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What I Wonder When I Wander: How can I Get Healthy on the Road?

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First off, I’d like you to notice what the title of this week’s column is not. I don’t wonder how I can stay healthy on the road – at least not yet. I have to get there first.

Before Dani and I left to travel, I was definitely not at my healthiest point in life. In fact, saying it that way is just being polite to myself. I was a wreck, physically and emotionally. Not only did Dani and I have terrible eating habits, but I was also constantly stressing out and not handling challenges well. I can see now that this had as much to do with my poor diet and lack of exercise as it did with my dissatisfaction of office life.

Sticking our middle fingers upCutting all ties with anyone else’s expectations (becoming a nomad) was an amazing way for both of us to stick up our middle fingers at the status quo and re-claim our lives. I have lived abroad since I was 19, but actually becoming homeless has made me the happiest yet. It did wonders for my mental health. There was a sense of calm in the freedom. A slow but steady confidence pushed up through the cracks of the conventional lifestyle I was slowly shedding. Having just recently hit 800 days traveling last week, it is obvious that this lifestyle really suits us both.

For the first time in a long time, I want to be healthy physically as well. Not just to lose weight, although I have gone up two sizes since we set off. I want to get into great shape, rock a bikini while I’m still young enough. I don’t need a six-pack but I want to be able to do 100 push-ups, use a playground as a place to do pull-ups, run miles through new cities. I want to know just how good I can feel, physically.

montaione pizza & jessie
Sampling local specialties in Italy…

The Nomadic Nutrition Conundrum 

Being nomadic is not the same as being on an extended vacation, even though I saw it that way at first – road-side diners and fast food in the States, lots of oily beans and rice dishes in Latin America, cheese and bread in Europe. Each country has a specialty or two, and I can safely tell you, some 30 countries later, that, though delicious, these dishes almost always fall under the category of comfort food.

We are both total foodies and really enjoy sampling these foods it is also nearly impossible for me to say ‘no’ when Dani also gets to work sampling the national pastry or dessert as well. Unlike me, Dani is one of those lucky ladies who can eat whatever she wants and not gain weight. She feels unaffected by her food and was born with a bottomless energy tank. It is hard not to fall into that seductive trap…how much easier it would be to just enjoy the food we find around the world and not worry about it at all like Dani… On the one hand, I see this as a self-control issue. I could always just say no to the fried foods and not eat those sweets. But that solves only one half of the problem.

Dani at Runyon Canyon
One of the rare occasions that Dani joined me for a work out | Runyon Canyon, L.A.

If I don’t eat the rice, the bread, the cheese (though I am pretty sure this one is impossible) I have trouble finding the healthy alternative. Not being from a place makes it a lot harder to find those healthy restaurants, and although we always try, much of the time the attempts are futile. Don’t forget – Dani and I are vegetarians and have been for a combined total of 51 years (me, my whole life, Dani since she was 12 years old). More than anything I would love to dig in to a big salad for at least one meal a day, but anyone who has traveled in developing countries can understand the, let’s say, explosive risk involved in ordering a salad.

salad in battambang cambodia
Unexpectedly, Cambodia turned out to have some of the best salads we had anywhere on our travels

When we ordered salad in Guatemala or ate that lovely sliced fresh fruit on the side of the road in El Salvador, we risked the revenge known as Montezuma in a serious way. The two of us have had just about every travel sickness there is. This means that when traveling in developing nations, we eat fresh food primarily at restaurants aimed at foreigners, cleaned with filtered water. These places are harder to find and not always available, which puts me back at square one – eating local foods that I enjoy without being able to control my diet.

nicaraguan food
Sampling local specialties in Nicaragua: Platanos, Rice & Beans, Yucca, Cheese, Eggs and Potatoes.
Note: Everything on this plate is fried.

Getting fit on the road is Insanity! 

Nutrition conundrum aside, burning calories is obviously the best way for me to get fit – and in January of this year I started to get serious about working out again. P90x required too many items that don’t fit in a backpack, so I opted for Insanity, which requires only your own body weight and every extra ounce of energy you can summon from your soul. I was working out in 100 degree South East Asian heat on dirty guesthouse floors – I wanted it that bad! I got myself a yoga mat and took up that practice to balance the intense workouts.

