Wellness on the road.
There's not a single part of me that will deny the fact that I love life on the road. I live for new experiences, constant movement and the chance to get out of my comfort zone by breaking away from the daily routine.
However, traveling does come with some not-so-pleasant extremes like late nights, exhausting days, too much sun, unfamiliar food, and sitting for long periods of time. Leaving our bodies feeling dehydrated, our skin as dry as a desert, and our digestive systems completely off-track. So what can we do if we love to travel, and possibly want to do it for long periods of time, but also want to prioritize our health?
I've picked up some habits that I take with me on the road, allowing me to take care of myself as well as I would back home, which ensures I maintain an internal calm and steadiness no matter where in the world I may be.
If you’re going to be spending hours in a car (or on a plane), I’d argue that hydration should be your number one priority. The exposure to new environments and different, often harsher, elements can lead to dehydration much faster than what we’re used to at home. Resulting in dry skin, chapped lips, extreme thirst, dizziness and a general lack of energy. A lack of water also wreaks havoc on our digestive systems, which is why we so often feel bloated and irregular when away for long periods of time.
A general rule of thumb is to drink 250ml- 500ml of water for every hour of driving or flying. Pack a reusable water bottle to fill up at roadside stops, and if you’re sensitive to water from different areas perhaps consider taking one or two big 5 liter bottles to keep in the car, rather than buying a new plastic bottle every time.
2. Healthy snacks and food.
Traveling on a vegan/ health-conscious diet might seem challenging at first but you’d be surprised by how many options are actually out there. Granted, it might not always be the most glamorous meal but you’ll soon come to find that the excitement of just finding a single option outway any Instagrammable smoothie bowl back in the city.
I always say it adds to the experience whenever someone chuckles at me for showing up at a hotel room with an avo or for walking into Wimpy with a bottle of soy milk under my arm, and I've been telling the story of a farm stall in the middle of the Northern Cape who knew what the word "vegan" meant, long after I left.
With this being said, it always helps to come prepared. Here are some ways in which I stick to my healthy habits:
When it comes to snacking, I stock up on enough nuts, dried fruit, and snack bars before leaving to last me throughout the trip. Nuts are also my go-to when I haven’t packed anything and we stop at a garage in the middle of nowhere. Take some crackers, Marmite, and small packets of nut butter (if space is limited) along, with some long-lasting fruits like oranges, bananas, and apples because they’re usually fine to keep out of the fridge and won’t bruise easily.
When you’re eating out and you don’t see any options at first glance, I find it’s always best to just ask, explain what your specific diet consists of, give some suggestions and remain kind and open as to what they have to offer! I’ve yet to find someone completely unaccommodating or without alternatives. I almost always ask for avo on unbuttered whole-wheat toast. If that's not an option ask the kitchen what veggies they have and if they'd be open to oven-roasting butternut, potato or sweet potato for you (the answer is almost always yes) with some rice, canned beans, chickpeas, legumes or other pantry staples they have available.
Some products I love packing in for those odd times I don’t find anything include the Wazoogles oat pots or homemade bircher muesli mixes, a milk alternative of choice, canned beans/ legumes, some long-lasting root veggies (like butternut, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mielies), avocados and tin foil for the braai.
Another way I love to sneak in fruits and veggies when away is by utilizing the kitchen and making my own meals, plus people are generally very keen to eat whatever’s offered to them and would probably prefer to eat your healthy option than to make anything themselves.
And yes, trying the cuisine of the place you’re visiting should 100% be part of the experience, so give yourself some leeway to enjoy things you don’t get to do, see, or eat every day. The key to finding balance while traveling is to “make time to be bad, make time to be good.”
5. Focus on daily movement.
Start off with packing a workout outfit. Just having it there will keep you motivated to move. I'd also argue that traveling actually makes it easier to stay active because there’s so much more to explore! Plus staying focused on daily movement doesn't need to involve an hour spent in the gym, it can be as simple as reaching your daily step goal, which is easy as you explore new towns or try-out the nearest hiking spots.
If you would like to take the time to do a dedicated workout, I'd recommend sticking to wifi and equipment free options. Download a few Youtube videos or a PDF workout challenge before you leave.
6. Take a few minutes to yourself daily.
It's important to still keep checking-in with yourself as you would back home, especially if you're traveling in a group. I do this by journaling or meditating (using Headspace) every day, usually, as everyone settles in for the evening or I might get up an hour earlier.
When traveling and exploring new places, keep in mind how lucky we all are to even have bodies that carry us through this world and allow us to do all of these extreme things. Taking care of yourself shouldn't be a burden and I find it hard to believe that there is, in fact, any other way to live at all.
I know my body feels great when I nurture it, allowing me to show up as the best version of myself mentally and physically, which means I get to experience these new places and moments to the fullest.
“Your body is all you have, so nourish it wisely”, a saying that rings truer than ever when moving through this world with only the possessions you can carry.