I travelled to 5 different cities in the last month, across two continents, and didn’t really have a home to return to. Say whaaaat?!
First of all I’m not quite sure how I’ve kept going for this long. I’m a creature of habit and routine, and the slightest thing can really throw me off. I get kind of anxious and don’t feel my best when I don’t have access to either a yoga mat, porridge or a comfortable bed. You feel me?
Routine is a powerful tool for me; for my health (physical and mental), and to live in alignment with my values of sustainability and waste reduction. But you know how it goes; you go on a trip, you don’t have a kitchen or enough space for a yoga mat, and you end up neglecting everything that matters. You reach for the gross supermarket salads and plastic-wrapped deli bagels out of convenience, and your routine gets thrown out the window.
If you’ve been planning your dream trip to Italy for years and can’t wait to eat all the gelato and pizza, by all means, knock yourself out. But if you’re on the move for work, a transitional period in your life or feel it’s important to stay as well-functioning as possible without having access to your daily comforts, I’ve got you covered.
When I finished interning in California, I was in Seattle for 4 days, Portland for 5 days, Sacramento for 2 days, Toronto for 7 days (in 2 different homes) and stayed at a friend’s house in York for the remainder of the month. In other words, I lived in unfamiliar spaces that didn’t always have fridges, kitchens, comfortable beds or yoga studios/gyms. I didn’t really cook much, didn’t really exercise much, worked from many coffeeshops, had a cold for a week, and dragged my suitcase around a lot. But you know what? I made it out alive!
But.. there are some things I could have done better. And that’s what this post is all about – helping you learn from my mistakes!
1- Find an airbnb that caters to your personal needs
This is a deal-breaker when it comes to my sanity and health. I can do a hostel for 3 nights. I can’t do a hostel for 5 weeks. Because I know that, after 3 days of eating deli sandwiches and thai food, I’m going to feel like death. I stayed in some really nice homes, but I now know what matters when I’m trying to keep up a routine. You’ll need:
- A fridge: to keep the leftovers from yesterday’s restaurant meal, for instance. I ordered kichari from a great little place in Portland and had it for a couple of days. Less waste, less money spent, more time to do other things! Also great to keep soaked oats if you’re staying for a few days and want breakfast in bed.
- A microwave: I’m not keen on microwaves but when it’s the only means of cooking or reheating you have, it’s a lifesaver. To reheat leftovers, to heat water if you don’t have a kettle, or to make Porridge (see recipe below). Also great to reheat a buckwheat pillow if you’re travelling in the winter and it’s cold.
- A kettle is a bonus, to make tea at night. Don’t forget teabags!
- A table or desk, where I can sit and eat, is also more likely to make me want to stay in that go to yet another restaurant.
- Proximity to a supermarket – so you can buy anything you might have forgotten.
Bonus points if you’re staying in a hip part of town, where you’re more likely to have access to the meal you’re after.
2- Spend an absurd amount of time on Yelp
I think most of my phone data was used on Yelp and Google Maps this month. I used the ‘list’ function to collect places I might want to eat in different cities and used the map view to figure out what was closest to where I was. Sounds simple, right? I actually found that getting the most out of Yelp took a while; it’s all about refining the search terms. I searched for things like:
- avocado toast
- soups and salads
- oat milk latte (not even kidding)
- ethiopian and indian
- gluten free
Searching for more specific things led me to finding places that would offer what I was looking for – for instance, searching for ‘bakery’ instead of ‘breakfast’ made it easier to find just toast and butter (which I was dying for – like Tabor Bread in Portland) rather than a huge plate of eggs benedict (which I really didn’t fancy). Many of the top listed places on Yelp are top listed because of their huge portions, outrageous pancake stacks or deep fried specialties, which gets old after a couple of weeks.
Google Maps and MindBody were helpful in finding yoga studios. I would also recommend services like ClassPass and ‘Pay as u gym’ if you want to try a bunch of fun fitness classes!
I also used Google Maps to find reliable food sources like Whole Foods and local ‘healthy’ chains that I could fall back on for a soup or salad if I got stuck.
3- Bring a bunch of safety measures
Home comforts should follow you wherever possible if you’re away for a while. But I’ve now collected an array of items that make me feel even more homely on the road and have saved me money and my sanity.
My favourite items to bring with me to make my life a little bit easier:
- Almond or peanut butter packets – really wasteful, but works in a pinch! If you’re checking in lugagge or not flying, you could always bring an entire jar. I bought Barney Butter in the US and Pip & Nut in the UK.
- Tea bags – yogi teas, pukka teas, and any other comforting tea that reminds you of home. You can get free hot water in your own cup at airports!
- Coconut collagen creamer packets – or equivalent powdered coffee creamer to add to a filter coffee from a coffeeshop, especially if you’re dairy-free (I couldn’t find any in the UK!).
- Individual matcha servings from TeaPigs – shake it up in your own cup with collagen creamer (makes it super frothy!) and hot water for a cheap, quick matcha latte.
- Bone Broth Packets – I was completely obsessed with these. I caught a nasty cold and it was a great evening drink to help me sleep.
- Buckwheat pillow – awesome for winter trips to keep you warm or soothe an unsettled stomach. I like these ones.
- Your own mug and water bottle – Must. Haves. There’s no excuse for not bringing your own, with many coffeeshops now selling high quality insulated mugs. I also used my insulated coffee cup to keep my porridge if I wanted to eat it outside of my AirBnb.
- Your own bamboo cutlery – I ate a lot of gakeaway bowls (like the Oaxaca from freshii in Toronto), and having my own cutlery reduced the amount I was throwing out considerably.
- An essential oil roller – for better sleep and as alternative to an essential oil diffuser.
- My better digestion emergency pack – psyllium husk (to dissolve in water and have before meals), a digestive enzyme (to have with meals), a good probiotic (to have in the morning) and some magnesium (to keep things moving after eating too much cheese!).
- Some dark chocolate – to have as dessert in bed. I like Montezuma’s 100% dark!
1/2 mug of oats (instant or rolled), from an individual packet or self-packed
1 mugful of water
1 packet of almond or peanut butter
Chia seeds or flaxseeds
Mix oats, water and optional ingredients in a mug. Let soak overnight for a more digestible porridge (you know, after all that cheese you’ve been eating) or make straight away. Cook in microwave on high for about 1.5 minutes and stir halfway through. Top with almond butter and enjoy!
A last word on routine:
If you know yourself well enough, and know what works for you, stick with what you know.
By week 3 of my travels, I was so over tasting local specialties and just wanted to get back to my normal way of eating, which was challenging since I couldn’t cook. I went to Canada and didn’t have any Poutine, even though plenty of people had said “You’ve got to taste it.” And that’s totally cool – you don’t have to taste every single thing. Especially if you’re going to feel better for it!
By the end of my trip, a day would roughly look like this:
- Breakfast from my airbnb, as described above (porridge + almond butter) and water
- Coffee from a high quality, probably overpriced local coffeeshop – I looked for places that had oatly using the oatfinder on their website
- Lunch from a build-your-own salad place, or a salad bar that allowed me to pick and choose
- Maybe another coffee or tea from somewhere
- Dinner from an indian or ethiopian takeaway, or an asian noodle place, and often a big enough order to carry me over an extra day. Generally a lentil or chickpea dish with lots of cooked vegetables if available.