The Healthy Traveler Paradox / Rylee Seavers

I love to be healthy. I also love to travel. Sometimes, these two things do not go well together.

Exploring new countries means trying new foods, seeing sights and meeting new people. These things consume a lot of time and energy, leaving little for exercising. Finding healthy foods in an unfamiliar country is also a challenge. However, when you become an expat and make a home overseas, whether for six weeks, six months or six years, you eventually have to work around these issues. I have had to make the conscious decision to be healthy every day while studying abroad in Budapest, Hungary.  Here are seven ways that I did it:

1. Know your food

Hungarian food has proven quite a challenge for me. I’m living in a land of fried dough, sweet chimney cakes, exotic cheese and seas of pastries. For a person who usually eats salad, grilled foods and vegetables, avoiding sugar like the plague, this has been quite difficult. I have adapted by scouting out restaurants in my area that offered healthy foods before going out to eat. This helps me avoid settling on a less healthy option when my hunger wins out over my desire for a salad.

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2. Cook if you can

I took advantage of my apartment kitchen by cooking at least one meal a day. You never know how healthy restaurant food is, so this allowed me to have more control over what I ate. It also pays to learn the key words on a nutrition label if you are in a country where a foreign language is spoken, like calories, sugar, fat and sodium so you have more control over what you buy at the grocery store. In the end, you will also save a lot of money by not eating at restaurants and get the opportunity to cook with local ingredients.

3. Walk when you can

If you are living in a city, you will walk more than usual. But, don’t let that stop you from enjoying a stroll to your destination. If your route only requires you to take one stop on public transportation, take a walk! It will help you learn the city and burn calories.

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4. Take advantage of your location

Working out isn’t (always) fun, especially when you find yourself in a new and exciting place. However, it is very important, especially if you are indulging in local delicacies. Try to find a place to run, walk or bike that allows you to see your temporary home and learn the streets. While in Budapest, I have been able to run and bike along the Danube, which almost makes me forget how much I hate exercising.

5. Avoid sugary drinks – hydrate!

Usually, travel entails a lot of walking or a lot of lounging. Either way, sugary drinks are not the best choice. Stick to water instead of drinking your dessert. I guarantee, you will thank me when you are sitting in a Hungarian café, enjoying a cinnamon chimney cake.

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6. Everything in moderation

One of the joys of traveling is enjoying local desserts. There is nothing wrong with that! But, there is such a thing as too much, so try and limit yourself to one reasonably sized sweet a day or every other day – and make it a good one!

Bonus! Only eat half your dessert and save the rest for the next day or share with a friend. You will still satisfy your sweet tooth with only half the sugar.

7. Rest

Everyone needs sleep and a traveler is no exception. Make sure to give yourself a break amid your adventuring. I know it can be difficult when there is so much to see and so little time, but your body will thank you. In the end, you will be able to see more sights and make better memories after a good night’s rest.

One more for good measure

Wash your hands! Public transportation, and the world in general for that matter, is full of germs. Imagine how dirty your hands are when you sit down to eat a meal after riding a bus or metro, handling money or pawing through items at a flea market. The thought makes me cringe. Keep yourself from getting sick by washing up regularly, especially before you eat, handle food or touch your face and eyes. And, always carry hand sanitizer or wipes for when you are in a pinch.

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