Isn’t one of the great things about going on vacation that you get to splurge and eat whatever you feel like without lifting more than the weight of your cocktail to your mouth? Wrong! Well, maybe for a day but then the fun starts to wear off and the key lime pies and pina coladas become ubiquitous and less interesting. I’ve never been one for those kinds of vacations and if I’m sedentary for too long I start to get cabin fever & quite cranky. Raise your hand if you’re the same! I definitely had some anxiety about eating healthy and staying active before heading off on our extended “wandermoon.” How in the world were we going to stay fit without being able to run, surf, CrossFit, bike etc. etc. that we do in our U.S. lives? I didn’t pay too much mind and thought that we would be doing a lot of exercise no matter what and we’d still continue to eat healthy so it didn’t matter too much. But in the first weeks I got a little too comfortable with not being active during our road trip with lots of driving and the only activity being running between car & hostel to avoid the rain. I started waking up super cranky and not in the mood to do a whole lot and couldn’t figure out why. And then it dawned on me. I hadn’t done any physical activity and I felt like a schlub. So off to trek in the rain we went. And then I decided that I would make activity a priority 4 days out of the week. Obviously, this is easier in some parts of the world than in others. Especially when you’re dealing with extreme high or low temps. Check out how Mr. CN and I have been keeping up our active lifestyle over the last 3 months of travel.
We all know the benefits of leading an active lifestyle. It boosts our mood, energy levels, & confidence, decreases chances for diseases, and makes us look damn good, too. I’m not talking about finding the closest 24 hour fitness or hunkering down for several hours in your hotel’s overly fluorescent gym, but making activity a part of our routine and part of the exploration of a new place in itself.
1. Go by foot. The best way to explore! When visiting a new town or city, try walking and/or biking to your destinations. Not only are you getting good exercise, but you’re also likely to stumble across an unknown site, a cute cafe to rest, or meet a local or other travelers. Check out free walking tours available in loads of major cities. Santiago, Chile has Spicy Chile walking tours, which was the best one I have ever done. One day in San Francisco I ended up doing a run for 6 miles across the Golden Gate Bridge and explored on foot another 10 miles. I was able to eat my way back to my hostel for those last several miles. While in Koh Tao, Thailand it was really common for everyone to rent motorbikes to scoot all over the island. We decided to hoof it everywhere to make sure we were staying in good shape. Not to mention that this is how I found my favorite place to eat, and I also felt like I earned my meals. Those steep hills will kick your ass and plus, we’re traveling, so what’s the rush? Bonus tip: Avoid escalators and elevators and take the stairs.
2. Try something new. In Thailand Mr. CN & I tried a bungee dance class, I got my Open Water & Advanced Open Water diving certificates, and did my first flying trapeze lesson. All of these were things I had been wanting to do for a while and decided to make these activities my exercise for the day. Maybe you’ve been wanting to try Stand-up Paddleboarding, Muay Thai classes, or Yoga on the beach. In Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa I went surfing almost every day. Not exactly new to me, but I took lessons (this was new) that kept me out in the water for about 4 times as long as I normally would have and it had me paddling a whole lot harder, too. At the end of the day, I was wiped.Try something that is different and may not be available in your hometown. At least you’ll walk away with one more experience under your belt.
3. Explore nature. I can pretty much say that everywhere I have been has had some sort of mountain, hill, forest, dune, or water to explore. Strap on your sneakers and go for a day hike, or if you’re up to it, a multi-day hike in places like California’s Sierra Nevada, Peru’s Inca Trail, Tanzania’s Mt Kilimanjaro, or Borneo’s Mt. Kinabalu. I’ve hiked the Inca Trail (twice), Mr. CN has done Mt. Kilimanjaro and we have done several fun hikes lasting just a few hours in South Africa (check out Cape Town’s Table Mountain & Lion’s Head), swimming the chilly waters of the Wild Coast, & gone for long bush walks in Botswana. How about renting a kayak in Thailand and checking out local beaches? The point is, find a place that makes you want to be outside and enjoy the unique landscape.
4. Play like, and with, the locals. Read up or ask around what the locals do for exercise in the area you’re visiting. It might be obvious that biking is popular, skiing a no-brainer or hiking up to a famous vista is in the books for your vacation, but it doesn’t hurt to ask in less obvious areas like say, major cities. Check for popular running routes or hikes. I had no idea that Cape Town was so outdoorsy and I can even say that Philly, my former home, has some pretty great ways to get outdoors. Look for groups that have beer runs, acro yoga in the park, or group training. Rent bikes on the beach in Venice Beach or hit up Muscle Beach in Santa Monica. Check out outdoor gyms in the area by asking around in your current location or researching on Google Maps.
5. Drop-ins: You’ll be surprised by how much people want to engage with you and find out your reasons for visiting their corner of the world. Check out nearby gyms and fitness studios or better yet, if you’ve been training sign for a race on the morning of. You’d be surprised at how excited others are that you’re visiting their corner of the globe. If you have ClassPass this is easy as pie. If not do a little research and send out some e-mails. You may have a small drop-in fee, but see if you can get in just to use the facilities, which may be half the price.
6. Get creative. Some days I feel like I just need a good sweat, but I may be camping in the middle of a forest or hanging on a tiny island outside of Stockholm. I always find a way to move. I use my backpack as a barbell and use it to do cleans, thrusters, and overhead squats. This will definitely be a conversation starter if you have any one nearby. Got a deck of cards? Assign each suit an exercise such as jumping squats, push-ups, burpees, hollow rocks, plank up/downs etc. and go through the deck doing the number pulled up on each card. No cards? There’s an App for that. Actually, there’s a few. Chop some wood, do some yoga moves or even dance in your hotel room to your favorite songs. Bonus if you try and keep up with the dancers in the videos. Double bonus if you do it outside!
7. Go easy on yourself. I never miss a travel opportunity due to a workout where I will be stuck in a gym. This isn’t why we travel, it’s to explore & experience the place we’re visiting. So what if you go a few days without your WOD, Bikram, or SoulCycle? It will make you appreciate it more when you get back. So yes! stay up to 7am dancing your butt off (that is exercise, after all) and worry about future you tomorrow. We need to be present and pay attention to what our minds and bodies need, and sometimes that’s a day where the hardest work you’ll do is putting your toes in that turquoise water.
Check out this list of groups, and/or places that make working out a blast. If you have any others you can contribute to, please add in the comments below!
City Fit Girls-Philly, NYC, Chicago, D.C.
Stories to Tales Theater-Bangkok
Muscle Beach & AcroYoga-Santa Monica
RunYoga-Santa Monica Pier
Persimmon coconut smoothie
3 medium ripe Fuyu persimmons, chopped
1/2 c. vegan or dairy yogurt OR tofu
1/2 c. coconut milk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2-3 ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smoothie. Pour into glasses and serve.