Every time I am asked – How do you earn money to travel? My answer has been – Health is the only thing you need to travel well. I have been meaning to write this post for years now. It had to be a health break that made me finally sit and write this. Probably, there is no better time than writing on health.
I know it seems like common sense that health is needed for traveling.
Let me tell you how travel can both be a boon or a bane for health.
We know the health benefits of travel. It helps us reduce stress, it lets us spend some time with ourselves and with nature. It lets us re-charge our batteries in a way that only travel can. Travel can open you up to so many ideas that your energy levels naturally go high.
Travel Health – Two interdependent must-haves in life
Like they say, the excess of everything is bad. If you are traveling a lot either for work on pleasure, it can take a toll on your health.
What Travel Does to the Body!
Travel is essentially a physical activity. You move from one place to another, one weather to another, one temperature to another, one altitude to another. Top it with the fact that the water changes, food changes even the time zones change. Yes, when you go from the west coast of India to North East, you have traversed a good amount of time zone even when the clock reads the same time. All this put together can be quite a bit for the body to handle.
Even when you are a disciplined person when it comes to the following a routine. Start traveling and the travel will challenge your routine at every step. Even the most luxurious of travels can leave you exhausted in more than one way. Ok, I am not counting the highest end where you travel in your own chopper. I have not experienced that. For the way most of us travel, let me share a few examples:
Sleep loss or Disturbed Sleep
When you take a 4 AM flight, you leave home latest by 2 AM, stand in various queues at the airport before your body can adjust itself to the limited space called your aircraft seat. You have already lost a good night’s sleep. Usually, you would not get any sleep until the late evening if there are no other plans.
You are at a destination where the most recommended thing is a sunrise that you can not miss. You are probably staying 30-90 minutes away from this magical spot. There goes another night’s sleep. I remember when we had to visit Borobudur Temple in Java, Indonesia, we started around 3 AM from the hotel to reach the temple at 4 AM. We walked in near darkness till the stairs. Just as we started climbing, the sun started showing its first rays. Sunrise at Borobudur is magical – no doubt about it, but it demands some sleep sacrifices.
No Routine is the Travel Routine
At home, eating on time is one of the key routines you follow. Travel can be ruthless to your daily routine. When you move time zones your body clock is confused. Even in your own time zones, there are rare times when you can eat on time. Every time you take an early morning jungle safari, you are famished by the time you head back to your hotel. Jungles incidentally have no options to eat.
Walk You Must
You need to walk, hike, climb – no matter how luxuriously you choose to travel. I was exploring Jaipur and its surroundings in absolute luxury, with a car and chauffeur at my disposal. We reached Bhangarh Fort in the middle of the day and that meant walking the whole length of the fort, climbing the steep ramp and then tall stairs to get that panoramic view of the fort. By the time I reached back, I had walked about 3 kilometers. Do not forget it was peak sun time.
I was in Lumbini in Nepal, and I made the mistake of not hiring a cycle rickshaw in the morning. It was easy to enter the park but it took me the whole day to come out. By the time I managed to reach the hotel, I had clocked 19 km walking and my legs had given up.
At Petra in Jordan, I walked 15 km to see the ancient rose city, even when I did the hike to the monastery on a pony. Yes, I could have taken a camel ride or a cart ride in some patches, but then I would have missed admiring the nuances of the lovely city. I would not have listened to the Music of the Bedouins.
In the popular destinations that are well connected and offer the best of tourism infrastructure, you need to negotiate a lot. Say you want to see the Taj Mahal unless you are a VVIP, you need to stand in queues, negotiate the crowd and walk a substantial distance. Or say the easy to access Dwarkadhish Temple in Dwarka, you still need to walk a lot and go up and down a lot.
I am not even getting into the endurance you need for adventure activities. When I visited British Columbia in November, in 30 hours I went from a warm Goa to snow clad Whistler. The very next I was Ziplining in Whistler over the snow-clad mountains and crossing almost frozen rivers. Think of the courage it needed while the body was still getting used to the new climate.
In our younger days, the body can take a lot. I have traveled for days with almost no sleep. I would come home and sleep for straight two days, that is another story. In my 40s, I need my rest, I need my comfortable accommodation and I need time to explore destinations with a sense of intimacy.
Slow travel helps and is probably the best way to travel. But then not everyone is traveling full time and has all the time to travel.
Food – To Eat or Not!
Being a foodie is a fashion statement now. People swear that they can travel for food. I, on the other hand, prefer to have as simple food as possible, so that I do not make the tummy overwork.
Foodie or not, it takes your digestive system a while to adjust to the new food. In Dresden, I was the only vegetarian in the group and I kept getting a lot of cheese in my food. After 3 days, my system just could not take it and I had to specifically ask for food without cheese. Nothing wrong with the food, but my system was simply not used to having so much cheese on a regular basis. Point being, there is so much diversion that your system can take from your regular food. Limits may be different for different people, but they always exist.
Mind – More Active than you think
Travel is almost a mental exercise. Not only are you trying to fit in your destination and figuring out how things work there but also absorbing everything you see, hear, smell, feel. You are absorbing and assimilating everything that is new around you. It is some work for your mind.
Overall, being healthy is the least common denominator that you need for travel. If you love to travel the way I do, let it be your biggest motivation to stay healthy. Be aware that your body is also traveling with you and adapting to all the changes coming its way. Afterall, your travel health depends entirely on your health.
Stay Healthy! Travel Well!