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Lessons Learned from a Lean, Green, Clean Eating Traveling Queen

Please, by all means, travel the world, but don’t erase all the years of good self-care practices while you’re away. David and I both had robust morning and evening healthy body, mind and spirit routines that we practiced pretty religiously before we left for our ATW (otherwise known as “Around-the-World”) trip. We knew that in order to preserve our physical, mental and emotional well-being and sanity, we’d want to be sure that we were keeping up, at least somewhat, with our practices while on the road. Since we weren’t expecting any income in-flows, we knew we would probably not be buying too many of the fancy green treats, supplements and learning modules/workshops that we could afford while existing as part of the community of working folk in New York City. We also didn’t want to threaten or eliminate the possibility of spontaneity in all its glory and richness by being overly rigid/attached with our new daily routines and rituals. So how did we stay healthy, happy and well-balanced on the road? Stay tuned because I am about to give you the low-down.

Let’s get this party started right!

I am a firm believer in the power of having some sort of morning routine to start off your day in an intentional and healthy way. I’d like to paint the picture of what our morning routine looked like. Normally, I would get up about 30 minutes earlier than David and do a shortened version of the Ashtanga primary sequence I learned before leaving for our trip. It was just enough to wake me up and keep me feeling flexible and loose. My wake-up time was usually sometime between 6 and 9am, depending on how late we stayed up the night before.When completed, I would crawl back into bed with David to snuggle him awake. Then we would do 3-4 rounds of the Wim Hof breathing method (10 minutes) to get some good ol’ oxygen in our lungs; and meditate for about 20 minutes, either using the Insight Timer app or Sam Harris’s meditation app. Following our mental exercise, we’d get a bit physical by doing an easy, no equipment in-home 7-minute workout (yes, there is also an app for that too). All in all, our pre-breakfast morning routine lasted less than 1.5 hours (depending on the length of snuggle-time) and cost us approximately $0.

Filling our Bellies

Food. It’s a fun part of world travel. Some people wonder if it’s possible to not gain at least 20 pounds, while traveling. However, I’m here to assure you that not only is it possible, but you can also save money and remain healthy while doing it. To sum up my food philosophy, I’d like to quote food journalist, Michael Pollan, when he says, “eat real foods, mostly plants, and not too much.” I don’t believe in deprivation, yet I still think a proper dose of balance applies, even when traveling.

It was super exciting to experience all the different foods and dining customs in the countries we visited, but we also balanced such experiences with cooking some healthy meals for ourselves at home. When arriving to a new place, the first thing David and I liked to do was visit the local markets. Here we would load up on a ton of fresh produce. There was always something new and interesting to find and we’d ask the local vendors for their advice on how to cook it. This would allow us to capture the recipes, so we could later put our own healthy spins on the traditional dishes. Lots of times at these markets there would also be what David likes to refer to as the local grandmas selling their home cooked concoctions. David swears by these women and says they are the real deal for getting a good hit of the local cuisine on the cheap. You might prefer the more modern, fancy dining options with the super creative and artistic plates, but we’d argue that you don’t exactly get the bang for your buck and would recommend you reserve those sort of dining experiences for special occasions and bucket-list kind of eateries. For the rest of the time I’d say you can experience the food of the local people, by the local people.

I hear you asking me, “Well, Keri, I agree with you that it’s easy to find tasty local food for cheap, but is it healthy?” Good question. It may or may not be healthy, but, again, this is not about deprivation. Have your pizza and gelato...there is such thing as mental and emotional health and well being. However, not every day. David and I ate out no more than one meal a day and the rest of the time, we would cook healthy meals for ourselves, loaded with veggies, then we’d add some tubers (especially if we found yams), or whole grains (especially in the countries where grains aren’t overly processed), sometimes fresh beans, or fish, eggs, whole-milk yogurt (in many other countries cows are not injected with hormones and they get to graze on grass in large, open fields, which does make a difference on how you feel after eating it) and some meat for David; as well as plenty of the super tasty local herbs and spices.

“Ummm, but how did you cook without your kitchen?”

We chose to stay mostly at Airbnbs or in private rooms at hostels, where we had access to a kitchen. Not all of these kitchens were created equal, but we made due with whatever we were given. Most places we had at least some space in a refrigerator to store our produce, stove tops, pots/pans, plates and cooking utensils. Sometimes we even had access to salt, pepper and olive oil. If not, we could buy those things relatively cheap at the local market. And, since we didn’t want to have to re-buy that stuff every place we went, I converted a small duffel bag into my traveling kitchen and brought the leftover cooking supplies with me from place to place. We also had a knife sharpener, and at some point in Thailand we bought a small cutting board and knife, so we could at least make some fresh salads when cooking wasn’t an option. Relatively soon into our trip, we also bought some food storage containers, so we could prepare healthy meals to take with us during transit. We snacked on nuts/seeds, lots of carrots, dark chocolate or cocoa beans (I happen to like 100% dark chocolate, no milk or sugar needed), and fruits.

Filling our Hearts and Souls

While David and I find cities exhilarating (obviously, we left from New York City and now live in Brooklyn), it was important for us to balance our city stays with some time on beaches (galore), in forests, mountains or otherwise immersed in nature. David and I had some pretty magical experiences, which included living off the land with an intentional community in Nicaragua; and participating in the daily practices of the monks at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Thai Plum Village. And, no matter where we were, we were always walking, climbing, running and exploring on foot, powered by our bodies, which is not only fun and good exercise, but it also saves money over paying for transport.

While cities fill the mind with fantastic sights, sounds, people and experiences; nature provides the time and space to reset and recalibrate. In the silence and solitude of nature, I find I am able to reflect and process. One of my favorite travel self-care practices was journaling. I spent lots of time writing about what we were experiencing and what I was learning about myself and the world.

And that, my friends, I can share more about with you in my next post.

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