I also started learning about health from my two favorite wellness podcasts – Jillian Michaels and Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness. We were in Thailand at this time, and I was able to afford full blood work, got a series of B-12 shots and leveled out my iron and magnesium. We started taking a multivitamin everyday on top of it and by the time we got to Cambodia I was rocking, shedding weight and feeling the best I had felt in years.

Venice Beach
There should be more beaches that come with work-out equipment like this one in Venice Beach, California

Injury and lack of motivation 

Fast forward to April in Singapore when I aggravated a knee injury and then on to May in India when the injury had practically incapacitated me. In India of all places where I was looking forward to yoga every day and had even toyed with the idea of hitting up an ashram. For sarcastic old me, that was as far as I had ever thought to go, spiritually. But first my knee held me back and then, of course, I was rammed by that cow.

Cow encounter in Denver
Another encounter with a cow… luckily, this time no-one got hurt.
Denver, Colorado

Laid completely flat for over two weeks and stuck with the few restaurants in the beach town we were in that would let Dani take food away, I gained back everything I had lost and more. This shook my confidence and robbed me of my motivation. The longer I couldn’t exercise, the less I felt like it anyway.

Our housesit in Tucson saved me. There I could go on short walks with the dog and swim in the pool to help my body recover, and was able to shop at Trader Joe’s and prepare healthy food for a month. We were having all-organic fruit and yogurt parfaits for breakfast and strawberry and spinach salads for lunch. Now we are in Mexico on a two-month housesit at the beach house. While the food options in this remote area are limited, I can still plan meals, plus I have a beach to run on when I am fully recovered and the perfect rooftop for yoga to get me back to that point.

tucson homemade yogurt parfait
Home-made yogurt parfaits in Tucson, Arizona

But herein lies my problem:

1. Stability is the best way to control a food and exercise regimen.
2. Being a nomad is inherently unstable.
3. I want to be physically fit and eat right.
4. I have never been happier than when being a nomad.

The two things I want most don’t seem to line up.

Here’s what I wonder…How do I get fit on the road? It’s been over two years now and the ups and downs are really bugging me. I know that I probably won’t be attacked by normally docile livestock again, or get Dengue Fever again (yep, didn’t even mention that up there), but how do I manage to find the balance between nomadic life and kick-ass physical condition. If I could do that, I think I would be entirely at peace…

Tags : What I Wonder When I Wander

69 Comments

  1. I struggle with the same thing and may be starting to run because it’s the only thing that will guarantee that I exercise when I travel.

    I was just at WDS and met Nathan Agin who is really big on staying fit while traveling. He made the 16 people in our dorm room green smoothies each morning so we’d start the day off right. Really inspiring, check out his site here http://www.nonstopawesomeness.me/
    Ayngelina recently posted..Food Friday: Jugo Verde

    1. Running is definitely a great option, but I find that that is only good for Europe or the US/Canada. I feel like in Honduras or Cambodia it just feels too funny for me in my running shoes and bottle of water to go running when people are so physically active in their ‘real’ lives. As for me, with the knee, running sems ot be out for about another six months to a year. My knee was fine when doing Insanity and then one run on the treadmill in Singapore and my slow but steady decline happened! I’ll definitely check out Nathan’s site – can’t wait to read it, really. I need motivation and also some serious tips about it all so thanks so much for that!

  2. I hear you! I think the most important thing is exercise, and making it fun so you want to do it. I love running, and it’s a great way to get an early morning view of a new place. For those times when that seems too much of a chore, I usually skip, and it barely feels like effort!

    As for food, well, that’s something I have to work on. A lot.
    Lindsey recently posted..Capture the Colour

    1. Thats the thing, Lindsey. A lot of it is the workout – but between yoga and Insanity I felel find with that. It’s the food aspect – what ‘they’ say is about 80% of your success – that I find so challenging. I feel like I can’t control my diet because I am limited to restaurants and stores that sell Cheetos 🙂

  3. I was somewhat overweight before I started travelling, but I saw a new lifestyle as a great opportunity to get fit. I managed to lose 26kg, mostly due to just changing my diet (moving to a mostly vegetarian option even though I’m not ), and also because I started walking an amazing amount.

    It took me around eight months to lose that amount, and I’ve since been stable (nearly three years now), and try to keep up with the activity too. I hate the idea of “exercise” – it has to be doing something I enjoy like going for a long walk on the beach or up a mountain. I’m also terrible with food if it’s around – I’ll eat anything. So best to not have much to hand I’ve found.. Hope you achieve what you want!
    Laurence recently posted..In photos: the 2012 Occitan Piégut Félibrée!

