Healthy choices don’t always go hand in hand with travel. Let’s face it – flights are long, and so many of the better deals leave at ungodly hours in the morning or are redeyes. Airport food for the most part offers more processed fast food options than fresh organic salads although that is changing in more progressive and health-conscious cities around the globe.
Top photo credit of meditation: www.3tags.org.
Recently, I’ve been taking stock of my health and wellness on the road, frankly because getting from A to B is more stressful and trying on the body than it’s ever been (read my article on Cattle In, Cattle Out about where the airline industry has headed).
At home, I live a healthier life than most and am very food-aware. In other words, my carbs are low, I don’t eat processed or fried food and wherever I can, my choices are as close to a local farmer as I can get, whether be what we are cooking in our home kitchen or order at a restaurant.
While the farm-to-table movement is by no means new, it is now spreading to smaller cities and towns, something we noticed during our drive across country earlier this year. (be sure to read our write-ups on the foodie scene in places like Nashville, Memphis and even small town Mississippi).
Late last year in Dublin, I attended a techy conference that offered gluten-free lunch options for their attendees. It’s frankly easier to get into a healthy and balanced routine when you can stick to, well…a routine, which isn’t something many frequent travelers, myself included, are all that good at. After all, what we love is the undiscovered, the spontaneity and the diversity that travel brings and with that diversity, each day is a unique one, making it harder to fit that hour workout in, even if a hotel has a gym.
So, how do you live a healthy and balanced lifestyle when you’re on airplanes more than not? Whether you’re stacking up miles because you travel a lot on business or can’t get enough of new destinations, here are 15 of my Top Tips to keep your eye on the ball, the healthy ball that is.
Bring Organic Tea Bags in your Carry-on
While you can’t go through security with bottled water, you can get hot water at a fast food joint or on the plane. This helps you avoid those unhealthy coffee fixes at the wrong time of day and allows you to switch to non-caffeine more easily because you have new choices, now easily accessible in your bag. We like some of the options from Organic India which we recently tested out.
You can pick these up at any drug store and keeping them handy after you leave a public restroom, disembark from an airplane or immediately before a meal, can help you keep germs at bay.
Hold the Sugar or No Carbs Sir
Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask your server to make meal modification even if they turn up their nose when you ask. Hold the sugar from my iced tea, I’ll take the soup without the processed crackers and can I have that omelet without the biscuits please? Ask them to substitute a salad for French Fries even if it doesn’t say so on the menu, or order broccoli or string beans instead of mashed potatoes. Can you hold the cream on that grilled cod grilled and just give me a side of lemon?
While some chefs may balk at this, particularly in France, it’s your body and sure, you want the fuel, but healthy sustainable fuel, not a meal that will instantly spike your energy levels only to leave you feeling depleted and drained a few hours later.
Airport Juice Bars
While not all airports have them, many do, even if it’s a Jamba Juice chain. While I’m not a fan of the all fruit juices because they contain so much sugar, many offer green kale and beet juice combos as well. Keep it as green as possible wherever you can and skip out on the high carbohydrate and sugar options like orange and apple juice. Recently after an uncomfortable red eye into Charlotte, I ordered a shot of Wheat Grass followed by a double shot of Ginger Juice with lemon to awaken my spirit and my body. Both are high in alkalinity which is great for the immune system, and a great energy booster after little or no sleep.
Book a Hotel with a Gym
While I do a lot of walking on trips, it doesn’t always equate to a cardio workout that keeps your heart rate steady for a solid 45-60 minutes. I’ve never been a fan of gyms, largely because most don’t have windows, and you find yourself staring at a room full of techno weight-lifting machines while you’re exercising. I’d much rather be looking at a breathtaking mountain during a bike ride or hike than staring at a TV screen in a crowded gym, wouldn’t you? That said, I’ve learned that dedicating time to cardio, even if its 30 minutes on an Elliptical trainer can boost your energy and help you sleep better at night.
Photo credit: blog.codyapp.com.
I’ve been taking herbs and supplements for years and remain a fan of the value they can bring when they’re the right ones. That said, it’s easy to spend oodles of cash on regular supplements, take ones that don’t really help your blood or body type or may be in conflict with something else you’re taking.
I’m not a doctor, so cannot and will not recommend what you should take – my advice is to get some blood tests done and then seek the advice of a holistic doctor who has both a traditional and holistic approach to health. From your results and the day-to-day snapshot you provide, you will have a clearer idea of what combination of supplements will best work. Personally, I always have Vitamin C and Echinecia with me to boost my immune system when I’m feeling run down, as well as CQ10 (good for the heart), Calcium and Magnesium, but seek advice from an expert to determine the right fit for you, which btw, can change over time.
Sleep Isn’t Underrated
Anyone who knows me will be surprised to see sleep on my must list. I spent the last two decades not saying no to anything. If an opportunity came up, even if it was at 11 pm, I’d likely head off with my new found friends I just met in a new city and explore a new place or experience. I have always worked hard….and played hard, which resulted in a lifestyle that took all the culture and nature a destination had to offer for 10-12 hours and thereafter, I’d still put in a few hours of work and photo processing before hitting the hay. Over time, lack of sleep knocks your body for a loop and can weaken your immune system. I also find that I’m more forgetful and that my mind isn’t as clear when I don’t get uninterrupted rest.
