4 Tips for Staying Fit While Traveling

Health and fitness are about what you do constantly, not occasionally.

Keeping to a regular fitness regiment and healthy eating are easy to do at home, but hell to do when you’re on the road. Limited food options and sparse fitness centers make staying in shape a challenge for long periods of travel time. There’s something comforting in our routines.

A few summers ago, we spent a summer in Italy, Belgium and Croatia. Between the Italian food and Belgian beer, I gained (no shit) 15 pounds in 7 weeks. My ‘fat’ pants became my tight pants and I spent 3 months working it off. Chalk it up to Italy having some of the best food in the world, and to waving it off with an “I’m on holiday“, but still it’s easier just to keep it off.

Staying fit during long term travel with limited gym options is hard, but at the ripe age of 42, I’ve managed to get in the best shape of my life despite working full time. Here are some tips:

1.) Find a Consistent Time

I usually wake up at 4:15 am to do my 30 minute cardio routine, but on the road will probably sleep in till 6ish. I like the morning is nice as it’s generally cooler and you have a nice rush of endorphins to start your day. I also like the personal time of waking up early as my girls are still asleep and find peace in the solitude.

2.) Surround Yourself with People that Inspire You

Jillian Michaels said a way to motivate you to exercise is to surround yourself in media that inspires you to get fit. Add fitness gurus to your social media feed with pictures and workout tips.

3.) Eat Well

You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet and when traveling to foreign places it’s easy to indulge in its culinary delights. Some things I’ve learned over time that mitigate the calories

  • Have your ‘Cheat Meals’ early. Have your ‘big meal’ out for lunch or breakfast (if you’re staying at a high end hotel) but more modest meals for dinner.
  • Eat Smaller Portions. If you’re staying at an AirBnB or place with a fridge, save leftovers for heat up meals the next day. It will save you money too.
Yoga Clothing for You

4.) Find a Routine You Enjoy

Finding a routine is often the hardest one because there will be limitations on space. If your hotel has a gym, great, but if you’re staying in an AirBnB or smaller hotel, you may be relegated to the outdoor patio, roof or balcony. Here are some platforms that I’ve used over the years that I like:

  • Shaun T– I’ve been exercising to Shaun T for nearly a decade. I started with this T-25 series but have been using Insanity Max 30 lately which has helped me improve my upper body strength. What I like most is the ‘timer’ at the bottom of the screen that shows you time duration left of an exercise and workout as a whole.
  • Jillian Michaels– I’ve done fitness with Jillian also on an off over the years and she really stresses good eating as well.
  • Yoga With Adrienne– I usually do yoga for 5-10 minutes in the morning before cardio and again in the evening which saves my knees and back. Adrienne has a free youtube channel with over 400 videos and a a soothing voice.
  • Pinterest– Pinterest just went public with their IPO last week and I think it’s one of the most underutilized social media/reader platforms out there. It curates articles based on your search history, so you are constantly seeing new things as your searches change over time. I have half a dozen boards devoted to crock-pot recipes, to healthy eating. I have a board devoted to back stretches and travel workouts that you can follow here.
I think I’m more excited to visit Morocco for the early morning Riad rooftop workouts. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

There is no shortage of fitness regiments to find in cyberspace. Typically, I like free platforms, but ones requiring a monthly subscription may motivate you to visit and commit to creating a healthy lifestyle.

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World Nomads for Travel Insurance

We just solved one of our top problems of our trip which was what to do about insurance. Another couple friend of ours who is taking a trip around the world for a year is opting to ‘go uninsured’ during that time and hope that nothing happens. Still, shit happens.

After spending months shopping around, we found ‘World Nomads‘ which has coverage for a number of circumstances such as terrorism, emergency evacuation and trip cancellation, just to name a few. Their site has a nice forum and great traveller testimonials.

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons

Based on our ages, travel destinations and state of residence in the US, our insurance costs as a family are about $1,500 per 6 months.

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Use Google Fi for Worldwide Coverage and Roaming

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Use ‘Google Fi’ for Worldwide Cell Coverage and Roaming

A friend of mine recently shared the power of ‘Google Fi‘ and I just pulled the trigger.

‘Fi’ is Google’s cellular data plan and has a few things that might make it my next provider for life. The key points about it are:

  • It offers free talk and texts worldwide for $20 per month.
  • 1 GB of data is $10. Each GB after is $10/GB with any use over 6 GB being for free
  • Automatic shifts from free wifi hotspots and 3 networks using 4G LTE.
  • Coverage in over 200 countries around the world.
Image Courtesy of CC

Naturally, this is a huge time saver for spending long times on the road in multiple countries. Usually when we travel, I get a SIM card at the airport or train station which takes time and after swapping back to my old SIM, notice some of my map pins are gone and the shifting phone numbers make it difficult for people to contact me for reliable communication. As we’ll be visiting dozens of countries on our trip, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Google Fi’s welcome page.

For this set up, I created an account online and with my home address back home, and used my local area code for a new phone number. This means my folks can call us (and vice versa) easily and listing our new phone number on hotel booking sites means hotels can contact us anytime if there is an change to our booking and I can call instead of email to confirm arrivals and departures.

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I’ve written before on how travel branded credit cards have landed us free flights and sweet lounge experiences. One missing piece of the travel puzzle is using a hotel branded credit card.

When we were home last summer, I racked up tons of points on my Hilton Ascend card that gave 6x points at US gas stations, restaurants and supermarkets. My wife upgraded to the Hilton Aspire Credit card which gave us a nice upgrade at the Hilton Conrad in Singapore two weeks ago and will allow us to get points just through everyday spending on our big trip starting in June and put the points to a 3 night free stay at the Conrad Bora Bora in French Polynesia in summer of 2021.

