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Survival of the fittest -tips for staying healthy on the road (reposted)

June 11, 2009

With WHO about to announce H1N1 at the pandemic stage, I thought it was a good idea to repost this topic. It gives you an overall view on how to stay healthy while travelling advice given by some serious travellers. I’ve also added a short piece on Swine Flu with some links to go to.

When I was studying up the travel guides for next year’s trip around Central Asia (now postponed), I began to accumulate questions that, over time, would need answers. So I asked a couple of long term travellers if they could offer some tips and suggestions on how to stay healthy while on the road.

Tips for staying fit on the long road.

The first question relates to fitness, stamina, endurance. Not only physically, but mentally and spiritually. Travelling with a house on your back differs enormously to travelling with a camera and money belt while on a package tour. True, there are varying levels of fitness needed for both types of travel, but the latter is probably easier to plan -while munching on a donut.

“How fit should I be to survive climbing on and off buses, trains, boats, bikes, horses, camels (yaks?) with bags, in the heat, cold or at high altitude?”, “should I be thinking about developing a fitness routine before I go and while I’m travelling?” Another question arose as well; “how do I stay healthy while on the road, particularly mentally strong?” – I may be on the adventure of my lifetime but it will be punishing at times.

I wanted to know what well-seasoned travellers thought, people who are out there travelling now. I asked Gary Arndt popular blogger with Everything-Everywhere, who has been travelling since March 2007; and Audrey Scott and Dan Noll renown bloggers with Uncornered Market, long term travel gurus. A big thanks goes to them for responding!

Prepping before the trip?

Audrey, Dan and Gary all said they kind of did, but didn’t follow a plan. Although they implied that they had a certain amount of physical fitness already to begin with. Audrey more so than the guys.

Staying healthy tips.

Walk everywhere and often, eat local food -vegetables and fruits, drink a river of water (bottled I suspect), and have a good nights sleep (ear plugs are essential equipment). Simple advice, but how often do we ignore it for that must have Mac Attack?

How to with Swine Flu (new insert)

With the rapid spread of  the H1N1 flu virus aka swine flu, there is a risk of picking this up on the road if you: travel through infected areas, stay at hotels with an outbreak, mingle with others who have it, do not take care of your overall health.

But keep it real, there is also a risk of being hit by a car, falling down a flight of stairs while drunk, and picking up the common flu virus. Take precautions. Here some links which may help you more in your planning.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its site on what to do before, during and after your trip. has eight precautionary tips, WebMD gives a more in-depth look at what to do.

If you feel unwell as a result of travel then don’t leave it, no matter what it is. You may be sick, but worse, you may be unknowingly passing it onto others.

What about mental stamina, not burning out before the journey reaches mid point?

Gary said he has a stoic character and doesn’t get fazed easily, but the key to staying on top of it all is not to rush the travel. Stay a little longer somewhere and soak in the surroundings. Dan and Audrey both said its important to get out of the tourist traps. Find a small nearby village and mix with the locals. Which makes sense as you connect more with the locals than sitting in a tourist ghetto.

Travelling with your house on your back.

I asked the three how they manage to live out of a backpack for such a long time. In unison they said you get used to it and you learn to adjust. Even though at times you do miss wearing things like jeans or semi casual clothes. I would probably miss my cosmetic counter (large enough to supply a department store). What about you?

Fast or slow pace?

One of the most important tips I got from Audrey, Dan and Gary was to go slow, don’t exhaust yourself doing long hours of sightseeing. Its good to have a cut off point and do other things as a distraction and form of relaxation. I guess most of us have some kind of distraction: blogs, websites, photography, letter writing. I really like hanging out in a local cafe or quiet place reading a trashy cheap novel. How about you?

Using your common sense is fundamental to surviving the long journey. It’s interesting to see that short term travel is more exhausting than long term ( another post for another day).

On a caffeine note – not one of them mentioned staying recaffeinated. Everything in moderation.

So fellow readers, travellers, wise old owls, now it’s your turn to add your valuable tips and advice. Just go into comments and type your thoughts. Some may be moderated depending on content.

Thanks to Gary, Audrey and Dan.

Stay healthy

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. October 6, 2008 3:19 pm

    Great tips! I will surely keep in mind all the advices of the travel “pros”. I think I am not in the position to add an advice in the jar since I don’t travel that much. But I have a question. My question is about choosing the right budget 😀 The last time I traveled, I think I got too stingy that when I got home I had regrets and I was on the “I wish I bought that” mode. On the other hand, a friend of mine when he travels, his budget is double or triple the cost of the whole trip. He said its OK since he prepared for it and he can buy anything he fancies. So what is the best approach to enjoy while budgeting for a trip without breaking my bank?

  2. Zowie permalink
    October 8, 2008 11:46 pm

    Are you using only LPs or another guide book? which ones do you think are better?

  3. October 8, 2008 11:53 pm

    Hey Z
    I have an odyssey companion for Tajikistan – its very informative, good shots but 600 plus pages. LP seem to have changed their style of books, less colour shots, more information about metro services in cities, probably trying to keep costs down. Honestly I haven’t found a great guide book. Most up to dateinformation I get is from other blogs. LIKE MINE 🙂

  4. Erin permalink
    October 13, 2008 10:28 am

    Hey there Cate, well from what i remember from travelling to asia 20years ago was i arrived rather ‘green’ fresh of the plane on my own, late at night. All a bit bewildering! Check what time your arriving at your destination before you land, know where you may want to stay, try to be safe.Of cousre i did none of this and im still here today, but i walked with a heavy pack, wearing clothes that were way to hot, a few undesirable streets to get to the backpackers after disembarking to early of one of the buses stops.
    Depending on how you coped travelling it might pay to get a room to yourself to catch up on some sleep, dormitories can be noisey places, of course this is in hind sight and contary to what i did.
    Relax, chill out, you have been working in the corporate world for years your body clock wants to go go go, you will appear to every other seasoned traveller to be a complete paranoid plonker, just take a chill pill.
    Go and mix out amongst the locals then when the crowds and people get to much retreat back to the pages of a good novel back at the backpackers. Do this for about a week, you will then start to slow down and blend in a little more, loose those fresh green lettuce leaves. This will make you less a target and able to cope with the forwardness of some street vendors, instead of running you will be able to engage in casual chat, learn some of the local language, this can be fun.

  5. October 14, 2008 5:40 am

    Erin, its been a while. Thanks for your valuable tips. I appreciate all who have been corresponding with me on this post. So, any tips on how to survive Queenstown in Christmas season? What would you recommend travellers do? And locals? I will be heading that way in Feb 08!
    Stay in touch

  6. October 15, 2008 2:37 pm

    Yes I agree with you Cate, I think it is awesome if you’ll have a topic about budgets when going on a trip. Maybe like “Budget Tips” or something, because not all can travel with skies the limit budget. ^_^


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