Invest in Earplugs & Noise Machines
These come in handy for light sleepers who just read the last line and thought, “uninterrupted sleep on the road, are you kidding?” We tested out Macks Earplugs, one of the most popular and easy-to-find earplugs on the market earlier this year and we are eager to test out more in the coming months. As for noise machines, there are several to choose from. I wrote about Sound + Sleep and Sound Therapy noise machines last year and we’ll try to review a few other brands in 2016.
Make Balance a Priority (Yoga, Meditation & Stretching)
As someone who loves to take in as much as a destination can throw my way, I have to remind myself how important balance is along the way. That doesn’t mean that you can’t paint the town red from time-to-time and there are certainly cities that warrant it such as Shanghai, Tokyo, New York, Berlin and Paris. Be cognizant of your schedule however and if you take in a bit too much of whatever newly concocted alcohol a new culture has to offer one night, take it easy the next day. Sit at a café and people watch while you replenish your body with green drinks wherever you can get them.
Even if you’re not a yogi or committed to meditation and stretching, TRY! Check out my article on Wellness Travel to Jamaica and where you get your YOGI on along the Jamaican coast. If you focus your trip on mind/body balance, then you’re going to get really great results and more importantly, be at peace.
Water is Key
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I can’t emphasize this enough – by the time you’re thirsty, it’s already too late…your body likely needed water hours earlier. Carrying a water bottle reminds you to fill up when it gets low and will also infuse your body with the love and care it needs. Remember that water, like oxygen, also gives you more energy.
Photo credit: www.euclidlibrary.org.
Invest in High Quality Headphones
A set of high quality headphones can mute out unwanted noise, not necessarily when you’re sleeping at night, but when you’re on a long flight or simply in a crowded noisy café. Sure, you want to experience the hustle and bustle of a city especially if it’s part of the culture – after all, the stimuli you can absorb in late night Miami or any time of day in Tokyo’s Shibuya can be intoxicating. After awhile, however, it can be draining and that’s the time to whip out the noise-cancelling earphones to calm your nervous system for an hour or so. We love the new JBL Headsets so much so that we included their latest — the Everest Elite 700 in our Holiday Gift Guide this year, although we’d still love to experience headphones from Parrot and Bose.
Meditation | Calming Music on your Phone
It has never been easier to download songs and create playlists, making relaxing audio accessible to you at any time. There are so many free choices, but if you want some suggestions and are open to new age, yogi and oneness music, ping me.
Bring a Scarf
As silly as this sounds, a scarf can be useful for many things, including acting as a shield when you’re on an airplane and surrounded by coughing and sneezing flyers. It always astounds me how often people will sneeze right now to you without covering their mouth and if children are around, it’s even harder.
The other useful thing a scarf can be good for is scent. Yes, really. Bring a few flavors of pure essential oils with you, such as Lavender or Rosemary, and put a few drops of them into your scarf. Ever walk through a crowded urban area filled to the brim with garbage? Now, you have your handy beautiful smelling scarf to hold over your nose while you make the journey. It’s a great way to be temporarily transported elsewhere even if only for a few minutes. It can make an otherwise unpleasant experience a little easier to bear.
Breathing exercises might just be the hardest thing for me to do never mind make them regular routine, even when I’m home. Remember that shallow breathing decreases your quality of life, so the more oxygen you can feed your lungs, the better. Start by lying down on your back and relaxing before you begin and turn on that meditation track you created before you left home.
Photo credit: www.madlyjuicy.com.
Take a few deep breathes in counting as you and then release. As you release your breathe, do so very slowly counting to ten. After a few repetitive and slow breathe intakes and letting go on the way out, you’ll find that your whole body will respond, even if your mind is still in worrying mode. Remember it’s the mind’s job to make you crazy at times and it’s part of being human – the lizard brain has a role to play. The trick is however is to calm it and not let it drive your conscious life, but use it when you need it most, like responding to a dangerous situation or gut instinct. Lastly, and this is an important one since it’s often so hard to do. I recently dealt with this in a big bold way and it was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn (and still will need to learn).
Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
If an opportunity doesn’t feel right, be “okay” with turning it down. Listen to your body. I was recently invited to Colombia but the flight times were so exhausting in both directions that it involved only a few hours of sleep on the way there – the airport hotel was apparently an hour away after arriving after midnight with an early morning flight for a third leg the next day and a red eye on the way back, with little or no re-coop time on the ground. There wasn’t an opportunity to stay over for a day or two en route to break up the travel schedule — thinking about the exhaustion my body would feel before even arriving wasn’t a good way to kick off Colombia, a country I’ve been dying to get to for years. Clearly, it wasn’t a smart choice for increasing the chances of a positive first impression of the country.
Photo credit: imbreannarose.com.
That said, the guilt I self-inflicted for saying no lasted for a couple of weeks before I finally realized that if life balance is integral to your life, then you have to turn a blind eye to people who don’t respect your choice, because by making you feel “wrong,” they’re not respecting you. This was a tough decision since the destination has been so high on my list for years, but making a conscious choice for a healthy life also means saying no to unhealthy “travel” choices and people who don’t respect and support your needs and choices. Having faith that a less chaotic trip to Colombia will present itself was hard, but I realized it was necessary to maintain a balanced life.
With that choices comes respecting yourself, which is sadly harder for so many of us than it should be. Society doesn’t always support it, so it needs to start with you.
After all, if you’re not the driver of your life, then someone or something else will be. Remember your life canvas is yours to create so paint it full of vibrant color and excitement but make sure it’s also heavily laced with respect, joy serenity and peace.
Note that all of these tips are based are useful things I have done over the years – no company listed here sent me products, requested or paid me for them to include in this article — they are entirely my own choices and suggestions.