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11 Tips To Stay Healthy And Fit On The Road

by Meg · 10 comments

Back at home I was a health nut and gym devotee.  Going into my RTW trip, I thought that I would be able to easily maintain my daily routine of working out and eating like a saint… Boy was I wrong!

A part of being a backpacker travelling the world is being able to roll with the punches.  Some days you are going to be trapped on a 20 hour bus in South America with nothing but a bag of chips and a ham & cheese sandwich.  Some days you are staying with a host family and must eat whatever they put in front of you.  And I have yet to see a Whole Foods or Equinox gym (or anything remotely equivalent) in the past two months I have spent on the road.

In addition, many of the countries you visit during your travels have PHENOMENAL cuisines.  You want to try it all – The steak in Argentina, the pasta in Italy, the pastries in France, the Pho in Vietnam… You get the point.

So how do you maintain a healthy lifestyle when backpacking the world… While still having fun?

It’s easy… And it’s all about BALANCE!

With these 11 simple tricks, Tony and I have managed to maintain our weight, health, and sanity on our RTW journey:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep:  This one doesn’t always come that easy.  Sometimes you are in a cramped overnight bus, sometimes you have noisy roommates in your hostels… and sometimes you just want to party! But remember, if you are on an RTW trip, your journey is a marathon – not a sprint.  If you are always skipping the ideal 7-8 hours of sleep each night, you WILL eventually get rundown and sick.
  2. Drink LOTS of water:  This is a no brainer.  Drinking at least 8 glasses a day will keep you hydrated during your travels, will rid your body of toxins from all the foreign crap you may be eating, and will keep you feeling great!
  3. Cook in your hostel when you can: It’s cheaper and healthier than eating out three meals a day.  Check out our tips on how to make cooking in your hostel a piece of cake!

    Whipping up some nutritious and delicious homemade pasta in our hostel

  4. Eat Yogurt:  Before my RTW trip, I asked my doctor what supplements I could take on the road to stay healthy.  I figured she would prescribe a multi-vitamin or Vitamin C supplements but all she instructed me to take on a daily basis was Probiotics.  They are incredibly expensive to buy as pills but I just make it a habit of eating a yogurt a day at breakfast to get the probiotics I need to help digestion and protect me from harmful bacteria.
  5. Eat veggies and fruit whenever they are available: Getting your essential vitamins couldn’t be easier than sticking with these two food groups when they are available.  Many hostels offer fruit at breakfast, so stock up in the morning and be sure to cook veggies (or order them out) for lunch and dinner whenever you can.  However, in foreign countries (especially third world locations) be sure to exercise caution when eating any raw fruits and vegetables!

    Getting my veggie fix on after gorging on steak in Buenos Aires

  6. Split meals: In South America especially, restaurants are known to have “Menu Del Dias” or fixed menus for the day that typically involve three courses of food.  These are often big enough that two people can split a meal and leave the restaurant feeling satisfied, yet not incredibly full.
  7. You do not need to finish everything on your plate: Now, if I am at a kickass restaurant eating something purely blissful, then I am usually a member of the “Clean Plate Club”.  However, if you are out to dinner at an average restaurant and the portions are large, try just eating half of what’s on your plate.  Restaurants often serve 2-3 portions worth of food on a plate and if you are eating out a bunch on the road, it will begin to add up… Trust me!

    A typical plate of meat in Argentina. Note to self: You do not need to finish this!

  8. Balance your day: If you are in Argentina and you know you are going to be feasting on amazing steak dinner at night, try opting for a light breakfast and a salad for lunch.  It helps you balance out your caloric intake for the day and also allows you to get your fruits and veggies into your diet on the days you splurge on the not-so-healthy foods.
  9. Walk as much as possible: As a backpacker, this one is easy.  When travelling around, there is so much to see and explore… So get out there!  It is a great way to burn calories throughout the day and keep your heart in good cardiovascular shape.
  10. Exercise when you can: Some places you travel to can be really hard to workout in.  In La Paz, Bolivia we were staying in a cramped hotel and the city was too dangerous to go for a run outside.  In those situations, you just have to go with the flow and nix your daily routine. But take advantage of the times when you can workout and get moving!  If you are in a safe location with good running parks and trails then go for it!  Some hostels or hotels also have outdoor areas or empty spaces where you can do some strength training workouts to keep your muscles in top shape.

