Oct 152010
 

Mmm... Eating churros con chocolate in Spain!

We often think that embarking on long-term travel will cause everything in our lives to deteriorate, from our safety to our waistlines.

Having almost been blown up back home in Boston this week, however, I assure you that’s not the case.

For nine straight months of travel, I was perfectly safe on rickety Southeast Asian buses, in creaky Ghanaian hotels, and on the streets of notoriously mugger-friendly Southern Spain.

And yet, in month one of my new apartment in Boston, I just found out that there was a giant gas leak seeping from a hole in one of our pipes, slowly spewing toxic, flammable fumes into our lungs, ready to ignite at the first spark!

Thanks to some sharp-nosed friends, I reported the smell and a VERY alarmed gas technician came immediately to fix it.  But… sheesh!  What an annoyance it would have been to explode back home after successful long-term travel abroad!

BEFORE: 8/15/09, my bro and my pudgier face before flying to Japan

And here’s another surprising boon of extended travel besides the fact that it’s often safer than being back home: Travel appears to have slimmed me down!

Check out these before and after photos and judge for yourself.  Pre-travel I was a cheeky little missy.  Post-travel, I got a nice defined chin goin’ on.  If you trace the progression on the 400 photo-filled articles on this blog, you may see the steady change as well.

Now, this weight loss is NOT what I would have expected, given the ridiculous number of articles on this blog with the label: “Lusciousness: Food.”

But when I ponder it, I can see some reasons why travel could tighten up one’s body:

  • Extended travel makes you lose bulkiness and gain lean muscle from the miles and miles of walking you do, and the many times you hoist your big backpack!
  • All the food I ate abroad combined likely had less toxic preservatives than one week of processed American food!
  • Before I left, I was in an extremely stressful job, and thus was stress-eating like crazy.  During long-term travel, you can often sleep as much as you want, and do anything it takes to make yourself less stressed.  And thus some of that stress weight melts away.

    AFTER: Skinny face on 5/29/10 at a friend's wedding

  • While traveling, I had a whole year without winter, meaning I didn’t gain that customary cold weather insulating pudge.
  • Since it was warm everywhere I went and there were lots of coasts, there was much swimming to be done, and swimming is superb exercise.
  • Long-term travel with no steady income means a miniature budget, which forces you to think extra hard before paying for another snack or a bigger meal.
  • When you travel in Developing Countries and live with local people, you cannot indulge in constant expensive eating as you might in America with friends, because your local friends do not and cannot live that way.

So there you have it: want to lose weight?  You can either exercise more and eat better at home… or hop on a plane and start traveling for months on end.  Or, as in my case, you can do both!  Here’s to stayin’ healthy, chums.

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  30 Responses to “Losing Weight: Another Perk of Long-Term Travel”

  1. I’m unfortunately one of the few who has had the opposite happen. During my 5 months in Italy and 1.5 years in Costa Rica I GAINED weight both times. Even though I was walking more (and sweating a lot more in Costa Rica), I packed on the pounds. I think of it as “happy” weight, though!

  2. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/02/high-altitude-weight-loss/

    interesting article check it out! ive been living in mexico city for the past 5 months and have lost almost 7 kgs without “consciously trying”… bit freaked out at first, but if i consider the dietary changes (much fresher food than back home), lots and lots of chilli consumption (supposed to boost metabolism ive heard?) and now this altitude theory (mexico city has a moderately high altitude and where i come from is at sea level)… hmm possible explanation!

  3. I think that all the traveling you did made you lose weight and feel exhausted at the same time, but the good thing is that you had fun. Now that your back in Boston you might have gain some of the calories you lost so you aren’t that skinny. :)

  4. That IS a bonus!

    Back at home I’m a huge snacker! Like, every hour of every day. But now that I’m on the road, you can’t always be snacking in temples or munching away on goodies while scootering coastlines.

    Just another perk to travel!

  5. This article is so true! Usually when I travel I become a little hesitant of trying new foods which can causes me to lose weight, and I frequently get sick. When I return home, my appetite sky-rockets but I still don’t gain weight, which frustrates me. There should be different methods to gain weight while traveling, as well as when you’re home because nothing seems to work for me!

  6. Cool article! I never thought that you could lose weight through traveling, besides walking around the place. Out of the two suggestions I think I would have to agree with the suggestion though. I would agree with that one because you have to eat healthy and exercise more to lose weight. Not everyone could afford to travel for 9 month but it’s also good too, because along with having fun you lose weight and the food here in America is much greasier than the food from other countries. Thanks for posting this article!:D

  7. I’ve never thought about that before! That is very interesting. When I am older and have to worry about work, bills, money, and my health, I will keep this in mind.

  8. I’ always lose weight when I travel – and I don’t eat that badly at home. Even doing car camping with an icebox I lost weight – I think its the difficulty in going to the fridge for a snack and the exercise. When we are backpacking we generally eat only twice a day – and the portions are pretty reasonable.

  9. this is so funny and true! I remember when I studied abroad last summer in Spain I lost a good amount of weight. When I came home my mom freaked out because she thought I was too skinny. We ended up eating at all of my favorite restaurants within a month and then I was back to normal :)

  10. When ever I go to a foreign country i gain about 15 lbs. I feel so fat.

  11. Haha. Nice tip Ms. Marshall. I do not think I will be allowed to go on a 9 month trip even if I wanted to. I wish I could. I think it would have been a lot of fun! There was a gas leak in Hyde Park (Readville) today and a house blew up!

