Bringing Healthy Travel Habits Home
When I travel I walk everywhere, I snorkel for hours, I bicycle and climb and spend every minute of the day exploring. I eat lots of ceviche and fresh fruit, and I drink tons of water. I always lose weight, and I feel stronger.
Then I come home and fall back into the same sedentary habits. I sleep in, I sit on the couch, I watch tv, I surf the internet, I eat for convenience rather than enjoyment of the meal. I don’t participate in my life at home the way I do when I travel someplace else. Why is that? Isn’t my family and my life worth as much attention as a foreign culture?
Stephen King called the television “the glass teat” and it sucks us in. Hours disappear and our lives pass us by with little interaction or meaning. We spend a lot of money on it, and we keep saying we should cancel the satellite service, but “The Fast and the Furious” is on right now while I write this. At least in #5 they were in Rio, reminding me of my travels there last year. Most days I’ve been living vicariously through the Travel Channel.
Recent lab tests showed low Vitamin D levels, and I realized how little I’ve been getting out. In the winter I had the excuse of “it’s too cold to go outside,” but spring has arrived and I still find myself at the end of a day with little or no sun exposure. Low Vitamin D seems like a silly problem to have because we just need to get out in the sun to make it, it’s so easy. Have I let myself slip this far down into the comfy couch?
Most of all I procrastinate. I sit and plan when I should be doing. This has to change. I have to change.
I’m a good 50 lbs heavier than I should be with a bunch of diabetics in my family. I’m achy and tired most of the time, and I don’t sleep well. When I see pictures of myself I think “Gah! Is that what I look like?” Don’t even talk to me about clothes shopping.
Even worse, my husband is overweight and out of shape right along with me, and his family has a tendency to drop dead of heart problems around ago 50. I told him he’s not allowed to do that. It’s not about being skinny, it’s about being healthy and alive. We can’t go on this way, especially if we’re going to live our travel dreams.
Travel is not easy, it is physically demanding, and not being up to the task will just make an amazing vacation into a miserable ordeal. I learned this first hand last year in Peru. I had really looked forward to seeing Machu Picchu, but by the time my group got there I was sleep deprived and exhausted from days of hiking tours. It felt like a death march through the ruins, and I could hardly see it, much less enjoy it. My own physical condition sabotaged my experience.
I recently read about travel blogger, Lisa Niver Rajna, who lost her extra weight while she traveled throughout Asia. I would love to travel full-time, to walk and snorkel and get in shape by climbing ancient ruins. But my family is not quite ready for that yet, and right now I know I’m not going to get very far up the pyramid before I’m gasping and light-headed. I want to enjoy my adventures, not suffer through them, so I have to start preparing now.
So here’s the starter plan to bring my healthy travel habits home:
1) Walk more. We live in a small town with a grocery store just down the street that we walk to, but we need to go further. The kids love to ride their bikes, so Jason and I are going to start walking and eventually running alongside them. Maybe this will help with that Vitamin D deficiency, too.
2) Snorkel. Yes, it’s Iowa so I won’t be cruising coral reefs like I do in Mexico, but we have a gym membership expressly so we can swim in the winter. Now that it’s warm we haven’t been going to the pool, and I need to get back in the water even if it’s chlorinated. Practicing my skills will get me in better shape and make me a safer snorkeler and diver when we do get to the ocean.
3) Eat better. When we came back from our first trip to Mexico we had developed a taste for lime on everything, and our diets have changed to reflect our travels. We eat more vegetables, more fresh food, but far too often we hit the drive thru or eat out of a box. There are too many delicious alternatives to eat crap like that. It’s a work in progress.
4) Get off the couch. This might be the most important one. When I travel I don’t waste a minute, I want to see everything. I couldn’t believe people were taking naps on our tour of South America last year-I was up early every day and usually out late every night. It was exhausting, but exhilarating, and it made me stronger over just a few weeks. At home I spend more time with screens than with people and I don’t get out much. I know I miss a lot, and I waste a lot of time. This needs to change, not only for my health but for my happiness.
Travel takes preparation, and that means more than planning an itinerary and packing the right stuff. That means getting yourself ready physically so you can not just go somewhere, you can take part in being there. It’s safer, it’s more productive, and it ‘s fun. When you feel good you enjoy your life more no matter where you are.
How do you prepare your body for travel? What health habits do you notice that are different between home and away?
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