One of the reasons I wanted to become a nomadic yoga teacher, was to encourage myself to stick to the healthy habits and routines I had been cultivating back home. Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way…
There was poutine. So much poutine. And curry’s with nan bread served with a side of deep fried everything. New types of fast food to try that somehow always seemed more appealing than a new type of vegetable, and sugary juice that always seemed more appetizing than water to stave of dehydration.
The healthy habits I had worked so hard to build, fell away one by one. I often didn’t have time for my morning yoga practice because I was on a train. I didn’t stay anywhere long enough to get a gym membership, and the thought of spending time doing sit-ups in my hostel instead of exploring was not very appealing. I walked a lot, so that was a positive. But other than that it was difficult to get my hands on a bike or a find a good place to go for a swim.
Why was staying healthy so important to me? When I was just a teenager I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I suffered with this for many years, until I was able to get help from a holistic health clinic. I wanted to stay healthy on the road not just because I didn’t want to return home with a pudgy belly, but because I knew that staying healthy was essential for me to keep traveling.
It took several years of living a digital nomad lifestyle until I found my healthy groove and was able to maintain my healthy habits on the road. But with a bit of experimentation, creative thinking, and willpower, I found some rules that work well for me.
So, if you’re worried about gaining weight or getting sick on the road, here are my top yogi traveler tips for staying healthy:
Take advantage of walking.
When I travel I walk, on average, 20km a day. If you’re in a city, ditch the public transit card and explore the city by foot. If you’re in the countryside enjoy the nature around you and walk walk walk. You’ll also find free (and paid) walking tours in every major city around the world. Not only will this help you stay healthy but you’ll get to learn more about where you are.
Running comes free.
Pack a pair of running shoes and you can run wherever you go. I know, I know, it’s the worst form of exercise ever. But you don’t need to find swimmable water, or a bike, or any equipment to do it. It’s also a nice way to get to see a new city, especially if you don’t have a lot of time there.
Yoga also comes free.
Or pilates, or pushups and sit-ups, or whatever you would do on an exercise mat. Don’t want to stay inside? Find a park and do your workout there. You can enjoy the weather and get your workout fix in.
Seek the open water.
If you’re near a sea or ocean or outdoor swimming pool – exercise awaits you. You can…swim. But you can also try out cool new water sports like a surf lesson, paddle boarding, or exploring a place by Kayak. Beach bums don’t need to spend all their time tanning and enjoying beach mojitos, it’s a great way to get active too!
Join a cycle tour.
Cycling is fun and good cardio. In fact, studies show that people who cycle commute are healthier than both drivers and walkers. But instead of commuting to work you get to take a tour of a cool city or go on a wine tasting trip!
Take a hike.
If you like nature, hiking is a great way to get active. You can do day hikes or multi-day treks. This will let you spend time in nature, and perhaps see a different part of the country that wouldn’t be accessible if you just stayed in the city.
Cook when you can.
When searching for hostels or Airbnbs, look for places with kitchen access. I always love going to the grocery store in a foreign country to see how it differs from back home. This can be a way to stay healthy and try something new!
Choose your locations based on cuisine.
Does this sound crazy? I hope not because I did this a lot. Japan, South East Asia, India, Central America, all have healthier diets than Western Europe and North America. You can eat better without really thinking about it by choosing a ‘healthier’ location.
Try not to drink every day.
If you go to India you’ll have trouble find booze at all and so healthy will you be! If you go to Thailand you’ll constantly be bombarded by 20 year old backpackers who want to get hammered on the beach. Balance is key.
If all else fails, “eat food, mostly plants, not too much” – Michael Pollan
Spend time with other people.
This can be your friends and family on Skype, and also locals and other travellers you meet on the road. Spending time interacting with other humans, especially those who are doing something similar to you, is an effective way to stay sane.
This doesn’t mean you need to meditate every day – though if you do, that’s excellent! But going for a walk in nature, swimming in the sea, taking a hot shower, or anything you enjoy doing that will you to breathe deeply and observe yourself is a mindful activity.
Journaling or a creative activity.
Keeping a travel journal is a nice way to remember your journey or to have something else to keep in a drawer somewhere. However, talking to yourself in journal form is a good way to act as a friend to yourself and take care of emotions. Photography, drawing, and other creative pursuits are also great ways to keep your mind sharp and boost your emotional well-being.
Do what you love.
Hopefully that’s travel so you’re already doing it! But don’t leave your other hobbies behind. Seek out sports clubs or improve classes abroad that you can join. Go see a football game, sign up for a dance class, etc. The hobby doesn’t need to be active for you to get health benefits from it (though studies do show that exercise is a boost to both your physical and mental health). Any time you’re doing something that brings you joy, you’re contributing to your mental well-being.
Like everything in life, staying healthy on the road is about finding balance. It’s okay to try a new food even if it’s fried in oil, or spend a few days locked inside with your computer instead of being outside exercising. Just make sure that you’re able to balance this out with eating healthy and being active the majority of the time.
I find travelling always boosts my wellbeing. Getting thrown into a new place usually encourages me to be mindful, enjoy the moment, and explore by foot. But when you throw work in the mix it can get complicated. The stress from not being able to find wifi, or not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from, can make you want to sit in your Airbnb and eat an entire pizza instead of doing anything else. And hey, if you need to do that once or twice a year, who am I to stop you? But if you find yourself alone in bed with donuts and wine a little too often, perhaps it’s time to dust off this list.
Author bio: Kayla is a yogi, writer, and constant traveler. Currently bunkered up in Europe, she’s lived, worked, and traveled to over 40 countries! Follow her adventures on her website, instagram, and twitter.