  12. This is very interesting! Like everyone else, I’ve been longing for an affective way to melt these not-so-attractive rolls away. *laugh* But it’s going to be a while before I’ll get to do any traveling like you. Let’s not forget to mention the many jobs I’ll have to acquire too. Another factor in why you might have lost all that weight is that when you’re traveling and seeing all these great sights, you aren’t really concerned about eating as much. When you are home, you get bored which leads to excessive eating.

  13. Good enough reason to travel permanently. I have never lost weight through travel but then again mostly go away for two to three weeks at a time. Most of my work is done from a computer as well, so the weights soon creeps up on me. Got my next trip for three weeks in ten days. Going to do a before and after weight to see if it works1

  14. i really like all those articles written by those kids from Ghana it is very interesting. I really like how Ms.Marshalls took her time to got to Ghana and interview all those kids!!!!

  15. I loved the fact that I could run full speed with a 30 lbs backpack while on my trip. I lost about 10 lbs from the start of my trip and now I’ve gained it back…and more. Need to hit the gym again.

  16. That’s awesome! You’re so right about all of those bullet points. I always feel like I get more exercise when I go to places like big cities in Europe where I walk all day. Being on a budget abroad definitely affects how much food you eat. And it would be so nice to be away from preservative-laden American food for a year!!! Happy to hear that you feel healthier and that there was no gas explosion!

  17. Go on a long distant hike to lose weight–back when I hiked the Appalachian Trail (you still took slides and sent them to Kodak for processing), I sent my photos to my parents who would look and see where I was and what I was up to. My mother told me it was a good thing, otherwise, when she saw me afterwards, she’d wonder if I’d been really sick as I had lost so much weight. But when you hike like that all day, every day, I found I could add 4 pounds of M&Ms and tootsie rolls to my diet each week still lose.

  18. Nice :) I have almost always lost weight when I am out traveling. I usually have some short treks and long walks planned wherever I go, but hardly get any exercise when I am at home. Plus, lugging the usually heavy backpack helps. That should explain it. There was a time when I had added about 10 kilos of flab, but an arduous Himalayan trek made it disappear in not time!

    As for safety part, I do tend to worry a bit about theft when I am going from one place to other, despite the fact that it hasn’t happened to me so far. But that is not going to stop me from travelling! :)

  19. Glad you avoided blowing up…phew…

    When I moved to Vietnam the pounds started melting off of me and I stopped exercising due to the pollution and humidity. However I must have lost at least 10 lbs while living there without doing anything but simply existing. It’s def. due to the fresh preservative-free food I was eating all of the time…oh yeah….and a little less booze intake too! I need to get traveling again so I can lose weight again!

  20. As I mentioned on your facebook post, a lot of the food you described (especially the mangoes) is easily digestible and goes right through you. Most people surprise themselves when they find that they are either maintaining or losing weight while traveling. I have found that walking tours, swimming (like you said), and a multitude of other activities tends to burn off the calories/fat/weight without you even knowing it. I also have one other suggestion that you have yet to mention: The flights & airports. As a former wrestler who knows almost every trick in the book when it comes to cutting weight, I have found that just being on a flight for more than an hour causes one to float off a pound or two. For example, I lost 2 1/2 pounds on a flight from Las Vegas to New Orleans (about 3 hours) by minimizing what I ate or drank. Couple that with walking around an airport during a layover (as opposed to sitting on your butt) in between flights and you have yet another way to maintain/lose weight while traveling.

  21. Your post is funny, but true. I’ve lost so much weight since I started traveling almost 2 years ago, though I find that it often goes up and down. I get sick, I lose weight. I go to a new country, love the food, gorge on it and gain it right back. All the walking and lifting of heavy objects (as in my own personal belongings) is a good way to try to maintain my body weight though. And you look lovely in BOTH the before AND the after photos!

    • Hehe, thanks :) Yes, while I don’t endorse being violently ill as a method for weight loss, merely dealing with low-level tummy confusion from new foods does make you eat less. And yes, each country has its own “what it will do to your waistline” situation.

  22. I find that whenever we return to the States to visit family I gain 5-10 pounds because I’m not walking as much, food is heavier (more processed) and portions in restaurants are just huge. On the road, I’m walking all the time and prefer to graze on small dishes throughout the day instead of eating large meals. I think your body adjusts for that and doesn’t need as much food.

    We just returned from one week in Italy and although the food was incredible, we found that we couldn’t eat out more than once a day (and that was just eating the first course, pasta!) without our bodies feeling overly fed. The one day we ate out for both lunch and dinner we didn’t eat for 24 hours afterwards!

  23. Most vacationers come home a few kilos heavy, but I’ve realised after living in Cusco for the last few weeks – which is at an altitude above 3,000 metres – that I haven’t gained any weight yet! I’ve been eating a lot of white bread (as that’s all they give you at hotels for a continental brekky), pastries, SO many alfajores (melting moment type biscuits yet SO much better!), empanadas and lots more.

    • Fascinating! I’ve never heard that high-altitude theory before… but I’m sure one could rustle up some scientific proof for it. Keep us posted! (And grrr for making me now lust for these so-called “alfajores”…)

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