Get it on Google Play
Download on the App Store

My Healthiest Travel Routine Yet

On our trip to Europe the last couple of weeks, Eva and I tried a new experiment: we ate nothing like we normally do when we travel.

We ended up feeling healthier than ever, and I lost 5 lbs. on the trip. This is highly unusual for us, because usually we eat pretty much whatever we feel like when we travel, and end up heavier and feeling fatter at the end of the trip.

So what did we do differently? We ate no breads, sweets, potatoes, or white rice (in addition to not drinking beer or cocktails, only red wine). This is in addition, of course, to not eating meat, seafood, poultry, dairy or eggs (we’re vegan).

And the results? In short, it was less convenient, but healthier. More below.

This was an experiment, to see what it would be like, and in truth I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. If you don’t like changing the way you do things, and want to eat anything you want, don’t do this. If you are tired of traveling and feeling crappy afterward because you ate crap, you might consider this.

The Plan

Eva and I were both actually doing eating challenges before the trip, for fun, but part of our idea for the challenges was to eat the same way on the Europe trip, with a few exceptions.

Here’s what we could and could not eat during the challenge:

  • Could not eat: Sweets (or sugar in general), white flour and breads in general, potatoes, white rice, beer or any alcohol except wine. Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs of course. Fake meats (I’m not against vegan meat substitutes in general though, depending on the ingredients).
  • Could eat: Unsweetened coffee, some whole grains not ground into flour (oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice, etc.), beans, nuts, seeds, veggies, fruits, olive and canola oils.

However, we could have 4 exceptions during our two-week trip. That means if we had a meal with white rice and bread in it, that would be an exception. If we were walking down the street and decided to eat some dark chocolate (that had sugar), that would be an exception.

We were traveling to London, which we knew to be a good place for vegans, along with Frankfurt, Athens, Santorini, Rome, Venice and Vienna, some of which are not vegan-friendly places. So we knew we’d need those exceptions just to not starve on some days.

For exercise, we knew we’d be walking for hours each day, and we’d also be tired from taking 10 separate flights to 7 different cities (London and Athens twice) … so we kept our workouts minimal. The plan was to do short intense workouts for 2 days straight, then take 1 rest day, and repeat the entire trip.

Why Do This?

Why make travel more difficult than it already is? Why not just enjoy the pleasures of eating the local food?

These are good questions, because my usual travel philosophy is that eating the local food is one of the best reasons for traveling. And there’s no need to make life harder than it already is, right?

But I often feel crappy after travel, because I haven’t been sticking to healthy eating. I like eating indulgences, but they don’t feel balanced.

And so this experiment is a way to see if it’s possible to travel without all the indulgences, and still enjoy the trip. It’s about mindfully finding a balance. We haven’t pinpointed the balance yet, but I can say for sure that there are a million other things you can enjoy in a foreign city without eating all the food they have to offer. Walking around, people watching, watching a sunset, enjoying smells, noticing details, learning the language and history and culture, meeting new people, soaking in the different atmosphere … you don’t need to eat like a crazy person to do these things.

And eating simple, healthy food is a pleasure in and of itself, perhaps even better than eating junk.

The Results

I have to admit that this was one of the more difficult challenges, simply because some days there weren’t too many options for us. Some cities aren’t great for vegans, and the few things they do have for vegans tend to violate our challenge rules (breads and sweets, for example).

Being a vegan is already a limiting choice, but we were making it even more limited. It’s actually easy to do our challenge in San Francisco or New York or Portland, not so easy in Santorini.

But each city was different. London is easy — we went to Nama, Mildred’s and Tibits, but have also enjoyed Saf, Inspiral Lounge, Vanilla Black and others (and we haven’t tried many other great-sounding places).

Frankfurt actually has some decent options, but we arrived too late at night and the ones we went to were closed. Help! We ended up using our first exception on a desperate meal of french fries, fried potato chunks, and German beer. Not the greatest, but I liked the beer.

Athens isn’t horrible, as you can get beans and a Greek salad (minus the feta) and roasted vegetables at most Greek restaurants, but that gets tiring after a few meals (btw, the fava bean dip they serve usually has butter). Luckily, there’s Avocado restaurant, which is run by a lovely couple and saved us. We ate here three times.

Santorini is great if you eat seafood, but not great for vegans doing a challenge like ours. We ate lots of Greek salads, and drank red wine. We had some vegan bars we packed that had only fruit and nuts (no agave or brown rice syrup), so we supplemented with these.

Rome has some good options. We ended up eating at Beehive Cafe for both breakfast and dinner.

Venice is harder. There are almost no vegetarian restaurants in Venice, so we ate Indian one day (only dal, no naan or rice or roti) and a kosher restaurant another day (Gam Gam, lots of veg options), and a Middle Eastern restaurant (Frary’s, decent veg options), and took another cheat meal here with cheese-less pizza and pasta (not good).

Vienna was a dream. Surprisingly, lots of great vegan options. We ate at Harvest (awesome) and Yamm (great veg buffet) and for breakfast at at Corns n’ Pops (a do-it-yourself muesli place with soymilk options, recommended).

