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How to Stay Fit While Traveling

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Disclaimer: What you are about to read is a story written by an obese writer. If you think he is not competent to write about fitness matters, you may easily hit the X button on the top or proceed into reading—-best with triple-decker burger & upsized soda.

A few straight facts about me can be rolled into one like a huge delicious burrito: I am fat, diabetic, hypertensive, smoker & still living a voracious eating lifestyle. I have lived almost half of my life scared of weighing scales & tape measures. In 2011, I weighed my heaviest at 220 pounds. A year after, I was already tugging along my needles & pillbox.

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Realizations of a full pocket but empty life crept in 2013. I dropped everything for a life of travel. Soon after, I was (and still am) in a maze of temples, trade fairs, festivals, waterfalls, gardens, skyscrapers, cafes, restaurants & street stalls. As a yummyeologist, conquering the world’s best cuisines is on top of my wandering priorities.

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I keep telling myself, it’s fine to get lost along the way as long as my tummy is full! But seriously, being a fat explorer is a hard life. I easily get tired especially when I am with fast-walker, long-strider Europeans. Crawling through narrow caves or climbing mountains are awkward, funny & embarrassing. I couldn’t sleep in dormitories because I snore. And the list of horrible things could go a long way that most fat people know (dahlin’ pass the ketchup, please).

Traveling is fun but it also sabotages our normal routines as well as our eating habits. We have the tendency to get excited over food because we want to take in as much experience of the place as we can. Most of the time, all our regimens are thrown out to give in to the temptations of delectable delights. I am guilty of this.

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Now that I have completely transitioned into my backpacking lifestyle, so many things changed—-my attitude towards “living” and the approaches I make in handling travel challenges, including food. This didn’t happen overnight. I had to battle with it, learned from other travelers & listened to my body. From a whooping 220 pound Dora, I am now temporarily down to 180 pounds!

I compiled a few good tips on how to keep up with fitness matters while traveling. Bring in the pizza, honey!

Change Your Traveling Style

When I was still employed, my work involved a lot of traveling. In 2013, I flew 89 times in a year (do the math, I’m full). My traveling style was always the comfortable & the luxurious. There was always someone looking after many details like food readiness, easy transportation availabilities, hotel bookings, even bag porterage. It was all so lazy.

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DIY trips save you money & it will keep you moving. You will sometimes find yourself running after a leaving bus or walking for a long time finding cheap hostels. It does not only keep your body active, it also trains your mind to be sharp by reading & following maps, strategizing your itineraries & decisions.

Walk or Bike When You Can

Walk or bike around instead of always taking the bus, subway or taxi if the sights you’re visiting are just within the area. Do away with tours that make you lazily hop-on & hop-off in vans. Aside from guided city tours are expensive, it’s also limiting your chance of orienting yourself with the place. Nothing beats finding your way around, in your own pace & your feet on the ground.

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When I went to Zhangjiajie National Park in China to see the famous Hallelujah Mountains, there were options for a cable car ride or to take the scenic elevator. But I chose to trek for about 5 hours from the base to the summit & about 3 hours going down. It may have been the more difficult way but I experienced how beautiful the forest is & the view of the imposing rock towers from the ground. My tongue was already behind me & my legs were seriously painful but it was all worth it.

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Don’t Deprive Yourself of Food

There’s science to the thought “eat in moderation” and it doesn’t need serious thinking. Food is always one of the best representations of people’s culture & we must not miss out on this. Sampling it is perfect but binging on it is not good.

My technique is to always reserve the best meal of the day for a specific food unique to that place. If there are more delicacies than expected, I look for bite sizes or someone to share it with. I don’t usually take big meals each time I eat because I reserve a space for the best one all the time.

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In Dazaifu, I learned that it is home to one of Japan’s best Udon & the best place to sample it is in a restaurant called Saifu-Udon. So I ate fruits for breakfast & splurged on my lunch. I snacked on 1 piece of umegae mochi & had a few pieces of sushi for dinner.

Pick the Healthier Options

Especially when we are on the road, it is important to bring little food to sustain us ‘til we reach our destination. It is always safe to pack fruits like apples & bananas because these are healthy and filling. The lack of water also kicks our hunger pangs so always choose to bring water or bottled juices.

