunrise
My favorite way to stay fit, healthy and balanced while traveling is Pilates. The great thing about Pilates is that I do not need any equipment – which means I can do Pilates anywhere using my body for resistance. While there are some Pilates moves that require equipment, many can be done on the floor or standing.
I mostly practice Pilates in my hotel room but I also sometimes do standing exercises in the back of an airplane to help with my circulation and prevent DVT which helps me survive long flights. There are many benefits of practicing Pilates in addition to toning. Pilates is a total body workout but it is especially good at strengthening your core muscles which helps prevent back and neck pain. Pilates also strengthens your pelvic floor and helps improve posture and balance.
Since breathing is a big part of doing Pilates, it is a stress reliever which helps with my mental and emotional well-being. There are many websites and videos that demonstrate Pilates exercises for beginners but if possible I recommend taking a couple of classes at a gym or studio first to learn the basic moves and proper form.
Read more from Patti at The Savvy Globetrotter
Volunteering while travelling is a wonderful way to find some Zen while on the road. Travel gives so much to us in terms of amazing experiences that increase a person’s well-being long after a trip is over, so why not give back while travelling?
I am currently volunteering with a disaster response non-profit organization called All Hands and Hearts (All Hands) in Puerto Rico, which was badly damaged during Hurricane Maria. Many people in Yabucoa, one of the hardest hit areas, are still unable to return to their homes because of damaged roofs, windows, and in some cases, because dangerous mould is growing inside. All Hands volunteers are able to spend the day working in a beautiful place to help people get back in their homes.
While the work can be challenging, at the end of each day, it’s an incredible feeling to know that you’ve helped someone return home. The other volunteers will become your fast friends and the communities you help are happy to share their culture with you, which add to an already rewarding experience. If you can’t physically fly somewhere like Puerto Rico, you can also set up a fundraising page like this one and still support a worthy cause. There is Zen in giving back!
Read more from Thea at Zen Travellers
Good news to all who are not the sportiest ones in the world: You do not have to exercise like a pro to be fit and healthy. As a person who does not do sports in the usual sense of the word, I still try to be fit by walking as much as possible.
Might sound boring but helps me to stay fit and do not gain weight when traveling the world.
So my tip for those who are not the sporting aces: walk as much as possible, skip public transportation and taxis and walk whenever possible. I can easily walk 20 or more kilometers a day when traveling because it motivates me to discover things you see along your way which you would not when on a bus.
Sometimes, you are even faster by foot… still not convinced to use your feet so much?
If you are not motivated by now, plan in some walks to those places you are looking forward to the most. E.g. I am super motivated to walk endlessly, if I know that a great view (I am all about the best views) waits for me. Beautiful landscapes and cities help but you´ll see that you´ll find beauty in every place.
I surely would not be motivated to walk if I know I head to the airport to say “goodbye” to the destinations – this is the best motivation that keeps me walking and it might work for you, too!
Read more from Arzo at Arzo Travels
My personal goal each day is to move my body and get outside. While our family is traveling full time in an RV across the USA, I find that getting outside and moving is pretty easy. However, when it comes to working on my laptop, I need to be more aware. I began to use any surface that I find as a stand-up desk. Then my husband began to as well! It helps our posture, back, and neck aches, and keeps our bodies moving.
On travel days, we do a lot of sitting in the motorhome or minivan. Therefore, during every bathroom stop, we each get out of the vehicle and stretch our legs. I know it’s not healthy to stay seated for too long, and sitting for long stretches on a road trip can really affect our moods and bodies. If you are planning to take a road trip, be sure to make frequent stops to get outside and move your body. Furthermore, use your imagination when it comes to what you need for a desk.
Read more from Jill at Let’s Travel Family
There’s something special about being on a boat, on the water, and that moment when the wind fills the sails. Sailing exercises both the body and the mind, while being completely surrounded by nature. It takes us far away from everyday life.
And, whether it’s because of the wet surroundings or the lack of signal, it often turns into an internet detox as well – which only adds to the relaxation. Impromptu nature shows by visiting dolphins or whale watching are amazing additions to this perfect way to travel.
