Everyone asks me “Did you get sick while you traveled around the world?” and I can honestly answer “No”. We really never got sick, or had any major injuries. BUT since I’ve been home I seem to have every cold, flu, or crud that comes through town. What was it about traveling that was different? How did we manage to stay healthy? Why were we healthier “on the road” than at home? I’ve compiled a list of my educated guesses.
1. Living outside: Most of the places we stayed we lived much closer to the elements. Open windows, no A/C, outside in nature most or all of the day. We definitely got our daily dose of Vitamin D and we weren’t cooped up in a germ factory. Our kids were out of school and probably less exposed to every germ and bug that passed through town. Even with all the plane rides we took our immune systems seemed to get a boost from our daily outdoor life.
2. Exercise as part of daily life. Many of the places we lived required us to walk to the markets, to town or to (and through) the places we wanted to tour. We spent more time hiking, walking, snorkeling, or swimming each day than we ever do at home. Being active was part of our daily living and it felt good. We drove considerably less. Being home it requires much more of an effort. I admire those friends who ride their bikes to work and walk to the grocery or adhere to a regular exercise time schedule. You have to make it a priority here, or you will lead a less active lifestyle than when traveling.
3. Stress free. Yes, I can’t ignore the fact that we left jobs and school and activities behind for a year. We were living a much less stressful daily existence and it was healthy. There are still real pressures while traveling but being “unplugged” was healthy and provided for a valuable lesson about the stress we tolerate here. Trying to reduce stress and too much structure (over-scheduling) has been part of our return plan – but the reality is that living in the US with jobs and two children makes for a hectic daily schedule. That reality has added stress to our lives and we continue to try and find the elusive “balance”.
4. Eating healthy. Part of traveling is enjoying the food. It is ironic that it is often the food that makes travelers sick. We were part lucky but we were also vigilant about monitoring what we ate on the road, making sure to visit any health food store that appealed to us over the street food. I attribute our not getting sick to that. In many places, we never drank the water unless it was bottled. Not even to brush our teeth. We also avoided fruits you couldn’t peel and salads. If it was fried or cooked we generally ate it. We tried most things in every country – including occasional “street food”. In sum, we ate a lot of organic, local, fresh food throughout the world and very little processed food. Eating healthy in the USA is definitely possible – but compared to many places it is more expensive. Also, there are also plenty of ways to eat poorly here at home and it is difficult to avoid the temptation of quick, processed, fried, fatty and fast foods.
5.Good healthcare. We had our shots before we left. We took anti-maleria meds where we needed to. We had everything we needed before we left and were able to find pharmacies around the world to get us staples when we needed them. Preventative healthcare, our general good health, and a lifetime of good healthcare prepared us for a year of traveling. I can’t say enough about starting with a good foundation as a means to help you stay healthy.
So as I sit here, congested with a head cold, envying how warm it is in Fiji in February, I will say that traveling was a healthy experience for us. I’m going to have to work on making life at home just as healthy… or I’m just going to have to get back on the road.