Healthy Travel Tips – Road Trip

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

Even though health and nutrition is my passion, travel has always been up there as my number one. Discovering new places, cultures, and food just fills me with energy and inspiration, whether its a one-day city trip, a long weekend away, or a multi-week holiday somewhere exotic!

Over the years I’ve developed some helpful tips and habits for trip planning and travel itself to make it as enjoyable as possible while still staying healthy and feeling my best. I hope this mini series of healthy travel posts can give you some insights and inspiration for your next journey!

Check out all the posts in the series here!

Healthy Travel Tips – Road Trip

Road trips are probably the easiest travel type to plan in a healthful way, because you have the freedom to bring along much more food than any other travel type. If you’re going on a road trip, but have to take a flight first, some of the items below you could still bring but I would then recommend making a local grocery store one of your first stops to load up on the rest!

Be prepared – things to pack:

Water – hydration is key! Especially if you’re spending a long period of time in the car, it can be quite drying to your system. Plus, more water means more pitstops, which might seem negative but you need those breaks to move your body after long hours sitting! Just make sure you are using a glass or metal water bottle. If you do have plastic water bottles never leave them in the car – the heat causes the plastics to leech into your water.

Supplements & medications – naturally make sure you bring any supplements you take or medication you might need. There is nothing worse than feeling unwell while travelling, and you don’t want to lose any of that exploring time!

Tea & coffee – I definitely prefer travelling with my own tea and coffee, since you never know what you might get at hotels or AirBnbs. If you suffer from car sickness (like I do), be sure to bring some ginger tea along to help settle your stomach. In addition a good thermos to take it on the road, and a small coffee filter means all you need is hot water to make your brew!

Easy breakfast bits – Bring some chia seeds and drink-box sized cartons of non-dairy milk to easy make a chia seed pudding, plus the small cartons are easier to store in mini-fridges if you don’t have a full size fridge. You could do the same thing with oats, making overnight oats in your fridge. You can also bring other nuts and seeds and granola to toss on top, or have with some yogurt that you pick up on the way.

Fruit – The easiest thing to toss in your bag! Bring along whatever snack fruit you fancy, but bananas, apples, oranges, and pears all work well and can also be easily mixed into your breakfast bowl. Grapes are another good one and nice to snack on during your long drives.

Avocados – An easy, nutrient dense snack while on the go. Eat it on its own, with some fruit, or put it on top of a boring pitstop meal for extra nutrition!

Nutrient-dense meal – On your first day out, you still have the luxury of bringing along a full meal. Pack it full with healthy fats, protein, and veggies to keep you full on the journey and help stop mindless snacking. Use a nice big glass container and then you’ll have it handy to re-use throughout your trip (restaurant leftovers, more on-the-go meals, etc.).

Tinned fish – Bringing along some tinned salmon, anchovies, or sardines, is a great way to get a good dose of healthy fats and lots of vitamins and minerals. Look for fish canned in water or olive oil – avoid those junky vegetable fats. It’s probably best to eat these during a pitstop to avoid stinking up the car (your travel partner will thank you!).

Snacks & treats – It’s a road trip after all! Just try not to do too much mindless snacking. I like to bring along some homemade popcorn and a bar of my favourite dark chocolate. The nuts you bring for breakfast can also double as an easy snack.

Basic cutlery/dishes – Make sure to have one full set of cutlery per person. You can wash them in hotel rooms, and they will be handy when eating on the go! A couple mason jars can also be useful for making breakfasts in the morning, or storing leftovers. As mentioned, you’ll also want a glass or metal water bottle and a thermos.

Yoga mat – Great for getting some stretching or a simple workout in while on the go or in your accommodations. I also like to bring along my acupressure mat to help relax and recover from long days in the car.

Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

Make sure to stop often

If you’re drinking enough water, you’ll need these regular bathroom breaks! They also give you a chance to breath in some fresh air, move your body (do some stretches and squats or lunges to get your blood moving!), and just enjoy your surroundings.