    1. Hi Laurence – I know that a lot of travelers (usually men) tend to shed a bunch of weight just from the increased walking and improved diet. But we walk constantly around every city (but just as much as we did in London before we left) and while it has perhaps kept me from putting on even more weight, it hasn’t been enough for me to lose any. I do my best not to fall into temptation – but that seems to be my biggest challenge. If there is junk food around, I’m probably going to nibble…

    1. Hey Reg! We actually saw a ton of these in Cambodia and some in Thailand, too. Definitely a fun way to stay fit. As soon as I can do a pull-up, I’ll be all places like these showing off 🙂

  4. Oh, I feel your pain. After having a baby in 2010, I still haven’t recovered my pre-baby figure. I lose almost all the weight through cutting carbs, Zumba and hot yoga. I do really well when we’re at home and then we go and travel and it comes right back. I’ve lost (and gained) the same 8kgs probably three times over the last 18 months.

    I really just can’t help myself when we’re travelling. We’re not permanent nomads but we still travel for at least half the year, a few months at a time. We love food too. America shocked us. We ate like pigs for three months – burgers, fries, pulled pork sandwiches. I just couldn’t get enough of anything greasy and bready.

    We just did two months in SE Asia and I don’t think I put on weight, thanks to the heat, but I certainly didn’t lose any. I bought from Zumba DVDs but I find it a bit embarrassing doing it in front of my husband!!

    We’re at home for a decent stretch of time now – at least five months so I’m going to attack the fat and hopefully get it all off finally.

    I’m on board with the whole green smoothie idea. Spirulina powder, a vegan super green protein powder and a bit of fruit makes a killer breakfast. Maybe you could order some online and get it sent to Mexico?

    If I could nip the carbs in the butt I’m sure it would really help me, they’re just too damn delicious.

    A friend suggested P90X and ripped us the DVDs. I’m going to try it.
    Bethaney Davies recently posted..Reuben – In Two Years

    1. Bethaney, I feel your pain, too – I actuall make Dani leave the room wherever we are while I work out. I am embarrassed, especially with Insanity where I am huffing and puffing like crazy! She’s cool with it though…and it may prompt her to join me at some point, even! As for anything in a blender, that’s out for now. our house here in Mexico is on solar power and we don’t even have a coffee pot…but have bought a lot of frozen spinach to incorporate into meals…btw I tried Zumba, but it’s definitely NOT for me 🙂 Keep us updated – we’d love to hear how you get along knocking the weight off in the next few months. I hope to have some sweet after pictures at some point later this year! 🙂

  5. I don’t think you are the only one! Months of hard work in the gym while we have stability works then BOOM goodbye waistline when we hit the road. Adela has the motivation to run sometimes during the mornings and try room workouts. I spend my time in front of the computer while she sweats away though. Not good!

    1. Hey Cole – even though I wish everyone the best, it’s nice to hear that other people share my misery 🙂 It’s hard because I want to stay motivated and I was TOTALLY motivated for a while. But sometimes, after a 10 hour bus ride, it’s hard to want to work out, but I know I should because I probably ate a white bread roll, plantain chips and a donut or something to get through the ride…Good on Adela to go running and working out. Hopefully her and I can motivate you and Dani more often:)

  6. Great post, and fitness is definitely one of the biggest issues I’ve faced in my short nomadic life so far.

    As you alluded to, routine is the most important part of an exercise regime – and the lack of routine is why we’re living this lifestyle! I’d enjoy biking or lifting weights every day, but that’s just not possible a lot of the time.

    I don’t particularly like running, but it’s the one type of exercise that you can do anywhere. Because I don’t enjoy it for its own sake, I vary my route each day to explore new things. And it’s a nice bit of consistency in an otherwise routine-free life: wherever we are, I get up and run for an hour first thing in the morning while the streets are still empty.

    Finally, wow: Insanity on guesthouse floors must take serious motivation! I love Insanity, but I’m too easily embarrassed to do it unless I have a lot of privacy…I don’t want to have an audience for my Heismans!
    Rob @ Making It Anywhere recently posted..Hiking in Boulder, Colorado

  7. I don’t see how getting fit would be much of a problem. When you are traveling, you are always on the go, which burns a lot of calories. The best suggestion that I can make is to cut out beer from your diet, although traveling and sampling local beers is so much fun.

