Traveling long-term can be grueling for our body. We are more sensitive than we think! The change of diet, water, climate, and environment affects our system. Not to mention, a long-haul flight, bus or train ride is another stressful factor. As long-term travelers, we all have experienced a number of ‘situations’, like a hundred trips to the bathroom in one day, muscle-aching fever, rash, cold, and the list goes on. It’s easy to neglect the health aspect while traveling because it doesn’t seem that important. Our body craves unhealthy food when we’re overly tired (why is that?). As much as we move, we need to go easy and take care of our tired mind and body. Over the years I developed my own home remedies for the ‘troubles’ I’ve experienced. These are based on my experiences with Korean home remedies like my mom and grandmother taught me. Also, I got a great education while traveling to many different cultures.
A healthier life while traveling through food and tea
Honey + Ginger
It’s best to drink with hot water. The tanginess in fresh ginger mixed with sweet honey makes a great hot tea. Honey and ginger tea is one of my favorites, especially in winter. It’s the best thing to have when you catch a cold. Ginger and honey tea is excellent on cold days because ginger helps increase body heat. If your body is sensitive to cold, consume more ginger. It stimulates circulation. Ginger is also an anti-inflammatory agent and good to treat menstrual pain. Also, we all know honey is an all-around authority of health.
How to prepare: peel and grate fresh ginger roots and mix with a half jar of honey until the jar is full. Marinate overnight in room temperature. Mix well and store in the fridge until it runs out.
Lemona or Vitamin C tablet or Mandarin Orange
Those of us who grew up in Korea, we are familiar with Lemona. It’s a powder of vitamin C in a small packet. It’s technically a health supplement but it looks and is treated like a snack. When I was growing up, we had a packet of Lemona when we were sick with cold or feeling tired. We could buy it at a supermarket but it was too expensive to get often. It’s just an added benefit that it tastes delicious. Lemona is a popular product in Korea to this day, ever since its first release back in 1983. It’s one of the items I stock whenever I’m back in Korea.
I also travel with a small bottle of Vitamin C tablets like Airborne in case I get sick with a cold.
When my stock of Lemona or Vitamin C tablets runs out, I hunt down mandarin oranges or grapefruits depending on the country I am in.
Even when I travel, I have a section of my bag dedicated to an assortment of teas. One of the things I never let run out is peppermint tea. I love the taste of it but not only that; peppermint is a great herb with lots of health benefits, especially for digestion. Peppermint has been used for centuries to sort out a variety of digestive conditions. Archaeological founding shows peppermint being used as far back as 10,000 years ago as a dietary supplement. It has a calming effect on the intestines and smooth muscles of the digestive tract. Other intestinal issues like diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel can be treated with peppermint tea.
Similar to peppermint tea, plum helps digestion. Koreans have been made plum syrup at home to use as a sugar supplement and digestion remedy. In Korea, it’s a common practice to drink a hot plum tea after coming back from a big dinner. It aids the digestive system.
It’s all relative
Whenever I feel sick: rice porridge (juk)
Whether I’m feeling sick from a stomach ache or cold, I make white rice porridge. It’s a home remedy that I grew up with. A bowl of rice porridge with a side of a bit of soy sauce tastes like childhood. Hot and blended bowl of porridge is a great alternative when you can’t eat due to diarrhea, stomach pain, fever, and cold. To make porridge, just use 3-5 times more water than normal. You can also mix with vegetables like spinach, carrot, and a small amount of onion. Finish with sesame oil if you want an authentic Korean taste.
I already discussed the importance of Italy Towel in my previous post. There’s no better way to clean my body after long-haul travel than Italy Towel. It packs real small and it also lasts really long. I do a good scrub down at least once a week.
I refrain from traveling with body lotion because it’s not high on my packing list. It weighs a lot and frankly I can live without it. But it becomes essential in cold climates. So I found an alternative; body balm. It comes in a moderate size container and I don’t need to worry about leaking because it’s a solid form. Body balm is usually good for any part of the body since all the materials are natural. It can be used as lip balm, hair conditioner, and of course, an alternative to body lotion. Oil balm is also good to put on after getting a sunburn.
There are many aspects of my life that are so Korean and I can’t help. One of the things you’ll find in my bag is face masks. It’s one of the most favorite souvenirs in Korea. You’ll see a ton of stores selling them and for a good reason. I also started to bring extras to give it to friends I meet. I used to travel with small Korean ornaments but seems like a face mask is more favorable these days. Face mask works especially well after (gently) scrubbing my face. Use it as an end of the day treat-yo-self.