Get comfy

Not only is it more pleasant to travel in comfortable clothes, but bring along a pillow and a blanket. When it’s not your turn to drive (if you get that luxury!) you can stretch out in the backseat or curl up in front and feel nice and cozy. It makes long hours in the car so much more pleasurable. If you need to look more presentable when you arrive at your destination, just hang your outfit in a garment bag in the back seat and change when you arrive.

We just went for a 14 hour road trip from Belgium to Italy, so I got to put all these tips to good use! Planning in advance can make your road trip much more enjoyable so you can enjoy the journey and not just look forward for the destination!

Have any tips of your own? Let me know in the comments!

My Top 5 Tips for Relaxing During an Overnight Flight

My Top 5 Tips for Relaxing During an Overnight Flight

Living in Belgium with most of my family still back in Canada means that each year I’m guaranteed at least two long-haul flights. Combined with our general love of travelling has meant a lot of flying on the books! Last year alone I made 4 big long-haul trips some with multiple legs. Maybe not travel-blogger status but still a challenge nonetheless!

If I can be allowed to complain about one thing (not that I want to complain about amazing travel opportunities at all!) it is the fact that most return flights from North America to Europe for me are red-eye flights. There’s only one direct flight a day from Toronto to Brussels and it’s an overnight one. Unless I want to get creative with stopovers and add hours to my journey, my hands are a bit tied; and it’s these overnight flights that routinely take a lot out of me.

I struggle with some anxiety when flying, and I’ve had flights where it has prevented me from being able to get any sleep in – even once on a flight where I was able to use travel points for a free business class upgrade.

I’m not a pro yet at coming off these flights in tip-top condition, but below are some of the strategies I take to relax onboard and nourish my body as best as possible.


Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

This one cannot come as a surprise, as it’s part of every single article already written on this topic! But it is seriously true, and I still find it amazing how many people don’t drink water on flights. I’ve sat next to people who have only knocked back coffee or wine the entire trip and I can only imagine how they must have felt after the flight ended. Recently I sat next to a young man who drank nothing and didn’t get up once to go to the washroom during an 8-hour flight!

Our body mass is 55-60% water, and it plays a huge role in a whole host of different bodily functions and processes. Flying is extremely dehydrating, and if you become even just 2% dehydrated you can already start to feel fatigued. Other signs of early stage dehydration include anxiety and irritability, headaches, muscle cramps, and cravings. 

You might not know, but you can actually bring your own water bottle through security as long as it’s empty. Most airports have water fountains where you can fill up before your flight – so you can’t use the crazy price of water in airports as an excuse not to get your H2O on!

BYOT (bring your own tea)

One of my Christmas presents this year (to myself!) was a thermal tumbler that boasts keeping drinks hot for 12 hours and cold for 24. I was skeptical, but it really does work! So in addition to my water bottle, I also brought my thermos with me as carry-on and got it filled up at a kiosk with an herbal tea before boarding. Just be sure to grab an herbal, non-caffeinated tea as caffeine is a diuretic and could do you more harm than good while flying.

Once on the flight, I kept the cup provided with dinner and poured myself cups of tea throughout the journey. This was key, as the thermos kept the tea so hot that it would have burned my mouth to drink directly from the bottle!

Keep up your night-time routine

On an overnight journey I try my best to wind down and get some sleep in. Going through my regular night-time routine plays a big part in getting my system to make that transition. After the dinner is cleared away, I’ll head to the bathroom and do my usual thing: cleanse my face and brush my teeth (with my own water!), and most importantly, apply a good portion of skin cream.

I use a simple cream made from olive oil, shea butter, and essential oils (either lavender or lemongrass). These oils help nourish and hydrate the skin, but are also antimicrobial and have really helped me stop getting travel zits during the flight! The essential oils trigger my brain that it’s time for bed, not to mention their innate relaxing qualities. A super simple hack for this would be to fill a small travel-sized container with coconut oil and apply this to your face instead.

Then I head back to my seat, get comfy with a thick pair of cabin socks, put on an eye mask, and settle down for the “night”! If I’m sitting in the aisle, I also make sure to let my seatmate know that I’m planning on sleeping so they can also get out for a stretch before settling in and hopefully not disturb me mid-sleep.

