The challenge of healthy nomading is that finding ourselves in a completely new environment every 30 days makes keeping to any routine with diet, exercise, etc is almost impossible. This, in addition to us trying to take full advantage of new opportunities, experiences, and fantastic foods that surround us, make it tricky to have a single plan in place that we can stick to consistently.
Since Michelle and I view our travels as a lifestyle and not an extended vacation, it was important for us to try to stay healthy in all aspects. We even ended up being healthier than we were back home in some cases.
I’m a big believer in the phrase ‘You are what you consume’ - (I know the phrase is ‘you are what you eat’, but I prefer consume as it’s more representative of what makes people. In my mind this also includes any drinking, substances, media, books, etc, not simply food). The first facet of staying healthy for us was going to be looking into what we put into our bodies. We have experimented in the past with different diets for weekly cadences in order to expand our food diversity, but we wanted to go deeper here. We wanted to understand how certain foods affect us, and how they can be used to our advantage.
Both Michelle and I signed up for 10 sessions with a nutritionist through OnPoint Nutrition. This is a remote nutritionist who speaks to you either once or twice per week, can help you set nutrition goals, and, most importantly, keeps you accountable. This program helped us understand what we consume and we tracked all of our meals for the entire duration of our sessions. This was extremely helpful for us in the long term to stay healthy.
Tuna Nicoise Salad in Tel Aviv (not pictured: me not eating the crossaint and bread ;)
Specifically for us, since we’re on the road and have no real constants in our lives with respect to foods available to us, we put forward a plan to try and at least be consistent and thoughtful about our meals. The biggest part of this for us is breakfast. We try to keep consistent with a breakfast of eggs and vegetables wherever we are. (Of course, we can also mix this up a bit, for example, adding a baguette between the two of us when we were in France 🥖 or hummus when we were in Isarel 😋.) This breakfast sets us on a good path for the day, spares us carbs for later in the day, and already gets in a serving of vegetables! 🥦
We also try to cook as much as possible at home. Ok, well, Michelle cooks at home. This is good for our stomachs, as well as our wallets. It is quite tempting to simply eat out all the time when you’re constantly surrounded by new and delicious foods, but we try to keep our intake to what we know as much as possible.
Michelle is allergic to nuts and has several different food restrictions that make all of this even harder. I have become an expert ‘nut tester’ for those many moments where we can’t communicate with the server or cooks.
Current Status: Healthiest I’ve been eating since I left the nest.
The next obvious stop on our staying healthy as nomads tour is staying physically fit. This was definitely easier said than done as we didn’t have much of a routine in place even before we left on our trip.
The most important word in the previous paragraph is routine. What I’ve found is that it’s much easier to do even a small workout every day or every 2 days, than 1 larger workout once a week. Getting in the habit will help give you compound results when it comes to staying fit.
Again, a nomad’s main issue here is that we don’t have many constants between where we’re staying and traveling to.
When affordable, we seek out Airbnb’s and accomodations with a gym and/or pool in the apartment building - that’s a win! When we do have that, we try to take advantage of that as much as possible. I’m not much of a pool guy, but Michelle likes going for a short swim after a workout to cool down 🏊♀️ so I go and keep her company.
Michelle and I in the pool in Phucket
In some places we stay at, we actually look for a nearby gym membership. If the price is reasonable, it’s not too far away, and has the equipment we need, we sign up! The good thing about paying for a gym membership is it motivates you to go everyday since you get more bang (or muscle 💪) for your buck.
If the weather is good where we’re staying and the lay of the land is pretty simple, Michelle and I opt for jogging. This is a bit more difficult to do everyday, but you get in more of a sweat. We started small, especially me, as I was never a jogger. But you can slowly build up, become more comfortable, and start running longer distances.
And finally, the real secret to us staying physically fit on the road is the last scenario: simply working out at home. This has the smallest barrier to entry, and done right, you can still get great workouts into your daily routine. The secret waepon for us was the Nike Training Club app. They have a myriad of varied workouts for different muscle groups or fitness level. There are plenty of no equipment/body weight work outs available, perfect for the aspiring healthy nomad who doesn’t have the luggage space for a 10 pound dumbell. When I do a Nike Training workout, I try to do a 15-20 minute full body workout, followed by a 6-12 minute core workout. This leaves me sweating and feeling good about the rest of my day!
Nike Training Club app
You can be doubly productive during your workout and listen to a news podcast, audiobook, or something similar. Michelle listens to Rachel Madow, while I listen to the NYT Daily. Just make sure it’s not too funny, or you might lose your step on the treadmil. The more distracting what you’re listening to, the better! You’re just trying to get your routine going.
Current Status: Most physically fit I’ve been consistently for the duration of over 6 months.
Certainly a large part of staying healthy but most often overlooked, is our mental health. Traveling for so long at a time, never having a true home base, being away from family and friends, being torn away from friends you make constantly, digital nomading is quite mentally draining. We’ve come up with certain tricks along the way to help make it more digestable and manageable.
First and foremost, you’ve heard me say it before and I’ll say it again, slow travel is the way to go. We typically stay in 1 country, and usually only 1 accomodation in that country for 1 month at a time (mini trips excluded, but with mini trips you don’t have to take all of your belongings with you). This means that we are able to focus more on the experience of traveling, as opposed to the act of traveling. We’ve done the hopping around, consisting of a few days here, a short stint there, while trying to absorb everything in that short amount of time. It’s exhausting. And especially if you’re working while on the road, it makes it all but impossible.
Try to make your accomodation as homey as possible. We unpack our suitcase when we arrive to whatever dressers/drawers are available to us. We bring our Roku player and plug it into the TV so we have our shows readily available. We even went so far as to get 2 travel-sized Christmas decorations and have already used it at 2 different accomodations! 🎊🎄
Socially (and also much more than socially), I’m eternally thankful for Michelle. She’s not only my better half, but I’d go crazy if I didn’t have her to talk to and get through tough situations. It’s no surprise that as a couple traveling long term, you get to know each other really well in lots of different situations.
When it comes to trying to meet new people, we look towards CouchSurfing meetups and Meetup.com (though we have had more luck with CouchSurfing meetups). In most of our stays, there was usually a weekly get-together at some local bar where ex-pats, travelers, and locals alike congregate. Not going to lie, it is quite hit-or-miss depending on what week you end up going to. But we have met some cool people and had great times through these meetups.
Friends we made at a CouchSurfing Meetup in Belgrade
With regards to our family and friends, we try to take the initiative of calling them and keeping in touch - it was us who decided to leave, after all. I speak to my family about twice per week, and try to catch up with a different friend about once per week (though I know I’ve been failing there, bear with me, friends!).
It’s also very important to have your ‘me time’ and maybe a hobby or two. Alone time is great to simply go through your thoughts and let your mind’s thinking take its course. This is coming from an introvert, but when traveling with someone who is by you side 24/7, it’s important to ‘plug in’ for a bit. Michelle and I have different sleep schedules, she’s a night owl and I’m a morning person. We leverage this to ensure we each have some alone time. In terms of hobbies, it’s good to keep your brain on edge and keep sharpening it. I took up the NYT Daily Crossword and try to complete 1 puzzle per day. It gets me something to do everyday, can be social if I choose to make it so, and diversifies my day.
Current Status: Near the happiest era of my life ever. Not the most social era of my life.
Happy travels!Written on December 29th, 2019 by Tomer S