How to Stay Fit While Travelling

The rush to get ready for ‘bikini season’ never seems to last once you’re actually on holiday.  Cheap food is usually extremely unhealthy, and most travelers indulge in a little over the recommended glass of wine per night.

Backpackers tend to forget that a long-term trip is more than a cheating vacay: it’s life, and in order to stay healthy, it’s important to adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

Gym memberships are about as much a reality on the road as hair extensions and fake nails.  Luckily for RTW travelers, there are other, organic, fun ways to stretch your legs and get active abroad.

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Walk

Even if it’s only between train platforms and from the bus deposit to the hostel, traveling forces you to walk.  I despise being stuck inside stuffy tour buses, peaking at the city through a thick facade of tinted, fingerprint-smudged glass.  Instead, get outside and let your feet feel the pulse of the streets.  Turn down hidden alleyways and get lost.  Discover the local reality of where you are.  You’ve got two feet and a heartbeat—you won’t believe where they’ll take you.

Run

When you’re sick of walking; run.  Beaches, rivers, and parks often offer long expanses of winding paths and open land for your trotting feet to surpass.  Sure beats the stagnant view from the treadmill!  Cities around the world (such as Sydney, Australia and Kamloops, Canada) offer pathways with outdoor exercise equipment at intervals.  Who needs a gym pass, anyways?

Explore

Traveling offers countless opportunities for adventure.  Whether it’s canyoning, caving, rock climbing, hiking, scuba diving, sky diving, surfing, paragliding, or bungee jumping, the adrenalin rush of the world’s wildest activities will give your heart rate a healthy spike.  If you’re not into extreme sports, start up a beach volleyball game, drop in to an exercise class, or go out dancing.  Take the opportunity to try something new!

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Backpackers tote the entire weight of everything they own upon their backs.  Carrying this load around the world will firm your legs, open your eyes, and enhance your understanding of the world as you walk, run, and explore all that it has in store.

If you’re looking for some on-the-go exercises, bring along a tension band to tie to the dorm room doorknob while you’re hostel mates are out for the day. Crunches, push-ups, squats, and lunges can be done anywhere, and luggage makes a great weight. A scattered selection of hostels offer pools and weight rooms where you can get your pump on. But my personal favourite way to fire up my quads and engage my core away from home is dancing the night away at a new club every evening 😉

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What to Do When You’re Injured Abroad

The last thing a traveler wants to consider is the possibility of being injured abroad – until it happens to you.  The reality is, the likelihood of falling ill, being injured, or discovering strange changes in your body is much higher when you’re away from home.  So, how do you handle it?

Prepare for the Worst

Many health-related risks and costs can be prevented (don’t eat the ice cubes in Mexico!).  Research the political stability, common traveler ailments, and potential dangers of the places you intend to visit.  While some vaccinations are optional, certain shots are necessary.  Though they can be pricey, your health is worth more.

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Some countries offer free (or at least affordable) public healthcare:  Canada, the UK, Singapore, Cuba, Denmark, Norway, and New Zealand, to name a few.  Other countries will charge you an arm and a leg for a band-aid: the United States, Mexico, Russia, and the Netherlands, for example. While check-ups in England are covered for non-citizens, surgeries may not be.

If possible, bring all of your medication with you. Third world countries may have less-than-trustworthy healthcare systems. If you’re traveling off the beaten trail, bring your own first-aid kit or get first-aid certified before you go.  Drinking clean water and using hand-sanitizer can combat a lot of health-related issues before they occur.

Is Insurance Worth It?

When I was 20 years old, I thought I was invincible.  I had been backpacking Europe for 6 months, and the worst injury I had incurred was a massive hangover.  I was loving life, living in the French Alps, when I took a jump snowboarding and slammed down onto the icy snow like concrete. With one freak fall, I broke my back.  Seriously.

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I was rushed to Grenoble Hospital for spinal surgery.  I was told that I would probably be paralyzed.  I was in so much pain, I didn’t care.

Two weeks and over $30,000 later, I left the hospital in a stretcher, still relearning how to walk.