Credit cards are like nukes. Use, don’t abuse them.

Our Accommodation Budget

To travel the world for a whole year, we had to be thrifty. I pegged our average nightly accommodation at $70 which we’d realize through staying mostly at Airbnbs to save money. However, it’s nice to treat ones self and after a slew of bookings in the $50-$60 range, knew that we could have a few nights at upscale hotels here and there.

The Hilton Aspire Benefits Breakdown

The Aspire card’s $450 annual fee seems like a real deal breaker for many people, but the benefits outweigh the hefty price of membership. Consider this:

  • 100,000 sign up bonus after $4,000 initial spend.
  • Free diamond status and upgrades pending availability.
  • Complimentary breakfast for you and a guest.
  • 14 times points on Hilton stays or resort purchases.
  • Executive lounge access.
  • Free anniversary night redemption.
  • $250 credit at Conrad or Waldorf properties.
  • 7 times points booked through amex travel and car rentals.
  • 3 times points on all other purchases.

Although I like the Chase Sapphire Reserve for the flexibility of where you can transfer your points to, we have been using our Hilton Aspire more and more. As it doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees, we’ll spend thousands of dollars per month and earn multiple times that which we can put towards a future trip.

For long periods of time, it’s nice to ‘treat yo-self’.

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Kids and Screen Time: How Much is ‘Too Much?’

One of the more paradoxical conundrums I read about on a daily basis is kids and screen time. Since the digital learning revolution has been fully embraced by schools that can afford it and skills weave themselves into lesson from teachers that can teach it, we have to ask ourselves “How much is too much?”

I recently shared a story from CNN that pointed an alarming trend in the digital divide between rich and poor countries that has the potential to leave hundreds of millions of children behind in the foreseeable future with inadequate technical skills that are becoming prerequisites for the future job market. On the other side, we are also learning that more parents are opting for ‘screen less‘ experiences for their children, even sending them to device less summer camps to help ‘kick‘ their internet addiction. That is balanced with studies that show that internet socializing isn’t a bad thing as it allows children to continue strengthening their relationships through peer bonding. Research shows that some social media use is better than none at all, but overuse can lead to higher rates of depression as children see how amazing their friends lives are online and unfruitful their own must be. I’ve read countless articles from parents who have ‘stepped in’ to combat this in their own way by confiscating cell phones of their children (even in some cases of their children’s friends when they come to visit) which has been met with shock and awe from local communities, but sometimes even disastrous consequences as teenagers take their parents to court, commit murder, or take their own lives by suicide.

“Technology by itself does not equal innovation, but thoughtful, deliberate use can redefine new learning experiences.”  

Screen Time for Learning and Socializing: ‘The Grey Area’

As much as you might dismiss the dystopian case studies above as something out of ‘black mirror’, it’s unavoidable that our devices have become an extension of us. The first time someone suggested implantable devices into the human body, I scoffed, thinking it was ridiculous. Now, students walk around with phone in hand, ready to look at the latest tweet, snapchat or text sending them endorphins reminding them that they are loved by someone, anyone, and that they’re not alone. The ubiquitous ‘grey area’ of children and online learning is how quickly students multitask and pivot from teacher curated content where the experience is centered on the learner to social media content where the experience is centered on the creator. Not being able to distinguish the agenda and target of these two very different delivery systems is reshaping our political ideology and even our basic belief systems of what we thought was ‘true’ about vaccinations, our spherical earth and the historical record. Experts like Jaron Lanier, Cal Newport, Sherry Turkle, Simon Sinek and Nicholas Carr are advocating for limiting internet and social media use and helping you kick your own addiction. The choice to do so is of course our own.

Resources for the Classroom

One of the most common things I hear from administrators and other teachers observing me teach is not how much I use technology, but actually how little I seem to use it despite my reputation as a digital learning coach. The best lessons are ones with a great ‘hook’, engaging questions and ample opportunity for everyone to speak, listen, read and write. Technology by itself does not equal innovation, but thoughtful, deliberate use can redefine new learning experiences. Here are some of my favorite resources that have helped me and my learners over the years:

  • Chrome Extensions: For the chrome browser, you can install tools that will give you a snapshot of how much time you waste on distracting sites. Some extensions like ‘stay focused’ you can configure a time limit that will shut you off from time-sucking sites.
  • Common Sense Media: This great site has all sorts of lessons for understanding different forms of media but also great articles. I’ve been using CSM’s lessons for cyberbullying push-in lessons lately.
  • Applied Digital Skills: Google’s portal for applied learning takes projects and breaks them down by grade level. Students can join classes set up by their teacher (similar to Google Classroom) and work through tutorials that are student based with metrics that give teachers a view of class progress.
  • The Kids Should See This: This site has amazing videos for lessons or discussion starters during check ins.
Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Educating Parents

One member of my PLN, Keri-Lee Beasley developed a brilliant ‘March Madness’ style graphic to help parents thoughtfully and playfully use the internet in new ways with one new task per day in the month of March. Some of the parents at the school where she works were dismissive of the benefits of using digital tools in the classroom and her intervention reduced the stigma that many parents brought to the table by instead of her preaching on how to best model this herself, the onus was on the children to do these challenges with their parents ‘together’ highlighting that this is a relationship first and foremost best done together with generations of digital natives and immigrants alike. It reminded me of as session that I’m delivering to grade 5 parents next month on how to bridge the digital divide (see below) as students transition into middle school. Other considerations are whether to put parental controls on browsing, blacklist certain words or IP addresses, and the conversations to have as a family that support classroom instruction.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ model to solving this problem- each school, country, and population of students and parents are different. As learning coaches, we can model thoughtful use, and highlight how when well leveraged, digital tools can enhance learning outcomes in amazing ways.

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