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10 Tips for Maintaining Your Healthy Lifestyle While Traveling Solo for Work
Once upon a time there was a girl who stumbled upon a job that ended up taking her all over the world as she planned annual meetings for a group of doctors who research a particular rare disease. She got to visit all kinds of places she had never been, stay in 5-star hotels and receive gifts and VIP treatment wherever she went. And she lived happily ever after.
Sound like the start of a fairy tale? Or maybe the happy ending? Well this was (and is) real life for me. I travel for work, I travel frequently, several times a year, and I travel solo.
And I love it!
My job takes me to some amazing places - Vienna, London, Dublin, Singapore, Lisbon, Stockholm, Athens and many more wonderful cities - multiple times each! And this doesn’t include the myriad North American cities that have also been destinations included on my itineraries. It’s a charmed life and many people I know would love to visit just ONE of the cities I mentioned above, let alone all of them, multiple times! So, I do not take my position for granted!
But as someone who is health conscious, traveling a lot can make it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But does it have to?
Traveling can be tough on the body - sitting for long hours in planes, trains and automobiles, having lousy food offerings, not being able to maintain your daily morning or evening rituals. When your travel is for work, sometimes, as I know from experience, you even lose your personal time, because working from the time you get up until the time you fall into bed at night is necessary and it’s all part of the job.
I often say that I love to travel except for the traveling part. Can you relate? I know they say that getting there is half the fun, but when it comes to airports and flying, I just don’t agree. Between parking or being dropped off, trying to handle all of your luggage, waiting in long lines, going through security, and being stuffed in a plane in very close quarters with a million other people for many hours, nope, I can’t say I find it to be fun. But it is necessary. And as an introvert, all of that stuff that happens before I board the plane is actually exhausting. But once I’m on and settled in my seat and past the point of a seat neighbor needing to crawl over me to his or her seat, then it’s not so bad. This is my time. I secretly love the fact that I have to put my phone in airplane mode and for those several hours I’m cut off from the rest of the world. It is a strange sense of freedom for me.
It is at this moment when my perspective changes and I actually take some time for small acts of self-care that I normally don’t get to do. I will nap (I sleep GREAT on planes - one of the reasons I don’t ever get jet lag!) or catch up on some fun reading, play a mindless game or watch a movie.
Let me ask you a question. Did you know that your health and wellness depends on a whole lot more than just diet and exercise? It’s true! There are so many things that contribute to your wellbeing and all of them deserve to be tended to. And you don’t have to put these things on hold just because you’re traveling. In fact, traveling can often offer more and different opportunities to flex your self-care muscles!
To that end, here are 10 tips (plus a bonus tip) to help you keep your wellness a main focus while traveling for work no matter where, or how, you go.
- Whether you’re driving or flying, be sure to pack healthy snacks for the trip. If you have something already with you, you will be less tempted to purchase something fast and easy (and unhealthy) when your stomach is angrily telling you it wants to eat. It is easy to carry a banana, apple, a bag of grapes or nuts with you to grab whenever you need to.
- If you are flying, be sure to either bring an empty water bottle with you to fill up after you get through security, or purchase a bottle of water afterwards. Although most flights will offer complimentary beverages during your flight, there is nothing like waking up in the middle of the night on a red-eye and being super thirsty and there not being another onboard service scheduled for hours. Having a bottle right there at your disposal is a perfect way to stay hydrated - and keeping hydrated is crucial at all times, but especially when flying.
- Once you arrive and your work has begun, make sure that you take breaks to walk around, get a drink, some fresh air, etc. It’s easy when you are focused on a project to stay seated and sedentary for hours on end, but your body will thank you for giving it small doses of activity throughout the day. This will also help you to stay awake, especially if you experience jet lag. Need to meet with someone? Suggest a walk outside, to a local park or just around the block while you talk.
- Get lots of sleep. If you are the type of person that has a set morning and evening routine, including when you go to sleep and when you wake up, do your best to maintain that schedule while you are traveling, as much as it is in your power. This will keep your body in its rhythm and give you the best chance to remain awake and focused on accomplishing the purpose of your trip.
- If your hotel choice is up to you, try to book a hotel that is centrally located in the city. This will give you a better opportunity to get out and walk, keeping up with your exercise while also potentially seeing some pretty cool sites!
- If your hotel has a spa and/or fitness center, take advantage of it! These provide great opportunities for a quick early morning walk on the treadmill (especially if the weather isn’t cooperating), a quick swim in the pool or a much-needed massage or facial at the end of a long work day. Sometimes you will even find resorts that offer yoga or other fitness classes that you can participate in for little or no cost.
- To keep your body fueled well, look for local juice bars or fruit and vegetable stands where you can pick up some fresh produce for minimal cost. Also, when eating at restaurants, look for the healthy options on the menu. I find that traveling for work is very different than traveling personally, when I might splurge on something more decadent. When I’m traveling for work I always look for the healthy options so I can operate at my finest and focus on my work.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for something that is not on the menu. Once when traveling for work, I was in a casual conversation with my server and mentioned that I was in the habit of making myself a green juice in the morning. The server asked me to tell her the ingredients and she would have it made for me - and that she did! Also, don’t be afraid to ask for changes to standing menu items. Want grilled chicken instead of breaded? Just ask.
- Extend your stay a day or two and enjoy the culture. Joy, creativity and education all contribute to your overall well being. Why not stay a couple of days extra if you can and take in the local culture? Visit museums, walk the city, or look into taking a class on something that you might only be able to do in that city. It could be a cooking class, or a trip to a winery to stomp grapes or I even once saw a place where you could actually create your own marionnette! You never know if or when you will make it back to this city, so get out there and experience some joy, creativity and education! And be sure to take lots of pictures so you can remember the amazing time you had for years to come!
- Developing good relationships is also another great way to improve your well being. Did you meet someone on your trip that you just clicked with? Get their contact information, connect with them on social media, check in with them periodically via email or phone call and you might just find you’ve made a friend for life. I now have amazing friends all over the world, and whenever I’m back in their city, I make sure I find the time to connect with them in person.
- And here’s a bonus tip. Bring something with you to remind you of home so your hotel environment is comforting and welcoming. Maybe it’s a framed photo of a loved one or a stuffed animal that was given to you by someone special. Having something familiar with you will help you to feel more centered, at home and relaxed.
One final thing that I have to mention is that although it is fun to travel to new cities and explore new cultures, the number one thing on your mind should always be your safety. Traveling alone as a woman can be scary and come with extra considerations that we must take in order to ensure that nothing bad happens to us. When you travel, be sure that someone always knows where you are, where you’re going, what time you should be there, etc. If there is someone that can go with you as you travel within the city to meetings or wherever you need to go, be sure to take them with you. Again, this is where it is very helpful to develop relationships. For example, the first time I went to Athens for work, the people I was meeting with sent a driver to pick me up from the airport. They have known and trusted this gentleman and his company for many years. I have developed a friendship with him now too, so much so that any time I am in Athens, I will spend the extra money it costs me to have him pick me up because I know I can trust him and that I will be safe.
Being able to travel for work to amazing destinations around the globe is certainly a privilege that is not afforded to many. If you are one of the few that get to experience this, I hope these tips help you to continue to make yourself and your wellness a priority even when you are away from home. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, who will?
Kathy Wisniewski is a certified health coach and the owner of True and Lasting Wellness, where she helps people identify and achieve their health and wellness goals. She also works full time employee for a nonprofit organization which allows her to travel the world – mostly solo!
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