After two months of surfing, hiking, scuba diving, and cultural experiences in Southeast Asia, I've officially returned home with a new vice:
I'm a water hoarder.
Not only do I NEVER leave the house without a water bottle... but I refill the bottle every single time I see a fountain. Even though I know that I'm home, now, and it's no longer necessary to obsessively hoard and hydrate.
It got me thinking about how, when I'm traveling, I instantly, automatically pick up all these healthy habits... which I should probably try to sustain now that I'm back home. They include:
1. Hydrating like WHOA.
In many countries I travel to, it's not safe to drink the tap water. And, since I'm a surfer and a scuba diver, most of the countries I visit are near the equator -- aka HOT.
Therefore, I not only make sure to drink a whole bottle of water before leaving my hotel in the morning (because many hotels have filtered water, so you can refill your bottle on your way to the day's adventure), but to finish the bottle in a timely manner. Even if it's a super chill day where I'm mostly just exploring an island by scooter
and checking out tarsiers, or small, insectivorous, tree-dwelling, nocturnal primates with large eyes
I make sure to drink at least 3.5-4.5 liters of water per day.
When I see a refill station, I refill. When I'm at a restaurant that serves filtered water, I guzzle. When I'm at a hotel that doesn't provide filtered water, or only provides a liter per day, I buy a 4-6 gallon jug so that I always have something convenient to refill with. (It's also WAY more cost effective and uses less plastic than buying dozens of small bottles.)
Another way that I make sure I always have access to clean drinking water is by carrying my OKO Advanced Filtration Water Bottle
or, my new favorite (because I think the water comes out a little faster), the LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle:
I quickly learned that most airports have water bottle filling stations, so anytime I flew, I carried as many empty bottles with me as possible and filled them ALL before and after getting on (and off) my flight. (Especially considering that AirAsia is super stingy and doesn't provide free cups of water on the plane.)
How do I keep this habit going now that I'm at home?
Well. As previously mentioned, I'm definitely trying to preserve my "water hoarder" mindset. In addition to indulging my primal urge to fill my water bottles at every opportunity, I've also been using my Infuser Water Bottle. I know myself. And I know that, lacking the oppressive heat found so often on the equator, I'm not going to hydrate... unless there's lemon, cucumber, oranges, melons, mint, or berries in my water.
I've also been brewing lots of herbal and green tea, and drinking it either hot or iced. Most recently, I ordered some Rose Syrup to make my teas more delicate and delicious and amazing (and, sure, sweet -- sugar is the new smoking, so I try to use it in moderation) -- but the out of box experience was sort of intense and made me feel like a terrible person:
2. Paying attention to how many vegetables I eat.
At home, I eat mostly for energy (I'm going to the gym in an hour -- I'd better eat something now) or convenience. Once in a while, I'll suddenly realize I haven't had a vegetable in days!
But for some reason, when I travel, I become very mindful and aware of my nutrition. I guess because when you're traveling, every day is full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and you want to stay healthy and energetic and not miss out on any of them?
Plus, when you travel, buying produce isn't just cheap and easy -- it's also a fun adventure!
(It didn't hurt that eggplants are a big part of the Filipino diet, and eggplants are the best vegetable in the whole world.)
How do I keep this habit going now that I'm home?
For me, having a garden has always made me a healthier eater. It's much easier to wander into the yard to pick a tomato or an eggplant than it is to drive to the store.
But it's about more than that. Fruits and vegetables you grow yourself are actually, literally, objectively tastier and more nutritious than produce you buy.
As Mark Schatzker explains in his amazing book, The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor -- which is one of my favorite nonfiction books, like, ever, and I can't recommend it highly enough -- the food we buy in stores was typically bred to get big, fast, on as little food and water as possible. It's bred to ship well. It's bred to absorb water.
It's not bred to taste good.
When something gets big, fast, on as little food and water as possible, you end up with chicken, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and other foods that are made mostly of water. Compared to foods you grow (or raise) yourself, they have both nutrient- and flavor dilution.
So growing my own veggies encourages me to eat more veggies -- not only because it's easy, but also because it's flavorful and delicious.
Beyond that, I don't have much of a strategy... but I think I'm off to a great start.
