Often times we make the mistake of leaving healthy eating and exercise at home when we go on vacation. True, vacation is all about breaking out of the usual and mundane and, well, work. Not just the work of your profession or household responsibilities but also the work it takes to plan, schedule and prepare (mentally and physically) a healthy diet and regular exercise program. I absolutely believe we should leave behind the daily grind when we go on vacation – even our ordinary diets and workouts. But we should not leave behind the philosophy of healthy eating and exercise. That philosophy can enrich and recharge us mind, body and soul and add good old-fashioned fun to our vacations.
Eating on Vacation
Yes, it’s fun to indulge and try new things while we’re on vacation when we are unburdened of food shopping and meal prep. But we shouldn’t make the mistake of believing indulgence is defined only as cocktails, gigantic portions of meat and decadent desserts. Every region has its unique in-season produce, livestock or seafood and artisanal specialties that taste better there than anywhere else on the planet, certainly better than you can get back home. There is no better way to immerse yourself in a culture than through the food of that region.
Looking back at previous vacations, I don’t remember any specific desserts at fancy restaurants or cocktails at beachside bars. I know I’ve had many – they’re just not very memorable. But here’s a list of foods I do remember, quite vividly, from vacations past: peaches in Venice; baguettes, gouda and grapes for lunch in Paris; Ipswich clams; figs and olive oil in Sonoma County; salmon in Scotland; bison, wild rice, raspberries and blackberries in Northern Wisconsin; and extra sharp aged cheddar in Vermont.
The other healthy reality is these local culinary gems are minimally processed and are as close to farm-to-table as you can get. There’s no junk in this food. So nosh on it liberally and I’ll bet you, nine times out of ten, you’ll decide you’re plenty full. You won’t miss the cocktails, slabs of meat and decadent desserts you don’t have room to consume and, after all, you can get those at home anyway.
Exercising on Vacation
Sure, you can workout in the hotel or resort gym. But you probably won’t want to and, really, what value is it to take time from your vacation to do the same workout you’d do at home in a place that even looks the same? Again, take advantage of what’s different about a place you’re visiting and have fun. Use your feet as your transportation whenever you can. It’s a lot less hassle and stress than trying to find a parking space or maneuvering through an unfamiliar public transportation system. You’ll see and experience so much more this way. Rent a bike and meander about town. Explore your adventurous side, try parasailing or paddleboard yoga. Take scuba or surfing lessons. Maybe try snorkeling or roller blading. Take a family hike. I promise, there will still be plenty of time left to relax by the pool or nap in the hammock. But, if you move at least a little everyday, you will sleep better at night and feel more refreshed and energized during the day.
Some of my favorite active vacation memories: walking miles through Rome, Venice and Paris with my husband on our honeymoon; walking miles through Disney World with my husband and kids; jogging over and along the Charles River in Boston; hiking in the Berkshires; kayaking on Lake Superior; biking through Martha’s Vineyard; jogging barefoot on the beach in Gloucester, MA; and taking outdoor yoga classes on the shores of Madeline Island, WI.
As long as you abandon the idea that bringing healthy eating and exercise with you on vacation means deprivation and sweating it out in a stuffy, bland gym you can begin to see all the things it could be. Think back, maybe you have some special regional food memories from vacations past. Did you need to exert yourself a little to more deeply explore the places you’ve been to? Remember how that made the vacation that much more unique? Take that perspective with you on your next trip. Have an open mind and be prepared to have the best vacation of your life. Just don’t forget to pack your sneakers.