Travelling can have one of two very different effects on your body - half the backpackers out there seem to lose weight from not eating properly while the other half watch their beer bellies grow from night after night on the booze. It's a difficult feat, maintaining that lifestyle while not piling on the pounds, particularly when you are constantly on the move and unable to get into a routine for working out. I loved working out when I was at home and could be found at the gym at least three times a week, sometimes more. I definitely got a bit addicted at times and loved the way it made me feel stronger, fitter and healthier. So as you can imagine, the gyms is something I've missed hugely since travelling, not just the physical part but the mental side as well. It's great for giving you goals and keeping track of achievements, it's great for de stressing (granted, not something a backpacker really needs) and it's great for giving you more energy. The lethargy among backpackers can sometimes become quite contagious - I've noticed in certain hostels it can become easy for everyone to just do nothing and to have no energy to even organise a cycle to a waterfall or temple. Of course, this can be nice for a few days, but when you're travelling long-term it's important to realise the effects this will have on your body, and in turn your health. And nobody wants being ill to stand in the way of a good time!
So what can you do to avoid becoming a bloated, beer-bellied backpacker? How can you eat healthy while on the road? Here are my top tips:
- Don't forget your fruits and vegetables - in Asia, enjoy a fresh fruit juice or smoothie a day and fresh pineapple or watermelon, even a fresh coconut! The fruit is so good and so fresh, there's no excuse!
- Eat spicy. A spicy curry cures all and kills all germs as my dad always says!
- Eat a varied diet - it's difficult when cooking for one and you often end up eating the same thing for days but it is important to make sure your body gets all the different vitamins and nutrients it needs.
- Make sure you are eating enough and aren't just getting your nutrients from alcohol, it's easy to not feel hungry when in the heat all day but it's important to get enough food inside you and don't skip breakfast - it really is the most important meal of the day!
- Line your stomach before going out by eating a good dinner of pasta or curry and rice - something that will fill you up so you are less likely to binge later on greasy street food
- Remember that what you eat directly affects how you feel - if you eat greasy chips and fried food you will feel and look like crap. If you're eating fresh and healthy food full of vitamins, your skin will be glowing and you will be full of energy.
- If you're cooking in a hostel in Australia, throw some fresh veggies in your standard pasta
- If you're eating veggie to save some money, or because you actually are veggie, remember you need protein as well or you will become sick so make sure you're getting plenty from other sources
- Drink plenty of water - I felt really under the weather when I first arrived in Australia because I was too cold to be drinking enough water after Asia - dehydration affects you hugely
- Avoid beer, cocktails and fizzy drinks - instead drink white spirits with juice as a mixer
- Don't always give in to yourself over burgers on a night out and hangover fry-ups the next day
- Avoid pot noodles and 7/11 toasted sandwiches like the plague - they're packed full of salt, sugar and lots of other nasties
Staying fit while on the road - top tips!
- Walk everywhere - also great for those on a budget
- Get out and get active - you might not be able to get to a gym but the great outdoors is waiting and it's free! Hike to a temple or waterfall, spend a day exploring the city on foot, surfing or kayaking.
- Don't be afraid to have a night in - you've got plenty of time to party and your body needs a rest sometimes. Willpower - remember how much time you have to live the dream
- Can't resist the pull of the bar? Head to a club and dance the night away, drink less and burn off those calories while having a blast
- Take advantage of free gym trials everywhere you go. I spent a month in Sydney using the gym every other day and always for free, I even scored free boot camp classes twice a week and all because I took advantage of the deals that are always on offer.
- Use the hostel facilities - many of the hostels have stayed in have had some kind of sports facilities available - whether it's bikes or surfboards to rent or borrow, a basketball hoop, or volleyball and a tennis net, some even have a pool! Why not get a gang together for an evening game of volleyball? A great way to bond and stay fit, or play tennis one sunny afternoon.
- Going to Asia? Do what I did and invest in some cheaper running shoes, then use them to death! Running is something you can do anywhere so take advantage of that. Another great one is yoga - just get yourself a little yoga mat.
- Do a week of volunteering at an animal sanctuary - you're so busy working hard all day long that the love handles simply melt away and you don't even realise how hard you're working because you love it so much.
- Sign up for a yoga retreat or boot camp and give it your all, focus on fitness for a week or two.
- Workout somewhere beautiful - a friend and I headed to the beach for an intense cardio workout by the sea, and let me tell you, the beautiful setting definitely eased my pain!I could go on listing top tips and ideas for staying healthy, but there are so many. Once you start making changes to your lifestyle, it becomes easier and easier to see ways of improving. Don't be heard on yourself, it is hard when you are a backpacker and temptation lies all around you. You always tell yourself, it's okay, I'm on holiday! But five months down the line, you're still using that excuse and you can't understand why you're exhausted, you're getting sick and you have no energy or drive to explore and see the country you're visiting. Backpacking is a lifestyle, and it's important to strike a balance that suits you and the way you want to live - if that means having a fresh coconut when everyone else is on the beers then that is okay. If you fancy a salad when everyone else is snacking on greasy noodles then that's fine too. Your body relies entirely on what you put into it, so if you put rubbish into it, you will find it a bit rubbish when you're relying on it for a good time. Treats are most definitely not off limits, but they remain just that - treats.
What are your best healthy backpacker tips? How do you manage to stay fit while travelling? What are your favourite healthy backpacker meals?