  8. That is a bloody good question. I’m sitting here in Salta wondering the very same thing. Before we stopped here, I was full of great intentions. I thought “yes, we’ll be able to cook great food and do yoga every day, maybe even use the gym.” Three weeks later and I’ve done yoga once! The problem was I got ill almost immediately when we stopped and my energy is only just starting to return. Steve was also ill then he burnt his leg on the sauna and couldn’t walk well, so combined we weren’t that up for cooking or able to exercise. So much for the good plans. We have about two weeks left now to try and redeem our good intentions before heading to Bolivia. Aside from the obvious pitfalls of illness and lack of nutritional food, I think my real hurdle is discipline. Even at home, I find keeping fit and healthy quite hard. That is until I get into the habit of it. Once I feel healthy, I get hooked on it, but as soon as I break the habit (maybe due to illness) I find it so difficult to get back into it. Travelling presents lots of opportunities for the habit to be broken so I guess therein lies the problem.
    Victoria recently posted..Photo of the week: Selaron and a question of seeing

    1. Victoria – just reading this makes me feel immediately as though I am not alone in this! This is exactly what we do (well, by we I really mean “I”). I definitely think it is also a question of discipline…maybe we need to form a group and hold each other accountable? Or maybe we would just eat ice cream on Google Hangouts together 🙂

  9. I know you know from reading my recent diabetes post that I TOTALLY feel you on this one. But, interestingly enough, I almost always lose weight when we travel because Mary and I always stay super busy on the road. One of the down sides of NOT being permanent nomads is that we have to rush like hell to see/do everything possible in a week or 10 days. The upside of that is we are very active, hiking, swimming, kayaking, ziplining or whatever. And the extra benefit of that is that, when we’re traveling, we can eat pretty much whatever we want (though we still tend to make somewhat healthy choices). So I guess my advice would be to stay active, do everything in moderation, and whatever you do do NOT try to go cold turkey on your favorite things, instead using them as occasional rewards for exercising and eating right.
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted..A MUSICAL PASSPORT: 40 World Music Artists From Green Global Travel’s 1st Year

    1. What totally annoys me, though, Bret is that we are super active all the time. We swim and hike and walk MILES across cities in the heat…but that just doesn’t work for me. You, by the way, are looking GREAT and I wanted to congratulate you on your success! You prove that it really is all about discipline.

  10. I haven’t found my way to stay healthy on the road yet, I am quite new as a full time travel.. I know though that soon I have to think about it and do something too!
    I generally have an healthy diet but, as you probably know better than me, while travelling it’s not always easy to choose what is only healthy.
    I think you should really try the best compromise for you, the one that makes you feel good with your body and your mind! 🙂
    ITALIAN/Franca recently posted..MEDIUM 500 x 2

    1. Hey Franca – good luck with the healthy eating on the road! I think if you put your mind to it, it’s easy. But it’s just hard not to fall into temptation or be so starving at some points that you just eat whatever!

  11. I completely empathise with the problems of eating healthily as a vegetarian on the road (warning: South America is not great for that, except Buenos Aires) and having a skinny partner who constantly tempts you!

    I miss having a pool in Thailand as it was exercise I actually enjoyed. I feel too self conscious to go running in cities. We are definitely eating more unhealthily in Europe. Italy was so full of temptation, but I don’t really feel like denying myself as food is a big reason why we travel.

    Good luck and I hope you manage it. Having your own kitchen definitely helps.
    Erin recently posted..Photo of the Week: Bruges Markt

    1. Erin, I do believe you know exactly what I go through because I have watched Simon and Dani together piling through chocolate cake…:) But you said it better than I did – food is really one of the major reasons why we travel. However…miss Erin, you look great and have no weight to gain or lose at all!

    1. Karen – you know what – you are so right about cheap rooms and full length mirrors. I usually get much more body image conscious when we stay at some of our nicer hotels along the way due in large part to all the mirrors! 🙂

  12. Oh I so hear you. I had exactly the same problem when I moved to Cambodia. I put on 5kg in three months, because my body was craving more food due to the hot weather (salt deprivation), I couldn’t do exercise because of the hot weather and because I ate out all the time. I am back to my old weight now, because I started eating normally again and do gentle weather friendly exercise, such as swimming, or sit ups under my aircon unit. Don’t think I could ever manage to do 100 press ups though-can’t even do two. :-/
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Let’s all dance the Apsara

    1. Tammy – really interesting that you gained weight specifically in Cambodia. See, for me, Cambodia was a place where I was able to find great salads on menus throughout the country and actually lost weight there. That is where I was rocking my insanity the hardest!!

