How To Survive (And Thrive) On Long-Haul Adventures
By Di Westaway | Chief Adventure Chick (CEO) of Wild Women On Top
When friends heard I was doing two long-haul economy trips in quick succession, they couldn’t believe it. Many thought I was naive at best, masochistic at worst. In my flurry of excitement about two fabulous adventures, I erased all fears by telling myself hiking volcanoes in Rwanda and rock climbing in the Greek islands was so wonderful I could ignore the suffering required to get there and back.
But after I’d paid, the idea of Sydney-Kigali via Abu Dhabi and Sydney-Athens-Kos via Dubai return, with the usual work and family pressures either side, started to lose its lustre. As I shoved clothes, wet wipes and hiking boots into my bag, I, too, decided I was either deluded or, indeed, a masochist.
But, of course, I created a positive spin on it. That’s what I do. I figured I could overcome the discomfort of no sleep, no space, no way to get horizontal, no fresh air, no real food and no way to move my body by integrating daily health rituals into the 25 hours of sitting on planes and 25 hours in transit.
I discovered some tricks that worked a treat to keep me fresh and energised on arrival at every destination after 50 hours travelling.
WARNING: If you worry about what other people think, you might find some of these practices a little disgraceful. If that’s you, remember… nobody else gives too hoots.
Choose a suitcase you can carry
That way you don’t need to bother finding a gym while on the road because you can strengthen your arms, shoulders and hands by carrying your bag through airports and cities rather than wheeling it.
Always allow extra time
This way, when unexpected things happen such as lost luggage, misplaced mobiles or heading to the wrong gate, you’ll rejoice in the extra walking rather than finding it stressful.
Never use a lift or escalator
Unless, of course, you’re forced to by airport staff. When you’re traveling, stairs are your friend. They give you more suitcase-carrying opportunities, plus a quad and cardio workout as you carry heavy stuff up and down stairs.
Take a backpack instead of a handbag
This means you have your hands and arms free for stretching above your head on transit buses and trains. You can also get your passport and boarding pass out while carrying a cuppa tea or checking Facebook.
Choose an aisle seat
Yes, it means sacrificing the window view, but having an aisle means you can hop up and walk about regularly without resorting to complex gymnastics to clear the sleeping person next to you.
Wear comfortable pants
Yoga pants might not be that classy but they’re so incredibly comfy. If you can’t get your head around leggings, at least opt for stretchy or baggy pants so you can move freely and stretch every time you get up for the loo. As a bonus, if you’re short like me, you can tuck your feet up into the seat pocket in front to get more horizontal, which makes sleep a little easier.
Offer to help others with their bags
Helping people with their bags, especially putting them into the overhead lockers, is a fantastic way to get an extra shoulder stretch and arm workout and also makes you feel great!
Stretch like nobody is watching (nobody is)
Make sure you do cat stretches, yoga prayer squats, front of hip stretches and glute stretches every two hours. There’s space for this on the landing near the toilets on most planes. Don’t worry about what other people think. It’s good for you and you might even inspire them to join you.
Always. Airline food has slipped to an all-time low and most of it looks and tastes more like plastic than real food. I choose fresh veggies, salad, hummus, bliss bars, roast nuts, dates, yoghurt (the natural unsweetened stuff full of probiotics), nutritious bread, seeds, avocado, fruit, nut butter, frittata, boiled eggs and nourishing, homemade treats.
Take your own mug and tea
I carry my beautiful, big bone-china mug and a variety of tea bags everywhere. This allows me to alternate the aeroplane trolley service with my own herbal tea by getting hot water from the little plane servery while the airline stewards are busy. It also saves money because most café’s give you free hot water if you ask with a smile (my kids hate it when I do this, but to them I say… get over it!).
Ditch jet lag for good
The best way to minimise jet lag is to start contemplating the destination time zone as soon as you get on the plane and get hard core into this on arrival. Avoid coffee for eight hours before you’re due to sleep.
No excuse not to do 10,000 steps and 10 flights of stairs
Make sure you do your recommended daily steps and stairs but wear walking shoes to avoid injury while doing airport laps.
Be fussy when choosing where to eat in transit
If you look hard enough, there’s usually a little gem that serves healthy, real food, sometimes even organic. It this annoys your friends who’d prefer to grab Maccas during the layover, cut them loose and head off for some delicious nourishment while getting your 10,000 steps.
Stand up on all transit buses and trains
This keeps your body working and your stabilising core muscles active. Take note of the poor posture of those around you and use it to remind yourself to put your shoulders back, stand tall and use your core.
Now I’m home I can’t remember much of the pain or discomfort of those long-haul flights. What I do remember, however, is sitting in the middle of the Rwandan jungle with my son, meters away from a Silverback gorilla. I remember watching a child have his sight restored, and standing on the crater rim of an ancient volcano. I remember climbing sheer rock faces on the island of Kalymnos with friends, indulging in Greek yoghurt with baklava for breakfast, and sipping a gin and tonic as the sun set.
Don’t ever miss out on an adventure just because it’s going take a long time getting there. It’s always worth it. Every single time.