Staying Healthy and Active Whilst Volunteering and Travelling Abroad

Staying active and healthy whilst travelling and volunteering abroad is definitely something that can be tricky at times. For those of us who train and have regular exercise habits it can really throw you off track when you find yourself in an environment that doesn’t offer a state-of-the-art gym or Training Buddy to spot you when you left those weights! A break in routine can often be unsettling both physically and mentally. I get it, I’m a creature of habit!

I’ve travelled a lot and spent many months at a time away from my usual routine and facilities, so finding ways to adapt my plans has been something I’ve learnt to do. Here’s a few of my top tips I’ve picked up along the way.

A coconut a day keeps the Doctor away! Hydration is key for daily life, let alone when you’re on a tropical island and sweating from body parts you didn’t even realise you could! Coconut water is one of the best forms of rehydration so get one of those down you each day! On top of this you’ll need a minimum of 4 litres of water per day, especially when you’re active. On average we lose about 1 litre of water per hour of physical activity! It can be very tempting to reach for the fizzy drinks, and don’t get me wrong those sugar kicks come in handy sometimes, but water will also help to keep your immune system and body functioning properly. Sometimes we get sick when we’re travelling, and even when we’re not, but keeping your body hydrated will help to combat any illnesses that do strike.

When you’re volunteering, or island hopping, wherever your adventure may be taking you, it’s not always easy to find a gym or class, especially in the rural districts of Sri Lanka! I’ve found home workouts that don’t require large amounts of equipment or space are ideal. HIIT and bodyweight circuits are my favourite, you can always throw in some of those water bottles in to act as weights as well. Think squats, planks and push ups! YouTube has some great ideas for workouts.

I imagine one of the main reasons you're getting on that long-haul flight is to see a bit more of the world so why not do it on foot or by bike. Getting active in your free time can be anything from hiking those mountains, renting a bike or even a swim at the beach! So grab some friends, put your trainers on and head for the heights. Trust me, the views are worth it!  

Yoga is also a popular choice of exercise whilst travelling. Again it doesn’t require a large amount of space and can be great to stretch those muscles out after a busy day on projects or getting off that five-hour bus journey at the weekend! It’s even better when you can get a few friends together, you never know there maybe a yogi in the group to get that body limbered up! Yoga is great for those who aren’t keen on the intense workouts but want to stay active. A quick session before bed may also help you get a peaceful night’s sleep.

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Eating a balanced diet isn’t as easy when we’re travelling or in a country that’s staple diet is far from what we’re used. It’s unlikely you’ll find a Whole Foods with every possible healthy alternative going but you can make sensible choices. Those sugary snacks and crisps can become a bit of a temptation, especially during the first week or when your body is adjusting to a new style of food. Don’t get me wrong I love a good packet of biscuits or a cheeky cake from the bakery but try switching it out for some fresh fruit. I’ve found Asia has the most delicious fruit and it usually doesn’t get much fresher! You’ll most likely find a market stall on every corner. If you’re a little adventurous you could try something new!

Typically meals consists of rice and curry in Sri Lanka and it’s mainly vegetarian which means you’ll definitely be hitting that 5 a day! Protein from meat can be lacking sometimes but eggs are in plenty of supply and pulses like lentils and chickpeas are often used so you can switch it up to get enough in your diet.

Compared to Sri Lanka, meat is more accessible in Bali, so if you’re not a vegetarian you’ll get plenty of protein but don’t worry if you are, you’ll still have lots of options. The gado-gado is packed full of veggies! Bali is much more touristy so at the weekends you’ll likely be able to get pretty much any cuisine that takes your fancy. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to super smoothies and that all- time favourite avocado on toast!

So all in all, it is still possible to keep up your fitness levels and eat a balanced diet while travelling abroad. It takes a little practice sometimes, and you may have to get creative with your methods, but that’s the fun in it! You never know you may bring some new habits home with you!

Charley Roberts