  13. I found it tough to stay healthy on the road too. You want to try all the local specialities and when I’m in a place for a short amount of time I want to make the most out of everything. It must be tough being a veggie too because it can become a bit of a carb fest at every meal. I remember craving a salad so badly in Asia.

    In the end I gave up trying to eat super healthily and concentrated on exercising. I stayed in Thailand for a couple of months to scuba dive and do yoga and this gave me a kick start to begin running and hiking too. Plus, carrying a heavy backpack everywhere is great exercise!

    1. Monica, carb fest is right and I know the feeling of actually craving a salad. I think you’re right about the fact that you want to make the most of everything and try so much of the food and then before you know it you’ve eaten like crap for a seven days in a row…the Yoga is a big one for me as it just makes me aware of my body without being all sore, and gives me energy…

    1. Hey Ian thank so much for the luck, I obviously need it! It’s definitely a challenge and I think it requires a lot of planning ahead. After 800 days, it’s not getting that much easier, either…

  14. Wow, this is so incredibly relevant to me, and I’m really grateful you started this discussion. Alex from alexinwanderland.com directed me here, and I’m sooooooo glad she did. I am currently at 3.5 months traveling and recently had to buy some new jeans. The first shop I stopped in in Bulgaria didn’t have any my size. The second store at 2 pairs that would fit me. Once I got my hands on a scale I realized I’ve gained 10lbs since I left home. And, like you said, it’s crazy–we are walking EVERYWHERE with heavy backpacks on. It’s not as if we are not active. It is very frustrating! Some Peace Corps. volunteers I talked to said that it is normal for men to lose weight and women to gain it during their time abroad because of the different ways our bodies handle stress. This, and your post, helped me realize I’m not abnormal, but it still doesn’t solve the problem. I’ve been in one place for two weeks now and have gotten a good diet and exercise routine down, and have lost a couple pounds in the process. But what’s going to happen when I leave here? What am I going to do about that next 10 hour bus ride? I really don’t want to sacrifice my health/self-image for my nomadic lifestyle, but I also really don’t want to stop traveling…

    1. Hey Lauren – thanks so much for commenting!! I forgot to even mention the fact that buying new clothes, bigger clothes, in places like Asia, Latin America or apparently Bulgaria, is also really hard since the sizes are so much smaller there to begin with. Ugh! I completely understand the conflict between traveling and being healthy and can only encourage you by saying that it’s easier in some countries for sure. In South East Asia I found that I could eat more salads, and in Europe I was able to eat better when I actually tried. If you look at Ayngelina’s comment on this post, you’ll find the link to a blogger who writes at Non Stop Awesomeness http://www.nonstopawesomeness.me/name he is super healthy and very inspiring!

  15. I’ll say this: whole foods are the way to go 🙂

    I lost 50 pounds while I was living in Bulgaria for 2.5 years….it’s all salads and yogurts and fish and The Mediterranean Diet, basically. Then I lost another 10 pounds over the next couple of years until I ended up around 145 pounds at the end of 2011 when I was coming back to Mexico from Colombia.

    I started P90X in February…I’ve added about 15 pounds of muscle on now, and I still follow TMD. But the nice thing about P90X and Insanity (which you mention) is that they can be done with virtually no gear. I have an extendable pullup bar and resistance bands…and both fit into my 35L backpack and can go with me no matter where I go.

    The hardest part about getting healthy is just making the decision to start being that way and controlling your diet. And I still have cheat days where I’ll go out and buy like 2 or 3 gansitos/choco-rolles and gorge myself with a mocha…but they are rare and far between 🙂 It’s all about routine…once you establish it, it become second nature.
    T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries recently posted..Comment on Making the transition by T.W. Anderson

    1. This is an awesome comment, T.W. – basically because you’re telling me exactly what I already know but just don’t do, and proving that it works. I know that it’s all about making the decision to commit to eating only whole foods. I know that. It just needs to done. Congratulations on kicking ass, losing all that weight and sticking with it. Writing this has been somewhat cathartic for me and I feel like I have to ramp up my attempts at self-control a bit more to make this happen. Your comment has definitely played a role in me doing that!

