Staying healthy abroad, or, PUT DOWN THE AIOLI YOU’RE A DISGRACE

I’m an advocate of balance. For example, eat healthy most of the time, but have twenty burgers at the weekend. Drink lots of water, but also lots of gin. Work out consistently but also sit on your butt and watch terrible TV (MTV’s ‘Are You The One’ has gotten me through a lot of hangovers). Don’t smoke (crack). Look after yourself but also indulge where it’s appropriate. You get the idea.

Keeping the balance can be difficult when you relocate to a new country. In London, I was fairly good at keeping healthy. I ran (sometimes from the cops, but sometimes marathons), practiced yoga and meditation, ate various green items and kept my blowouts to the weekend most of the time. When I moved to Barcelona earlier this year, the balance tipped very much in favour of being a massive lad and drinking buckets of gin, eating buckets of aioli (a friend describes it as the younger, hot cousin of mayonnaise) and being a disgusting mess. I was only living in the city for three months, so all efforts to keep healthy went out of the window alarmingly quickly.

Now I’m a little more settled (for the next year anyway), I’m still working out the balance. So, for anyone who’s wondering why mid-travels, they’re starting to resemble a Christmas ham (*Peter Griffin voice* GUILTYYYYY) here are my tips for attempting not to die during your time abroad:

Don’t deny yourself the good stuff

Accept that every new destination comes with new local delicacies to try. Get involved and don’t beat yourself up for having a few extra treats, especially in the beginning. I tried doing this in my first month in Salamanca, when I decided to go vegan for a month, literally because someone bet me I couldn’t. Living in the jamon capital of Europe, I was utterly miserable. BE NICE TO YOURSELF YOU DICKS.

(NB the same rule goes for alcohol and/or recreational drugs. Do your thing, but recognise that your current situation might not be entirely in the ‘real world’ and practise moderation)

Don’t overcompensate

To make up for months of self-abuse (no, not that kind) in Barca, I started working out multiple times a day when I first arrived here. Unless you are a professional athlete, or training for a competition of some kind, you probably don’t need to be doing this. On a vegan diet which I hadn’t entirely figured out, I ran out of energy very rapidly and ended up making myself moderately ill. Small steps are key to keeping healthy and also much easier to fit around your travel schedule – nobody wants to miss one of the modern wonders of the world because they had to do sit ups.

Find a workout routine that works for you

When you’re abroad, especially if you’re backpacking, there’s no point in locating a gym in every new location, however exercise shouldn’t be neglected. Endorphins got me through my first difficult through weeks in my new city, plus my recent breakup. Find something that works for you that doesn’t involve a pricey membership. For me, it’s yoga – I cannot recommend enough the amazing Lesley Fightmaster, a US-based instructor who has several free programmes on her channel. Currently on day 59 of her 90 Day Yoga Fix and I love it!

Join a Zumba class

Seriously. I used to think Zumba was for trophy wives and old people. Now it’s my favourite Saturday morning activity. You haven’t truly experienced it, in my opinion, until you’ve been to a class entirely in Spanish. Minus the good old British reserve it’s about ten times more fun. If Zumba’s not your cup of tea, classes in general are great for meeting people and having a laugh while simultaneously practising self-care.

Balanced diet people!

I’m 27 and I’m only just starting to realise the impact food has on your overall health, both physical and mental. I’m lucky in that my metabolism is fairly unchanging – I don’t really lose weight, but I don’t really gain it either. That said, I’ve adopted a mainly plant-based diet, sticking to vegan food during the week. I feel more energetic, healthier, and actually, happier. It’s not easy to keep a specific diet going when you travel a lot but making small changes helps – for example, I sacked off cow’s milk in favour of soy milk and gradually phased out cheese. Much easier than going cold turkey (cold tofu?) and feeling super sad all the time because I can’t have cheese, my one true love.

Meditate

My doctor back in the UK recommended meditation to help with my general anxiety issues during a particularly stressful time at work. I’m not very good at being consistent but I can honestly say that meditation helps with so many things. Particularly if you move around a lot, it’s a great mental exercise to keep you centred and balanced and help you to deal with things like big life changes. Headspace is my favourite app, with programmes for everything from depression to pain management, self esteem to gratitude. Calm is another good choice if you like to have soothing rainforest sounds in the background when you’re trying to switch off

Take time for yourself

Once a week (sometimes twice) I stay in, cook something usually a bit trashy, watch awful TV and do horribly stereotypical girly things like a manicure or putting weird pink colours in my hair. I’ve always done this and, while it can be tempting to go out and be a big lad every night if you’re in a hostel-type setting, or living in a notorious party city, PACE YOURSELF

Disclaimer: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I’m not even friends with any doctors. These are just some ideas I’ve collected during my own travels which seem to work well for me – I pass my wise owl wisdom on to my fellow nomads. Be happy and be well (and have a few gins too).

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