For 17 days this year, my husband and I traveled through the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, including Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Isla Mujeres, then headed to Ambergris Caye, Belize. Because of my health and wellness journey, I’ve learned how to make healthy choices, and that it is possible to stay healthy and workout while on a vacation.
In fact, I’ve learned a lot in the past several months about how to be more gentle with my body and my mind.
In the past, a trip like this was a guaranteed excuse to eat and drink everything in sight and then nap and lounge by the pool or on the beach. Then, I would return home and start my healthy life over after taking a break for a couple of weeks. It was rare for me to be able to take a vacation at all in my former busy CEO life (although I went out of town, I typically worked every day that I was gone).
I decided that for this vacation I wanted to both enjoy my trip by choosing healthful foods and continue to exercise, honoring my progress on my journey of health and wellness. This was the first step in dedicating myself to a location independent and holistic lifestyle.
How I Make Healthy Choices on Vacation
My husband and I were fortunate to stay at The Phoenix Hotel in Ambergris Caye, Belize several months ago over Spring Break during our annual family trip with our son. They offer a 20% discount if you book another trip at check out. Newly adjusting to the reality that my summer plans had changed, we jumped at the opportunity to spend some serious couple time together (something that we haven’t done in three years)!
But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little nervous about this trip. I’ve been on an intense regimen of health and wellness: changing my eating, understanding my mental status around health and wellness, and seriously increasing my activity level.
In the past, a 17-day vacation would mean a free pass to do whatever I wanted. You know, drink like a fish, eat everything fried, and spend lazy days relaxing. But the idea of that kind of vacation just didn’t feel as enticing this time, in fact, it scared me!. I didn’t want to make unhealthy food choices just because I was on vacation. I didn’t want to stop exercising because I was out of town.
I crave a location independent lifestyle, so traveling is going to be a constant and doesn’t always equal “vacation.” Having a routine and a commitment to my health while traveling is incredibly important. So I set a goal and made a commitment to myself (calling in some accountability partners in the form of my trainer and hubby.)
I’ve evolved. So my expectations and actions needed to change, too. Here’s how I did it.
Get Comfy in the Hotel Gym or Even Your Hotel Room!
Each of the places we stayed while on our vacation, included a pretty fantastic hotel gym. However, the wifi was spotty (limiting access to music, work out videos, and facetime workouts with my trainer).
So we made the most of it and actually worked out in our hotel room! We used body weight and even our luggage for weights! Next time we’ll be sure to pack a TRX. I also arranged for my trainer, Tony Johnson with Mindful And Fit, to call us on pre-scheduled days and times to keep us accountable, and also check in on our progress.
I also joined Fight Camp, which is an on-demand boxing workout app. We went to the swimming pool at the resorts and did water aerobics as well. So, basically, there’s no excuse not to work out. A lot of resorts have bike rides, hikes, yoga, etc… as the health and wellness have been exploding into the travel industry.
My husband joined me during every single work out. We were each other’s accountability partners! The couple who sweats together stays together!
Handle Your Food With Care
I love food and I really wanted to enjoy the meals on this trip and not feel like I was in deprivation. But that didn’t mean that I was going to go hog wild and fully trash everything I’ve learned. I wanted to eat and enjoy (and splurge on foods I wouldn’t necessarily get at home…hello, Fry Jacks in Belize! Chilaquiles in Mexico)! What I love about traveling is that it’s easier to eat healthy as there aren’t as many processed foods. There’s always a ton of fresh fruits, local fresh-caught fish, and pasture raised meats.
There are four ways to handle eating on vacation, in my opinion:
Scan the Buffet Before You Dig In:
Please, do yourself a favor and never walk up to a buffet line, take a plate, and add foods blindly. Instead, choose mindfully, and wisely. It’s a really good idea to scan the entire buffet and choose the foods you really want to eat before digging in. Start with a salad and then select your dinner. If you’re still hungry, try eating a few more veggies (just be careful with dressings and sauces).
What Do You Really Want to Eat?
Craving a decadent dessert? Enjoy it! Spoiler alert: As a grown adult you can give yourself permission to indulge. Personally, I’m not a dessert person, but if that’s your thing, consider sharing a dessert as a way to feel satisfied. For me my vice is alcohol. I love a really yummy cocktail at the end of a long day or week. I balance this out by making sure I don’t eat too many carbs or dinners with a ton of sugar.
Make Friends With the Staff by Speaking Like a Local
I’m fluent in Spanish and, for whatever reason, can adopt local accents (maybe I could have been a spy!). It makes talking to the local waitstaff and even the chef about ingredients and preparation so much easier. But if you don’t speak the language, don’t let that stop you.
Most hospitality employees are bilingual in tourism serving towns. If not, Google Translate works offline.
If you really want an A+ there are some fantastic programs to get you to a basic comfort level with the local language. I’ve personally used a little of all of these as a way to improve my Spanish over the years. They have different merits but will get you to your end goal.
Brush up on some basic Spanish with italki, Pimsleur (listen on the way to work, picking the kids up from school, cooking dinner), or DuoLingo (link). Even a few words in the native language make a huge difference in your dining experience.
Italki: this is a fantastic way to connect with native language speakers. You are paired with a teacher who will provide you with one on one feedback and help you learn the language in an authentic way.
Pimsleur: Perhaps the most immersive of the programs. It will take some time to practice with these so prepare if you can. I love to do this on my drive to take my son to school.
Duolingo: is a super fun (and free!) app that is science-based and allows you to really absorb a new language while playing games.
Since your health is your priority, make it a priority to find a friendly English speaking server who can let you know more about what’s going into your meals. Or have a fun time gesturing, drawing, looking up how to say gluten-free, vegetarian, or no tomatoes (for my nightshade-avoiding friends).
You’re on vacation, no one knows you, be bold, be silly, have fun! This is particularly advantageous if you’re eating regularly at the all-inclusive hotel in any of their restaurants. If you’re out and about at different restaurants every night, it might be useful to utilize some cards that you can print out and bring with you. Especially if you have any food allergies or sensitivities.
This site has some great links to a variety of cards that you can print and utilize.
Get Rid of the Guilt
Speaking of guilt, just like Elsa in Frozen, “Let it go!” If you’re on vacation, a few splurge meals, snacks, drinks, or desserts are perfectly fine. The goal isn’t to be perfect or drown yourself in criticism. The challenge is to limit yourself to just a few splurge meals, snacks, drinks or desserts. Don’t take the splurge into every single outing.
I like to use this accountability app called, You Ate! It keeps you from sliding into the vacay mindset where “anything goes” and does it by incorporating mindfulness and journaling, not calorie counting. And honestly, these tips can translate to your regular life as well. Particularly the buffet trick (use it at any or neighborhood party), and making friends with the waitstaff. Always be courteous to the staff, especially when you have lots of questions or requests. As a rule, be nice to everyone. You never know who they are, or who they will be.
The Caribbean islands call me. I love being on this side of the world. I would like to bounce around, but could see making one of these islands (or all of them since we’re going to live on a boat) my home base!
A lot of people say they like to travel. I have realized that my love of travel really extends beyond this because it feeds my soul. Traveling is such a deep, intrinsic need and desire in me. I truly can’t live without it. And I’m not talking about just being a tourist, I mean being a traveler.
Got any big travel plans? How are you going to maintain your health goals and enjoy yourself at the same time? Tell me about it below! Or better yet, did you get a chance to try any of these tips? Let me know what worked and what you learned! Safe travels!
Staying on track while on vacation doesn’t have to be something you do alone. Consider sharing this pin on Pinterest and help me share what I’ve learned on this health and wellness journey with other.