Is it even possible to travel and stay healthy? While it’s difficult to say “no” to a dinner beer and the much deserved ice cream bar..sometimes it’s worth it.
Usually travel budgets mean cheap food, public transportation, and advanced online bookings. Let’s take some time to focus on that first part.
Cheap, greasy, and oily food.
Especially in SE Asia, this means street food. Prices range from around $1-$5 per meal depending on location. We found a street cart near Soi Cowboy in Bangkok that ranks in our Top 5 Pad Thai in Thailand. Definitely…not…healthy. Our thoughts were probably skewed because this food was the only piece of normalcy we experienced that night…if you don’t know what the Soi Cowboy is, do the Hangover 2 Tour in Bangkok…Morgan’s face says it all.
Back to the point, street food is cheap food because the majority is fried food. So, how do you avoid the enticing price and taste? Honestly, I’m holding a handful a fries while I type this so don’t get me wrong, I’m still a fan of the fried goods.
Read this post to not feel guilty about your eating habits and avoid returning home with some extra pounds.
Gaining weight is extremely easy while traveling so why not be proactive.
I’ve broken down the most important steps to stay healthy during your adventures.
1. Exercise…no s***.
If you’re like Morgan and I, you might travel with this idea of morning jogs/runs. The reason being to sweat out the previous night or to see the surrounding area prepare for the day. Let’s be real…it likely won’t happen. You’ll either be too tired, too busy, or hungover.
Especially for SE Asia, it’ll only take you one attempt at an outdoor workout before you realize your worst enemy…the humidity. Our first attempt was in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam…we couldn’t breathe after 10 minutes and navigating the streets was challenging enough. When it’s 95 degrees out with 95% humidity, you’re not working out. It’s so damn hot you’re sweating in a cold shower. No matter how healthy you are, that humidity will stop you in your tracks.
Most of the time, budget travelers don’t have the luxury of on-site workout facilities. That’s the purpose of this post.
You have three options to stay healthy: morning workouts, locate a gym, and/or workouts at your accommodation.
A. We found a solution to the humidity.
Run on the beach and swim after. We created a little workout routine on the island of Pangkor, Malaysia. Before sunrise, we would post up in front of Daddy’s Cafe with our massive bags of coffee. Then, uncontrollably laugh as we watch the monkeys from the jungle swing and jump from tree to tree all the way to their day beach spot (there’s no fear in these monkeys, they search every cafe’s kitchen for snacks or leftover food). After the monkey show, you run a couple laps on the beach before it gets ridiculously hot out. Simple, doable, and it includes entertainment and beautiful scenery. *This was our favorite way to stay healthy*
Every day, increase the amount of laps by one. By the end of our stay on Pangkor, we were running 9 laps each morning. Bring shoes or you’ll tear up your feet. We continued this workout on Phuket, Thailand.
B. If you’re nowhere near a beach and you can’t stand the heat, chances are you can find a nearby gym.
We paid admission for two separate gyms during our travels. One in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and the other in Bali, Indonesia (Ubud Fitness Center). Incredibly cheap day/week passes are offered at these fitness centers. In Siem Reap, $4 for one day gives you unlimited access to the facilities and workout classes. Astonished by the deal, we participated in every class we could. This led to our experience with Aerobic Step…didn’t realize it was an hour of stretching and butt exercises with a group of Cambodian moms.
Our experience with the Bali Gym wasn’t nearly as memorable but still completely worth the money! A one week pass for 250.000 rupiah (~$18) or a single day for 85.000 rupiah (~$6). The conversation rate usually depends on Trump’s tweets.
Take a break from traveling for a day, pay for a day pass, and work off the dollar beer.
C. Last resort for those that are short on time or money.
There’s nothing wrong with a workout in your hostel or living space. Have people join in or look like a bunch of idiots while people stare, either way you’ll feel healthy in the end. Do sets of push ups and sit-ups. The perfect time is right when you wake up and start your day.
If possible, do a mixture of these three workout plans. Some cities will have affordable gyms and beaches, others will not. Take advantage if they’re available! No matter what, you can always find space for a little morning workout.