3. Washing my hands.
There are different germs, risks, and hygienic practices abroad. We all know this. It's why we get vaccinated and take probiotics before and during travel. No one wants to end up with Bangkok Belly, Bali Belly, Delhi Belly, or any variation thereof.
A lot of prevention is in watching what you eat and drink -- always find out where the ice came from, never eat fruit that's already been sliced, etc.
But when I travel, I also make sure to wash my hands a lot.
A lot more than I ever do at home.
How do I keep this habit going now that I'm home?
This is going to sound SO girly and basic and superficial and silly...
But one way I've convinced myself to wash my hands more -- at least at home -- is by shopping for hand soaps I love at Bath and Body Works. No, they did not pay me to say that. I just have a deep childhood love and nostalgia for the brand.
While I was in boarding school and college, I took a long break from this popular 90s chain. But as an adult, I've rediscovered just how much I love the picnic-y feel of the shopping experience -- and how much I love the fragrances and packaging.
Mostly the packaging.
Right now, I'm rocking the Board Walk Vanilla Cone:
It makes me love washing my hands -- and it makes me smile while I'm doing it.
Last summer, I was super stoked on the Endless Weekend and Perfect Beach Day hand soaps, because the bottles were so gorgeous and they sparked my imagination. Perfect Beach Day has a surfer girl on it -- THAT COULD BE ME!
And don't even get me started on the fall and winter fragrances, and all the wonderful variations on lattes, mochas, and PSLs that are available in the colder months.
See? I told you I was about to sound basic. But, as I once wrote in YourTango, "I'd rather be 'basic' than... whatever boring thing you are."
If making one small change in my bathroom and kitchen makes me want to wash my hands all the time, reducing my chances of flu and other illnesses -- well, I'm just grateful that I have a mind that can take such joy in such simple pleasures.
4. Walking -- everywhere, all the time.
I've long since lost count of the number of travelers I've met who lost weight overseas, just because they were walking so much more than they do at home. I didn't lose weight on my journey (nor did I want to), but my body and mind still felt amazing from all the non-aerobic, non-exercise activity I was getting every day.
In fact -- I know I just said that sugar is the new cancer. But sitting is also the new cancer. As I wrote in If You Want to Read ONE Book That Will Change Your Life FOREVER, This Is It:
If you want ONE book that will change your life forever, then you need to read Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You, and What You Can Do About It, by Dr. James Levine...
One of the studies discussed in Levine's book found that walking for 15 minutes after eating halves the spike in your blood sugar that inevitably happens after a meal. Without even meaning to, I walked for 15 minutes after almost every meal. I got up and moved (if I wasn't already on my feet moving) at least several minutes per hour.
And my body felt amazing.
How to sustain this now that I'm home?
I have a personal rule: if it's within a mile, I never drive. I walk, bike, or skateboard. And I bring my dog, because she needs her exercise, too.
I've previously recommended wearable fitness trackers to help remind you how many steps you've taken each day... but what I've since found to be way more effective at getting my butt out of the chair is the FitBark, a wearable fitness tracker for dogs.
Because when it comes to my health and activity, it's easy to say, "I'll just exercise extra tomorrow." But when it comes to my beautiful puppy dog's health and fitness... seeing that she hasn't met her fitness goal yet really compels me to get up and moving.
It's not fair to her, otherwise.
Absolute worst case, what I recommend (and what I've even done for myself, during the times when I've been busiest) is setting an alarm to go off every hour -- and every time the alarm goes off, walk for two minutes.
Just two minutes.
Research has shown real health benefits from just two minutes of walking per hour (compared to zero).
And, of course, continuing to walk for fifteen minute after every meal.
One of the major themes of my whole life has been, "Live your whole life like you're traveling." As I wrote in Life Hack: Do What You Do When You Travel While You're At Home:
Most people think that the voyage of discovery consists of finding new landscapes. When they travel, they open their eyes. When they're someplace familiar, they shut them, and the adventure stops.
When you travel, your eyes are wide open and hungry all the time. Everything you see out of the bus window is foreign, exciting, and worth photographing.
You pay attention -- and you see.
You see where the marigolds come from -- and you run out to dance in them, even if it's raining.
You notice the guy on the side of the road who's holding a -- wait! omg! Is that a flying fox?! (It was so cool, I even made an exception to my "no touching animals that could give me rabies" rule.)
