When you’re a frequent traveler, constantly on the road, always on and off planes, in and out of air-conditioning, changing climates constantly, it can be difficult to take care of yourself properly. Traveling and moving from place to place when you please without any kind of commitment holding you down is why a lot of people love the life of travel. It’s exciting and full of surprises. However, when it comes to something like your health, that’s when things get a little bit difficult. So let’s talk about how you can stay healthy while travelling. After all, health used to be my business as a pharmacist so I know a thing or two about wellness.
How to Stay Healthy While Travelling
1 – Stay Hydrated
I know, I KNOW, you’ve heard it a million times, but staying hydrated is hugely important in life in general and especially while travelling. Too much sun and not enough water can lead to sunstroke or dehydration, which is NASTY. Also airplane cabins and long flights are incredibly dehydrating so make sure you drink plenty of water on flights. When I’m staying in hotels I’m really bad at remembering to drink water, so TRY to remind yourself to have a few litres a day.
2 – Be Sun-safe
The last thing you want is be in tropical paradise, covered in blisters and suffering from sunstroke or sun-induced migraines. Wear a hat, use sunscreen, keep hydrated and cover up when in direct sunlight. Bring after-sun or aloe vera gel with you and if you do end up getting burnt then make sure you slather it all over you. Many a time I’ve burnt the ass off myself (while snorkeling) and barely been able to pull my pants up. Aloe vera gel has quite literally saved my ass on those occasions. And remember, you can get badly burnt on the ski slopes too, it’s not just hot places.
3 – Be Prepared for Cold Climates
If you’re going to be visiting seriously cold climates then you’ll need to be prepared for a whole new set of potential health issues. You need to pack the right layers to prevent hypothermia or frostbite. Good base layers are always important. When I was in Finland we were told not to use a water based moisturizer before going outside because it could freeze on our faces and crack the skin. You’ll need good wool socks, a Buff, hat, gloves, waterproof snow boots and a very warm coat.
4 – Don’t Party Too Hard
Sure, partying is fun, but you can’t survive on booze alone. And your liver will not thank you if you spend months of your life in Thailand drinking “buckets”. Hang overs suck even more when you’re travelling as you have no home comforts. Drink water between units of alcohol. Line your stomach with plenty of food. Try to give yourself at least 3 or 4 nights off a week. And I’m not even addressing drugs because you shouldn’t do them.
5 – Stay Active and Exercise
This is something I really struggle with when travelling. Sure I’m walking around exploring, I get in the water and swim/dive/snorkel, but I have no routine. There’s no exercise classes every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It’s very easy to put weight on while travelling long-term. There are things you can do, like going for a run each morning, or looking up local exercise classes, or even hotel room exercise routines on Youtube.
6 – Eat Healthy (ish)
It is hard, when travelling, to get out of the “I’m on holiday” mode. When you first start travelling you eat whatever you want because you’re like “f*ck it, I’m on holiday”, and you want to try EVERYTHING! But, if you’re travelling long-term then it’s not really a holiday, it’s just your life. Like with the exercise, you need routine. You need to try and cook healthy meals for yourself instead of eating out all the time, which can also save you money in some countries. You can’t survive on meat and carbs (well, you can, but you’ll be unwell), you need to get your 5 a day of fruit and veg. Still enjoy yourself and try all the amazing things you find in foreign lands, but also try to have a balanced diet.
7 – Do Your Research
Make sure to read up on the health information to do with the area you’re in or travelling to. You may need to buy bottled water or avoid certain foods such a leafy greens etc. May sure you ask other travellers for recommendations when it comes to street food, you don’t want to go to the dodgy one that leaves you living in the bathroom for days. When you’re exploring a new city/area make sure to keep an eye out for pharmacies and local health services, you never know when you might need them. And always make sure to know the number for emergency services wherever you are in the world.
8 – Get Plenty of Sleep
Exhaustion and travel burn out are very real and can be very unpleasant. If you don’t let your body rest and catch up on the sleep it needs then it will fail you. Your immune system does not do well under these circumstances which can lead to further infection. I get it, YOLO, you don’t want to sleep, you want to party or whatever, but it’s not sustainable if you’re travelling long term. I always make sure that I give myself a “duvet day” if I’ve been travelling a lot. You need to get out there and see all those sights during the day and the best thing for that is a good night’s sleep. Not to mention that sleep is so important for your mental health. If you don’t sleep you’re more likely to get homesick, stressed and panicked by things that wouldn’t bother you if you were well rested.
9 – Pack a Good First-Aid Kit
What you need in the first-aid kit depends on where you’re travelling to. Some countries will have a lot of medication available over the counter, others will be strict like the UK and US. I always bring stuff for headaches/pain, stomach upsets, rehydration sachets, blister plasters (from all that walking), anti-histamines for rashes/insect bites, a few sterile would dressings (just in case), some antibacterial wipes and any prescription medication I’m on. HOPEFULLY you won’t need anything from your first aid kit, but when you need it you usually really need it and wouldn’t want to be without it. It could keep you tied over until you eventually get yourself to a local doctor.
10 – Vaccinations and Anti-malarials
Always make sure you talk to your GP or Tropical Medical Doctor before you travel if you’re going anywhere exotic. You may need vaccinations or anti-malarial tablets. They’re often expensive, but always worth having. Get your rabies shot if there’s even the most remote of chances that you’ll be around possibly rabid monkeys, dogs, bats etc, don’t cheap out on your health. Also, always be aware of the signs and symptoms of tropical diseases. Malaria can just seem like a flu. So if you end up sick when you get back from a trip always mention that you have recently been travelling so that the doctor can factor in tropical diseases.
11 – Get Help When Needed
If you feel unwell while travelling and can’t get to a local doctor or are unsure whether you need a doctor you may find that something such as the Online Dr App can help you decide what to do. When you’re always on the go, something that is accessible could be the better answer for both your health and peace of mind. And if that doesn’t work make sure to see a local pharmacist or doctor. Often the staff in your hostel or hotel will help you. I had an awful case of food poisoning or something like that in the Philippines and the hostel staff brought me up buckets of ice to help with my fever and let me know where the doctor is.
There you have it, how to stay healthy while travelling! I hope that helps some of you on your travels or on your future travels.
Do you have any top tips for staying healthy on the road?
Let me know in the comments!