I’ve lived overseas for 17 years!! I began young and free and now . . .well lets just say that I’ve learned a lot and caused a lot of damage to my body. After meeting a lot of you out there, I find one thing in common: expats and world travelers are notorious for not taking care of themselves! That’s right. It works when your wild in your twenties and spending a year or two traveling but if you’re looking at longevity and enjoying this life for many years, this has to change now!
In order to be vulnerable, I’m going to share some before and after pictures with you. I’ve heard a few people say “Ann, you look so healthy now, what has changed?” So here is the answer. Instead of ignoring my body, I began taking care of myself leading to way more fun in our crazy overseas life! (And looking a lot better doing it!) These before and after pictures are both wearing the same makeup (except eyeliner and mascara in picture 2) and have no filters.
Top 7 Tips To A Healthier, Stronger, Happier, World-Traveling, YOU!
You’ve heard it and ignored it. I want to approach this in a unique way to motivate you (it worked for me). I watched this video awhile back and decided, with my husband, to give it try! Well, it works!
How do you know that you are hydrated? You know your hydrated when you are urinating often and the color is pale yellow. This is so impossible on those long bus rides, train rides, car rides through places with no toilet, and so on. Therefore, day-to-day when a toilet is available, you need to work extra hard at this. I know that I have lived most of my days in the tropics with a constant state of dehydration. Once I got control of this and kept my bottles of water on hand, I realized that it gave me energy, less diarrhea, and better skin.
Make sure you have healthy options available at all times.
I am the worst at being prepared. Often I’d leave home and just decide to buy some food along the road or not eat for hours while out. This often left me fatigued and underweight for most of my years here. I enjoy the Asian flair and if you are traveling, you probably enjoy many of the foods where you are. But, many of the foods we enjoy may not have the fresh ingredients our body needs to keep us from getting sick.
What do I do now? I carry a Ziploc bag with my favorites to eat alongside the great Khmer, Vietnamese, or Thai food I get to enjoy. What’s in my purse? Everyday I keep a bag of almonds. On trips, I add an apple, orange, bell peppers, or cauliflower to snack on too. In our home, you will find cut up carrots, peppers, and broccoli on the table most days. Our family will grab and snack throughout the day. I also enjoy the natural spice and flavors from my region knowing that God put them there for my good. Foods in Asia are rich in garlic, peppers, and turmeric which is essential for preventing known parasites and preventing skin cancers known in this region. (Isn’t God good!) So put away the peanut butter sandwich at meal time and devour what they offer you especially if it is served hot!
Protect from the sun.
Skin issues and fatigue come from too much sun. To read more, check out my page on skin health issues and see what I’ve done to give myself younger looking and healthier skin again. Skin Care Tips For The Young Woman In Her 40’s And Beyond!
Rest more, sleep longer.
Choose sleep locations carefully! If in the tropics, spend the extra 5 or 10 dollars to stay somewhere with an air conditioner or good fan. Why is temperature so important? Temperature above 67 degrees or 19 Celsius causes frequent awakening and prevents the deep sleep. (Temperature Can Prevent Sleep Disorders) In Southeast Asia, it is difficult to have a room that cool but the closer you get, the better sleep you’ll get, the less likely you’ll be to get sick, and the more enjoyable your travels will be!
Second of all, is sleep aids to help jet lag or sleeping in strange places. Melatonin works in small doses and should be taken at awake in-the-middle-of-the-night times. Since it stays in your system for 2 hours, it can be taken every 2 hours that you wake up until 2 hours before you plan to start your day. Again, low doses such as 1-2 mg are recommended. The higher the dose does not increase its effectiveness.
Accept delays as downtime not stress time.
Be prepared to be delayed. When you have a connecting flight, say to yourself “I may be connecting in __ city, if I arrive on time.” This gets you mentally prepared for not arriving on time. Everything is fixable so don’t panic. If you “freak out,” you will ruin the experience of the journey for yourself and all around you. Trust me, I know! How to plan for these delays? Make a plan b before hand. Second of all, have your source of destress activity ready or a productive activity to do during your wait. You never know if you will be in a productive mood or a stressed mood during that time.
If there are foot massage places nearby, take advantage of that service. If there is a delightful cafe, sip on your delight slowly! This is YOU time!
Maintain a healthy weight.
Many expats I meet struggle with their weight. Some underweight like me and some overweight. Keep your diet and weight under control while you travel to maintain health and energy for longer travels in the future.
You know yourself. You know your weaknesses. As a nurse practitioner and a daughter of a wonderful mom who struggled with extreme obesity, I have learned so much about weight loss and dreaded yo-yo diets. The biggest lesson learned was that healing from obesity requires an inside out approach such as healing in relationships, love and acceptance for your self, and receiving strength and confidence from God. With this said, I also know this is a long process while your body is picking up bad habits and coping mechanisms along the way! Travel with help. I don’t know a better long-term plan for weight loss than Plexus. There are several options and you can browse through this catalog to read about them. Please email me for any questions about this. I would love to help you.
Prevent stomach issues and treat them quickly.
Lastly, is the topic that will set all expats, world travelers, and even short trippers on a toilet for long periods of time when they would rather be on the beach or productive! I got some tried and true tips here from someone who has lived it, treated it, and still knows how to beat the beast of diarrhea, indigestion, and vomiting overseas!
Stomach and Intestinal Issues
When people travel, stress often increases, jet lag requires changing eating schedules, food is often higher in bacteria, and the food is unusual for your palette. All of this leads to many overseas digestion issues. Long term travelers often spend years struggling with this problem. The good news is that there are solutions:
- Rinse your hands off before you eat with your drinking water. Then follow-up with hand sanitizer.
- Eat hot foods. Street foods that are cooked well and no raw meats are fine.
- Probiotic: You’ve probably heard about probiotic, such as yogurt, for stomach and intestinal issues. Take a daily probiotic a month before your trip, daily during the trip, and a month when you return home. Marc and I take 2 probiotic pills each night. Why at night? This is the time when your probiotic works best, when you sleep. Email us for the probiotic we recommend. The reason we choose this one is that there are 5 probiotic and enzymes covering all our bodies needs. Probiotic helps decrease inflammation in the stomach and bowel which leads to less distress when the body is challenged with different foods. Therefore, diarrhea may still happen but the Probiotic will help fight it off.
- When diarrhea and or vomiting begins, add in a rehydration solution to your liquid intake. This would be one bottle of water, one bottle of your favorite rehydration solution. Trading back and forth. I have seen travelers experience full seizures due to electrolyte imbalances because they just drank water. When diarrhea or vomiting hits, your body needs to be replenished with the salts, sugars, and potassium it needs.
- Don’t stop eating! The worst thing you can do is skip meals. Put food in even if you don’t feel like it or if you think it may come back up. Skipping meals will lead to a third world hospital visit!
- Find a cool place to rest out of the heat. The goal is not to sweat if possible. Your body needs all its nutrients and energy for healing.
- Do consider that antibiotic the family doctor gave you for this trip!
- If diarrhea or vomiting continues despite this treatment, get to a health center. You may be too dehydrated or have amoebas.
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Note: The above is friendly advice and not prescriptive! After all these years living and loving Asia, my only regret is not taking better care of myself. I hope the changes that I’ve made this year give me many more years to come. Please comment here about things that have helped keep you healthy on your travels.