Before we became perpetual travellers, I used to imagine that life on the road would be so relaxing. No more alarm clocks, winter colds or pasty skin, and all the time in the world to eat healthily and exercise. How wrong was I! Last week we arrived back in the UK jet-lagged, sunburnt, mosquito-bitten and exhausted, marked with trekking blisters, and haunted by Nepalese stomach bugs. So, how do you stay sane and healthy while you travel? Here are a few of our top travel health tips.
Sleeping and travel
Travel can play havoc with your sleep quality as you’re constantly moving through different time zones, changing beds every few nights, dealing with jet lag and trying to adjust to wildly different temperatures. With no regular routine and days crammed with activity, it can also be hard to switch off and fall asleep. Oh, did I mention the pesky mosquito and bed bugs that could keep you awake at night too? Exhaustion can quickly take a toll on your health and ruin your travels so check out this infographic about the importance of healthy sleep and how to get more of it. Here are some of the ways we try to manage our sleep quality while we’re on the move:
- Avoid overnight buses and trains – it may sound like a great way to save money on a night’s accommodation, but we rarely ever sleep well on overnight journeys because of the noise, cramped conditions and blasting air con.
- Watch out for bed bugs – my worst nightmare. We’ve got a whole post about how to spot and deal with bed bugs, but my top tip is to always check review websites before you book accommodation to see if anyone mentions mysterious bites.
- Stick to set bedtimes – wherever we are in the world, we try to go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day to keep our sleep patterns in tact.
- Don’t forget your ear plugs! – I wouldn’t be able to survive travel without my ear plugs to block out snorers, animal sounds and noisy travellers. I never go anywhere without an eye mask either.
Travel food tips
If, like me, you’re not one of those lucky or gutsy people who can literally eat anything, there might be times when you struggle with unfamiliar foods while you travel. When we first left the UK I was a notoriously fussy eater and while four years of travel has made me more adventurous, I’ve still had to develop tactics like these to eat healthily on the road:
- Search before you go – whenever we arrive in a new place we use Tripadvisor to search out restaurants rather than go traipsing through the streets when we’re starving. As vegetarians who are slowly transitioning to veganism, this takes the stress out of the food search.
- Follow your gut instincts – if you think a restaurant seems dodgy, or the food you’re served doesn’t look right, follow your instincts and go somewhere else. A perfect example would be the cheap, re-heated street food in Laos that Andrew should have avoided but didn’t, with disastrous consequences.
- Always carry snacks – don’t end up stuck on a ten-hour bus journey with no nourishment. We tend to take some light snacks such as crackers, nuts or fruit and plenty of water with us wherever we go.
Exercising on the road
Travel has definitely made us more active as we walk and swim far more than we ever did when we lived in the UK. However we also work online, which means long hours in front of our laptops, so we have to make an effort to build exercise into our daily routine, here’s how we do it:
- Find something you can do anywhere – this year while living in Thailand, Andrew and I took up yoga and we absolutely love it! Yoga is great for our ‘computer-chair backs’, mental health and flexibility. We can also join classes and practise alone wherever we are in the world.
- Take comfy shoes – always make sure you have some good walking or sports shoes with you while you travel. We just bought Merrell hiking shoes for our trek to Everest Base Camp, but we also have trainers for city walks and the gym.
- Establish a routine – no matter where you are, try to get into an exercise routine. When we lived in our Chiang Mai apartment we’d do some yoga stretches every morning, go to classes twice a week and try to swim every day.
Dealing with illnesses
Oh, the intestinal trouble we’ve just had in Nepal! When you visit countries with poor food hygiene standards you’re bound to end up with gut issues. Then there’s potential viruses like Dengue Fever to watch out for, as well as general colds, flu and illnesses which you can become more susceptible to when suffering from travel exhaustion. Here are some ways we deal with illnesses while travelling:
- Watch what you drink – always make sure your water is clean and sterile. To be eco-friendly you could buy a steri-pen or fill up reusable bottles from filtered water dispensers. We usually avoid ice unless we’re in really touristy areas.
- Stock up on medicines – we carry a small supply of medicines with us including painkillers, my migraine tablets, rehydration salts and plasters. If you need prescription drugs, get a signed copy of your script from a doctor to take with you when you travel.
- Get vaccinated – don’t forget to have your travel vaccinations, find out what you might need in our guide.
- Emergency supplies – after some extreme toilet emergencies in Nepal, we always carry plenty of tissue and hand sanitiser with us, you never know when you might need it!
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Do you have any travel health tips to share?