  16. After doing yoga the other day, I then ate a super healthy salad. I was doing so well that I then went out and rewarded myself with an ice cream! I’m definitely not sure I’m the right person to be enforcing discipline – I’m full of excellent excuses for why now is not the time for exercise, but most definitely the time for cake! That said, I have been doing more yoga so thanks for kick starting that 🙂

  17. Well, you may remember my post about gaining weight abroad 🙂 And actually on the day you posted this I had a reader email me and ask for an update on that post…. I sent her this one!

    I lost the weight I had gained completely but it was the easiest/hardest way…. via an emotional trauma. However, when I came home after losing that 15lbs and ran a mile without stopping (first in a lifetime!) I realized I wanted to stay at this healthier weight. I’ve kept it off so far but at the moment I’m 50% travel 50% home so I’ll be curious what happens when I’m back to 100% travel….

    1. Hi Alex – thanks for sending Lauren over 😉 Losing weight with trauma works, but it’s like smoking to lose weight – ultimately it’s crap for your health. Congrats for keeping it all off and let us all know what happens when you’re back on the road 100% of the time!

  18. I think this is one of the hardest things to deal with when you’re on the road all the time. I find the lack of routine and the general fatigue of always moving too much to cope with and exercise loses its place on the priority list.
    Having said that, a decent diet, cutting down on the booze (prob my biggest problem) and walking a couple of hours every day would be a pretty good start, I imagine.
    Turtle recently posted..All men are created equal

    1. That’s all a good start, for sure, but no way to achieve optimal anything. You put it really well, though – it’s the lack of routine and the general fatigue of always moving that makes it so hard, and hard for me to stick to my guns and just say no to junk food….

  19. I think this is HUGE struggle for so many travelers. Food is such an important part of the experience but if you are nomadic, you don’t get a lot of detox time. I would suggest taking more “break trips” like the italy one you mentioned. Allow yourself time to slow down, prepare healthy meals at home while doing intense workouts and detoxing.

    My brother is a personal trainer and I often work with him to design travel friendly workouts. I’d be happy to share some with you, just send me an email!
    Rease recently posted..Snorkeling in Mexico on Isla Coronado

    1. Hey Rease, I will definitely send you an email!! That’s great, and you are right – taking breaks is really important to stay on track. The first two years we traveled quite heavily but we are slowing a bit (heck, this beach house is too far from anything to even pop into a shop) so for a while I’ll get a routine back into my life…

  20. This has to be incredibly tough. I know people that travel all the time for work gain a lot of weight. You just don’t have the same healthy eating options when traveling like you do at home.

    Ironically, I have the opposite problem. I gain weight at home and lose on the road because I cam constantly on the go and walk everywhere. For me, I don’t care that much about food when I travel so I tend to push hard and go long stretches without caring about food.

    Hopefully you will be able to find a good balance for traveling, eating, and exercising and find the right fit for you. Good luck and don’t give up!
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Expedia Find Yours travel purpose photos of the week

    1. Thanks Jeremy! Your story about losing weight on the road is really common for guys, I think. We walk, and walk, and walk, and walk and that does nothing for my midsection! 🙂 I’m not ready to give up traveling yet, so it’s the food/workouts department that is going to have to step it up!

  21. Hey Jess, I read all of you and Dani’s entries, but rarely comment. And this is going to sound a little whoo-whoo, so I’m just speaking for myself.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and it seems to me that you eat a healthy diet. My nutritionist recently told me that she’d rather I eat extra food like sweets and exceed my daily calorie recommendation than eat less calories thereby sacrificing nutrients and vitamins. She said, “Think of all the healthy nutrients and vitamins you’re “supposed” to get in a day. And then think about how much food you would have to eat to actually get all those nutrients and vitamins. [she is not a proponent of supplements or vitamins] You’ll never have THE perfect diet, so just know what you’re supposed to eat, try to eat some of that every day, and eat a variety of fruits and veggies as often as you can.” Good stuff.

    Anyway, you are very active (except for when you were injured, which was your body telling you to SLOW DOWN) and you eat healthy (plus sugar) so maybe the problem is psychological. Maybe the key is just embracing your weight/size/body for what it is.

    America teaches women to hate our bodies from the moment we’re old enough to watch TV or look at a magazine. If you have a loving partner, exercise and get nutrients and vitamins your body needs to thrive, maybe your weight/size shouldn’t matter so much? In an ideal world, right?!