You get excited about new foods and try new things -- like this Strawberry Chicken Teriyaki, which I enjoyed with a Strawberry Pizza and a Strawberry Milkshake on an Indonesian strawberry farm.
You even pay attention to and get excited about the color of the water in different seas, oceans, lakes, and rivers...
It's wonderful! It keeps you present and engaged. It increases happiness and wards off depression. It makes every day feel super long ("Can you believe we were at Barracuda Lake this morning? SOOOOOO MUCH has happened since then!"), in the BEST possible way.
It's a super healthy way to be.
How do I keep this going at home?
Easy! While I was traveling, I started a "Never Had I Ever" list. Among the list items:
NEVER HAD I EVER:
It goes on and on.
But, I asked myself when I got home, why do I need to stop adding to my "Never Had I Ever" list?
I should be adding to it every day -- or at least several times per week. Even if it's just small things, it still helps me keep my mindful, adventurous, engaged traveler's mindset.
Among the newest additions to the list:
NEVER HAD I EVER:
And the list will keep growing! I'll try different kinds of writing, learn new kinds of guitar chords and techniques, go to talks and public lectures on topics I want to learn about, bike new trails, surf new breaks, learn to identify more local plants... and who knows what else?
6. Never leaving the hotel without sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
When I'm not near the equator, chances are I'm in the mountains. Either way, sunscreen is super important.
Even if I leave the hotel at 6am, I still put sunscreen on my face before stepping outside. I bring more than enough to last the rest of the day -- lately, I've been opting for Alba Botanical, because supposedly it's "reef safe," and that kind of thing matters to me.
When doing water sports, I wear specially-formulated zinc sunscreen with a tint, to make sure I applied it thoroughly and evenly. I use Headhunter White, but might switch to the beige tint, because maybe it would look better in photos?
The above photo was taken at the end of the day, on a cloudy day. Normally, I didn't go out in anything but a long sleeve rashguard, long surf pants, and a surf hat -- check out this dork:
How to continue this habit at home:
Pretty straightforward. Find sunscreen you love -- it rubs in easily, feels good on your skin, and maybe even smells good. If you don't like it, you won't use it. I'm not fussy -- I just use whatever drugstore brand is on sale. But my mom and sister recommend Clinique City Block SPF 40.
And, of course, I've continued rocking the trucker hat and oversized polarized glasses.
Remember: whatever activity you have planned today -- whether it's a hike in the sun or going to work in a dark office -- you should be putting sunscreen on your fact AND neck AND chest EVERY DAY.
That's what I do -- and it's probably why people always guess that I'm significantly younger than I am. (Either that or they're just being polite -- I'm reading a book about rudeness and politeness now, so I guess I'm about to find out :P)
Umbrellas aren't just to keep the rain away!
7. Having a super positive, "OH WELL! That's travel!" attitude when shit happens.
The bus from Batukaras to Jakarta was supposed to take eight hours.
It took almost eleven.
One night in El Nido, I was in the hotel bathroom washing my hair -- and when I opened my eyes, I saw not only a slug in the shower with me... but also an ant colony, a giant spider, and a frog.
The "canyoneering" experience at Kawasan Falls (near Moalboal, on Cebu, in the Philippines) felt a lot like Disneyland the first half hour.
None of these things especially bothered me.
When we travel and things go wrong, we shrug and say, "Well! That's travel!"
Why not be like that at home?
Stress is terrible for us. It shrinks your brain and eats your stomach and kills your heart. Not to mention ruining your mood. (See also: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers.)
So perhaps the healthiest travel habit that you should be taking home with you is the, "Well, that's travel!" attitude.
For example. I hit a ton of traffic on my way to San Francisco this week. It took 25 minutes longer to get there than it should have.
My friend's dog got blood on my front seat.
I got so wrapped up watching a basketball game in a sports bar at the JFK airport that I lost track of time and missed my flight home -- the last flight of the night! -- by two minutes, even though I'd been at the airport for almost two hours!
My house is a mess.
And none of this especially bothers me -- because... Welp! That's life.
And life is wonderful.
Do you have any travel habits that are way healthier than what you do at home? What are they -- and how are you incorporating them into your "real life"? Share in the comments, or find me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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