I’ve been lucky enough to have lived in nine countries across three continents, and have visited over 40 more. Travel has been a huge part of my life, and always will be. I feel more grounded after being in the sky – wherever I end up. Getting outside of our own culture, routine, climate and demographic opens our eyes. In this section of the blog I want to share my love of the places in which I find myself alongside tips of the best things to see and do, always with a wellbeing angle. My holidays tend to involve a lot of eating, moving and thinking.
It seems pointless to write about travel in the abstract, but I want to share a few specific wellbeing tips, many of which I learnt by default from my children!
- It is not compulsory to eat plane food. I always used to (and largely still do) but like all mothers, I carry my children’s favourite things for them when they travel – including healthy snacks such as plain crudités. You’ll feel a lot better and less bloated on arrival if you don’t eat the entire tray that is put in front of you. I always try to remember homemade energy bars and raw activated almonds for long journeys.
- Alcohol – I have such low tolerance anyway, if I fly with my children, I cannot drink. I feel so much better for it. Skip the booze, it is so dehydrating and you’ll arrive feeling so much better and so much more deserving of your first beach cocktail or sundowner.
- Hotel room service menus are just a guide. Until I had kids I would have never thought of saying “would you mind asking the chef if he could just make some plain steamed broccoli or green beans, and some plain grilled chicken”. I have never found a hotel (at any budget) that wasn’t accommodating to simple food requests. I know a supermodel who eats an omelette for dinner basically every night during fashion week, and she is very specific about how it is made, I’ve heard her order it! Always ask for dressings on the side – dips and dressings are a nutritional nightmare. They are full of sugars, salt, thickeners and stabilisers with weird names that your body probably won’t recognise either.
- Keep hydrated – for every degree the temperature rises, you need up to 100ml of water extra per day. I think a lot of people mistake thirst for hunger.
- Get outside when you arrive if it is still daytime. I actually researched body clock adjustments because of my children. Your own jetlag may not bother you, but having children waking at random hours is no fun. The most important thing that I have discovered actually works is that it is crucial to get outside in daylight hours. However much you want to flop your kids in front of the TV and unpack when you arrive, just dump your bags in the room and head outside on arrival. Stay outside as long as it is daylight, swimming, playing football, walking around the town. Daylight helps adjust your circadian rhythm. Scientists also suspect that daylight triggers our metabolism to speed up.
- Swim! I read a research study recently that linked swimming with lower mortality rates – after adjusting for age, cardiovascular history, smoking and alcohol consumption, the swimmers had 49-53% lower mortality rate than survey participants who ran, walked or did no activity! Swimming is my go-to vacation fitness.
- Vacations are a great time to try new activities, sports, water-sports, fitness classes. I love finding out how locals keep fit – and try to join them!
- Jogging/running is a great way of getting acclimatised to a new City or landscape. Beach jogging is a serious workout because of the extra friction created by running on a soft surface.
- If home is a City, spend as much time outdoors in nature as you can when you travel. There are many research studies linking outdoor time with general wellbeing, improved recovery from illness, lower levels of stress and good mental health. Nature and the outdoors are really good for children.
- Use vacation time to restore yourself. Research shows vacations are more restful and restorative if they aren’t hyper-scheduled. There is no fun in returning home from a holiday needing a holiday.
- Where possible, connect with your children and live on their time-table as soon as they are old enough. Often this isn’t possible on weekdays at home with work and other distractions. My best vacations are the ones where I live on their clock and do everything with them – I am at my happiest when I feel utterly connected to my children.
- Being away is a great chance to reflect on your life at home – work, family, relationships. You only have one life and it is important to remember that you are the master of it. Edit any aspect of it that isn’t making you happy.