When I started out as a travel writer, I never imagined I would actually make a living out of it—let alone get to the point where I sleep at home less than I do in hotels. But today, I’m lucky enough to spend weeks at a time at dream destinations.
I’m the first to admit that I have one of the best jobs in the world…but it’s not a vacation. In fact, the logistics of getting from point A to point B can be as unpleasant for me as the average globetrotter (if not worse—imagine living with perpetual jet lag).
Spending 200-plus days a year on the road, I’ve picked up a few tricks to make traveling as healthy—and stress-free—as possible. Whether you’re going out of town for the night or are embarking on a quit-your-job-and-circle-the-globe adventure, they’ll make living out of your suitcase a little easier.
Here are the 7 travel-tested rules I swear by for staying sane and healthy when I’m away from home.
1. Accept that things may go wrong
If I’m in an airport, things will almost always be annoying—but getting frustrated and angry only makes it worse. I try to remember that the employees who are patting me down or telling me there aren’t any aisle seats left are having even less fun than I am—and they have to do this every day. The least I can do is be nice to them. And most importantly, they almost always respond in kind.
2. BYO bottle
After my passport, credit card, and phone, a refillable water bottle is the one thing I always pack. Airplanes are notoriously dehydrating (which messes up your skin and worsens jet lag), and they serve drinks in what might as well be Dixie cups. Flight attendants will fill my Nalgene if I ask nicely. (The other upside to drinking this much? It ensures that I’ll need to get up and make a bathroom run, and the regular movement fends off stiffness.)
3. Keep it moving
I’m always looking for ways to get my body moving (see: regular bathroom breaks). If my flight’s delayed or there’s a long layover, I’ll speed-walk through terminals to pass the time. Also: I’ll never, ever step onto one of those moving sidewalks. Whenever possible, I take the stairs, and if I have a random few minutes, I bust out a round of push-ups or squats (yes, I’m that person).
4. Let go of all-or-nothing thinking
It’s inevitable that you’ll lose some control of your schedule when traveling. The key is rolling with your time constraints, and figuring out how to fit in your healthy habits (rather than give up on them entirely). For example, when I first got into Ashtanga yoga, I tried to do the full primary series every morning. But when I didn’t have 90 minutes to practice because of, say, a sunrise hike or a 9 a.m. departure, I skipped it altogether. Now I do at least 10 minutes almost every day: sun salutations and a few key (okay, favorite) poses. The same goes with meditation—a few minutes is better than nothing.
5. Find a class
The great thing about the wellness boom is that there’s probably a studio at your destination. I like the energy I’ll encounter in local classes—plus, working with a new teacher is like taking a workshop with some visiting master; I always come away with new thinking about my practice. There are probably great apps for this, but because I’m a Luddite I just Google “Ashtanga yoga Melbourne” (or wherever I am). Yoga is my thing, but the same goes for kickboxing, HIIT, or most other workouts.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want
Hotel restaurants aren’t chef-driven, Michelin-star temples; their chefs were hired to please their guests, not their own egos. They won’t be offended if you want the dressing on the side or bacon left out, or make a meal of sides. I don’t ask for ingredients that aren’t anywhere on the menu, but if I see the kitchen has something on hand, I’ll ask the chef to come up with a healthy dish that uses it. My go-to breakfast order? “An omelet with whatever vegetables you can find.” A vegan friend orders the same, minus the eggs.
7. Embrace balance
So I sat on the beach with a mai tai instead of going for that long walk I was planning. (Oops!) But I get over it. You can’t have balance if you don’t have the occasional divergence from your daily routine. And while I don’t want to hit pause on all my healthy habits on a trip (and I’ll feel icky if I do), I know the point is to enjoy myself—so I’ll just have a healthy next meal and make a point of taking that walk tomorrow.