Getting Healthy After 18 Months of Travel

Getting Healthy After 18 Months of Travel

Our journey back to being healthy started when we left Spain. We loved our time in Barcelona and consumed our fair share of wonderful food and drink, but it was time to get serious! After 18 months of being nomadic and traveling the globe, our lifestyle had caught up with us. We told ourselves we were going to enjoy our time abroad and experience the local cultures (food and drink included) whenever possible, but the downside was the toll it took on our health.

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘Freshman 15.’ Well, that can be applied here as well. I found myself at my heaviest weight ever and Matt lost a large amount of muscle and gained weight…not a great combo.

Schnitzel in Germany

Schnitzel bigger than Matt’s hand in Hamburg, Germany.

We decided to spend five weeks in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala (36 days to be exact) because it’s known for its support of healthy living. It would be cheaper and easier to eat fresh fruits and vegetables over anything out of a box or from a restaurant. There would be access to all the hiking and yoga our bodies could handle and we knew our internet access would be limited. Basically, this allowed us to live off the grid, step away from our computers and reset our lives while enjoying the beauty of Lake Atitlán.

The Results

We weighed and measured ourselves on our last day in Spain and did not step on a scale until we arrived back in the U.S. I knew I made progress as soon as I put my jeans on the morning we flew home (Yay!). They fit well enough to wear all day, something I would have never considered for the flight from Spain to Guatemala (hello stretchy leggings!).

Alana and Matt in San Marcos La Laguna

After 5 weeks our numbers showed:

Alana –  lost 10 pounds and trimmed 2 inches from her waist

Matt – lost 19 pounds and trimmed 3 inches from his waist (and apparently gained a beard)

How did we do it?

Cleaned Up Our Diet

Fresh Vegetables

We focused on eating clean and cut out alcohol completely. The village and our place were the perfect locations to stay focused and have access to lots of veggies. The property we stayed on included a huge garden, open for us to eat from and we took full advantage!

We also found a great vegetable lady in the village who supplied us with anything we couldn’t find in our garden. She was also our source for local eggs and fresh made corn tortillas when we wanted a treat with some hot sauce or salsa.

Chose Accommodations Away From the Village Center

San Marcos La Laguna

The view of San Marcos La Laguna from our accommodations

Our Airbnb rental was located on top of Barrio 2, a 15-20 minute heart-pumping hike from the village center. This benefited us in two ways:

  1. Built-in cardio workout
  2. Was not convenient to run into town and buy unnecessary food/drinks or go out to eat if we were feeling lazy. It helped us stick to our meal plan, which was great!

Introduced Fermented Food and Drinks Into Our Diet

Love Probiotics in San Marcos La Laguna

Our favorite drinks in San Marcos

Love Probiotics Fermentation Class lunch

Fermentation class meal – yum!

We were looking for fun drinks to consume beyond our coffee and water each day and we lucked out in finding a great local company who provided exactly that! We found a variety of fermented drinks (kombucha, tibicos, jun tea and ginger beer) to introduce into our daily routine. In addition to the drinks, we also enjoyed different fermented foods as well.

We purchased most of our fermented food and drinks directly from Love Probiotics and discovered they also offered workshops. So, we signed up and took part in a wild fermentation course, which was helpful in discovering a bunch of benefits of fermented foods. Along with learning the benefits, we also learned how to make some great recipes.

Working Out

Yoga in San Marcos Guatemala

Being active on a consistent basis again was a great feeling. Staying in one location with room to exercise was something we desperately needed and our place was perfect. We had a deck that allowed us to do yoga and other body weight exercises, without feeling restricted by space or worrying about bothering our neighbors (we had none!). We tried to do something physical at least once a day, be it a walk into the village or a quick 30 minute deck workout.

How will we keep it up back in the USA?

It’s January and we now find ourselves back in the freezing land of beer and cheese (AKA: Wisconsin). We refuse to let ourselves fall into poor eating habits, so we’re focusing on eating as many vegetables as possible. We’ve found one of the easiest ways to add extra vegetables into our diet is by drinking them. Enter protein smoothies and Naked Nutrition Protein!