2. Walk where you can.
You’ll likely notice within a couple days of traveling in Asia that everyone is skinny. How is that possible? Locals eat rice and noodles usually three times a day? It’s because they walk…everywhere. Although sometimes it’s difficult and you will make several water breaks at 7-Eleven stores (this chain dominates SE Asia), it’s worth it. Morgan and I were walking an average of 12 miles a day in Singapore. Although you’ll be sore, you’ll feel healthy.
Walking is beneficial for three main reasons. One, you save money on taxis and public transportation. Two, you sweat off the inordinate amount of toast you ate for breakfast. Three, you stumble upon hidden gems and little shops/stores you would’ve never read about online.
Enjoy the walks and bring water. Keep your eyes peeled for the undiscovered scenic spots. By walking on Gili Trawangan, we found the perfect beach front restaurant with a convenient hammock.
*This is the most important healthy tip*
There’s no better way to keep track of what you’re putting in your body than cooking it yourself. While we lived in Bangkok, having a kitchen was a top priority. It enabled us to cook our favorite meals and avoid the fried food cooked in butter.
Not all AirBnB’s come with a kitchen so make sure to check the description. “A fully stocked kitchen” could mean two plates and an old frying pan so message the host or be prepared to buy some cheap kitchen supplies (300 baht set, less than $10, at Robinson’s department store).
Your living requirements depend on length of stay. If you’re hunkering down at one location for more than a week, we recommend booking a place with a kitchen. It will save A LOT of money. We were spending about $5 each per day for three meals. Our favorites were chicken with brown rice, chicken caesar salad, and scrambled eggs with dragonfruit.
If you don’t know what this is, then you need to find out. This revolutionary nutritional company is incredible. It’s the key to not only staying healthy while traveling but also in everyday life. There are distribution centers across the entire world so the products are fairly easy to access. For example, we randomly saw the protein shakes offered in the fitness center in Bali.
The shakes and hydrating sports powder are our favorite products because they’re the easiest to travel with. We saved A LOT of money and time. The shakes were the perfect meal before a long day of work or sightseeing because your full for hours.
In total, there are hundreds of products to choose from. We don’t recommend sending the products overseas because we experienced some issues with packages from our parents (avoid Thai post offices if at all possible). Contact us through the blog or via Instagram if you want more information. No matter where you are, these products will keep you healthy.
This is a future post by itself in regards to budgeting. Dollar beer is some attractive stuff. Add in the pretty decent flavor and you’re set to have at least two or three a day while traveling Asia. So how did we handle this situation? We barely drank. I’m talking maybe five beers a month.
It’s practically impossible to avoid drinking while on vacation. It’s time to relax and have some beers on the beach…but if you’re doing that for weeks and months in a row, you’ll be acting like a college freshman but going home with much tighter clothes.In terms of healthy traveling, it’s pretty obvious what you need to do….limit the alcohol and/or exercise. If you’re drinking a handful of beers a day, just workout to keep the gut at bay.
6. Street food.
As mentioned above, the street food in SE Asia is delicious and cheap. It’s tough to avoid that powerful combination especially for budget travelers. It’s also the easiest way to catch a stomach bug and gain weight. If you watch the amount of oil that’s used and grease that’s spread over your plate, you’ll quickly realize why your stomach bubbles throughout the day. We only recommend the street food for the cultural experience. Be selective in your choices and listen to trusted local advice.
Be prepared for the amount of rice and noodles you will be eating. Order brown rice where you can. It takes time to feel comfortable eating vegetables, especially lettuce, so you’ll need to exercise more while your body acclimates to healthier food.
If you follow Morgan on Instagram, you’ll know I love sweet drinks. This mainly pertains to coffee. If you love coffee and want to stay healthy, ask for “no sweet” when ordering drinks. Asia loves its sweet coffee. Although I like it, the amount of sugar isn’t helping you or the people that have to deal with your hyper attitude then the following crash.
Final little hint: The humidity doesn’t only mess with your exercise plans but it screws up your eating habits. Humidity causes your stomach to digest food slower than normal. If you venture outside all day, that small breakfast might trick you into feeling full until later that evening. Even if you don’t feel hungry, still make an effort to eat three meals a day. Avoid overeating on that second meal of the day.
And we’re done! You now have the essential tips for healthy traveling. Read our other popular posts: Packing for Backpacking, Life Lessons Learned From Traveling (Part 1 + Part 2), and How We Started A Business Abroad!
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