Traveling is the opposite of maintaining a normal routine. We sleep in strange places, eat new foods (possibly at bizarre times of the day) and immerse ourselves in new places surrounded by new experiences. Our senses are heightened and we’re aware of what’s going on around us more so than if we’d stayed home.
Let’s face it: Travel can be exhausting and because it can take a lot of effort, it puts stress on the body. Increased levels of stress can be good in small doses, but constant, high-stress situations leave the immune system weak, and the chances for getting sick increase.
The last thing you want to do on your well-deserved vacation is suffer through a sore throat or deal with a runny nose. You don’t have to … if you proactively do things to stay healthy when you travel:
Eat well. By all means, you should indulge in a flaky pastry for breakfast in Paris, enjoy the street food in Morocco and melt into the rich cheeses of Switzerland, but try to keep at least a small amount of nutritional balance in your diet. Seek out fruits and vegetables that provide the nutrients and vitamins your body needs to ward of germs and stay healthy, and don’t eat a lot of food just because it’s placed in front of you. If you have a long day of travel or are away from a city center, carry a healthy snack with you so you don’t overindulge once dinnertime rolls around.
Drink lots of water. Hydration is important regardless of what the temperature is outside. I always carry my own water bottle and refill it at every opportunity possible. In places where travelers need to buy safely bottled drinking water, make sure you have more than you think you’ll need. Buy an extra bottle to carry with you (even if it is a bit bulky) or buy a massive bottle instead of one that just holds 16 ounces. Drinking water keeps your body flushed of toxins, helps recovery from hangovers and can help mitigate the effects of altitude sickness. It’s especially important to drink lots of water if you experience bouts of diarrhea.
Work out. This one is probably pretty easy for most people considering the fact that a lot of transportation is likely done on foot or bike, especially in cities. If you consistently work out at home, though, and walking isn’t doing it for you, there are other options. I also pack my running shoes and can usually manage to squeeze in a few miles of jogging every day. A lot of hotels and resorts have on-site gyms (though you may need to pay a small fee), but you can also look into purchasing a day pass at a local fitness center.
Breathe. Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to go, go, go all the time. In fact, taking the time to meditate, do yoga and just relax are important in maintaining optimal health. If you don’t find it too bulky, consider packing a yoga mat with you so that every morning or evening you have a place to stretch and reflect.
Get enough sleep. Jet lag is a killer for many travelers. You want to do one thing, your body wants to do something else and, quite frankly, everything just gets a whole lot worse from there. From the moment you step onto the plane (or get in the car or find your seat on the train), you need to listen to your body about what it needs for sleep. It is tempting to stay up late and get up early to make the most of your time when you travel, and it’s okay to stretch your days just a bit more, but don’t overdue it. The body heals itself while you sleep, so give it the time it needs to do its job properly.
Keep your vaccinations up-to-date. Stay current with your vaccinations so there’s no chance of contracting something you never anticipated. Likewise with malaria medication. If you know there is a potential medical threat where you’re going, then act prudently to protect your body from any unintended illnesses that could lay you up for days on end.
Top photo courtesy of my sister.