Protein Smoothies

green smoothie

Kale Protein Smoothie

Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Pour into a glass and enjoy! You’ll notice the banana nearly covers all traces of any kale taste. 

Many people make the mistake of thinking a fruit or flavored protein powder filled smoothie is doing them good when it is actually adding unnecessary artificial ingredients and sugar to their diet. We have been guilty of consuming this in the past, but we recently found Naked Nutrition protein powders and are pumped!

Naked Nutrition Protein Powders

Lots of options!

Naked Nutrition protein powders come in different varieties and so far we have not found a bad option. Matt especially likes these proteins for muscle building and the flavors are easily masked by other ingredients in your shake. The Naked Whey is a grass-fed option, which we both are excited about since most powders on the market are of poor quality. If you are searching for a new protein source and want to give protein powder a shot, definitely check these out. Naked Nutrition even offers gluten free, dairy free and vegan protein options!

Making Our Own Fermented Foods

First batch of sauerkrat

First batch of sauerkraut!

Fermented foods contain beneficial probiotics which aid in healthy digestion, among other benefits. Those same probiotics you can buy in pill form, can be gotten from your own kitchen!

We actually love the way fermented foods taste, so the health benefits are simply a plus for us! We’ve started experimenting with fermentation at home and are currently enjoying our first batch of spicy sauerkraut. We look forward to continuing to educate ourselves and experiment in the world of fermentation throughout 2016! We’ve even launched a blog to share our experiments with fermentation. Check us out at The Wild Gut!

About Alana

Alana is one-half of Great Big Globe. She loves animals, the Wisconsin Badgers, exploring new countries and chasing the sun.

14 comments

  1. Congratulations on your healthy living lifestyle change. I love how you made a concentrated effort to change during your stay in Guatemala. I hope you are able to maintain it in the States, if that is your choice.

  2. Enjoying my time on the road I’ve ended up with a few extra pounds as well, perhaps some some in Lake Atitlan should be on my agenda as well!

  3. After 4 1/2 years of cruising in an RV across North America, we also stopped and embarked on becoming healthy again. For drinks, I just drink water. And I have revised all our dishes to be more veggie than meat (from 30:70 to 70:30 without losing the taste. And I exercise daily! Of course, these habits are hard to keep when you are traveling! But when I am not away, I stick to these rules and we have achieved the balance I think!

    • Great work Carol! It definitely takes will-power and a real desire to want to stay healthy when traveling! We generally stick to water too but when kicking our daily alcohol happy hour habit, we had to find something fun to drink in the afternoon. Kombucha was that for us!

  4. I lose weight when I travel — apparently I’m more active on the road and less likely to snack! Even on cruises, where I take the stairs no matter what, I lose weight despite the endless food choices. Though, eating schnitzel that large might lead to different results. Good luck staying healthy — and warm — now that you’re home!

    • Hi Karen- Good for you! You can’t beat losing weight on vacation! We definitely started out strong but our 2 month overland trip through Africa hurt us. So many long drive days and bad snacking in the truck!

      We’re definitely sticking to it, we don’t want to start from ground zero ever again! 🙂

  5. Sounds like a really positive experience – and the idea of finding accommodation out of the centre is a good one. You always forget just how important walking is to keeping healthy.

  6. Wow. I love this idea of moving somewhere to achieve a very specific goal outside of travel itself. Not only are you getting healthy, you’re getting culturally educated. You picked a beautiful location… great read.

    Greig

    • Hi Greig- It was definitely a great decision for us and you are right, we really got the best of both worlds – our health back on track and actually had the time to get to know our Guatemalan neighbors and the place they call home.

  7. Unexpected angle of exploring travel opportunities :)Interesting, would love to do myself. Thanks!

  8. Nice work you guys! Looks like Guatemala was just what the doctor ordered. 🙂 Looking forward to hearing what’s next for you two!
    Steven and Jess

    • Hey guys! Thanks, we’re so happy we decided to end the year on Lake Atitlán! We’ll keep you posted when we know! 😉 Any trips planned for 2016 yet?

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