Details of Life on the Road: Street eats, cheap sleeps, budget travel experiences

14 Ways To Stay Fit And Keep Active During Long-Term Traveling

P1030836             Photo: Street set up in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia.


Don’t want to spend time in the gym during your travels? I don’t blame you. In all honesty I don’t even go to the gym back in Canada, so I’m not going to go to one while I’m traveling. However, there are lots of easy and cheap ways to keep fit and stay active on the road, so there’s no need to worry about getting out of shape too badly. If you’re drinking a liter of goon and eating pasta and garlic bread every day in Australia, that might be another story. But, if you pay attention to the things on this list you should have no problem keeping active and staying fit while traveling. This post focuses on exercise – as we all know, diet plays a key role in health but this list will focus on activities and exercise rather than talking about what to and what not to be putting in your stomach, where ever you may be in the world, during your travels.

Back in Canada I maintain a healthy vegetarian diet, I ride my bicycle every day during the non-winter months, and I play competitive ultimate frisbee on a weekly basis. Once I stopped all of those things and started eating rice, bread, and beer on a daily basis my body started to change its form. Realizing this, I try to get as much exercise as possible whichever way I can.

Here are a few basic, easy, and often free ways of keeping active and staying fit that you should be able to incorporate into your traveling lifestyle almost no matter where you are.

1. Walking: This is a given. Typically, I walk anywhere from 2km to 10km everyday while I’m traveling, sometimes more. It’s a great way to keep active and try to stay in shape. However, it’s not enough for everyone, such as myself, despite walking as much as I can. If you’re in a new city and your hostel is a few kilometers away, consider walking rather than taking transportation. You’ll be helping yourself and the environment. You should be able to find free walking tours in many of the cities you visit.

2. Bicycling: Depending where you are in the world, bicycling may be a common activity. Many guesthouses in many of the towns and cities I’ve recently visited have rented out bicycles. For example, I was recently in Anuradhapura, Sir Lanka, and decided to visit the Unecso-recognized ruins by bicycle. Similarly, I experienced Hoi An, Vietnam by bicycle, as well as numerous other cities and attractions. Bicycles can usually be rented for around $1.00USD, and will save you from taking a tuk-tuk or other forms of polluting transportation.

Postbike             Photo: Cycling around Hoi An, Vietnam.

3. Ultimate Frisbee: So, this one may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly for me. I play a lot of ultimate back home and I miss it desperately. The great thing is that it’s played in almost every large city. Most organizations are very welcoming towards foreigners. You should be able to ‘pick up’ everywhere the sport is played. Often free, it’s a great way to get some exercise and meet some great people. I try to play in every city I visit.

4. Other sports: Similar to above. If you don’t play ultimate frisbee, maybe you’ll be able to join a fun game of soccer, basketball, or whatever sport it is that you play.

5. Dance classes/dancing: That’s right, dancing. This universal past-time will surely burn some of those extra calories. Like going out to the dance clubs? Well, now you don’t have to feel so guilty – remember that while you’re ripping it up on the d-floor, you’re also burning some calories. If you’re in South America, chances are you’ll find yourself in a salsa club. I took salsa lessons in Quito, Ecuador, and let me tell you, it’s no easy thing. Lessons may not be free, but dancing the night away sure is. Also, I’ve seen many riverside dance classes happening just after sunset in a few Southeast Asian countries – it could prove fun and rewarding to join one!

6. Kayaking: Traveling along a coast somewhere, or in a country with lots of lakes and rivers? Kayaking is a common activity in many places I’ve visited, and it’s often there only for touristic purposes. Will you be visiting Halong Bay, Vietnam, anytime soon? Make sure you pay the extra couple of dollars and do some kayaking. There’s been kayaking excursions, and kayak rentals in every country I’ve visited.

7. Swimming: Are you beach bum? Love laying under the relentless sun? Me too. No better way to cool off than getting in the water (hopefully it’s swimmable and clean). If I’m near the ocean I do my best to have a couple of beach days and do a lot of swimming. It’s one of the best exercises you can do, and it works the whole body. And, it’s free. If you’re not staying near a body of water, maybe your accommodation has a swimming pool. Although surfing is a completely separate activity than swimming, I’ll just throw it in here. It’s often cheap to rent a board, and you’re guaranteed to get a great work out, even if you don’t catch any waves!

8. Working out: No, not going to the gym – working out in your room. I try and do some sit-ups and push-ups every now and again, but I usually forget. I traveled with one guy for couple of weeks in Laos and he would do push-ups over top of a bath tub. When he was finished and covered in sweat, he would then just turn on the water and rinse off.

9. Running: You can bring this routine and exercise anywhere with you in the world. No matter where I am, I always see people running. It’s a great way to see the city you’re in. I typically run in the morning, but it’s always nice jogging along the water-front and watching the setting sun.

10. Adventure sports: Rock climbing, white water rafting, kite-surfing, paragliding, canyoning, mountain biking, etc., the list goes on and on. Adventure sports and traveling go hand in hand. Who doesn’t like to get an adrenaline rush every now and again. I sure do! Whether it’s white water rafting on the Rio Suarez in San Gil, Colombia, canyoning in Dalat, Vietnam, and so on, there are adventure sports everywhere in the world, especially in touristic places that you may or may not be passing through. A great way to have some fun, have a new experience, and get some exercise. However, be prepared to pay a pretty penny for many adventure-related activities.

Postcanyoning             Photo: Canyoning in Dalat, Vietnam.

11. Volunteering: By volunteering I mean labor work. At the time of writing I’m volunteering – through – at a beautiful farm in Sri Lanka. There are four other like-minded travelers here, so I’ve made some new friends, too. The owners are hospitable and genuine. The property is large and beautiful, covered in palm trees, and scattered with animals such as buffalo, peacocks, turtles, dogs, lizards, and much more. Delicious home cooked vegetarian food is provided for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and comfortable accommodation is provided in return for five hours of work each day. I’ve been working gathering coconuts, building fences, gardening, and more. I’m keeping active, eating like a king, learning, meeting new people, having a lot of fun, all of the while saving some money.

12. Yoga: An easy, do it yourself exercise. Okay, perhaps not easy for everyone, but once you know a little yoga you can do it everywhere you go. Do some yoga first thing in the morning to start your day. Maybe you’re traveling through Sri Lanka (where I am at the time of writing) or India and would like to take some yoga classes. Yoga is practiced everywhere, so you should have no problem of finding somewhere to practice.

13. Hiking: Although hiking is technically just walking, I’ve decided to put it in a separate category. I’ve been on some great hikes over the last few years. Some easy, some rather difficult. Most recently I hiked up and down Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka. Hiking is something you can do anywhere in the world. Depending on the trek and its popularity, its duration, and where it’s located (is it in a National Park?), as well as considering other factors, it could be costly or possibly absolutely free.

14. Lots of other ways: Hacky sack (or the hacky-sack-like game played throughout Southeast Asia), kicking the soccer ball around, throwing the frisbee, you name it. Every little bit helps. If you’re staying at a hostel, chances are it will be pretty easy to join in on some fun, or to invite some other travelers to participate in whatever you want to do.

Postfrisbee             Photo: Throwing the frisbee on a beach in Vietnam.

How do you stay active while traveling? Have something you’d like to add to this list? Comment below and let me know!

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