    1. Hey Camella – first of all thanks for commenting 🙂 I really appreciate your comment so much – I think it’s really supportive and you’re right. I don’t have a perfect body and I let it get to me, for sure. It doesn’t help that my girlfriend is a size 6, an 8 if she has ‘gained’ a bit (which almost never happens anyway). I do agree that it’s way better to eat more if that means you get more nutrients than eat less to lose weight but deplete the body of the right kind of fuel. I think that I didn’t want the post to be even more of a pity party of one, but I have actually had some health issues which get me down sometimes. After I had Dengue (late 2010) my immune system was down – I had a (wheezing) cough for over two months through Costa Rica and Panama, a few bigger skin issues that went away once I started eating really well in Cambodia, and my joints were achy to the point that if I leaned on my wrists or knees for more than just a few minutes, I felt almost painfully frozen or stuck in place. I’ve since learned that the last thing was related to inflammation which happens when the body is out of balance (could be gluten issue or unbalanced Omega 3/6 levels), and I still don’t know what that cough or skin issues were about. So, the thing is, that while I know I shouldn’t get down on myself for not having a six-pack, I actually felt the early signs of actual health deterioration due almost entirely to a poor travel diet. Does that make sense? This might be too much information, though…:) Ever since I got the B-12 shots, started taking Magnesium and doing yoga/Insanity my health has been much better!!

      1. Thanks for the reply! Obviously, there are a lot of health problems complicating matters. Health problems can hold ANYONE back from achieving their desired fitness level.

        It seems to me like you absolutely know what you need to do and what you need to eat to feel your best, the hard part is just figuring out how to make it work with your travel lifestyle. i wish you the best of luck in feeling your best! 🙂

        The only fitness blog I read is http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/ and the author struggled with his fitness for a while when he began traveling.

        I have noticed that in the photos you post here over the past month or two that you have sort of been hiding behind Dani. So embrace yourself in a hug and do whatever it takes to feel good about yourself. (That sounds so touchy-feely…I’m really a sarcastic, opinionated wench, but feel passionately about body image stuff. As a lesbian woman myself, not having to uphold myself to male beauty standards has actually been pretty free-ing. 🙂

        Oh, and I really love this new series. Your water bottle post was awesome! Something I thought about a lot during my four months in Guatemala.

        1. Thanks Camella, so glad you’re liking these posts! Two quick things – I actually found nerd fitness through this awesome video of him working out around the world – that was inspiring for sure! Second – how astute of you to notice my particular posing position in our pics! I wonder how many other people notice. I really try to hide…how awful! But hopefully one day these will all be my before pics anyway:) I’ve been doing yoga again massively and going to start working out again in a couple of weeks’ time when I feel that my knee is back to normal, or almost. Thanks so much for such supportive words. I too am a sarcastic biotch but it definitely helps when you put yourself out there that people respond with positivity, no matter how touchy feely it happens to be 🙂

        2. Hi Camella, realize I never replied to this – i will definitely check out nerd fitness. Thanks for the touchy-feely sentiments, you totally caught me that I have hidden behind Dani on a few occasions. Can’t believe you paid that much attention 🙂

  22. LOVE this article. Because feeling healthy is more than a size, or a weight – it’s being able to eat well, and move. My husband walks a LOT for fitness, but when it’s hot and humid, that goes out the door. I swim for fitness, but when we aren’t on our lake or by a lake, that goes out, too. We eat well, but traveling and eating well is very difficult. It helps that we rent houses when we travel. but… You’ve outlined the hard parts! We all live them, and just try our best. The other thing I totally recommend is getting enough sleep. You can’t be healthy when you’re exhausted.
    JessieV recently posted..Why and How to Travel with Only a Carry-On

    1. Hey Jessie, thanks for commenting. You bring up a good point – I like swimming and we almost never have a pool, and I really started to love running and then my knee completely went out. When you’re on the road, beggars can’t be choosers and that’s hard – especially when it’s 100 degrees and humid outside…It’s all about really trying our best, I think. In spite of all the challenges, that is!

