This past year, I traveled for over seven months through Asia and Eastern Europe. I started my travels by hiking 800 miles across Nepal’s Himalaya mountains. I lost about 20 pounds because of my lifestyle of walking every day and living on a diet of mostly rice, vegetables, and meat. Not wanting to undo all of my hard work during the second portion of my trip, I committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle while in Thailand and Eastern Europe.
Sure, you could go all Eat, Pray, Love and just embrace that you’re going to be indulging in all the food during your travels and not give a crap if you gain weight. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, with some effort, it’s certainly possible to indulge in food and stay fit while long-term traveling.
Here are my tips for staying fit while long-term traveling:
Yeah, taxis are cheap and it’s tempting to rent motorbikes for getting around town. Unless I was going somewhere really far or exploring the mountains of Pai, Thailand with friends, I made a point to walk everywhere. My phone automatically tracks the distance I walk, and usually I covered five miles a day or more on foot.
I’m not much for working out or going running, so walking was a great way for me to burn off those extra calories.
By traveling most places on foot, I felt more immersed in wherever I was. It opened me up to finding cool little places and interacting with more people. It’s also a super easy way to save about $5 a day, by not paying for motorbike rentals or cab fare.
Eat Vegetables and Healthy Meals.
I tried to get a few servings of vegetables and fruit in everyday in order to stay fit while long-term traveling. This was pretty easy to do in Thailand because lots of the meals I ordered came with vegetables. I tried to eat a salad for lunch every day. It can get pricey to eat salads at Western restaurants every day while traveling, especially if salads aren’t a typical regional meal. Eventually I discovered that supermarkets sell pre-made salads for a low price both in Thailand and Europe.
Additionally, I bought my fruit at supermarkets to eat as snacks. Fruit shakes are available everywhere in Thailand. Be aware that they come mixed with lots of sugar water. It definitely tastes better with added sugar, but about half the time I requested “no sugar”.
It takes more effort in Eastern Europe to eat healthy. Most of the cheap food at walk-up stalls are pizza and pastries. However, a cool thing about Europe is that most of the hostels have kitchens. I usually stayed in each town for a few days and would start each stay with a trip to the supermarket to buy healthy food.
Filling up on vegetables and fruit all day long made me not overeat when I ordered more calorie heavy meals. Plus, I didn’t feel bad indulging in street pastries after walking all day and eating a few healthy meals.
Limit Alcohol Consumption.
So many people go backpacking in Southeast Asia or Europe and drink every single day. If that’s your thing and you’re only on a short trip, by all means go for it. Even if you’re on a long trip and that’s your thing, go for it.
However, if you’re trying to stay fit while long-term traveling, it would be wise to limit your alcohol consumption. While there’s bars and drink deals everywhere in backpacker areas, it really isn’t that difficult to keep your beer drinking at a minimum.
Sure, there’s always groups of people at every hostel wanting to party and stay out late. There’s usually an equal amount of people who are looking to get up early and explore. Don’t worry. You won’t have any trouble making new travel buddies without using alcohol as a social buffer.
During my travels, I usually went out drinking once a week. Limiting my consumption helped me save money and get more exploring of out of my day light hours. Plus, I didn’t have to waste too many days being hungover and feeling like crap.
Only drinking in moderation will help you with your goals of staying fit because you won’t be consuming lots of empty calories and you’ll stay hydrated.
Seek out activities that involve exercise. This will depend on the region you’re traveling in. For beach locales, you can usually count on swimming and snorkeling being options. Anywhere with mountains will usually have hiking trails. While in Thailand, I made it a point to go to rock climbing destinations and go to the climbing gym.
You can even go as far as picking your travel destinations based on what sports you like to do. The only reason I traveled to Nepal was for long distance hiking. Whatever it is you like to do to stay active, do some research on it and see what cool destinations specialize in it.
People like to make fun of American travelers because we’re always walking around with our big Nalgene bottles everywhere we go. We’re on to something though. It’s so important to drink lots of water, especially in hot and humid environments and especially when getting some physical activity in (and when drinking alcohol).
Plus, if you have your own water bottle you can fill up with the hostel water jugs. You don’t have to buy bottled water all the time. Save money and reduce trash.
These were my tricks for staying fit while long-term traveling. Do you have any tips of your own?