One of the most common questions I get asked as a digital nomad is, first, how I make money online, then, how the hell do I stay healthy in Asia?!
The first time I travelled to Asia I was terribly unhealthy, so I understand the concern and the frustration around full-time travel and living a healthy lifestyle.
I am different now. I was 19 then, I am 24 now. I have more balance in my life and more drive to live and feel good in my body & mind. But, along the way, I have picked up some healthy travel tips & tricks that have helped me from transit to daily life to everything-in-between.
What to Pack for the Plane
Healthy Food for the Plane
Yes, you can bring food on the plane. A common misconception is that you HAVE to eat the slop that they serve you on planes.
As long as you’re not bringing soup or some other kind of liquid, you can pack your meals beforehand and avoid nasty plane food.
I generally only do this if I’m flying from Australia, as I can make the food in my own kitchen and refrigerate it up until I need to leave for the airport.
Some healthy travel food to consider packing:
A veggie falafel wrap
Healthy fried brown rice
Hummus and carrot sticks
Nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios)
Nothing too messy or smelly should be your main point of concern here. By packing your own food, you know exactly what’s in it.
If you’re tight on time or don’t have access to your usual healthy snacks, I suggest one of two options:
- Pre-book a vegetarian or vegan meal for your flight. They’re generally healthier than the standard meals, some even coming with brown bread instead of white, and fruit instead of subpar dessert.
- Pick up a Subway (veggie) sandwich at the airport and bring it on the flight. We tend to do this a lot in Asia, as it’s an easy way to get brown bread and a tonne of salad in to keep us full on the plane. Cut out the cheese & the heavy sauces.
Health and Skincare Necessities
On every flight, I never wear makeup. I’d love to look pretty on a flight, but it’s not worth the gross, tight, dried-up skin from flying. Instead, I stay (overly) moisturised. I make sure I have some rosehip oil on me and a good overall moisturiser. Pack some baby wipes too if that helps your skin feel fresher.
Healthy in South East Asia: What to Do When You Reach Your Destination
When travelling overseas, it’s pretty standard that you can’t drink straight from the tap. That’s one of the incredible parts of living and travelling in your own country that you just don’t get when you’re abroad.
Stock up on water ASAP.
If you know you’re going to be somewhere for a while, buy your water in bulk from the local 7/11 or Family Mart. Try to get a big carton so you’re reducing your plastic waste. We also tend to grab soda water in bulk as, despite being wrapped in plastic, they’re in glass bottles so your single-use plastic usage is much, much smaller.
Where and What to Eat
The food in any foreign location is brand new — you want to try it all. Does Thai food take the same as what it does in your home country? What are those weird fried buns? I must have them all!
A balance between your usual diet and the delights of travel will keep you on track. Finding the balance? That’s the hard part.
Opt for one meal of the day to be the SAME each day if you know you can get off track. Decide on a healthy muesli and almond milk for breakfast, the same tofu salad for lunch, or a healthy curry & brown rice for dinner… whatever it is, be consistent with ONE meal.
Find the ‘healthy eating’ spots in the area. Every city (note: city, not town) will have some form of health culture that you can dive into. We’re blessed with all the fresh fruit in Phuket, and of course, all the health nuts that come here to experience the destination gyms. You’re never too far from a healthy meal over here.
QUICK HEALTH TIPS
- Cut out the unnecessary sugars. Instead of ordering a Sprite or Coke, change it up with some water, sparkling water, kombucha or tea. We DON’T need soft drink to thrive, you can cut it out & use it as a special occasion treat… say for Friday night or Saturday lunch. The more you rely on the sweetness of soft drink, the less you’ll be able to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
- Choose the veggie option. I know I’m already a huge advocate for plant-based eating, but especially when travelling, it can be simply the smart thing to do. Depending on where you are in the world, the meat can often be transported for DAYS on end. It’s not always as simple as it is in Australia or New Zealand where it virtually feels like farm to table.
Travel & Fitness: How to Commit on the Move
Walk everywhere. You have fully-functioning legs — use them. If you can walk there in 20-60 minutes, lace up your sports shoes and get going.
Book your hotel (if that’s the route you’re going) based on whether there’s a gym. It doesn’t matter about the quality of the gym, as long as you’ve got access to the gym floor, some weights and a treadmill, you can do a pretty good workout.
For holiday-goers, relax and don’t pressure yourself — even three times a week will get you in a good physical and mental place to take on the day. For digital nomads, sticking to your regular routine is crucial, so do keep in mind whether you will have access to a fitness facility, either in your hotel or close by.
GYM ROUTINES & PROGRAMS
In any city, you can do a daily drop in at a gym. Any good gym will offer you a bottle of water, a towel and a locker. Rates can be anything from a few dollars to $20+ per day here in Asia. Not a gym lover? No worries, I get anxiety too when it comes to working out next to buff dudes. I have NO CHILL when it comes to dealing with machines, etc. I often search for classes or let my partner lead the workout, otherwise an in-room workout will do the job.
We stay in hostels quite often, so it’s not possible to do your own workout in a dorm room, but if you can, I would suggest downloading an app such as Kayla Itsines’ Sweat or Keep It Cleaner, by Steph Claire Smith & Laura Henshaw. Find a workout on YouTube, there’s so many for free and only take around 20 mins per day. Easy!
To sum it all up, stress less. Keep your health a top priority and you won’t feel the need to worry about when / if / how to get it done. Just do what suits you and your body, whilst nourishing your mind at the same time. I focus on my health so I can think clearer, feel fit, see all the sights, and be content within myself at the end of the day.