One thing I hardly get is why people bother reading articles on the latest diet followed by a seemingly well known celebrity; or about the new fitness routine that is used by another even more famous one; and articles which suggest easy work-outs to follow when time is limited, for example when traveling. I even less get those who spend big money to go to all inclusive resorts to then do the exact same things they do at home, like diet, follow a strict schedule of yoga, pilates, massages, manicures (I actually bite my nails, and although I know it is gross, there is hardly anything that I can do to stop myself).
I am also quite weary of blog posts that target the other end of the traveling chain – the budget backpackers traveling on a shoestring and hippies wanna-be – that state what, to me, is the obvious: carrying a heavy backpack is a good workout. Perhaps, the issue I have with that is that to me it is not a workout at all, something done with a clear purpose in mind, but rather a hellish task best followed when trying to score the cheapest room in Panama City, possibly under the blistering sun, when the heat and humidity make it all the more strenuous.
In fact, for as careful to what I eat and drink and how much I exercise when I am at home, a variety of reasons lead me to be the opposite when I travel. When home, I am the one person to follow as a model of a moderate life. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, avoid carbonated drinks and only have the odd glass of red wine or small bottle of icy cold beer (great after a hike, to refill my body with all the salts and minerals I lost through sweat); I walk around, train in the swimming pool, hike, bike and generally stay active. The only one thing I do not do, and will never do, is jogging. I really can’t see the point of running, unless I am in a rush! But, to be extra clear: I am almost a health freak, so much so that my family thinks I have a slight obsession.
But, as soon as I get on a plane that takes me away from home, I indulge. So much so than whenever I get back home I have to start again on my kind-of strict routine to shed the few kilos that happily sit on my belly post-trip. And if, after my first long term trip, I could actually find a benefit for the pain I felt after the surgery to remove my tonsils (I cried from the pain, and was unable to eat solid food for 2 over two weeks) in shedding the extra weight that I carried back from South America, the second time around I have had to actually find a more traditional way of getting back in shape.
I used the word “indulge” with reason. Because I can pin point all the things I do wrong when I travel, that lead me to gain weight and lose shape. Yet, I keep doing them – because they are fun, they are relaxing, and they are part of the experience of traveling. And the best is that, even though I have figured out what I do wrong, I have no intention to change it. In fact, not only I will keep having fun when I travel, but I have also put together a list of excuses to justify the weight I gain when I travel (and no, I do not mean the souvenirs which I buy). Feel free to mix and match them to justify your belly in front of surprised stares.
Seven ways to justify weight gain when traveling
Eating local food is part of the cultural experience of travel (it is, isn’t it?)
I insist that a great deal of the culture of a country is found in its food, in the local produce and national dishes. So obviously if I spend 3 weeks in Mexico I will do my best to learn about the culture of the country by trying all the local specialties – quesadillas, pozole, Oaxacan cheese, enchiladas, tacos, tlayudas… name it. And while I’m at it, let me add a margarita to that. You know, after all tequila and mezcal are typically Mexican, right?
I am poor (or “I could not be bothered to eat healthy food”)
I like backpacking, and I generally try to stretch my budget and I like street food and local eateries. It’s not even so much for the food (which actually tastes better and fresher, because constantly prepared rather than being preserved for who knows how long), or the prices which are way more convenient. I just like the scene, the atmosphere. I enjoy the mixture of locals who look a bit puzzled when seeing me, and of other travelers who feel like I have just broken into their best kept secret. But street food, aside from being tasty, is also oily and packed in carbs. Mind you, there are some nice street food and market stalls that do sell healthier options – corn on the cob, fresh fruit, smoothies etc. But then I see the plantains chips or the rice and beans and I opt for that. Just because.
I can’t find the right om tune (or, I don’t do yoga)
In a world where people support their wanderlust by teaching English and yoga, or practice their yoga wherever they are – either independently or by signing up for yoga classes, which are so very common all over Central America – I can’t be bothered to wake up at dawn to hear someone say that I should breathe out my inner stress. I can’t take new age music. Give me some gypsy punk and I will dance to it. Take me on a hike, take me biking, rafting, kayaking, snorkeling, whatever – and give me a beer when we arrive.
I can swim (and need a pool for that)
In Europe, every city, village, resort has a pool. A good size pool. A paradise for swimmers. I can subscribe for a month, or a year. Or just pay a daily fee and enjoy a great workout. Now, try to find a pool in a developing country. Try to explain to the receptionist of a hostel in Copan Ruinas that has gladly found out that there is a pool in town which you can use that a 12 meters one is really tiny to you, that all a swimmer can do there is flip. I have a 25 meters minimum rule, and I won’t break it. Ever.
I can’t run without running shoes (or better, I can’t run. At all)
In an ideal world, people should wear the appropriate shoes to match the kind of training they intend to do. My sister, who is as much of a fitness fanatics as I am, is into running. She owns some 5 pairs of different shoes, each for a different kind of performance. She has even explained how they are different from one another. You see, all I need to swim is a swimming suit, a pair of good goggles and a swimming cup.
Yes, I am on the picky side when it comes to choosing the right pair of goggles. But if I really really want to swim (which I do all the time), I use whatever I can find. I really really do not want to run. Running isn’t my thing when I am home, so why on earth would I do that when I am meant to be having fun? So, the excuse of not having the right pair of shoes is really handy. One would not expect anybody to jog wearing their hiking shoes, right? And someone who travels light isn’t expected to carry around 3 or 4 different pairs of shoes, surely?
I have finally learned to pack light
Except, who am I kidding? I manage to cram 18 kg of weight in a 65 liters backpack, which becomes so bulky and heavy that I bend under its weight, to the point that other backpackers have nicknamed me Turtle Tavani, because if, for whatever reason, I fall flat on my back, I may never be able to stand up again. One may think that all that weight is good exercise. Except when my backpack is so heavy (possibly because filled with bottles of mezcal and wine which I bought at a local mezcal factory in Mexico or at a winery in Argentina – get back to my point on the cultural experience of food when traveling), I refuse to walk and rely on buses and taxis to get wherever I have to go.
I suddenly became sociable
I am a bit of a hermit. I travel alone, I can spend days at end without communicating to anybody aside for the strict necessities. But then there are times when I like hanging out with other people, and that usually involves eating and/or drinking. So, when I get to a new hostel and find out a bunch of other backpackers are going out for drinks or for a meal, I don’t question. I forget about my latest resolution to never drink alcohol again while traveling (or ever) and just go, promising myself to only have one beer and knowing I am likely to have more than that (hangover attached). Besides, I am from Sardinia and in my culture it is rude to refuse a drink.
There are some travelers who manage to actually shed a pound or two when traveling. I actually lost a whopping two kilos my first time in Peru out of not eating for being too busy exploring the amazing place; and eating rotten tacos in Mexico has also proved to be an efficient way of not gaining any weight – but I do recommend to make sure that you have a private room with a private bathroom for at least two days after that.
My overall policy is to relax and enjoy my trip: I travel to have a good time, so I can see no reason to be as tough on myself as I would be on a daily basis.
The fabulous blogging couple Nomadic Boys, on the other hand, know how to keep fit when traveling.
Do you gain weight when you travel? How do you justify that?