A lot of people consume daily vitamin tablets, but it’s not easy to travel with a big vitamin bottle. Instead, I travel with a small bottle of Vitamin D. It’s especially important when I’m traveling in a winter climate. Vitamin D is vital to aid calcium absorption, to facilitate a normal immune system, and regulate mood. People living near the Arctic increase their Vitamin D intake during the winter for similar reasons. Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because it’s produced in the skin in response to sunlight. It rarely presents itself in food. For consuming normal amount of Vitamin D through the sunlight, average 10 minutes a day during the day is sufficient. But not getting direct sunlight because of tall buildings in cities, using a lot of sunscreens, and getting through polluted air affect ability to receive sufficient amount of Vitamin D from the sun alone. That’s when my small bottle of Vitamin D comes in handy.
Siang Pure Oil or Tiger Balm
For sore muscles, stuffy nose, heat exhaustion, headache, tiredness, or insect bites, I look for Siang Pure Oil. The main ingredient of this orange color oil is menthol and peppermint. Just a little drop can do a miracle. I travel with the smallest bottle, 25ml (0.84oz), always handy in my carry-on bag. The ingredient and effects are similar to the most well-known product, Tiger Balm, which also comes in a small container. There was always a small jar of Timer Balm when I was growing up, especially for treating mosquito bites for me and muscle pains for my mom.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Stay healthy while traveling long-term! All you need to do is keep an eye on what you eat and drink.” quote=”Stay healthy while traveling long-term! All you need to do is keep an eye on what you eat and drink.”]
My advice to lead a healthier life
Pay attention to what you eat and drink
Everyone has a different body. Something that’s good for someone might be toxic for you. If you are feeling uncomfortable after eating or drinking something (bloated, constant digestion problems, etc.), it would be a good idea to start cutting something out and see if you feel different. For example, a lot of people are sensitive to dairy, soy, caffeine, and even eggs but you won’t think too hard about it if it doesn’t endanger your daily life. Sensitivity is different than an allergy. The wrong type of food will create inflammation (and other problems) that will lead to bigger issues down the road. Pay attention to what you eat and drink. Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, start eliminating one thing at a time. You will notice the difference right away. I can’t keep all the rules all the time (I mean, we are only human, right?) but I try to pay attention to what my body is telling me.
I recommend seeing a Naturopathic doctor to check your food sensitivities. It’s your choice to follow through but it’s always good to know what exactly your body does or doesn’t need. If you are in Southern California, head to Santa Monica and drop by to see Dr. McAllister who introduced this knowledge to us.
You might want to reduce your caffeine intake
It’s been a couple years since I stopped my caffeine consumption. I used to start my day with a cup of black tea but I switched to decaf and replace all my tea with herbal or decaf. The practice came to my attention after Stephen got his health checked with his Naturopathic doctor. Stephen was consuming way too much caffeine for years without knowing that he was sensitive to it. It all depends on your body (and everyone is different), but if you are sensitive to caffeine, it can create nervousness, restlessness, upset stomach, fast heartbeat, and insomnia.
I only started drinking coffee since junior year of college but I never found it affecting me the way people say it would, like keeping me awake so I can study at night. No matter how much coffee I drank, it didn’t keep me up. I discovered the joy of black tea while traveling in New Zealand in 2004, and that became an added pleasure of daily life. Coffee and black tea were a habit I picked up later in life since I grew up drinking non-caffeinated tea like barley or corn husk.
Drinking caffeinated tea was, and still is about a daily routine. So when Stephen was cutting off caffeine after his check up, I decided to join him. I mean, it doesn’t give me the positive benefit like it was supposed to, so why keep consuming? Nowadays there are many great decaffeinated products so I don’t need to give up any of my hot-beverage habits. I regularly buy Jeremiah’s Pick Coffee Organic Water Processed Decaf, and decaf tea from PG Tips.
I drink caffeinated beverages time to time, but no more than a couple times a week. It’s not always possible to keep the strict diet. But I try my best to avoid it.
Don’t overlook the importance of sleep
A while ago I wrote how sleep is the new ‘gluten-free’. Sleep has been the first thing to go on a busy schedule. Who cares about 8-hour sleep schedule when you’re chasing your life goals? But think differently; sleep is one of the greatest insights of human life.
We know the short-term importance of sleep; we have to sleep to function. When we don’t get enough REM sleep, the neuroreceptors lose their sensitivity to serotonin and norepinephrine, which leads to impaired cognitive function. The long-term results are still an unsolved mystery. Last year, for the first time a team of scientists discovered that lack of sleep puts you at higher risk for colds. We somehow knew it because the first thing we do to fight a common cold is to sleep. Sleep deprivation weakens the body’s natural defense system which results more vulnerable to viruses. Lack of sleep also raises the risk of obesity because it affects hormones regulating hunger and stimulates the appetite.
I’m not saying you should ditch your commitment (work or otherwise) to get enough sleep. What’s important is that you shouldn’t overlook the importance of sleep because not only will you be tired for a day, but also the repetitive sleep deprivation will affect the long-term quality of your life.
Need an advice?
Consult with Dr.Heath McAlister when you are in Los Angeles area.