My Little Secrets to Travel Health

Gearing up for the second leg of my four weeks of summer travel, I find it necessary to remind myself of the secrets to staying healthy and energized on the road.  These little gems may seem obvious to most travelers, but for me they were slowly won, lesson by lesson, during my three separate treks across Europe, countless American road trips, and a couple of visits to Canada and Mexico for good measure.  Yes, I realize I still have a lot of the globe to see, but I’ll get there with a little luck (and money) on my side.  For now, I’m determined to remember these tips to keep myself healthy for the road already traveled:

Sleep:  For me, sleeping in new places can be very challenging, particularly in noisy cities, or even boisterous small towns like Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre, where the townspeople shout back and forth from their apartments well into the night and again early in the morning.  It was not until my second trip to Europe that I discovered the power of wax earplugs, the kind swimmers use.  While they will not eliminate noise completely, they help you earn a little extra sleep by muffling the commotion, even if what is bothering you is just the stupid in-room refrigerator, (which I have also been known to unplug from time to time).

Now, the second piece of advice on sleep, is if you wake up early, don’t just lie there and wait for your travel companions to awaken– get up!  Get outside!  Some of my favorite travel memories come from early morning walks or runs when a place is just coming to life.  Imagine Rome, just as the shop keepers are opening up their stores for the day, fresh-baked everything wafting through the air, now which is better, lying in bed or getting out and seeing this?

Exercise:  Early morning or not, I force myself to exercise daily.  There is nothing worse than getting home from vacation and realizing that you have a lot of work to do to get back into your regular exercise routine.  I find that even a quick 15 minute run and 10 minutes of yoga, (a few sun salutations, some balance postures, and stretching), go a long way in keeping you energized both during your trip and when you get home.  Likewise, even if you are on an active vacation, this short routine gives you reflective time to yourself and gets your blood pumping for the day.  Best of all, if you push yourself to climb out of bed early enough, you can catch some really amazing sights on your run.  My favorites have always been in Hawaii, where the time change gives you an unfair advantage in getting out of bed early to catch the sunrise while running on the beach.  Life does not get much better than that.

My Montrails are a must pack– officially my favorite running shoes of all time and double as great hiking shoes.

Eat:  Combined with exercise and sleep, eating well on your trip will keep you feeling great both during your travels and when you get home.  There is nothing worse than the cumulative food hangover of consistent eating out.  My remedy for this is pretty easy– work in food from the supermarket during your trip then go sit in the local park or on a bench in town to eat and enjoy the scenery.

We picked up this meal for two for only $11 from the Mt. Shasta Super Market, which carries a wide range of grass-fed, humanely-raised meats. Way better than a fast food meal.

For quick lunches and anytime you’re tempted to eat fast food, these local groceries stores will do the trick.  You’ll save money from a sit-down restaurant, end up feeling a lot healthier, and get to explore local markets in the process.  Whether I’m in Salzburg or Mt. Shasta, I find wandering around a new grocery store to be an interesting cultural experience, and it is fun to buy foods you normally do not keep stocked at home, like dill havarti or German potato salad, perhaps.  Yogurt and fruit also make a nice change of pace from all the other crap you’re likely to be tempted to eat while away from home, which brings me to my other food tip.

Often I find myself ordering whatever sounds the most delicious on a menu, without any regard for health because it’s a special occasion to eat out.  However, a few cheeseburgers deep, my stomach usually starts to hate me, so I have to remind myself to balance in whatever sounds healthiest on the menu as well.  The upside is that usually I am surprised by how the healthiest choice ends up being equally delicious, prompting me to continue ordering this way throughout the trip, and feeling better as a result.

And, last but not least, I carry around a little pharmacy of natural (and not) remedies to cope with those moments you do not feel so stellar while traveling.  Nux Vomica is an excellent homeopathic for car or plane sickness, Emergen-C will fight off that pesky sore throat, enzymes take away some of the guilt for less-than-healthy food choices, and ibuprofen is pretty self-explanatory.  For long air trips, I also carry Dramamine to deal with motion sickness, which has the added benefit of knocking me out.  I may be the daughter of a hippie and into natural remedies myself, but I also recognize that travel time is valuable, so I will do whatever it takes to quickly fix the problem.

Staples in my Traveling Pharmacy

Fun:  So, there you have it.  I love to travel as much as the next gal, but I am careful to keep myself healthy and energized along the way, even if it means carving a little time out for myself to exercise or forcing myself to watch what I eat.  Now, wish me luck as I embark this afternoon on my girls’ road trip to Olympia, Portland, and the Oregon Coast.  Should be a raucous blast!

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