Just because you’re on a budget trip, it shouldn’t mean restricting yourself to a consistent diet of baked beans, bread and chocolate. A major reason many travellers get sick is because of poor nutrition from eating poor quality food devoid of nutrients, trace minerals and vitamins, or existing for days on the same type of food.
Often this is the result of tight monetary restrictions in order to stay somewhere longer, or go a little bit further (funny how there always seems to be money to go drinking though!). As that old saying goes, “you are what you eat”.
The backpacker way of life often results in a tendency to drink too much, eat too much of the wrong stuff or not eat enough because of a lack of cash, not getting enough sleep and not exercising (unless you are doing lots of physical activity as part of your travel itinerary).
A good idea before leaving home, especially if you have always relied on your parents, is learning how to use a few basic kitchen utensils and how to cook a few simple recipes that travel widely.
Pasta or stir-fry dishes are great because of the different variations and the large portions you can cook at once, saving what you don’t eat for another time. Attempting to maintain a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will help ensure you stay healthy on the road. Multi-vitamin tablets are also a good idea to help your body overcome any nutritional deficiencies when your daily intake is insufficient.
Depending on the area of the world you’re in, there are always ready-made meals to be bought from supermarkets. However, the meal you have prepared yourself is always the cheapest and there are many interesting people to meet and chat to when you’re chopping up vegetables in a hostel kitchen.
Instead of purchasing from supermarkets, seek out fresh produce from the local farmers’ markets, which will often be cheaper. Plus, it’s also a great opportunity to engage with various characters of the local culture.
If you do eat out, try avoiding the tourist areas with their inflated prices; instead discover where the locals eat. The accumulating costs of restaurant and takeaway meals will quickly eat into your budget. With a little planning and a bit of effort, you can save dollars and look after yourself.
Be wary about the impact of comfort foods and the desire to snack on chocolates, crisps and other sweet things between meals, or when feeling slightly depressed and lonely while on the road. Try to have plenty of fresh fruit handy instead, as well as high energy snack or “sports” bars to keep you going.
Cooking in a hostel communal kitchen provides great opportunities for interaction. Find someone to share meals with to help split costs, or even try getting a whole group of people together and encourage the “pot luck” in the hostel, where each person contributes a different meal to be shared collectively. It’s a great way to experience different home-cooked delicacies to the usual fare you’re putting into your stomach, as well as allowing you to mingle with characters of different cultural influences, especially when the wheels of social interaction become lubricated with a few bottles of wine or beer!
Home page image courtesy of: djrue on Flickr
Main image courtesty of: mararie on Flickr