Sailing holiday providers are now popping up in many places, in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the Andaman Sea, sailing schools and holiday providers are offering individual spots and cabins as an affordable and sustainable way to travel to remote islands and hidden beaches, teaching sailing skills on the way – with some schools, you can even participate in regattas (races). Day trips are also available, and if you’re looking for something sportier, you can try sailing dinghies or hobie cats – small 1-2 person boats that are fast – but also just as fast to land you in the water for a swim!
Read more from Edwina at Traveling German
When I arrive in a new city my routine involves looking at the routes between my accommodation and various attractions I want to visit. Why? To see if it’s feasible to run back from any of the tourist attractions to kill two birds with one stone. There’s no excuse not to keep up your fitness when you do this a few times a week. All you need to do is go to the attraction in your running gear, and take your phone with you along with emergency cash and run back after visiting. So easy!
Note: This isn’t suitable for all cities. Exploring the beaches in Goa and places all over Turkey was great, but navigating the streets of Mumbai, not so much.
A benefit I didn’t expect was the new ideas I had for incorporating running with attractions. Rather than just looking at the Perge stadium ruins, I attempted to replicate an Olympic running event in the stadium!
Read more from Jub at Tiki Touring Kiwi
Digital devices have taken over our travel experiences. In what should be some of our most profound moments on the road, we’re barely paying attention because we are worried we might miss the perfect Instagram shot or photo that we need for our blog.
Next time your find yourself in an inspiring setting, take your photos first. But then put the phone or camera away. Close your eyes. Breathe in and out deeply. Focus your mind on the present moment. What can you hear, feel, and smell? Now open your eyes and observe your surroundings. Breathe in the energy of this place, all of its people. Breathe out and leave a little of your own energy behind.
You can do this simple breathing meditation to enhance your travel experience anywhere. You could be walking down the aisle of a cathedral, standing on the peak of a mountain, or navigating through a jam-packed market. At the end of the day, you’ll have not only awesome photos but a memory of connection you’ll take with you forever.
Read more from Nick at Spiritual Travels
Find a Gym
Finding and using gyms while travelling can be surprisingly easy and less intimidating than it might first seem. First of all, check your map app for nearby gyms. You can find the address, opening times and if the gym has a website. Many users leave handy reviews and photos so it’s a great way to take a peek at the facilities. Keep an eye out for free outdoor gyms as you explore.
Once at the gym, ask about pricing options. If you are in town for a few days, multi-visit passes may work out cheaper than a day one. More upmarket gyms may offer free trials to prospective members. Saying that you are new to the area and want to try the gym out can usually do the trick. It’s always a good idea to bring your own towel as these are not always provided. Bring a water bottle too!
Manage your expectations. Don’t expect gyms in less touristy areas to be state of the art. You aren’t always going to find the latest equipment or air con! Gym etiquette may also differ to what you are used to. Going topless for example is normal at California’s famous Muscle Beach.
Read more from Alexei at Travelexx
I love running because it helps me to stay fit and also to clear my mind. I run a minimum of one hour a week, usually on Saturday or Sunday, that’s why when I travel during the weekend I don’t hesitate to pack also my running shoes.
When planning my weekend trips from Paris in France or abroad, an hour of running makes part of the travel plan. I usually book a hotel close to the city’s main park and check some pictures to get the feeling of it. I always start running very early in the morning, before breakfast, so I never have the sense of losing part of my “exploring time”. Finally, after a day of visiting, I like to go back to the hotel crossing the city park (if possible) to get a different view of it, with a different mood.
Read more from Elisa at World in Paris
Do not forget to bring your reusable water bottle with you when traveling. It is easy to forget about hydration with all the travel distractions. You will be more apt to hydrate with your reusable water bottle with you.
Healthy snacks while traveling will keep your blood sugar stable and give you lots of energy. I usually start all my trips bringing a few apples or oranges (because they are sturdy and travel well) and sometimes a PB&J sandwich. Oftentimes I make my own trail mix or granola and bring it with me, because I am vegan and provide my own snacks and don’t rely on others. At my destination I stop at a grocery or market and purchase fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, peanut butter, and maybe whole grain crackers. What you don’t want to get (although it is very tempting!) is greasy, high sodium junk food, and highly sugary processed foods, because they will put you in a “food coma,” just the opposite of what you are wanting.
When traveling, strive to eat lots of fruits and veggies, and skip the junk food. Hydration is just as important helping to keep your energy level high and blood sugar moderated.
Read more from Linda at Linda on the Run