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Because I was only 20, my medical bills were covered by my parents’ insurance.  Had I been a few months older, I would have been in so much debt that my traveling days would be over forever.

You might travel your whole life and never break a bone.  Or you might trip on a hike, get bitten by a snake, or break your back snowboarding. It might not be likely, but it is possible.  The best advice I can give you is to cover your ass in case.

Find a Plan That Works for You

Insurance rates depend on where you’re going, how long you’re staying, and what you’ll be doing while you’re there.  UK citizens have to purchase extra ski & snow insurance that is covered in all basic Canadian plans.  Privatized insurance companies have diverse plans with fluctuating rates.  When I travel, I purchase daily insurance that I can cut off or add to at any time.  Doing the research to find the best rate for what you need is well worth it.

And When the Worst Occurs…

Don’t panic.  Let your rational take control and remember this blog post.  Breathe through it.  Even if the doc leaning over you doesn’t speak English and won’t let you call your parents (seriously, this happened to me), do your best to communicate your immediate needs.  Trust that these are medical professionals with your best interests in mind.  I was treated horribly in the French hospital – but there were still a few kind nurses who helped me contact my parents, slipped me extra morphine, and even called my scars “beautiful”.

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I’m not trying to scare you off taking risks while traveling, but it is important to be aware of the potential consequences of that cliff dive or bungy rope you’re entrusting with your life.  Prepare for the worst, but expect the best.  Somehow, I got through my atrocious injury, and I am traveling again today – with a new-found respect and appreciation for my legs that carry my around the world.

Every City is a Work of Art

Countless cities around the world are praised for their collection of masterpieces: think of the Louvre in Paris, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, and the graffiti that covers New York City.  What few tourists realize, is that every city itself is a work of art.

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Whether you are entranced by cluttered cobblestone streets, spicy Indian dishes, looming redwood trees, deep sea wildlife, moist rain forests, or wide open prairies, the word is a canvas blessed by both nature and man’s designs.  The ability to see the world as an art exhibit will completely change the way you travel.

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Every country, state, region, city, and neighbourhood has its own distinctive style. Cities have voices that communicate what the local citizen’s value.  High-rise business buildings, preserved heritage sites, Gothic cathedrals, winding alleyways, snow-capped mountain peaks … Everything around you speaks.  Everything is art.

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Keep your eyes open when you explore – look for what’s not obvious, and you will be amazed at the intricate artwork all around you.

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Just as every person experiences and interperts a work of art uniquely, a city’s perceived image is relative to each person. On a sunny day, Paris’ outdoor cafe culture is as electric as Leonid Afremov’a oil creations – but when it rains, the damp grey streets transform into John Constable’s stormy skies.

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Cities are diverse, vibrant, pulsing, works of art – which makes them even more inciting to absorb than shows in stuffy old galleries. Get outside into the snow, rain, sun, and explore the art it creates. Colour on the canvas.

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The best part? The World Gallery‘s admission is free and it’s always open!
Beauty is out there – it’s up to you to see it.

My Top Ten Tips for Exploring Australia

When I was 18 years old, I embarked on my first solo journey. Circumstance brought me to Australia – the perfect place for a newbie backpacker.  With chilled-out locals, stunning sights, and a common culture and language, the main difference between my homeland of Canada and Oz was the blistering temperatures. Coming from Alberta’s freezing winter, I was not complaining.

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Whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned vet, these 10 tips will help make your Aussie adventure one to remember.

1. Save your skin from the sun

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When I arrived in Sydney, I was beyond keen to begin exploring.  I had heard that Australia had a depleting ozone layer, but I didn’t take the warnings of skin cancer too seriously.  I had never burned before, but after one day walking around the harbour, my cheeks fried the colour of a boiled lobster.
Save yourself the trouble and follow Oz’s motto: slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, and slap on a hat.
(Then head to the beach and get yourself a tan!)

2.  Get wet

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Australians are world-class athletes. From Aussie Rules Footie to the Australian Open, locals love to show off their natural skills.  It must be something in the water – where most Aussies themselves excel.  With 25,000 km of coastline to play off of, Australia is home to some of the best water-sports in the world.

