I get sick, a lot.
As a child I was the first to catch the cold going around and the last to get better. As a college student I would consistently push my body to exhaustion. Taking more credit hours than necessary, having two instead of one job even though it was unnecessary, then packing up and partying until the bars closed. I actually got mononucleosis and didn’t even know about it for over a month, because I was so used to my constant state of exhaustion.
Long-term or consistent travelers will recognize this as well. Last year Marco promptly got sick after each flight touched down. We were staying up light, socializing and changing time zones almost daily, and our bodies felt it.
There are hundreds of articles about “how to stay healthy while traveling”, most of which I find a bit silly. Very few people have time to “check out the hotel’s gym” while traveling. We want to see the city! We have itineraries! That said, Marco and I knew that after nearly seven weeks of antibiotics, fevers, colds, lost voices and migraines between the two of us, we had to make a change.
We started with our stress levels. Being tired makes me stressed, so I went to bed earlier and earlier (like a true teacher, I suppose). I pushed gratitude lists on both Marco and myself and we went back to our pre-travel diet, which has always been healthy. Travel upends all routine in our lives. It’s freeing and fun and gives us a sense of mischief. It can also wreck havoc on our bodies if not done correctly.
Now, I travel with precautions. Long gone are the days anything served on a plane will touch my mouth. It’s not a snob maneuver, it’s a survival tactic. My favorite part of travel is eating out, but with 21 days in Indonesia, some of those local meals can be replaced with a non-fried local meal. In America where we don’t travel for the food, we can cook for ourselves to keep our body on a more regular schedule.
By listening to my body and more or less following my regular schedules, I know I can stay healthy while travel – and even enjoy the wider health benefits that travel can give us.
With the New Year everyone wants to “lose weight!” and “get healthy!” – usually via extreme measures – but I’d challenge us to cut out the extreme measures; To pare back and return to the roots of healthy. This NPR article titled, Keep Things Simple For A Healthy, Long Life, says it best:
Stay healthy with just five simple moves
Get enough sleep.
Move your body throughout the day.
Eat well — a healthy assortment of foods. Mostly plants, and not too much. (An idea popularized by author Michael Pollan.)
Interact socially. Isolation is not good for the body, soul or mind.
Take some time to reflect on what you are grateful for.
Far too often the stresses of work (or in my case, children sneezing on me all day), lack of sleep and convenience food combine together to turn us in to walking, coughing zombies. It’s uncomfortable, unproductive and, actually, unnecessary. The best way to fight off the common colds isn’t by pumping your body with vitamins, but by simply listening to your body and providing it with the outside tools it needs to finish the fight. The rest the body can do on its own.
Travel changes our sleep schedule, meal schedule and everything else, but with a bit of attention, it doesn’t have to change our health.