So yes, it was more difficult in some places, but others were awesome. And we didn’t feel unhealthy once on this trip.

For workouts, we often did pushups, squats, and lunges in our hotel room, but also did weight workouts when a gym was available. Or all-day pushups (sets of 10-20 pushups frequently throughout the day).

Overall, I’ve never been healthier on a trip, never felt better. It was more inconvenient, but I’m glad I did it.

Zen Habits

Leo Babuata
Neither Averting Nor Craving in Each Moment How Taking Care of My Finances Changed My Life Tips for Traveling with Kids My Grand Travel Experiment The Parent I Aspire to Be The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning The Miracle of Suspending Mis-Belief 7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People Finding Motivation on Important But Non-Urgent Tasks Learning Tips for the Top 8 Learning Challenges The 30-Day Learning Challenge The Place Where You Are Feeling Determined to Change Practicing Non-Judgment Hold Your Own Feet to the Fire Don’t Waste Your Opportunity How to Beat Procrastination with Daily Training The Time When We’ll Be Present & Content A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method When Others Frustrate You Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality The Case for Replacing Exercise with Play Leave Yourself Wanting More Fail Faster at Habits The Anti-Bucket List Getting Started with the Discipline Habit The Case for Caring About Your Work Questions of Priority The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More Pare Down with the Declutter Habit You’re Not Doing Life Wrong Getting Lost in Just Doing An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit The Source of Contentment Savor Discipline: Merge the Interests of Your Future & Present Selves What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It” The Things That Get in the Way of Doing The Girl Who Saw Through the Illusions A Gradual Approach to Healthy Eating Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself My Typical Day: How I Get People to Think I’m Productive The Contentment Habit The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books In Praise of Limits The Art of Being My Dad 5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015 Essential Zen Habits of 2014 Karate Chop Practicing Slowness & Being Present Overwhelmed by All the Changes You Want to Make My 2014 Successes and Failures Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life When You’re Lonely The Brain’s Fast Mode 5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays The Zen Habits Holiday Gift Guide The Four Hidden Habit Skills The Power of Delay Overwhelmed & Rushed? Do a Stress Assess Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book Please Support the Zen Habits Book Are You a Lift or Drag Force? When Resistance Smacks You in the Face When Your Plate is Too Full The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit The Zen Habits Book is Almost Done A Quick Guide to Gaining Confidence When You Socialize The Empty Container The Realization A Guide to Changing Self-Destructive Behaviors Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation It’s Not Too Late to Change Bad Habits The Smart Way to Stick to Habits My Most Effective Learning Tools What I Do When I Fail How to Put Your Writing in Public The Productive Sprint The Biggest Reasons You Haven’t Changed Your Habits Seized by the Thunderhold of Fear What to Eat for Fat Loss The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others A Brief Guide to Overcoming Instant Gratification How to Get Motivated After a Vacation 7 Strategies for Facing Your Internet/TV Addiction How to Breathe 7 Discipline-Mastering Practices 7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple An Education in the Majestic Sierra Nevada The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes How to Believe in Yourself Don’t Waste a Moment How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach How to Be Great Making Yourself Work Inhabit the Moment How to Master the Art of Living The Delusional Fantasies We Live With Each Day Living the Simple Life How to Be Prepared for Anything Turn Toward the Problem The End of the Day Philosophy The Painful Beauty of Impermanence How to Change Other People Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent Looking for Love How to Stop Your Habit Changes From Getting Derailed Why We Have Regret The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons A Call for Revolt: Advertising is the Anti-Minimalism The Frustratingly Slow Pace of Making Changes My Struggles with Eating Boring Food The No Procrastination Challenge Creating a Lovely Morning A Father’s Manifesto: Raising Young Men Who Respect Women Turn Inspiration Into Action Coming Back From a Setback The Gift A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life No Excuses: Minimalism with Kids How to Make a Marriage Work Love Notes Flavorless: My Month of Food Boringness The Letting Go Ebook, Free The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit How I Tackle a Big Writing Project The Habit Action List The Reality of This Moment Confidence in Your Business 10 Ways to Do What You Don’t Want to Do On Making It Through Tough Journeys The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most What to Think About During Exercise You’ll Be OK The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life A Call for Compassion for the Defenseless The Cure for Your Distraction Syndrome You’re Not Worse Than Other People Being Mindful of Your Stress What if You Didn’t Have to Worry About Yourself? The Universe of a Single Task Simplifying Is Painful Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant How I Cleaned House & Simplified My Work Life The Busy Person’s Guide to Reducing Stress My Month Without a Smartphone What I’ve Learned as a Writer What the Exercise Habit Did For Me Fear is the Root of Your Problems This Moment 