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Travel Tip: Healthy Travel

Travel, Travel Health & Safety Add comments

Crowded TrainNo matter how healthy your lifestyle at home, traveling can be your #1 bane. Your routine immediately becomes non-existent, your menu consists of new and unusual foods, and your stress level has a tendency to blow through the roof. As impossible as it may seem, there are a few really simple ways to keep your body – and your mind – together in one, healthy piece.

Exercise

Travel almost always includes long periods of sitting,  during which your blood circulation can slow and your risk for blood clots increases. This is commonly referred to as “economy class syndrome.” This risk is easily and significantly reduced by standing and stretching every hour or so. If you are flying, just wait for a time when the seat belt sign isn’t lit and the aisle is clear, then stand up and walk around for a minute. If you have room while you are sitting, stretch your calves a bit, and if you have time to spare when you change gates, avoid moving walkways and trams. If you are in a car, make a point to pull over at a rest area or at an exit and do the same thing – walk around for a bit.

Food

Chicken Feet SoupOn the flight there, the airports are teeming with bright signs for McDonalds, Wendy’s, Taco Bell – you name it – but you shouldn’t feel as if your only option is to consume your daily calorie allotment in one meal. It may require some thinking ahead, but pack a meal or two – like sandwich, an apple and some crackers – in your carry-on or in the car with you. Not only is this healthier for your body, but you will feel better than if you had scarfed down a burger, fries, and a 32 oz. soft drink between flights.

Once in the new country, it might be a good idea to have packed some beef jerkey or trail mix for the trip in case there is a lack of protein – or in some cases, any food at all. I once went on a trip to Cameroon where meals were not readily available, and we were too remote to find any supplies.  The snacks I brought were all I had to keep up my energy. I did bring some granola bars, but they all completely melted.  If you are going to a hot culture with no electricity, stay away from anything that could possibly melt.

Water

Bottles of WaterIt’s a great idea to keep a water bottle with you while you are traveling. Dehydration causes your blood to thicken, again increasing the risk of blood clots, and can also intensify the effects of jet lag. Don’t feel like you have to chug a bottle at a time, but rather continually sip throughout the day. Do yourself a favor and avoid caffeine and alcohol also, as they speed up dehydration.  In the new country, it is imperative to keep your body hydrated with water.  In order to keep up your electrolytes, and enhance the taste of the water, it is a great idea to buy flavor packets to add to the bottles. On a recent trip to Africa, many of the team members got very ill, and those electrolyte packets really came in handy.

Please remember to keep enough water with you not only for hydration, but taking medication and brushing your teeth. Tap water in other countries can make some visitors extremely ill. Please check ahead before going if the water is safe for you to drink. 

Germs

I am far from “germaphobic,” but when I travel I am extremely conscious of what I touch, and wash my hands as much as possible. The last thing anyone wants it to end up at their destination with a cold, the flu, or possibly something worse. Carry (and use often) a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but remember to keep it less than 3 oz. and put it a zipper bag. However, please use it discreetly to as not to cause offense to anyone in your new culture.

To further assist my immune system I like to carry a few packets of a powdered vitamin  supplement. If you mix it in a little water in your water bottle and drink it down every so often, you will not only help your natural germ and bacteria defense, but will receive a noticeable boost in energy.  Cold Eeze or Zicam are also great, because you take them right when you are getting a cold, and they help you ward it off.

Sleep

Asleep on the planeBesides the extreme stress of travel and how that affects your body, the changing time zones and jet lag can really push you over the edge and lower your immune system.  Your best bet is to try to get as much sleep as you can, whenever you can.  Some people I have talked to actually start adjusting to the new time zone a week before the trip.  For me, I am too busy packing and getting ready to be that prepared.  However, once on the plane, I try to sleep on a schedule that coordinates with the time zone I am heading to.  I also just try to sleep anytime I can fit it in, because once there, sleep is sometimes hard to have time for with all the early wake-ups and in-country travel. 

Besides these ideas, make sure that if you need to take medication throughout the day that you keep them accessible and that you keep track of the time. This can be especially difficult if you are changing more than a few time zones, so plan ahead.

There is no reason you should have to fall victim to any of the potential health-related set-backs associated with travel. Don’t be paranoid, but always be wisely cautious. The planning ahead you do will pay off not only when you reach your destination, but you will be more likely to enjoy your travel as well.

Train photo by jim snapper
Soup photo by malias
Water photo by shrff14
Sleep photo by huong-lan

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