Welcome to my three part series on staying healthy, fit, and safe while traveling! Disclaimer: I am not a trained medical professional. These tips are from my own personal experience and you should consult a doctor before any travel plans or if you have any concerns.
Staying healthy while traveling and once you return home is a crucial part of having the best possible experience. Taking a few precautions will give you peace of mind during your travels. A couple of months before traveling, make sure to consult your doctor for which, if any, vaccines you’ll need and schedule accordingly.
When I travel, I always bring a few key medications with me. Although most places in the world will have pharmacies where you can buy most medicines you’d need, I like bringing my favorite brands of ibuprofen, sunscreen (you should be wearing this daily, people!), sinus medicines, and first aid supplies. When I board long distance flights, I always have my medications easily accessible just in case I need them. I also like to pack a few packets of a Vitamin C drink mix. I take one the day before flying and then will mix another one into water on the plane. Getting a cold or something worse as soon as you touch down in Bangkok or Budapest will quickly put a damper on your trip.
As someone who guzzles water like it’s going out of style on a normal day, it’s pretty much a given that I’m going to be dehydrated while on any flight. It may seem obvious to some, but one of the best ways to keep yourself healthy and feeling energized during your travels (and in everyday life) is to stay hydrated. I always pack a comically large BPA-free plastic water bottle to fill up once I’m through security at the airport. My apologies to any flight attendants for this, but I will admit to being that person constantly asking for water refills in my bottle (and yes--I always try to secure an aisle seat) during the flight. I find that drinking plenty of water while flying helps my body feel more relaxed and balanced and also helps me avoid some headaches. Having to get up to use the restroom every hour is also a great way to stretch your legs! (You're welcome for that bonus tip. Maybe I should charging for this advice.) Coconut water is another of my favorite ways to stay hydrated, especially on trips that involve being really active on hot days.
Eating healthy is especially important while traveling. The combination of the stresses associated with traveling, the likelihood of at least some sleep deprivation, and the whirlwind of new experiences are enough to make a person feel a little out of whack. Do your body a favor and gift it with fresh fruits and vegetables as often as possible. However, be cautious of tap water depending on your location. This recommendation does not just include drinking tap water, but also using it to brush your teeth, consuming unclean ice, or even washing produce with it. Be sure to research your location prior to traveling to find out if the tap water is safe to drink (and plan on bring anti-diarrheal medication just in case). If you have doubts about any fruits or vegetables, take care to consume only produce that you can peel or boil!
Our mental health often takes a backseat in our culture to physical health but is just as important, especially when exposing ourselves to the stresses and new experiences that go hand in hand with travel.
One of the best ways to give yourself peace of mind is to understand what type of traveler you are. If you are someone who likes to have everything planned in advance, take the time to set your schedule and book your accommodations and activities before you leave. These steps will help alleviate the anxiety of the unknown. Others like to have flexibility when they travel and will be better served while going with the flow.
When we travel we are often afraid of missing out on all types of experiences. After all, you traveled all the way to Europe to see as much as you could, right? However, like when we’re at home, occasionally you just need downtime. If you’re feeling run down or irritable with travel companions, it’s sometimes best to take some time to yourself and relax. For me that usually involves getting some alone time to read, watch a bit of television, or stroll around by myself. If you’re feeling homesick, don’t be embarrassed to call family or friends or treat yourself to something that makes you feel more at home, like watching reruns of a favorite tv show or finding an American restaurant.
Remember, just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean that you are not allowed to be human. Taking the time to treat your body and mind right is integral to living (and traveling) well. Find balance and use common sense in all matters regarding your health. And just like when you're home, be sure to follow your gut if something feels off. It's always better to be safe than sorry. Travel well, be well!
Carry the beautiful (and treat your body well)!
P.S. Stay tuned for Part 2: Staying Fit While Traveling!