gap year advice

How to stay healthy whilst travelling

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Getting sick is never fun, but the experience is far worse when you get sick abroad as you don’t have the comforts of homelife to fall back upon. Thus, we have compiled a list of simple, yet important reminders that go along way in keeping you healthy on your travels.   

1. Stay hydrated

We start with the most obvious advice, everyone knows the benefits of drinking water, however, in the excitement of travel it is easy to fall short on your recommended daily water consumption. Especially if you are visiting countries with extremely hot climates and spending vast quantities of the day outdoors, your body will require a greater volume of water than you are used to. Hence, our first piece of advice is to make sure you drink enough water to compensate for what you lose. Also remember, when travelling to certain exotic locations, you need to be careful of the source of water, as your body may not be able to cope with the bacteria in the local water supplies, here it is vital you stock up on bottled water.

2. Drink responsibly  

Ever find yourself feeling dehydrated whilst sitting in a long-haul flight? There is a simple reason for this, you feel dehydrated because you are. Spending long periods of time in a low oxygen environment such as an airplane seriously dehydrates you. It has been shown that over a 10-hour flight, on average men lose around 2 litres of water and women around 1.6 litres. As alcohol also dehydrates the body, it is good advice to avoid drinking alcohol altogether whilst flying. Not only this, alcohol weakens your immune system, and this combined with being tightly packed with other people in a confined space is an easy way to pick up a flu or virus that can dampen your travels from the get go. 

Once on vacation, everyone wants to have a good time, and this often leads to people ditching the water for a glass of wine or having a few extra beers at the end of the day. If this describes you, remember that alcoholic and even non-alcoholic sugary drinks are packed with calories, a 6-pack of beer has the same calorie count as eating a loaf of bread; so, the keyword to keep in mind is moderation.

3. Build an exercise routine

It is often difficult to stick to your regular gym schedule on holiday, especially with all the amazing sites you want to visit. An efficient way to remain active on holiday is to walk whenever possible. Walking around the city is the best way to explore it, you’ll discover hidden gems whilst on your way to your destination and truly immerse yourself in the city’s culture, whilst at the same time getting in your exercise.

If you are staying in a hotel with a gym, make the most of its facilities. If not, you can always work out in your room, there are plenty of high-quality bodyweight workouts that require no equipment. Personally, I find yoga tutorials on YouTube very useful, they require very little space, no real equipment, also you can vary up your practice according to your mood and depending on how intense you want to go.

Another possibility is for you to join a class, for example, if you are in Thailand train in Muay Thai, when in India do some yoga, if you are in Venice go workout on the beach; the point being to engage in the activities that your destination has to offer, after all travelling is not just about looking at old buildings and this is a fun way of remaining active.

What works best for me is keeping to a routine, as I found far more success working out every day at the same time over trying to fit in a workout in my free time, as often this free time never materialised. Also, I like to set myself small achievable fitness goals, then I write these down, so that they are visible in front of me to help keep me motivated.

4. Try the local cuisine

When unfamiliar with the local cuisine, many people’s default is to stick to what they know, however, this means missing out on the fantastic authentic dishes that you can get nowhere else. What’s worse is skipping out on this fantastic opportunity and instead opting to eat in fast food establishments such as McDonalds. If you’re worried about food poisoning, a quick rule of thumb is to eat at the busiest restaurants, the more locals dining at a restaurant, the greater the likelihood its food is safe as well as tasty.  

To add to this point indulge yourself a little, you travel to a country to experience it, and its cuisine forms a big part of its identity, so don’t limit your experience because something looks a little too unhealthy; when else are you going to get the opportunity to try it. The key is balance, if you over indulge yourself on carbs or sugar make sure to counterbalance this with a harder gym sessions and increasing water consumption.

A simple way to keep your calorie intake in check is to keep your snacking healthy, swap the crisps and chocolate for dried fruit and nuts, these snacks are non-perishable thus easy to travel with and allow you to feel less guilty when exploring the local delicacies.            

5. Pack helpful supplements

The most common ailments that will hamper your travels is stomach issues, this is generally a result of your stomach not being used to dealing with the local cuisine. Thus, carrying digestive supplements, such as digestive enzymes and probiotics can come in very useful. If you aren’t a regular probiotic taker, it is advised to start a few weeks before your vacation because it takes some time for the benefits to kick in. It may also be beneficial to carry some essential vitamins to supplement your meals, to compensate for the nutrients which you may be missing during your travels.

6. Protect your skin

Keeping skin healthy is an often-overlooked aspect of health and wellbeing, especially for men. Keeping skin healthy is relatively easy, but restoring damaged skin is a far more troublesome task, some simple recommendations include:

We mentioned previously that flying dehydrates the body, this will dry your skin, a simple remedy is to carry moisturizer and apply this during the flight, just make sure the bottle fits regulations. Once you have landed if you are in a hot climate remember to apply sun screen, often this must be topped up throughout the day, especially when spending large portions of the day sightseeing outdoors. If the country you are visiting has a large population of mosquitos or insects, make sure to purchase insect repellent. Furthermore, you can also purchase an insect repellent plug that you can fix into your bedroom to protect you while you sleep.

7. Carry first aid essentials

Especially when travelling in less developed countries, it may be difficult to get hold of simple first aid staples such as disinfectants or bandages, so it is always a good idea to pack your own. Of course, there is no point bringing the equipment if you don’t know how to use it, so make sure you are versed in basic first aid, you never know when you might need it. 

Its also useful to bring hand sanitizer, using hand sanitizer is an easy and very effective way of limiting the impact of unwanted germs and bacteria, especially when backpacking and water and soap aren’t readily available, hand sanitizer is an essential.

Continuing along this theme, it is always useful to get travel insurance, in case you need medical help on your travels. Remember to fully declare all pre-existing conditions to guarantee no complications arise if making a claim.

8. Listen to other travellers

Travellers who have made the same or a similar journey to you are in the best position to give you advice on the do’s and don’ts to stay healthy, learn from their mistakes rather than making your own. You never know where you will get good advice, so don’t dismiss it until you try it.  

9. Get plenty of rest  

Our next piece of advice almost opposes what we have previously stated, but it is important to remember travelling is a strenuous activity and a key part of remaining healthy is getting adequate rest. Very often travellers want to pack as much into the day as possible to get the most out of the experience, but just remember your body needs time to recuperate, the best advice comes from listening to your own body, so if you’re feeling tired don’t push yourself too far. A useful tip for those travelling across time zones, is to make sure to put your phone on silent before going to bed as people back home may not know what time it is for you.    

10. Pack light

If you are going to be moving around a lot, remember you will have to carry your suitcase everywhere you go. Often people pack clothes for every possible contingency causing them to carry around a lot of unnecessary weight. So, do yourself a favour and keep everything to the minimum, you can suffice on far less than you think.

Team T.G.