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This is my biggest challenge because I am diabetic. Aside from fruits or a light sandwich, I make an exception by keeping a chocolate bar in case my blood sugar drops. It’s a reality that sometimes we get stuck in the bus or stalled in a temple with so many tourists around & a good meal just becomes an imagination. So when I feel I need to take a bite, I do whenever I can.

Eat More. Move More.

In one of my travels to Palawan Island in the Philippines, I met a Swiss personal fitness trainer, Jeremy who reminded me of the basic rule that if you eat more, you have to move more.

He shares that it is always nice to start the day with a few stretching exercises even in your hostel room. Take the opportunity of walking or jogging on the beach or on the hills for a few minutes while you savor the first rays of sun.

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If you happen to travel to Vientiane in Laos or in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, it’s fun to join their mass dance exercises held in their boardwalks at around 5PM. Around Vietnam too, there are lot of parks with free exercise machines where you can stretch & flex those sulking muscles.

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Have Fun in Outdoor Activities

Trekking, rappelling, caving and anything that requires a huge amount of power & endurance used to be my dreaded activities. I would just set a picnic mat somewhere & wait for my friends to come back. I was so scared of trying anything strenuous, I always had excuses.

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But I realized nothing will happen if I just sit under a tree gulping ice cold Coke. Also, if you get to travel with seasoned, fit & concerned travelers, they will encourage you to take each step at a time. I managed to do all of the once feared activities at my own pace & strength. I always come clean when I can’t do it & will try my best if I know it just takes stronger courage.

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Pace Your Energy

Sure, we’d like to cover more of the place we are visiting but proper pacing is important. If we pack our day with activities more than what our body can handle, the tendency of eating a lot becomes inevitable.

It may be important that we move a lot but by also giving our body & mind to breathe gives us more natural energy to sustain the day with only the required amount of food.

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I am guilty of this when I was on my last day in Taipei. I filled it hopping from one place to the next in a flash trying to see more places as I could. Walking & running, end-to-end. I knew the drill but I didn’t realize that I was eating too much throughout the day to compensate for the energy & the stress of running after schedules to finish before sunset. By the time I got to the hostel I was flat tired and bloated.

A Good Night’s Sleep

This is what many travelers miss out on —- a sound sleep at night. This is quite a challenge to achieve especially when you are in party places like Bangkok, Siem Reap, Ho Chi Minh, Boracay, Shinjuku. It’s a nice feeling to experience the nightlife of a place—loose buttons, hair down & be carefree. To celebrate a wonderful travel is necessary. Cheers to that!

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But if you overdo it, you’ll find yourself missing out on a lot of things the next day. You know what hang over is & how it will destroy you. We are all aware that when we deprive ourselves of sleep, the next day we feel like shriveled papayas & to boost energies, we resort to food overload.

I am a night person but whenever I am on travel, I pace my party times so I can tuck myself to bed early especially if I have a full itinerary the next day.

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I am still way too far from my weight goals. I know my will to stay fit will be challenged by harder temptations. But some things have to start somewhere, somehow. We can still have a full & happy experience of the places we visit even if we compromise on some of life’s pleasures.

Honestly, I still eat a lot but this time I move a lot too. I pace my “devouring ceremonies” & I’m already able to say NO to seconds, even if it breaks my heart.

I want to climb more mountains, swim in more beaches, rappel from waterfalls and slither through caves easily. I want to peacefully sleep in dorms without disturbing others by my snoring. I want to eat without guilt. I want a good & fit traveling life.

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Notes:
If you know more tips on how to stay in shape while traveling, feel free to write it on the comments box.
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    Comments ( 5 )

  • Jojo C.

    Hi Pot!

    I’m happy to see you fulfill this travelling adventure of yours.

    When you’re in Cebu or anywhere in the Visayas, let’s get in touch. We’ll talk a lot about getting fit while travelling (or vice versa if there’s such a thing!). I can definitely relate to most of the things that you mentioned in this post especially back when I was in SL where I last saw you.

    Anyway, I wish you luck in this endeavor. We’ll definitely share some spaces in the blogosphere soon.. : )

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