We all know the struggles of travelling on budget- fitness goes out of the window! When we travel we love to indulge in good food (lots of good food), lazing on the beach for long periods of time and a nice few drinks to end the day with. What’s a good trip without a lot of treats? Sadly this lifestyle can really catch up with us after a few months, and as two very keen health and fitness fanatics (although, not perfect ones for sure) we have had to find a way to keep on top of this whilst away. So if you would like some of our advice on what works for us, here is our straightforward, fool proof plan to keeping fit whilst backpacking!
The oldest rule in the book, and by far the most effective. Exercise. You need to be keeping active to live a truly healthy lifestyle- you can’t just rely on your diet to do all the work. Now let’s be honest, most backpackers can’t afford a gym membership whilst away/ are never in one place for long enough that it would be worthwhile to get one. Therefore if we do want to exercise on our travels, most people have to find alternative ways to do so.
Here’s what we do:
- Go for a RUN! This is simple, free way to get some exercise that will also get you out and about in new places. It is a great way to see the sights and explore the area you are visiting- what better way to exercise than in beautiful places? However a word of caution: Running on hard ground surfaces such as concrete pavements can be bad for your knees in the long run (no pun intended), so we would suggest running along softer grounds such as a beach or a grassy area when possible. It can be hard to motivate yourself to go for a run, so get yourself an amazing playlist and maybe find a friend to be your running buddy!
- Go for a HIKE. There are hiking trails pretty much anywhere, so have a quick Google search and get out there! Another great opportunity to experience the natural beauties of the area you’re in. You might even spot some incredible hidden gems!
- SWIMMING- When travelling we are often in places that have a beach/ pool nearby, so use this to your advantage and do a lot of swimming! It is a great way to stay fit, so try to avoid paddling in the shallow end and get some real swimming done! Even if you are no where near a beach you can often search if there are any open swimming pools in the area; sometimes hotels offer the use of their pools for a small fee.
- If you happen to be staying in a hotel that has a gym, USE IT! Even if it isn’t a regular thing, exercise whenever possible is better than nothing!
- Make your own 5 minute fitness routine that you can do in your hotel/hostel room. This is the option we use the most as its the easiest way for us to work exercise into our busy routines. Obviously we mostly try to do this when everyone is out of the room to avoid too much embarrassment, but it really is a great way to keep fit. Some examples of short exercises we do are:
- Sit ups
- Press ups
- Jumping Jacks
- Tricep Dips
As long as you commit to doing these quick workouts every day, you’ll be able to maintain a reasonably good fitness level. Start with 3 sets of each activity. Keep increasing the number of reps you do in a set over time, and eventually your stamina should increase too. Set yourself goals and aim to achieve them- this will help motivate you to keep it up. It is very easy when travelling to just say “I don’t have time today” or “I have barely slept, I’m too tired” but these workouts will take only five minutes out of your day! Commitment is key.
- Most importantly, just stay active whenever possible in any ways you can. Go cycling in Amsterdam. Do a jungle trek in Costa Rica. Snorkel in the Bahamas. Try Salsa dancing in Madrid. Go rock climbing in Yosemite. Do a walking tour of NYC. Do yoga on the beach in Bali. Do a Muay-Thai boxing lesson in Thailand. Surf your heart out in Australia. No matter where you are, finding something active to do will definitely pay off. You don’t have to be pumping weights in the gym to keep fit, every little helps. And its an added bonus to say that you have experienced some of these incredible adventures and ticked them off the bucket list!
It really doesn’t matter what level of fitness you are starting at/ how much you are able to do. The important thing is that you are starting somewhere and consistently progressing.
Food and Diet
Let’s be honest, the biggest factor in weight gain for most people whilst away from home is our ‘holiday diet’ and what we eat when abroad. It’s so hard to eat healthy when you can’t really afford to buy the things you would get in a typical food shop at home. Street food is far cheaper than restaurants in most places, so it is extremely tempting to get fried chicken every day for dinner. For travellers on a budget it is often very tempting to just get a lot of cheap instant noodles to get us by.
Now, we know the whole fun of being on holiday is that you should be able to do and eat what you please. We don’t really think it is completely necessary to dramatically change your diet whilst you are away- EAT WHAT YOU WANT! As long as you are keeping fit with exercise we believe that you can afford to treat yourself to some delicious snacks. However, there are some ways that we can try to avoid having an excess of unnecessary calories every day, and eat delicious food that is also extremely good for you.
