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If you’re lucky enough to travel for an extended period of time, chances are a healthy lifestyle might go out the window. Why wouldn’t you order that extra dessert, you’re on holiday! But do that everyday for more than three months and you’ll start to notice changes. Be it that bit of extra weight you’re carrying (and not in your luggage!) or just the general lack of fitness you might feel when climbing to the third floor of your accomodation.
There are different types of long term travel. One would be the classic backpacker, someone who travels as an extended holiday. These people don’t have a job and will try and fit in as much as possible in their short time in a city. They are often a bit younger, move place every few days and travel with a party atmosphere. That may include a few drinks most nights in the hostel bar!
The other would be someone that works away from home for an extended period. They are typically called digital nomads. They stay in one location for a few weeks or even years at a time. They may stay in rented accomodation or have a long stay option in some hotels or apartments. They are less on holiday but more likely to still enjoy holiday style things such as going out to eat frequently and changing location when they feel like it.
I started off as a member of the former but now consider myself part of the latter. I move a bit slower and normally stay in AirBnB’s instead of hostels. But I still move on and don’t tend to put any roots in a city as I’m often there for less than a month.
These ideas will give you the motivation and tools you need to stay fit and healthy when travelling. I still try and stay as fit and healthy as possible whilst I’m away for a long time by using these techniques even though I’m not as fit as I used to be in a previous life as a nutritionist and personal trainer!
These are the things that have worked for me:
Top Tips for Staying Fit and Healthy Whilst Travelling:
1. Walk everywhere!
Even if it may take you an hour, it gives you a chance to explore the city. On my exploring days, I’ll regularly hit 20-30,000 steps. Public transport is great in most cities around the world, but if its safe to, I will always walk. You get to see so much more of the city and experience the sounds and smells up close and personal that you wouldn’t get to experience otherwise.
2. Only drinking on weekends.
I got into a habit of having a beer with dinner everyday because it felt like a “holiday” when I started which I had to stop. I feel like experiencing local alcohol is as much a part of experiencing the culture as tasting the local food, but there comes a time when it becomes too much. Like what I would do at home, I changed my perception to see alcohol as a “treat” and not a necessity. I will have a beer with others on a weekend but I won’t drink on a school night during the week or by myself. Stick to that and you will feel so much better!
3. Home workouts.
I stay in AirBnBs and try and make sure there is at least a space with a rug/ mat for a home workout (there are literally thousands of home workouts on YouTube). Putting a 10 minute video on when I’m bored one evening stops the incessant scrolling on social media and makes you feel so much better for yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything too sweat inducing but moving your body just a little bit each day will improve how you feel immensely.
4. Running shoes!
Actually, my main pair of shoes are running shoes. They are comfy for walking around a city all day , have taken me up mountains and hikes through the countryside. One of my favourite things to do in a new place is to go jogging through my new home early in the morning before the crowds appear. With no tourists on the street, its a great way to see the traditional side of a city, with locals setting up their stalls ready for the day ahead. Jogging also takes you further than where you would normally go if you were walking around. Win win all round.
5. Portion control.
I cook at my AirBnB quite a lot, but I do still treat myself to meals out occasionally. If I’m out for lunch, I may forgo breakfast. If I know I’m going to be going out for dinner, I will definitely have a smaller portions at lunch. This doesn’t mean I don’t have splurge days when I walk around a city and eat at every stall or shop I come across!
6. Shop at local markets.
I love going to local markets wherever I am. They often have fruit and veg that is fresher, tastier and cheaper than what you can buy in a supermarket. It benefits local people and if you can practice the local language, sometimes they can give you tasters. Supermarkets (especially in developing countries) have heavily processed canned beige food. Cook with your fresh market bought food for better health.
7. Pack fitness equipment.
I’m not saying you have to lug around a set of dumbbells but along with your running shoes, its perfectly fine to bring some small resistance bands. They fold up to take up very little space and it can help with your home workouts. I also travel with a tennis ball that I use as a foam roller to massage my muscles. It is great to get into the knots in my back after a long day of carrying a backpack! And of course, always pack at least one set of “workout” clothes. Make sure they can double up for other uses, shorts and T shirt for men, or leggings and a top for females, that can also be worn in a city or in the outdoors and not make you feel like you’re dressing badly.
8. Stay longer!
Every now and again I think it’s good to stay somewhere for at least one month, if not longer. A lot of places will give 90 day visas which means you can stay for 3 months in one place. This will allow you to get into some sort of routine and join a gym if that’s your thing. A lot of gyms now have pay as you go passes or the option of buying a set number of tickets for a set price. If going to an actual gym isn’t your thing, some parks have free gym equipment which you can use.
9. Choose active activites
Everywhere you go you’ll have choices of what to do. Some may be going to a fancy restaurant or cocktail bar, spend the day sitting by a beach, or an open top bus tour of the city. Better options might be to climb a mountain, talk a walking tour or go kayaking. If you can add these active an adventurous activities in to your day, you’ll maintain your fitness without even realising you’re doing it!
I’m still learning this and trying to improve all the time, but every little thing I can do to help people stay fitter and healthier on the road will add benefits in the future. All of the points listed here are easy to do and most take very little planning. Keep up your health when you’re on the road, your body will thank you for it later!
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.