I am an anxious traveller. My bags are always packed and sitting next to the front door hours before we need to leave, while I pace around the living room waiting for time to pass. I’ll sit down on the couch, then get straight back up. I check my phone incessantly to make sure we’re on time. I’ll ask Tom for the millionth time if he has the passports & tickets. He’ll patiently look at me and says “yes, you big weirdo” before finally giving in to my annoying behaviour and lets us leave the house.
This is how most of our trips start; but why? Travelling is so exciting & exotic - it’s nothing in particular that makes it so; just the whole shebang really. Maybe it’s being commitment & work-free, maybe it’s also the change in culture, language, people and of course, the food, that’s most alluring. Travelling is also a time when you’re out of your comfort zone, in unfamiliar territory & out of routine, which can make it tough to eat healthy foods, keep colds & flus at bay & sleep well.
Over the past 18 months we've been travelling & living in Europe (on a rather extended honeymoon, if you can still call it that). But we now call London home, so we’re lucky enough to be able to float around, soaking up different cultures whenever the opportunity presents itself. Over the time we've been away from Australia we've enjoyed everything from rushed weekend trips to a 4-month stint of backpacking, so I've worked out a few key travel ‘rules’ that work for me. They keep me healthy & energised.
My 10 Travel Tips for the Healthy Traveller:
1. Let go – Embrace the cultural changes – whether it’s the food, people or language (no, I cannot speak a word of French beyond merci, which I use in every country as a result, and for some strange reason I put on an accent that falls somewhere between Russian and South-East Asian, but I still get exasperated when the locals can’t understand me!).
Anyway, back to the key message - do as the locals do, sleep when the locals sleep and eat what the locals eat, when they eat.
Even if the local cuisine isn't exactly at the top of your list of healthy foods, relax and enjoy it. You’ll enjoy yourself more (and your stress hormones will thank you) if you let go of the guilt and embrace the best each destination has to offer.
2. Herbs – Take some herbal teas with you, especially ones that reduce bloating & nausea and aid digestion. The best ones for these are peppermint & licorice, fennel, ginger, green tea, rooibos & chamomile.
3. Digestive Enzymes – These babies support the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins; breaking foods down into easily absorbable nutrients. They are useful in reducing bloating & cramps, supporting colon health and aiding digestion. Take one capsule with each main meal.
Recently we were staying in a beautiful vineyard on the Duoro Valley in Portugal and even though we were eating local food (literally – from their own veggie patch), we were still enjoying ourselves and tucking into bread & wine at dinner, which we don’t normally do. The digestive enzymes helped considerably – the gluten protease breaks down gluten in the wheat.
Digestive enzymes are great for helping you get Rule 1 right!
4. Take Home-made Snacks - There’s something secretly satisfying about making everyone else in cattle class jealous of you when you casually pull out your well-equipped, delicious picnic to munch on throughout the flight.
So this does involve a bit of preparation at home, but it’s well worth it when you’re bouncing off the plane with loads of energy! Anything will do – I recently whipped up some guacamole for ‘dinner’ and right there on Eurostar we had our own little Mexican Fiesta.
If you don’t have time for this then throw in some high-protein snacks – nuts & seeds, cacao nibs, pesto, hummus, oat cakes, or veggie sticks (such as carrot, cucumber, capsicum, etc.).
5. Probiotics – Ideally, try to take some probiotics with you as they recolonise ‘good’ gut bacteria, strengthen gut lining , reduce constipation & diahorrea & modulate immune function. But, if you’re a little more unorganised (like I was in Latvia) get your hands on some local foods that are high in prebiotics (food for the probiotics) and probiotics. For example, kefir (which Latvians typically drink each morning), full-fat natural yoghurt, kombucha, miso soup, tempeh, berries, legumes & even dark chocolate.
6. Google – Consult Google & Trip Advisor to research your local health food stores & farmers’ markers so that you can stock up on the essentials when you arrive. And don’t forget to book some cafes or restaurants that serve authentic, healthy and seasonal food.
7. Homeopathic Remedies – Always take a couple of your homeopathic travel remedies. My two ‘must-haves’ would be Nux Vomica and Arnica. Nux is perfect for the busy & over-indulgent traveler. Indicated for overindulging in food, alcohol and caffeine, it reduces spasms in both the gut & head, and supports the function of the liver, making it very useful for hangovers. Arnica is indicated for jetlag as well as shock & trauma; if you or anyone you’re travelling with is accident prone, maybe even uncoordinated (you know, falls off a bike & rips open their knee like this very talented Naturopath did) then this is a must.
8. Downward Dog – Busting out a few yoga poses at the beginning or end of the day is incredible for increasing circulation, reducing inflammation, regulating energy levels & balancing your nervous system.
Last weekend Tom walked in to the hotel room and I was lying down with my feet up against the wall saying “aaaahhhhh” – it just felt that good to get the blood pumping after a massive day of walking around Paree. He said “Oh my god…You’re just like Rozalin Focker”. I can only hope so – what an inspiring character Barbara Streisand played.
Yoga improves your flexibility, strength & balance. I promise you, it can be practiced anywhere – from your grubby hostel floor to the sand dunes in the Sahara desert. Just ten minutes a day can make a difference.
9. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate – Keep your fluids up – drink as much water, herbal tea, fresh juice/smoothies as you can. It’ll support your liver, cleanse your kidneys & help flush out toxins.
10. Get Down & Dirty – Every so often cast your shoes aside & walk barefoot. Allow yourself to connect with the Earth – it’s actually called Earthing. I know, I know, it’s something you can imagine a long haired, tie-dye wearing hippy saying. There’s nothing like getting back to nature, especially when you’re on holidays. Forcing yourself to stand or walk barefoot on grass or the beach allows you to connect with the earth, balance your nervous system & support your circadian rhythm. Just try it. Get your shoes off, take a stroll, find a nice tree to curl up under & take a nanna nap.
Olivia McFadyen, based in Mosman on Sydney's Lower North Shore, is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritional Therapist, Herbalist and Homoeopath. Whilst Olivia is a qualified Naturopath and Nutritionist, she is also a realist and understands the demands of modern day life, offering nutrition, herbal medicine and homoeopathic consultations and support without compromising on the enjoyment food can bring. She is passionate about supporting patients to reach their lifestyle goals, optimise their health & develop a healthy yet balanced way of life through naturopathy and homoeopathy. She services her clients by offering 4 and 12 week natural health programs from her clinic in Mosman on Sydney's Lower North Shore.