I’ve been quiet on the blog recently because I’m in the middle of a fairly hectic travel schedule – 24 nights away in July and August, and only two weeks with no flights in July, August, September. It all seemed like a good idea at the time…

I’m determined to stay healthy while travelling for work – mentally, physically and spiritually. I find managing a healthy lifestyle can be challenging when I’m at home. Staying healthy when travelling is definitely trickier!

how to stay healthy when travelling for work

Tips for staying healthy while travelling for work

My normal healthy quadfecta is exercise, good food, sleep and managing stress. If one falters for a few days I’m usually OK, but if two or three of them start to wane, then the problems can set in!

1. Exercise

The first thing I always pack is my exercise gear. Sneakers, leggings, t-shirt. And if I’m going somewhere cold (hello Auckland), a couple of extra layers that can be easily tied around my waist when I warm up. I’ve started also packing my swimmers, cap and goggles, but they haven’t made it out of my suitcase yet. And sadly, neither have my sneakers on my last couple of trips. I love getting up and going for a quick walk when I’m travelling, or if time permits, a longer explore. There are so many new and interesting sights to see – especially when compared to my usual walking route at home.

My accommodation preference for longer trips is an Air BnB but for shorter trips, I’ll usually stay in a hotel. Which means there is also an opportunity to use the hotel gym if I’m desperate or if the weather really isn’t cooperating.

2. Food and drink

I find managing food the most difficult part of travel, thanks to having a few squillion food intolerances that are a pain in the bum (literally!) if I ignore them for too long. However, as a life-long food lover, it can also be the best part as I get to try great restaurants and often new-to-me food combinations. A recent meal at Movida Aqui in Melbourne was a food and work-travel highlight of the year so far. As was last night’s sublime dinner at Augustus Bistro in Auckland. Of course, the company each time made it extra-special.

For me, the key to food management is to make sure I have enough veggies each day, and enough protein for breakfast to keep me going. As I usually try and stay somewhere with a kitchen, I can control the food part to an extent – at least for a few meals. If I have a long-ish stay (4+ nights) in the one place, I’ll squeeze my Nutri-bullet into my suitcase (it weighs 2.5kg) so I can have a veggie smoothie in the mornings (my fave combo is beetroot, carrot, ginger, cinnamon, spinach, avocado, and a few frozen berries), which helps with the veggie side of things.

Most supermarkets also have great options for pre-made meals, especially fresh salads. Many times (especially in the US), I’ve gone to WholeFoods and made up a salad from the salad bar and bought a chicken piece or two. Most hotel kitchens are also happy to give you a side of steamed veggies without sauce or butter if you’re looking for something a bit lighter on the room-service menu.

In terms of drink, I try and increase my water intake when I’m away, especially if I’m doing a lot of flying. I travel with my favourite herbal teas (they are the second thing I always pack), and I’m also a lot more conscious of how much alcohol and coffee I drink. It can be VERY easy to get caught up in the social side of work travel, drink too much (especially too much coffee), and then struggle to sleep.

3. Sleep

I am unashamedly an 8-hours-a-night girl. And if my sleep is compromised for more than a couple of nights then things get ugly really, really quickly. I find sleep when travelling extremely difficult to control, as there are so many factors involved. Yes, I can get to bed at the right time, but if the bed is uncomfy, or it’s noisy, or there is too much light, then sleep can be elusive. Last week I was in a hotel where there was so much external light, I could have read my book at 3am without turning on any other lights. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night.

While many of my fellow work-travellers use ear-plugs and a sleep mask, I’m not a huge fan of either, so I usually forget to pack them…

I have, however, perfected the power nap (20 mins MAX) and can sleep pretty much anywhere. This means I can easily nap on a plane which is a massive bonus (I can also get a proper sleep on a plane – on my last 14-hour flight from LAX I reckon I had a solid 8 hours sleep – having a row of seats to myself in economy definitely helped!). If I have a few late nights I’ll schedule some time to duck back to my accommodation for a quick nap on as many days as I can.

4. Managing stress

I have become pretty good at managing stress over the years. In my 20s I had a ridiculously stressful job that manifested in all sorts of nasty ways, so I’ve been very conscious of it ever since. I find if I exercise, eat the right foods and get enough sleep then my stress is more controllable. However it can be a vicious cycle all too easy to fall into – too much stress, drink lots of wine, too busy to cook so eat lots of cheese and crackers (or get take-away), no time to exercise, poor sleep due to anxiety etc etc etc.

Everyone has their own way to manage stress, but I find getting fresh air, taking deep, controlled breaths and doing some meditation are the easiest ways to at least have small pockets of control. Over the last few years I’ve also significantly changed the way I work, so my work stress is significantly lower than it used to be.

Do you also travel a lot for work? How do you manage to stay healthy?

Mel Kettle works with associations, not-for-profits and businesses to help them communicate effectively and authentically so they attract, retain and engage their members and customers. To inquire about working with Mel, please email mel@melkettle.com or call her on 0404 600 889.

Order a signed copy of Mel’s book, The Social Association – 5 key skills not-for-profits need to increase member engagement, generate ROI and create a thriving online community, published in February 2018.


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