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3.  Beware of Bites

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Australia is infamous for containing thousands of things that can kill you.  The saltwater crocodile (found in the Northern Territory) has the strongest bite of any animal on earth.  The blue-lined octopus that hangs out in Sydney Harbour has some of the most deadly venom in the world. Walking through the bush, I stumbled upon a dead brown snake – responsible for the most snake-related deaths in Australia.  The Sydney funnel-web spider produces venom that is especially toxic to humans.  The list goes on and on.

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The good news is, despite all of these terrifying creatures, the #1 killer in Australia is not an animal at all – it’s skin cancer.  (Refer to my first tip!)

 

4.  Find yourself some Freebies

Australia is awfully expensive – but somehow, the country retains the image of a backpacker’s paradise.  There are plenty of ways to travel for less (or for nothing!) around Oz.  Couchsurfing is a great option for extroverts. I WOOFed my way through Australia. There’s free wifi to scam, lukewarm water fountains to stay hydrated, discount bus fares, and even free walking tours.  Keep your eyes open and you’ll find a wealth of Freebies all around Aussie!

5.  West Coast is the Best Coast

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When you get tired of the tourist-infested East Coast beaches, fly to the world’s most isolated city, Perth.  With 40 degree days and clear blue skies, the sun sets over the ocean every evening, making for some fantastic scenery.  I stayed at Backpackers on the Bay on Cottesloe Beach to get away from the hustling big city.  10 minutes south by train lingers the adorable town of Fremantle (and gateway to Rottnest Island). If I had my way, I never would’ve left Western Australia.

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6.  Try the local specialties

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While spreading salty condensed veggies on my toast isn’t my idea of a delicious breakfast, Australia has other treats to indulge in.  Aussies are obsessed with their meat pies – cheap, delicious, and definitely not nutritious, pick up a fresh-baked pie nearly anywhere in Oz. If you really can’t handle it, there’s always a Mackers around.

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I fell in love with Australia’s coffee culture.  While Gloria Jeans makes a mean White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Latte, independent coffee shops have more character and better coffee.
If you haven’t tried a Tim Tam slam, you haven’t been to Australia.  Grab yourself a cup of coco, bite into both sides of the tasty wafer, and slurp up your bevvie with your homemade cookie straw.  The real challenge?  Fling the half-melted wafer back into your mouth before it drops off – no hands allowed.

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7.  Take off to Tassie

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Most tourist maps of Australia forget to include the South-Eastern island of Tasmania.  Colonized as a prison for the “really bad” criminals, Tassie is a tiny, remote island off the coast of  a large, remote island.  Prisoners at Port Arthur must have felt awfully pessimistic staring past the Tasman Sea to Antarctica.

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Tassie was my favorite spot in all of Oz.  Most easily toured by campervan, the Bay of Fires, Wineglass Bay, and tree-top canopies are widely untouched by tourists (probably because they don’t even know it exists.)  If you’re looking for wild, off-the-beaten-path beauty, Tassie is the place to be.

 

8Leave your hairdryer at home

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Australia seemed so similar to Canada, I didn’t take the time to consider voltage differences in electronics.  While my converters and adapters worked fine, my primping products fizzled and died when I plugged them in.  Lucky for us females, the salty ocean spray scrunches long hair into that mess of lusted beach-side waves.

 

9. Stay away from YHA

While HI’s maintain world-wide standards, independent and family-run hostels are often friendlier,  cheaper, and have more character than chain hostels.  If you get the chance, live with a local, or take an overnight sailing trip around the Whitsundays.  Do anything but the norm!

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10.  Just dive in!

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The great barrier reef is the largest living thing on earth.  Composed of nearly 3,000 individual reefs, the area off the East Coast is teeming with underwater life.  Why not throw on a wetsuit and join the fish?  Even if you’re only comfortable snorkeling, the unfathomable colours and abundance of life will astound you.  Dive in to Oz and fall in love!

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There’s so much more to my favourite country in the world than could ever fit into one blog post – Goon, hoons, utes, and bogans, for starters.  While I love sharing stories about Oz, the best way to experience it is to go there yourself.