Meditate

If I’m feeling particularly anxious, I’ll get out my meditation app and meditate before trying to sleep. I’ll do a 10-15 minute meditation that focuses on the breath and guides you in relaxing each part of your body. It can really help decrease my stress levels and calm my brain down in order to actually fall asleep.

Use white noise

In addition to the eye mask, I use to also wear earplugs while sleeping on a plane. But while they dim the noise around you, it doesn’t block everything out; not to mention I find them really uncomfortable after awhile. What I have started doing instead is popping in my ear buds and putting on some white noise. In addition to the meditations on the Calm app they have a great selection of different noises you can listen to non-stop. For me, I have gotten my best airplane sleep while listening to the sound of rain.


Those are my favourite flying habits! How do you manage red-eye flights, any tricks I should be adding to my repertoire?

Sights of India – Part 2

After visiting Delhi and Agra, we headed towards Jaipur as our final leg of sight-seeing before finishing the loop back in Delhi. Jaipur is known as the pink city, due to its distinctive tint on most of the buildings. It’s the one place I really wish I had had more time to explore and experience, rather than sight-hoping, but I guess that will be for a future visit to India! The photo above is the breathtaking view from the Amer Fort outside of Jaipur.

Agra – Fatehpur Sikri

The city of Fatehpur Sikri was founded as the capital of the Mughal empire in 1571 by emperor Akbar. The complex is mostly constructed from sandstone, giving it its red colour. Fatehpur Sikri was originally located on the side of a lake, but the body of water is now almost completely dried up. When this water source was nearly exhausted in 1585 the complex was abandoned. Today the location felt extremely hot and dry, but some lush, green elements could still be found which hinted at what this city may have been like in its past. 

 

Jaipur – Jantar Mantar Observatory

Jantar Mantar is located next to the Jaipur City Palace and is a collection of 19 astrological structures including the world’s largest sundial. The various instruments allow you to keep track of the time, predict eclipses, and track stars and planets. It’s said that the large scale of the instruments was to increase their accuracy. Completed in 1734 the observatory was actively used until 1800. It feel into disuse and disrepair, but was restored several times even as recently as 2006. Above I’m posing with the Libra instrument – the complex has an instrument for each of the sun signs, which can only be used during that sign’s season.

 

Jaipur – City Palace

The majority of the City Palace in the centre of Jaipur still remains a royal residence. The colourful buildings reflect the character of Jaipur itself.

 

Jaipur – Amer Fort

Located about 11 kilometres outside of Jaipur, the Amer fort is built into a hillside and from its four levels provides impressive views out across the countryside. Built in 1592 the fort is known for its artistic Hindu architectural elements. The details of the fort were some of the most beautiful of all the sites we visited, from the marble facades to the mirrored palace inside. 

Sights of India – Part 1

There is an abundance of gorgeous and breathtaking sights in India. As we travelled the “golden triangle” from Delhi to Agra to Jaipur and back we had the chance to visit a whole host of amazing locations. The architecture is beautiful and as you travel you start to learn about the slight differences in style, especially between the traits of Muslim versus Hindu architecture depending on the benefactor of the time. 

We were travelling with a quite large tour group, so our visitation times at various sights was always pre-set and we only had so long to explore. I never felt too overwhelmed by the crowds at any one location, but you can definitely be strategic in when you arrive at certain places. Plus I would have loved to have gotten out earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon as the midday sun during April was absolutely exhausting!

Our experience only just scratched the surface of all there is to offer in India, and it’s definitely still on my list as a location to travel to; there is still so much more to see and experience beyond these locations. But starting off in the Golden Triangle gave us a great taste of India and has left us wanting more!

Delhi – Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid in Delhi is India’s largest mosque and can accommodate around 25,000 worshippers at its fullest. The mosque was built between 1644 and 1656 by emperor Shah Jahan, the same man who had the Red Fort in Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra constructed. 

Tourists can enter the mosque but must remove their shoes beforehand and are given a robe to cover up as needed.

