A bit of a throwback today, a little break from all the Western Australia posts as we hop back to Victoria and all my lovely days out while I was living down in Melbourne. I've already written about Wilson's Promontory National Park, Phillip Island, bar crawling around the city and much more - but this post is all about a great little day trip you can take if you fancy escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours. When I lived in Melbourne at the beginning of the year, I returned there with gusto and a desire to see all the amazing places I missed out on the first time. Working long hours as usual, I was determined to make the most of my days off by getting out to explore the beaches or different nature parks for walks and a change of scenery. Check out my blog post for Wild Melbourne here about all the best places to escape into nature around Melbourne. The Dandenongs were one of the final places I visited before setting off on my travels again, and they were definitely a day well spent with two of my best friends from living down there.The three of us were inseparable, working together, living around the corner from each other, and spending our days off together - it's safe to say we had a blast down in Melbourne together. So when two of us had a day off, and the other decided to skive off work for the day, we decided to get out of the city and do something fun. Well I decided, and dragged the other two along with me for some exercise. We caught the train from Flinders Street along the Belgrave line to the Dandenongs and got off at Upper Ferntree Gully Station - the journey took around 50 minutes which we easily filled with silly banter. Once there, we had to walk east away from the station and alongside the railway tracks, then we turned off the main road and walked across the trainline, following the track. After about 15 minutes walking, we came to the entrance to the Dandenong Ranges National Park where we were surrounded by lush, green forest and that incredible fresh air smell that can only be found away from the city.As you walk in, head towards the beginning of the 1,000 Steps, Kokoda Track Memorial Walk where you will probably see lots of people running around - so many use it as a workout and spend hours running up and down the steps. It's pretty impressive, I definitely didn't run them, but it was a nice walk up and down, especially as you can take one route up and another down to change it up. The walk is around 3km overall and is quite steep in places so you will want to take water and wear trainers - also do take a warmer layer as it is quite misty and cool in the trees. It says online that it should take 1-1.5 hours to complete, but you can do it in a lot less if you are relatively fit and aren't stopping every five minutes. There is also a picnic ground at the top, but sadly no real view to enjoy - this was a bit of a disappointment after the climb up there, but we still managed to have a great day out.
It's a beautiful place and lovely for a walk or to work out if, like me, you get bored of working out in the city. You can also do this trip in just a couple of hours - I think we were only gone around 3-4 hours overall so we still had the day to enjoy in the city. Plus it's a complete change of scenery being in the misty hills after living in busy Southbank and working in a bar all week. Well worth a visit. If you like this, you should also check out Jacob's Ladder in Perth for a good workout and a great view at the end.
What's your favourite place to escape into nature around Melbourne? Can you recommend any good outdoor places to work out in Australia?
It can be hard as a backpacker to keep fit and healthy when you're constantly moving between places. That transient life of late nights and long bus journeys doesn't always translate to the bohemian vegan lifestyle you imagine for travellers, instead there can often be far too many beers and dirty 7/11 toasted sandwiches. It's easy when you keep moving between different groups of people to give into every treat meal and to lose track of what you're putting into your body. But, at the same time, it's more important than ever, because let's face it, no-one wants to get ill when they're travelling. Eating the wrong things, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much and not exercising is the perfect way to ruin your immune system and leave you vulnerable to whatever bugs are being passed around. If you're travelling in Asia, this can be even more of a problem when even the water and the food you eat could be carrying all sorts. If you want to be a smart traveller and keep going for the longest time, while still enjoying yourself and not feeling ill, it's important to look after yourself. I've written posts before about healthy eating and staying fit on the road, but this time I want to focus on some of my favourite fitness experiences I've had since travelling.
When I work out, I like to finish up completely exhausted and to feel that I have worked every single muscle in my body. After trying boxing back in the UK, then Thai boxing, Muay Thai, when I was passing through Hua Hin, in Thailand, I can safely say I have never had a workout that has left me so satisfied afterwards. Martial arts are great because they really do work every part of your body, they test your body in different ways and with so many different types, there really is a martial art for everyone. I love the focus you get as you perfect the moves, and the way you can quickly develop skills if you show dedication. In just one morning session, thanks to my amazing trainer, I had mastered several of the basic moves and had completely re-ignited my passion for working out - after weeks of partying it, this was no easy feat. One thing Thailand comes with is some amazing gyms, they may be basic but damn, they get the job done, and they come with some incredibly dedicated trainers who will push you until you get the results you were after. When I was taking boxercise classes back in the UK, I noticed the quickest changes to my body I have seen with any type of exercise and was impressed to see even the areas which can be more difficult to train were becoming more toned and a lot stronger. I could totally understand why so many people decide to take on week-long or even month-long intensive courses while they're travelling, I would love to have done the same, but sadly had too many other trips planned and not enough time to stay put.Martial arts are a great workout choice for travellers, whether male or female, it's a great full body workout that only needs a gym and a few pieces of equipment, it is also perfect to try in Asia where there are specialist centres on every corner. It's a fantastic workout for building confidence and perfect for solo travellers who appreciate knowing how to defend themselves - it may not ever be necessary to use but can give great peace of mind when you're on your own. For those who want to feel strong and need a workout that takes them further than the usual yoga and running, this is perfect for building muscle tone and for pushing your body. It's just what you need to give you focus when you travel and to pull you out of that backpacker slump. If you need to lose weight and get healthy again, it's a good opportunity to learn new skills while doing so, and will really help boost your immune system - it's hard to get ill when your body is fighting fit! If you fancy trying martial arts, wherever you are in the world, why not join Martial Tribes - it's a social hub for all martial arts and fitness enthusiasts to connect.
