This post was contributed by Gaby Napoli.
I am personally a huge creature of habit. I love spontaneity and saying ” ef it – yolo” but ultimately know that my most productive, mentally healthy moments in living abroad have been when I created some type of structure. When I was 19, I spent a summer in Israel interning for about three months. I managed to get a scholarship to go and thought “Hell yes – money part is cleared. Now everything else is golden.” Upon arriving in Israel, I learned that it’s expensive as hell… despite the constant mobs of internet people telling me this. So I decided to forego paying for a gym membership for the time being. SPOILER ALERT. This was just the start of a downward spiral, so here are my best tips for making sure you stay mentally and physically fit while abroad.
Mental health doesn’t disappear while you’re traveling and/or living abroad.
This is something I learned the hard way. I really felt like the first few times I traveled as a young adult, my problems were just going to disappear into Spanish architecture and mojitos. Listen, yes your problems can feel further away, that is true. But the core of who you are stays with you, and you might even find that you hold onto it even more while away. So please, please, do not anticipate to have an immediate change in thought patterns simply because you’re abroad… unfortunately, we’ve all gotta put in the work.
Maintain simple and easily identifiable behaviors.
If you like to go to the gym and are feeling the itch for it, find gyms in your area and check online to see if they have a free trial. Often they do. If not, I would strongly recommend budgeting it in to prioritize paying for a few day passes. I say this as well depending on the length of time you’re traveling for, if you can’t opt to get an actual month-by-month membership. However, I have opted for the above in trips of all lengths. I considered once writing an article on South American gyms. If it’s important to you, get it in.
If you like drinking coffee in the morning and reading the news when you get up, buy instant coffee if you don’t have a machine close and make it yourself and read the news on your phone.
I promise you, it’s the little things collectively that improve our quality of life.
Please, plan your medication ahead of time.
If you take something daily and need to stock up, speak to your doctor before hand. Often they have experienced this before and will either create a plan to give you a larger quantity or up the dosage for you to split in half. I know this sounds sus , but if you take something daily for your health and do not have it, you know the feeling of panic I’m talking about.
You are important and if these medications are for some type of benefit, whether for mental or physical health, please prioritize having a supply. If you’re worried about the amount you are carrying through security, ask your doctor to provide you with a letter saying that you are under their care and they have prescribed you xyz. They will do it.
If they don’t, your doctor might not be that great, and that’s another conversation.
Yolo it on the food but have a limit.
Listen, if you eat like sh!t, you’ll probably feel like shit. I’m not saying don’t have your gluttonous moments abroad; those are amazing. But maybe after the newness wears off after a few weeks, try to prioritize something green now and then. Or if you know you’re gonna do a crazy food tour, maybe eat a light breakfast. The only way I’ve found traveling to be a long term thing is if I maintain the above. Make sure to prioritize the moments you eat light and the moments you go hard, so your tummy feels balanced.
Don’t forget to take pauses and get your alone time.
Travel can sometimes be very social or fairly independent, but often we find that we may be cohabiting with many humans at once (hostels) or are surrounded by friends trying to party all the time (group trips, study abroad). And, because we are human beings and like being social, we might feel anxious about missing out. Listen, F.O.M.O. sucks but what sucks even more is finding yourself in a bad mood because you’ve over-exhausted your social limits for the day.
Take that time to recharge, go for a walk, eat by yourself, journal, etc, to be able to come back ready for the social fun.
Take that time to recharge, go for a walk, eat by yourself, journal
And for anyone that needs to hear this, don’t text your ex.
This sounds cliché, but sometimes when experiences are so new, we crave the familiar, no matter how unhealthy. And then we text that person and our mind goes down a whole other toxic alley way. Most importantly, we are not
P R E S E N T
I invite you in your travels to make this a goal, and focus on the people around you. Turn your wifi off, leave your phone at the hostel every now and then and just get lost. Be in that culture and place with those amazing people.
Meet Gaby: Gaby is a 20-something native New Yorker who has returned to her roots after spending several years in South America where she now works to educate communities on the impact of domestic violence in families. Ella también le encanta y es fluida en el espanglish and if you want to host her in any country she would gladly accept. Keep up with her on IG.