Agra – Itmad-ud-Daula – “Baby Taj Mahal” 

The tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula is often referred to as a jewelry box, or called the Baby Taj Mahal, and some consider it a draft version of the iconic structure. It was built between 1622 and 1628 by Nur Jahan for her father, who was also the grandfather to the wife of emperor Shah Jahan. The mausoleum is made from white marble inset with semi-precious stones like onyx, topaz, and lapis.

It was a beautiful and serene location to visit, with surprisingly few other tourists but plenty of precocious monkeys running around! You must take off your shoes to explore the mausoleum itself, which was a bit of a hazard as the red stone was scorching hot from the sun! Once you enter the structure, however, the cool floors will sooth your feet and give you a break from the unrelenting Indian sun.

Agra – Agra Fort

Before the seat of the Mughal dynasty moved to Delhi in 1638, Agra and the Agra Fort was the ruling emperor’s main residence. The fort itself is like a walled city and changed hands many times during its history, under going a full 8-year renovation until 1573 by Emperor Akbar. Depending on the ruler at the time, different features and styles were added to the fort. For example, Shah Jahan (the grandson of Akbar) who constructed the Taj Mahal, favoured white marble and so destroyed some of the buildings to construct his own in his preferred style. 

Agra – Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal must be the iconic structure of India for most foreigners, and seeing it in reality it’s not hard to understand why! Built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal, its name means “Crown of the Palace”; a fitting name for the breathtaking structure.

We visited in the late afternoon as dusk was beginning to approach. It was definitely the most crowded sight we would visit, but even still you could move about as you wanted and it never felt like a hassle having so many other tourists around. We spent most of our time wandering the grounds and the perimeter of the Taj Mahal itself, but apparently if you go a bit more off the beaten path there are many lesser known locations for amazing photo opportunities, and maybe more peace and quiet to just bask in the beauty of this location! This is definitely a spot to take your time and enjoy it slowly.

Agra – Sikandra Fort

Sikandra Fort, located just outside Agra, is the home of Akbar’s tomb and was one of my favourite spots that we visited. The grounds were so tranquil, and when we arrived first thing in the morning there was hardly anyone else about. You walk through the gates onto the grounds and past lush green fields dotted with antelope and peacocks on your way towards the tomb. It was such a beautiful setting and I really enjoyed exploring the intricate architecture of the tomb as well as the gardens surrounding it. 

Tasting India: The Delhi Food Walk

Earlier this year we got an amazing opportunity to travel to India for ten days with a group of Rotarians. (I’ll talk more about the total experience in a later post.) Travelling to India our first worry was whether we would enjoy and adapt to the local food. Neither my boyfriend, Lieven, nor myself have ever eaten much Indian food, and you can imagine that the food found locally probably differs from what we have had here in Belgium! 

We arrived in Delhi a day before the rest of our travel companions, and so to dive-in headfirst into the Indian culinary experience, we decided to go on the Urban Adventure Delhi Food Walk. Urban Adventures is from the same parent company as Intrepid Travel, which we travelled with last year through Indonesia, so we felt very confident that we would have an amazing experience.

The tour took place in the area nearby the University of Delhi, in the north of the city. We ended up being a group of five plus our local guide, Nipon, which was really perfect for navigating the crowded streets and squeezing in the small restaurants we started out in. 

 Momos (above) are Nepalese fried or steamed dumplings 

Momos (above) are Nepalese fried or steamed dumplings 

The whole tour took around 3-4 hours. We started out by visiting a couple small restaurants, but then the majority of our food was sampled from street vendors. Along the way we stopped for a henna session, went for a short rickshaw ride, and really got to see and experience what an evening in Delhi was like for locals. Everything we ate and drank (including bottles of water as we went around) was included in our tour price, as well as the rickshaw. We would take portions to sample as a group, but could re-order for ourselves whenever we wanted to. Only the henna was extra but was such a good price you couldn’t even think twice about doing it; even Lieven got a henna armband!

The tour included six savoury dishes and finished with six sweet dishes. We ended at a small restaurant for the final fours desserts and to rest, relax, and debrief on everything we had eaten and seen. Before we knew it, we were back on our tuktuk towards our hotel, bellies completely full and satisfied. 

