Earlier this year, my bearded better half and I decided to escape real, responsible adult life in the city for a travel adventure which is taking us from Costa Rica to Argentina, via all of the snowy peaks, sandy beaches, yoga classes, jungle treks and waterfall dips possible. The main motivation for our adventure was to give our sun-starved, tired out selves a year off the daily grind and be let loose without curfew deep amidst the great outdoors.
Perhaps I’d been a little too vocal about being addicted to a plant-based, superfood packed diet prior to our departure, causing friends and loved ones concern as they envisioned me passed out on a grubby floor somewhere – unable to cope with the distress of having to survive on buckets of hostel cooked pasta and nondescript fried street-meat.
Fortunately enough, discovery number one of traveling was that even if you’re on a trip typical of gap-year 19 year olds, you don’t necessarily need to eat like one. We’ve been eight months on the road so far and we’re still fueling our hikes with maca and chia seed porridge and my Instagram is still clogged with rainbow plates of salad conjured up in the most random of pit-stops.
Here’s my top five tips for staying healthy when you’re living out of a backpack…
1. TRUSTY TUPPERWARE
Yep, my first tip is to pack a good, air-tight tupperware. Forget fancy shoes or jewellery even exist – when you’re living half your life on a bus a girls best friend is reduced to a square plastic box. Whether your mode of transport is bus, car, taxi or plane, chances are your journey will deprive you entirely of anything resembling real, fresh food. This is mildly irritating when you’re on a bus for 4 hours but stomach crippling when you’re faced with a 22 hour bus marathon (yep, that happened). Before you depart fill your new best friend with something veggie based that won’t die too fast. Raw cabbage salads and chickpea-veggie mixes have been absolute winners for me.
2. OBEY THE POWER BREAKFAST
Start the day with something virtuous and you’ll be less likely to resign yourself to a greasy tray of street papas by lunchtime. Before traveling, I wouldn’t even have made it out of bed had it not been for overnight chia oats, a.k.a. the health food bloggers equivalent of potent narcotics, waiting patiently for me in the fridge. SO easy to make, even when you only have access to a kitchen shared with 30 other travelers and their half eaten saucepans of pasta.
The trick is to prep a decent stock of ‘the power mix’ to take with you ahead of your trip. For me this consisted of: chia seeds, maca powder and baobab, ground flax, sunflower seeds and cinnamon.
Then, all you need to seek out at your destination is a humble bag of oats, some fresh fruit for the topping and either almond milk (it’s been astonishingly easy to find), coconut milk or just plain old H2O to make the magic happen. Mix it together in the afore mentioned tupperware before you hit your bunk bed and in the morning you’ll have the healthiest brekkie ready to eat while everyone else in the hostel is queuing up to cook pancakes from a dodgy looking bag of pre-mix.
3. THE INTERNET IS YOUR FRIEND
Having arrived at over 60 towns so far on our travels, I’ve been amazed by how many wonderful, health obsessed people have set up shop in the far corners of this planet. I’ve met many of them through a phone app (have a search on your app store) which lists vegan/veggie cafes and restaurants and specialist/organic food stores. It was through this that I found a green juicery in a small town in Ecuador, a superfood-lovers paradise in Colombia and countless Hare Krishna centres offering bargain ‘menu del dias’ (super cheap veggie 3 course set lunches) in almost every major city. Having a quick search online and asking friendly hostel dwellers about where the nearest fruit and veggie markets are will save your tummy as well as your wallet too.
4. LEARN THE LINGO
Learning some of the local language is a given for most conscientious travelers, but don’t restrict yourself to friendly basics if you want to eat healthy when treating yourself to meals out. You’ll have to do the leg work for your own destination – but below are a couple of the most useful Spanish phrases I’ve come to rely on so far:
Yo soy vegetariano – I am vegetarian
Sin carne o pollo, por favor – Without meat or chicken, please (in some countries ‘vegetarian’ is simply not a thing)
Sin azúcar, por favor – Without sugar, please
Tiene aguacate? – Do you have avocado? (curveball: some South American countries call it ‘palta’ instead of ‘aguacate’)
5. BECOME A HOSTEL SEARCHING NINJA
Bid farewell to that adrenaline rush you used to get when browsing hotels for your summer holidays as searching for hostels is the least glamorous part of a traveler’s job description. If you’re trying to salvage your healthy glow then save your sanity and prioritize finding a decent hostel kitchen, preferably one equipped with more than just a sieve and a saucer… although the challenge of trying to make a meal using only the most random and obscure of utensils will really revitalize your creativity in the kitchen.
Suzie is a 200 hour qualified yoga instructor, travelling Central & South America with her partner whilst blogging about teaching yoga, keeping fit and eating healthy. See her adventures at lifeinfullcolour.co.uk and on Instagram @life.in.full.colour