Fresh Italian pasta? Baguettes et chocolat? Barbeque wars here in the USA? Culinary adventures are a major (if not the) highlight of the best destinations. When you’re out on the road, is it possible to eat what you want and still button your pants?
While I am a full advocate of letting go of your restrictions and immersing yourself completely into the country and culture in which you are traveling, it can be hard on your health and your waistline. You can take care of yourself while still indulging in the local cuisine with a few mindful choices.
Go for active intensity.
Tours are often categorized according to level of physical activity. If you want to maintain your usual active lifestyle, or you want to balance your (over)eating with activity, choose a fast-paced tour. Look for itineraries that include a lot of walking, hiking, and extra options, such as biking excursions. Operators like Overseas Adventure Travel, AmaWaterways (partnering with Backroads), and Go Ahead Tours design their tours with a moderate amount of daily activity, with options to always do more.
Location can play a big factor as well. Local tours of ancient, Mediterranean cities are guaranteed to include a lot of walking, as buses cannot get to the center of these cities anyway. South American nature treks are sure to include a high level of physical activity. You might find that tours of modern cities, like many here in the USA, are bus-based. Insight Vacations’ or Road Scholar’s slower-paced programs, or Collette’s National Park’s tour, are a few examples.
Take the stairs.
In hotels, airports, even tourist attractions, if you have the option to take the stairs, do it. Avoid skytrains and motorized walking paths in airports if you have time before your connecting flight. Use these ride-along options only when you are dragging heavy luggage—or when you’ve got the 30th floor master suite penthouse!
Make it a point to stretch.
Bus tours involve a lot of sitting. It can be easy to settle in next to the window with your book and camera for hours without movement. Set your watch to beep every hour, or better yet every half hour, and remind yourself to move. Neck rolls, ankle rolls, a quick stretch of your arms and legs, and an easy torso twist will help keep your blood moving and your joints free.
And take every opportunity to get off the bus. Even if you have absolutely no interest in the photo stop, even if you have no desire to use the restrooms, just get up and off the bus. Walk in circles around the parking lot if you have to. Your body and your mind need it.
It’s hard to drink enough water on tour when you spend hours on the bus and even more hours meandering through foreign lands. Toilets may not be very accessible or comfortable. However, I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay hydrated. New food and spices, an excess of alcohol, air pollution, extremes in climate, and traveling on planes are all dehydrating. Drinking 2-3 liters of water a day will help keep your system clear. Find out if your driver sells it on the bus, ask about the safety of the tap water where you are staying, and stock up on bottles of water when in doubt.
Choose your vice.
Food and wine cruises, like Tauck’s A Taste of France, mean that on tour you are going to eat. A lot. You are going to try foods your body isn’t used to eating every day. If you really want to keep control of your diet, choose one thing to indulge in and cut another. For example, if you’re going to have dessert, pass on the bread. If you want wine, opt out of the cheese plate. Making the choice to indulge in one thing will ease the pain of foregoing another.
Follow the Leader!
As a yoga instructor, I bring my mat everywhere I go and practice for at least 10 minutes each morning to stay energized and feel fit. I encourage my guests to incorporate movement into their mornings, whether it be a quick run, walk, or simple stretch, before starting their touring day.
After long transfers on the bus, I also remind travelers to take a walk around the city or a nearby park to loosen the joints. If you work with a trainer or take classes at home, ask for some on-the-road exercises that you can do in your hotel room or the fitness center. Most hotels also have walking or running routes that they recommend for guests.
In short: Finding the balance between indulgence and activity will help you enjoy your tour more. It will make your adjustment to “the real world” easier when you get back home, too!