Travel Tips: Keeping Healthy Whilst Backpacking

When I decided to go travelling, one of my biggest considerations was how I was going to maintain my health and fitness. Whilst I appreciate that isn’t always a priority for many backpackers, for me it was.

After four months of travel I am certainly not at my peak of fitness, but I have been able to maintain a basic level, whilst having the best time I could have hoped for.

Living in hostels, with very little (if any!) privacy is definitely one of the biggest barriers to keeping fit, but luckily being in Australia there are SO MANY alternative places to workout, instead of just “home” – not only are there lots of park areas, there are so many beaches! What better way to challenge your core and stability than a beach workout?

Getting out first thing in the morning (or later on in the evening) has also proven to be best for me – its even hot from 7:00am, but that’s nothing on the midday heat!! So whatever exercise you enjoy, I would recommend getting it done early both for the temperature and so you have the rest of the day for sightseeing, tours and whatever else comes up along the way.

When I reach a new place I try to scope out and see where I can exercise pretty soon after arrival, that way I can go out with a plan the next morning – otherwise I have a tendency to wander aimlessly looking for somewhere and wasting time.

Not only that but using travel, or waiting time, planning your next few workouts is invaluable – that way you have one less thing to think about, and one less barrier in place to stop you getting up and getting some exercise in when you have the opportunity.

During my travels there have been so many activities to try (hello surfing, sea kayaking, sailing, paddle boarding, cycling) all of which can help keep you active and your brain stimulated. Plus there is always the opportunity to walk either from a to b (perhaps more of a necessity in the more remote areas where public transport isn’t so great) or go for a hike to see some sights – the coastal walks here are the DREAM.

There are so many gyms and studios along the way, I have absolutely loved dropping in and trying as many as I can – not only do you get variety but you meet lots of new people and see new outlooks and approaches.

Taking some “me time” has also been an essential part of my travels, and quite often that can be during my exercise – it can sometimes be a challenge to get any alone time in a hostel so getting out and getting fresh air (often early morning before many have risen) has really helped me to keep a balance. So if you’re like me and need to check in with yourself, I would definitely recommend doing that.

Keeping a morning routine has also been invaluable for me, I have started my day with a cup of hot water, lemon, ACV and manuka honey for probably the last 15 or so years (yes, that makes me feel old) and despite some negative stances – “a cup of hot water and lemon is not going to make you lose weight”, clearly just drinking a cup of hot water and lemon every day is not going to mean weight loss, but it certainly has its benefits and helps me start my day well plus it means having a large cup of water first thing. Whatever your morning routine involves, try to keep up with it so your body feels a little bit more “normal”, despite lots of other changes.

I’ve also taken immune boosting supplements (such as Echinacea or more recently Health Fusion Astra 8) along with probiotics for the entirety of my travels. When, for one reason or another, I don’t get enough sleep (nights out, snoring neighbours, night buses, the list goes on…) I start to feel a bit vulnerable and keeping on top of this has helped me bounce back on the most part, though I’ve still had a few instances of feeling a bit groggy. Not only that but moving round almost constantly, eating lots of different and new foods meant that my digestive system has been dealing with a lot of change too, the probiotics (I have been opting for ones that don’t need to be kept in the fridge too, so I can take them first thing when I get ready) have really come into their own and helped me keep a healthy system.

Buy a water bottle (or in my case at least 6, because you keep leaving them behind accidentally) or water bladder/hydration tank. Trying to be organised, I bought a camelpak before leaving the UK but embarrassingly enough I couldn’t get it to work when I got here (many others have tried too, it’s not just me..) so instead I have been making do with a glass water bottle from the supermarket (it’s Voss) which I refill at least 3 times a day. It’s so important to stay hydrated especially in the heat, but very easy to overlook when a) you’re busy and b) you’re scared of the toilets (yes spiders, I mean you).

In terms of food, there are so many markets here which sell really reasonable fruit and veg – my recommendation would be to check with the hostel what days the markets are on and head there to stock up. Otherwise the meat and fish here is consistently excellent, being organised and planning your meals is important to avoid waste (and boredom), mix up your meals, especially your fruit and vegetables to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need too – don’t just stick to pasta and sauce!! Eating out with healthy options is too easy – they’re everywhere and they are delicious – Melbourne and Byron Bay will always have a special place n my heart for their insane food.

Most importantly of all I think is embracing the fact that some days, or weeks, a workout is just not going to happen – and that’s ok! The most important part of travelling is the experiences you have and the people you meet, I for one am happier when I am keeping fit but that can be in a variety of ways – not just a workout.

So, in summary, my tips for keeping healthy whilst travelling are:

  • get outdoors to exercise
  • early morning workouts beat the sun and leave you with a day ahead
  • maintain a morning routine
  • listen to your body and potentially look at supplements for during your travels (for me, immunity and probiotics were the essentials)
  • keep hydrated (as my friends would say, “don’t let dehydration ruin your vacation”)
  • keep active and try as many different activities as you can along the way
  • try out some of the gyms and studios
  • maintain some “me time”
  • visit the markets for fruit and veg, plan your meals and mix it up as much as you can,
  • Embrace the travelling lifestyle and know that it’s not always possible to workout but you can still keep active.

In the end, it’s not that difficult to maintain your health whilst travelling – it’s often just a case of prioritising and being organised along the way, but also embracing the fact that maintaining a specific workout routine is not really a possibility, because every day is different and that’s the best part about it!!

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