    A beautiful running trail in El Chalten, Argentina

  11. Download fitness apps on your computer, iTouch, or iPhone: My personal favorite is Nike Training Club (or NTC).  The Nike Training Club App is a full-body functional training app that you can use anytime, anywhere.  On this app, they have personal trainers that guide you through workouts targeted to your specific goals – whether it’s to become lean, toned, or strong.  They have workouts anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes and the workouts can also synch up to your iPod music playlist – sweet!  Whenever I am in a hostel with a patio area or a recreation area, it is incredibly easy to bust out one of these routines and get my daily sweat on!

    Best RTW workout ever!

These are just the steps Tony and I take to looking and feeling fab on the road.  I am sure there are plenty more, so please share!

About Meg
Exhausted from traveling every week as a Business Management Consultant early in my career, I took a year off in 2012 to travel at my own pace. I am a high-energy girl that loves being active, eating food, drinking wine, and exploring the world with my partner-in-crime (and husband), Tony! I now reside in Portland, Oregon and continue to write about travel, food, wine, and the awesome adventures we have in the Pacific NW!

Alex Barr March 14, 2012 at 1:44 pm

These are great tips, Meg! When Jacquie and I backpacked around Europe we would buy ourselves one fancy meal at each city we visited, then stuck to cooking our own meals. We also found that having some sandwich fixin’s or healthy snacks on us during the day or on long travel days prevented us from ending up starving and buying any junk we could get our hands on. Fresh fruits, a loaf of bread, and some deli meat never really got old :). Also that trick about the yogurt is another good one. Hayley and I ate a cup every day on our trip in New Zealand and never got sick. It makes you feel great, has good protein, and comes in so many flavors that it’s also hard to get sick of.

Thanks for posting so frequently! I love to read about your guys’ adventures and advice!

Meg March 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Thanks Alex! I am so happy to hear that you are following along! And you’re right; fruit, bread, meats, and yogurt never get boring – There are so many options and they are so much healthier (and cheaper!) than the rest of the junk you can find on the road. Right now, Tony and I are in Peru (and before that, Bolivia) so we have been eating out a lot because eating out is soooo cheap, but we are heading to Cusco tomorrow for 12 days and are hoping to cook a lot in the place we are staying. Let us know if you have any easy recipes to share – We are always looking to expand our horizons! Keep in touch :-)

Jeannie March 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Great tips! I have been struggling with this as well, it is so tempting to try everything and also I feel bad about not cleaning my plate.

Meg March 15, 2012 at 6:25 pm

I know… I am always so curious about foreign cuisines and so far they have been so yummy that it is so easy to finish my plate! Also, in a lot of countries (especially Bolivia and Peru where people are very poor) I definitely feel guilty not finishing my plate :-(

Barb March 14, 2012 at 9:47 pm

I’m using your food tips for my own nutrition plan. Thanks for all the great information – keep it coming!!!!

Meg March 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Glad to hear Barb and good luck!

Matthew Skelding July 23, 2015 at 8:00 am

These are all great tips, I’m a student and travelling around Europe currently on a very low budget. It’s my second time backpacking and one thing I have found useful is nuts. They’re full of the fats and proteins you need, I’m tucking on some now whilst sat under a fig tree in Venice, Italy.

It’s the middle of summer, too, which means I’m sweating a lot and it can get a little overwhelming going for a run-whatever time of day. Look at what the locals do; in my second day, I arrived in bern, Switzerland, in unusual 36 degree Celsius heat. The locals all headed down to the river which was of a beautiful temperature, not to mention a gorgeous turquoise colour. You can get a tan, cool down AND exercise all at the same time by swimming. There are all sorts of opportunities to do so, just make sure the water is safe first (watch what the locals do).

Meg July 23, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Thanks for commenting Matthew and great call on the nuts! I personally loved peanut butter on the road – whenever i found some, I stocked up in my backpack. Enjoy Switzerland! It is so stunning there. I am jealous! :-)

Susan George March 21, 2017 at 5:48 am

If you want to stay healthy eat healthy and workout daily, nice article thanks for sharing.

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