36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits The 3 Do-What-You-Love Conundrums How I Conduct My Business Constant Task Switching The Habits of Five Amazing Founders The Incredible Importance of Sleep for Habits & Motivation What Really Motivates Us to Stick to a Project? I Tried to Quit & It’s Too Hard! Unwired: A Month With Limited Internet, & Now No Cell Phone Procrastination is a Mindfulness Problem Letting Go of Judging People Don’t Scratch the Itch Become Happy in the Face of Physical Misery How Repetition Can Kickstart a Habit Zen Productivity When You’re Feeling Self-Doubt & a Lack of Motivation The Child That Holds Us Back Stateless Mindset My Month of (Almost) No Internet 12 Changes for 2014 Essential Zen Habits of 2013 The Fear of Being Alone The Calm Approach Things Every Man Should Own Family Gatherings: The Ultimate Mindfulness Training Ground Letter to an 18-year-old on the Career Path Less Traveled A Method to Find Balance 16 Surprising Lessons from My First 50-Mile Ultramarathon The Simple Fitness Habit Holiday Challenge Struggles with My Morning Internet Fast Surrender, Mindfulness & Entrepreneurship How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating, & Love Letting Go Finding Focus When You Run Out of Ideas The Necessary Art of Subtraction Jealousy & Suffering How Creativity Works, & How to Do It Self-Discipline in 5 Sentences Make It Your Job Developing Selfless Compassion Lyrical Learning, & Why We Learn Habits Wrong A Month Without Sugar Why I Read (+ a Dozen Book Recommendations) 12 Indispensable Mindful Living Tools Burn Down the Farm My Most Minimal Travel Setup Yet The Exquisite Habits of the Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee 3 Little Tricks to Deal With People Who Offend You My Healthiest Travel Routine Yet Startup Founder Megan Casey’s Habits of Priorities My Pursuit of the Art of Living A Month Without TV or Video The Way of No Debt Letting Go: How to Live With the Loss of a Loved One The Way to Be Ramit Sethi’s Entrepreneurial Habits The Time to Shut Down The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes 8 Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator Zen Mountain: Leave It All Behind Overcoming the Social Costs of Being Different Finding Quiet and Mindfulness Through Food My Failed Month of ‘No Sitting’ The Thinking Habit That Changed My Life Liking Healthy Foods is a Choice Unschoolery: My New Blog on Unschooling My Advice for Starting a Business Creating Your Habit Environment Travel Lessons with My Family Easier Decision-Making: Conduct Experiments Simplify: Let Go of Your Crutches The Fear of Being Found a Fraud The Flexible Mind Declutter Your Life A Month Without Coffee The Healthful Vegan Diet Living the Quiet Life The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully Why Fear of Discomfort Might Be Ruining Your Life The Habits of Happiness How to Keep Habits Going During Travel A Year of Living Without The Key Habits of Organization I Failed Vegan Guide to San Francisco The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others A Secret to Dad Greatness Habits: A Simple Change in Mindset Changes Everything The Worry That You’re Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now 6 Steps To Being More Creative How I Finally Faced My Weight & Debt Problems Working with the Obstacles in Your Path 9 Rules for a Simpler Day The Little Book of Contentment The Obstacle is the Path 5 Lessons in Contentment from Billionaires Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger Smile in Each Moment A Guide to Practical Compassion 6 Steps To Healing Yourself The 7-Day Vegan Challenge Why You Should Write Daily Achieving Without Goals Flowing with the Stresses of Kids (or anyone else) Habit Mastery: Creating the New Normal Defeat Distraction: Refocusing with Purpose Expanding the Envelope: A Method for Beating Anger A Guide to Practical Contentment The Practice of Work Mind & Vacation Mind, Simultaneously How to Eat Real Food Without Spending Hours in the Kitchen Quitting Your Habits The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers How To Make It Impossible To Fail The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur How to Change Your Life: A User’s Guide Getting Your Family On Board with Life Changes How to Stick to a Habit When Life Falls Apart Zen Mind in the Middle of Chaos & Stress Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart Meditation: The Most Fundamental Habit Creating the Genuine Connections We Long For Tremors of Psychitude: One Little Trick to Find Purpose and Motivation Create the Habits of Being Lean, in 7 Years Walled-in: Life Without Facebook The 7 Habits of Calmness The Four Habits that Form Habits Advice to My Kids My 10 Essential Email Habits The Daily Checklist Sticking to a Habit: The Definitive Guide The Meditation Diet: How I Lost 60+ lbs. by Savoring The Power of Habit Investments Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early Do Less: A Short Guide How to Savor Life What We Lack in a Hyperconnected World Simplify the Internet 12 Rules to Live By The New Rules of Fitness for 2013 52 Changes for 2013 The Unprocrastination Month, and the Relaunch of the Sea Change Program Essential Zen Habits of 2012 The Other Person is Never the Problem The Do Plan, or Why We Know But Don’t Do 28 Brilliant Tips for Living Life The Clutter-free Holiday Guide The Little Trick to Make Any Moment Better Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta Showdown: On Whether Goals Suck The Work You Love is Waiting For You The 7-Step Method to Find Focus for Writing The Buy-Nothing Holiday Survival Guide Challenge: Buy Nothing Until 2013 How to Learn Anything Shaken By Life’s Beauty, Shaken Untrack: Letting Go of the Stress of Measuring 15 Great Excuses Not to Form the Fitness Habit How to Make Health Insurance a Bad Bet Why the Fitness Habit is More Important Than the Plan The Willingness to Think Differently Create a Superhealth Community A Vegan Tour of NYC