  • Bhel-Puri, a mixed bowl of crunchy, salty, sweet flavours – our favourite savoury dish of the day!
  • Gol-Gappa, our challenge was to pop one of these in our mouth all at once. It was a hollow fried dough-ball filled with a yogurty liquid – not to my taste
  • Pau Bhaji, a butter bread topped with a vegetable curry, onions, and mint sauce – the runner up savoury dish
  • Kulfi, the first dessert we tried, a spiced ice cream bar with almond, cinnamon, and cardamom
  • Roller ice cream: fruity syrups are poured over the massive block, before shaving off a bowl kebab-style

The food walk was hands down the best food we ate for the entire trip. Since after that point we were travelling with a bigger group, almost all of our meals were already arranged. These tended to be at bigger restaurants or hotels with buffets set up that while providing good food, over time started to blend into each other, all offering the same sorts of dishes. I’m so glad we took the opportunity to get off the beaten track and taste more of India!

  • Jalebi, a fried sugary dessert similar in shape to funnel cakes
  • Gulab Jamun, a milk solid based dumpling spiced with cinnamon and cardamon, served in a syrupy sauce – my favourite dessert!
  • Kaju Katli, cashew diamond cookies topped with silver foil – the runner up dessert and something I want to try making myself!

Discovering Indonesia – Temples Around Ubud, Bali

 Priests among the colourful offerings after a ceremony at Tirta Empul, a water temple near Ubud, Bali.

Priests among the colourful offerings after a ceremony at Tirta Empul, a water temple near Ubud, Bali.

After our journey throughout the island of Java, Indonesia, we then hopped on the ferry and travelled over to the island of Bali – probably the most well known of the Indonesian islands. As we drove throughout the island, you could feel Bali’s unique character come through. Almost every home has a small shrine set up for their daily offerings, the baskets and flowers from that morning’s ritual scattered across the sidewalks. 

We spent our first day in Ubud going out and exploring all the treasures that lay in the region surrounding the city; Bali has so many incredible temples and sites to discover! The easiest way to explore is to get a driver for a day, three of us went together and arranged it through our hotel, which meant we had a knowledgable guide and a comfortable way to travel around while seeing an astounding number of sites. Despite all that we saw, it never felt rushed, and we were free to take as much time as we wanted at each stop. Plus, we got to determine what we did or didn’t go and visit.

Goa Gajah – the Elephant Cave

You won’t actually find any live elephants when you visit Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave. The site, which was built on a hillside nestle between two rivers, is a Hindu meditation complex. The name likely comes from the meditation cave, carved into the stone where you will find inside a statue of Ganesh, whose head is that of an elephant’s. 

It’s a lush site, surrounded by the forest, ponds, and streams, with bathing pools served by Hindu angels whose water pots pour cleansing water into the pool. Even though we were there first thing in the morning, there were already quite some tourists around – possibly it felt busier due to the site being on the small side, so good luck getting a clear shot of the Elephant Cave without someone else around!

Gunung Kawi – Rock Temple

Gunung Kawi is an impressive sight with the shrines carved into the rock cliffs. It’s quite a walk down from the temple entrance past loads of kiosks selling Balinese souvenirs, but at least it means you have an excuse to stop for a pause on the way back up! It also gives you some pretty views over nearby rice terraces and was very quiet compared to Goa Gajah.

The temple is considered one of the oldest and largest monuments in Bali, and legend says that each of the shrines represent a member of Balinese royalty at the time.

Tirta Empul – Water Temple

Tirta Empul, or Holy Spring, is a Balinese water temple known for its sacred waters where one goes for purification rituals. It’s dedicated to the Hindu god of water, Vishnu.

The pools contain 30 spouts of water, each section dedicated to a different form of purification, first for cleansing evil and bad spirits, then for prosperity, and finally to cleanse the body and soul. You begin at the lefthand side (when facing the pools) and cleanse yourself below each spout in turn.

I’ve seen some reports of long queues to partake in the cleansing ritual, but when we were there late in the afternoon (after a heavy rainfall), while plenty of people were milling about, the was no queue. Many tourists only posed for photos under the first few spouts and hardly any continued down the line to complete the full ritual.

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