Positive Personal Changes After a Year+ of Travel, Part 3

When it comes to good habits I picked up on the road, the majority of them apply to health and nutrition. It is a strange thing to zero in on, but since returning to the United States, I have taken a closer look at what we eat, how much we eat and even the ingredients we put inside our meals. The irony is that Tara started getting into health, nutrition and fitness a few years before we left, but I didn’t pay too much attention to the information she was learning and sharing. Fast-forward to me losing 40 pounds by the end of our RTW trip through increased exercise and an improved diet and suddenly all of this seems vitally important.

Pre 10-miler racers

Pre 10-miler racers

When we first got back, I wrote an article about my weight loss. This was motivated by my thoughts of, “Wow, I actually lost around 40 pounds,” but the post lacked the contrast of life on the road versus full-time living in the U.S. In this case, it’s been about 9 months since we’ve returned and I am better now able to spot the good habits we picked up while traveling, as well as the ones that can be applied to anyone looking to improve their health. Here are a few of my top tips.

First and foremost, you are what you eat. Every time you step into a restaurant you are giving up control over your diet. Sure, you can see the ingredients listed on some menus, but the preparation and details of where your food came from are not always known. It’s tough to make sense of the amount of calories, fat, sodium and sugar you can and should consume in a meal, but when I am in my own kitchen and I see a recipe call for 2 cups of sugar, at least I can adjust to what I think is appropriate and desirable for myself. This is one of the reasons Tara and I rarely eat out (plus, we save a ton of money by making our own meals). Also, we stopped eating meat years ago, and while some restaurants have begun catering to vegetarians, it is still not as prevalent as it could be. Continue reading

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5 Challenging Exercises for Travelers

Fethiye to Olympos cruise

Mike relaxing during a cruise we took in Turkey. Definitely not dreaming about exercise!

Even for the most diehard gym-goers, exercise during a vacation seems like punishment. It’s typical to leave your routine at home and fall into a relaxed hypnosis, only to awaken a week later on your return flight.

While this is normal and completely understandable, Mike and I couldn’t fall into that habit during a 14-month trip. Can you imagine how much weight we would have gained if we skipped exercise, stuffed ourselves silly and binge drank our way around the world? Instead, Mike miraculously lost more than 35 pounds! People mostly react by saying, “Well you walked everywhere, didn’t you? And with those heavy packs…” But Mike’s weight loss didn’t even start when we were lugging our bags around in Europe. It happened once we hit Asia. We still walked around a lot, but transportation is so cheap in Asia that it’s silly to walk from the train station to your hotel at high noon when a taxi costs the equivalent of $2 USD. Often times, losing weight doesn’t have anything to do with the 15 minutes per day you spend with a bag on your back (just ask Mike). It has to do with what you eat, how much you consume and – even though you don’t want to hear it – exercise. Continue reading

How the Heck Did I Lose 35+ Pounds on This Trip?

Little by little, I have been shedding weight. It was not a dramatic overnight change, but rather a healthy yearlong transformation. I would like to say exercise and a balanced diet were the reasons, but there is more to it. I suppose you could say the additional weight was a literal and metaphorical burden that I left in the United States. A more scientific approach would say that my portion sizes have shrunk and the street, hawker and restaurant food is generally (and surprisingly) healthy and fresh with few or no preservatives.

This is me on my wedding day.

This is me on my wedding day.

Before I address my weight loss, I first have to answer how I got to be overweight. In June 2012, just as Tara and I left the U.S., my weight hovered around 200 pounds, but I was not always this heavy. In high school, I had reached my current height of 5 feet 11 inches, but was a slender 135 pounds. Running track and playing soccer kept me slim, but this was also years before I knew what a pilsner or porter beer was. I maintained this weight throughout high school, and it only slightly increased during my first two years of college. During my junior and senior years, I studied film in the Czech Republic. Over that time I gained roughly 50 pounds. Continue reading