I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and the number one question people ask me is how I stay healthy when I’m away from home so much. What works for me is first understanding what’s in my control and what’s out of my control. Then I review my basic healthy habits and see what falls under my control. Finally, I commit to those habits.
First, you need to know what my basic healthy habits are. I sound like a broken record because whenever I give wellness workshops, I go over these habits time and time again. Here they are:
Now, let’s dive into my healthy travel tips.
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This one’s the easiest. While there’s a formula for optimal water intake, I tend to drink more than this. When I travel, I stick to the same water intake as I always do. To make this easier, I carry a water bottle with me everywhere and refill it every chance I get. Just as I do at home, I drink 24 ounces of water first thing in the morning before I have my breakfast and coffee. Then I have 16 ounces between meals, including snacks, and 8 ounces after dinner.
Making sure I get enough water is 100% in my control. Other than my morning soy milk cappuccino and a glass or two of wine at dinner or events, I don’t drink anything else but water. If I’m drinking alcohol, then I’ll make sure to increase my water intake accordingly.
This one is the hardest. The best sleep I get is in my own bed, but I’ve learned some tricks to help me when I’m away. I pack my white noise machine to drown out any hotel noises (slamming doors, elevator dings, etc.). Taking magnesium before bed helps me fall asleep faster. If I’m traveling by car, I’ll take my own pillow. I also like to carry 1mg tablets of melatonin, though this is a last resort for me. My feelings toward melatonin are mixed, but when it comes to severe jet lag or time zone changes, I’m willing to take it. I usually only take half a pill, which seems to do the trick.
I can control all of the above, but I can’t always control the timing of events. If I have a work dinner that goes until midnight, I may not get into bed until 1am and then I have to be at a 7:30am meeting the next day. At best, I’m getting only 6 hours of sleep, and that’s not accounting for the fact that my body may wake up at 6am because that’s what it’s used to doing. I probably sleep an average of 5-6 hours per night when I travel for work, which is all the more reason to make sure my other habits are strong.
My food philosophy is a version of Michael Pollan’s from his book In Defense of Food. I eat real food, the majority of which is plants. In my travel experience, most places have the same general options so I tend to stick to a formula.
For breakfast, I have fruit and oatmeal. I like traveling with these oatmeal cups and then asking for hot water whenever I get my coffee. For lunch, I have a salad, usually with salmon. For dinner, I have fish and vegetables. I have Sakara’s metabolism bars, packets of tamari almonds and/or fruit as a snack if I get hungry in between meals. When I have a say in my food, I pretty much stick to that. When I don’t, like if it’s a catered meeting or a plated dinner event, I do my best.
Generally, I avoid anything fried or excessive on the dairy and sugar, but I try to be flexible. I won’t order macaroni and cheese, but I don’t worry if my vegetables are cooked in butter. It’s not the end of the world if the coffee shop only has sweetened soy milk and the coffee isn’t organic. I’ve learned that sometimes being healthy means letting go of perfection. Plus, I have my Sakara Foundation vitamin supplements to fill in any of the gaps.
If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that having an exercise routine that can be done anywhere and anytime is key to consistency. I’ve been doing the Tracy Anderson Method since the beginning of the year, and I’m still loving it. She has an app where I’m able to download the week’s workout, which is convenient when WiFi isn’t guaranteed where I’m going.
I may be busy from morning to night, but I’ve always found 30 minutes in my day to exercise. If I wake up before the alarm and can’t go back to sleep, my rule is that I exercise before I scroll. (I also meditate, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)
I pack my 1-lb Bala bangles and use those in place of my hand weights or as my ankle weights. They may be lighter than what I use at home, but something is always better than nothing. Then I lay down a towel if there’s carpet, but if there’s not, then I improvise. While on vacation, I used a lounge chair cushion. At a bachelorette party, I used a pillow under my knees.
A note on mental health
There are many habits I have to support my mental health. Two of them I do every single day, no matter where I am. The first is right when I wake up, I think of three things for which I’m grateful. They can be anything, from thoughts of gratitude for specific people in my life, to the bed beneath me, to the breath in my lungs.
The other habit I do regularly is meditate. Since learning Transcendental Meditation, I used to aim for 20 minutes twice a day. However, I don’t want my meditation practice to be a source of stress. Now I make sure I meditate first thing in the morning, and I don’t time it. It can be 5 minutes or 30 minutes, and I don’t judge it, but I just do it. If there’s a later meditation, great. If not, so be it.
While the healthy travel tips I mentioned above can influence mental health, these two simple habits help to center me. When combined with all of the other habits, I stay energized throughout my travels and come home ready to hit the ground running.