  23. OMG that food all looks incredible! I find it really hard to eat healthily on the road as I have a big sweet tooth and a bit of missing out on delicious food anxiety. But as these pictures show, sometimes the healthy food is the best food! YUM
    Izy Berry recently posted..Places I’ve been

    1. Thanks Izy – I have to agree. Most of the time the healthy food is actually what tastes the best! 😉 But with Dani and her sweet tooth it would be hard to convince her of that I think 🙂

  24. Someone else mentioned green smoothies and I could not agree more. Nothing stabilises me more than a green smoothie in the morning. It sets me off to a good start and inspires me to make better choices during the day. Its not always possible but if you can get your hands on a cheap $20 blender when you arrive at a new destination you are all set. I follow this up with yoga and then see my new destination by bike or walking. it is a constant challenge though. When i first started travelling I put on 12kg so I sympathise with you.

    1. Very interesting Kirra! What do you put in the green smoothie? I like what you say about picking up a blender, maybe the next time we stay somewhere for a bit longer, I’ll do that. I am doing yoga and I absolutely love it, and as soon as injuries heal I’ll do Insanity again!

  25. Excellent post. My partner and I have been traveling since April 2012 (we came across your blog in Guatemala and it seems you guys have always just been, or are going to, the same places as us). Its fair to say my metabolism sounds similar to Dani’s, but my partner has the same concerns you do. Funnily enough, Shaun T has become our personal fitness guru also…we got through 6 weeks of the program but fell of the wagon when we moved places again. But the fact that you can do a class here and there (even if not following the program) is a real plus. Another suggestion is to find a local gym class. Generally I hate gym classes but we went to a Les Mills bodypump class in Mexico which was not only bearable but fun 1) because it was in Spanish and 2) because its a great way to see people just doing the same everyday things no matter where you are in the globe. Yoga and spin classes seem to be pretty globally available too. The other thing of course is taking control of your own diet by staying in places with a kitchen, clearly you’re doing this anyway, but it made all the difference for us, plus shopping in local markets and seeing all the crazy supermarket products is one of our absolute favorite things to do in a new place! Good luck finding a health regime that works for you. Hope you get fit enough doing insanity that you could wipe that overenthusiastic smile of Tania’s face! Ha.

    1. Sandra, thanks so much for your comment – it feels really good to hear how other people struggle and identify with this issue. I am back up and running now and working out again, Insanity starts again in a week or so. And by the way – Tania – she is the one with the abs in the red sports bra, right? I want her abs for real! Dani and I used to do bodypump classes in London twice a week and we both LOVED it. It was amazing how much stronger we were after a few weeks than in the beginning. Our problem with gyms is that it can be really costly always paying the day rate. In Kuala Lumpur, for example, they wanted $30, in Singapore it was even more, New York was $35, etc. When we can we try to get a hotel with a gym, but that only happens in the developed world. Groupon is great for finding cheap workouts, as well, especially yoga and pilates. You guys should stay in touch and let us know where you’re traveling to next – maybe we can meet up somewhere in the world!

      1. Thanks for the groupon tip. Yep that’s Tania all right. I love it how everyone in the videos are the LEAST in need of an insane cardio workout. But i digress. My partner and I have actually been traveling since April 2011 (typo) and are just about to put down some temporary roots in Bristol, UK to work and keep traveling around in our spare time from there. We are actually Aussies, so nearly anywhere in the world is a muchheaper and closer place to travel from than our hometown Melbourne. With that, any future posts, reflections, etc on your time traveling, working or living in the UK would be more than welcome! And of course if you find yourself in exotic Bristol…or Australia even, give us a holler.

        1. We lived in the UK for four years, Sandra, and I actually worked for the tourist board there, so can definitely help out with tips (we left one for you in our newsletter this month actually!). We probably won’t be in Bristol any time soon, but sooner than Australia I should think. We lived in Brighton, Durham and then London for three years, so let us know whatever questions you have! 🙂 have fun in Bristol!

  26. Jess, I commented here about a month ago when you first posted this blog. I just wanted to give you an update. I’ve been traveling for about 4 1/2 months, and around month 3 realized that gaining a pound a week was something I would have to stop if I was going to continue traveling long-term. I started doing Couch-2-5k and now am running whenever it is possible, probably 4 out of 7 days a week. I’m also doing some crunches on the side. I cut out beer, bread, soda and whatever other sugars and starches had made their way into my diet. It’s a sacrifice, especially being in places with cheap beer and great bread, but it is well worth it as I feel MUCH better about myself and can tell I’ve shed a significant part of that beer belly. I just realized that long-term travel is a lifestyle, not a vacation, and I have to make an effort to keep these healthy changes constant while I’m gone. Glad to hear that you’re feeling better as well, and thanks for sharing in the first place–I thought I was the only one!

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