- Avoid buying loads of snacks that are high in sugar/salt from convenience stores such as 711, and opt for fresh fruit from a market stall instead- far more hydrating and full of amazing vitamins that you will most likely be lacking whilst travelling! Not to mention fruit is so refreshing when its hot, and tastes good too! We don’t expect you to cut out snacks completely (we all need a bit of chocolate every now and then), but maybe limit yourself a bit more. If you have a long day of travelling ahead of you, stock up on healthy snacks such as nuts, bananas and apples to keep you going throughout the day. They are also release energy slower throughout the day so it will do you a favour in the long run.
- DRINK LOTS OF WATER. This is a point we really can’t stress enough!!! Water benefits EVERYTHING! Drinking lots of water speeds up your metabolism, so if you are going for those chocolate bars, at least help your body process them easier! It will also keep your skin hydrated and glowing. If you are doing a lot of walking in the heat, you will need to drink even more to replace the fluids in your body. We recommend buying the biggest bottles of water in the shop as this is far more economical and you definitely should be getting through at least one of these a day! Remember you should drink at least 8 glasses of water a day on average. Whilst in a hot country, sweating and exercising, you should be drinking even more! If you struggle to get through this much in one day, a good trick is to chug one glass of water straight away before pouring your next one, and then pace yourself on the next. If you drink the glasses of water in pairs like this, it makes it feel a lot easier to get through the 8 glasses, as it feels more like 4! When you eat out, opt for a bottle of water instead of a fizzy drink/ beer, this small change is really going to help you cut down on calories.
- EAT WHAT THE LOCALS EAT. In places like South East Asia, western restaurants are more expensive and the food tends to just be greasy burgers/ below-average pizzas. Whilst the Asian cuisine is mostly fresh and healthy with lots of vegetables and little frying. Try to opt for leaner meats and fish whenever you can, and boiled rice over fried rice.
- If there are kitchen facilities in your accommodation, try your best to COOK FOR YOURSELF whenever possible! In some countries like New Zealand and Australia where it is quite expensive to travel, eating out can be a big issue for your budget! If you are cooking for yourself you can make sure you are getting a much more balanced diet. A lot of travellers on a budget will opt for lots of pasta and rice, but there are ways to eat well at a decent price! We found that buying meat from a butcher was a lot cheaper and you can get great deals there by getting the reduced meat offers. Salad and vegetables are probably quite pricey for your budget, however they are worth the investment if you want to stay healthy! A good way to save money is to opt for canned vegetables, canned fish and beans (such as peas, kidney beans, tuna etc.). These are a lot cheaper than fresh food but are still pretty good for you.
- If you’re frying food, invest in a jar of COCONUT OIL– it is honestly a miracle oil and is actually multi-purpose (it can also be used for oil pulling to whiten your teeth, body moisturiser, and hair conditioner). Studies have proven that cooking with oils such as olive oil/ vegetable oil can actually be harmful to you, as when heated to a high enough temperature, oils change their molecular compositions, breaking down into shorter chains known as Aldehydes which are actually cancer-causing and can increase the risk of heart disease. Coconut oil is much better for you and doesn’t cost much more. Controversially, even butter is better to cook with than cooking oils! Anything with a thicker consistency is going to be a better option, as they are longer-chain hydrocarbons, and therefore need more heat to oxidise- so the risk of releasing aldehydes is very low. Stick to using oil as a salad dressing, to get the polyunsaturated fats in a healthy way!
- Get plenty of sleep! This one can be difficult when travelling as you’re on such a crazy schedule all the time. Realistically you’re going to get no sleep after a Full Moon Party, but whenever you can, try to aim for at least 7 hours sleep a night.
- Look for stalls selling smoothies/ fresh fruit juice- they are a great energy boost and source of vitamins. If you can, get some power foods in there such as kale, spinach or avocado. They’ll turn your smoothie a weird colour but it doesn’t affect the taste and they provide a hell of a lot of nutrients!
- Try not to overdo it with alcohol. We all love a good night out, but try to limit how many drinks you have (hard to do, we know). Alcohol drastically slows down your metabolism, and is full of calories, along with all of its other health issues. So we recommend limiting binging as much as possible.
- Take multivitamins. They’re arguably just a placebo, but if you aren’t eating that well whilst away, they could be a good replacement for the essential vitamins you’re lacking.