Always popular with travellers, yoga is a fantastic way to keep lean, fit and toned while travelling, but it also can be a great way to stay grounded. It's easy to get carried away with the excitement of your life, but taking the time to practice yoga, meditation and mindfulness can really make you focus on appreciating every second. I spent a life changing week at Hariharalya Yoga and Meditation Retreat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and I don't think I've been the same person since. The week of peacefulness was just what I needed to take me from the lowest time I've had travelling, to one of the highest. Just days before I had nearly died in a bus crash, I was injured, aching and completely exhausted, but a week of nourishing my body and my mind with health, rest and gratitude gave me what I needed to love travelling again. Whether you take part in a retreat, take a quick yoga class or just follow tutorials on YouTube with your own mat in the sunshine, yoga is so freeing when you travel. It means taking a moment out of your busy day to reflect, then clear your mind and to stretch out your body. Just what all us backpackers need after rubbish hostel beds and overnight bus rides. It's worth having a look online and around where you're staying for free classes - I took part in an incredible sunset yoga session on a beach on Koh Lanta, Thailand, completely for free thanks to another traveller who wanted to share his knowledge with the world.
Running has become my go-to workout - no matter where I am in the world or what facilities are available, as long as I have my trainers in my bag and a sports bra to strap the girls down, I'm good to go! I love cardio workouts, I like to feel like I've exhausted myself and pushed myself further than the last time, so when I'm travelling, running is a great way to both experience the location and to stay fit. When I was in Asia, I'd get up early to run on the beach or around the city before the heat grew too fierce - beach running has always been my favourite because the sea is always such a perfect distraction and perfect for cooling off after. In Australia, I loved running - the country is made for runners with such a big focus on fitness. There's endless beautiful trails, paths and places to explore while you're working out. Particular highlights were runs along Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, Noosa National Park coastal walk, around the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and Melbourne, and those sweaty runs along Darwin Esplanade in the dark. There are so many amazing places to go running, you'd be a fool not to!
I have a confession, before I went away travelling I had not been on a bike in about a decade. I used to love riding my bike as a kid, but just lost interest as I grew up and had no real reason to ride, but you'll be pleased to know they are right when they say "it's like riding a bike" - you never forget. When I was in Asia, bikes were terrible quality but cheap to hire and a perfect way to explore the countries at your own pace. I cycled around stunning old ruins in Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, Thailand, I cruised around Da Lat, Vietnam, exploring waterfalls, and through the Cambodian countryside in Siem Reap with friends. It's a fantastic way to see the country, you just see so much more when you cycle past the world than you would from the back of a tuk-tuk or motorbike plus you can stop whenever you want to explore. If you're not as confident on a motorbike, cycling can be a great - and much safer - alternative, just keep your wits about you when you're on busy roads. In Australia, there are so many beautiful places to cycle and explore - one of my favourite days in Melbourne was spent mountain biking around the trails in a beautiful reserve.
You walk a lot as a traveller and it's easy to forget that this in itself is a great workout. Whether you spend a day walking around exploring a new city, hiking through the jungle to waterfalls or climbing a mountain to watch the sunrise - it all counts. This is actually one of my favourite ways to workout because it doesn't actually feel like a workout, you're so busy looking at the amazing views or spotting creatures lurking in the woods or diving into waterfalls that you don't realise how much you are burning. I loved huge jungle hikes in Khao Sok, Thailand, we'd be covered in sweat and chased by monkeys, but it was all worth it when you reached the stunning gorge or lake at the end of it. I had friends who climbed huge peaks in Nepal or Bali and said it was the highlight of their trip - getting outside and getting active can be one of the best ways to experience a country. In Melbourne, I spent a weekend camping at Grampians National Park with friends, we spent two days hiking to viewpoints, climbing through gorges and walking through forests - it was incredible.
How do you like to keep fit when you travel? What are your favourite fitness experiences? What martial arts workouts can you recommend?
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?