Before I started traveling internationally, I didn't realize the crazy itineraries that are required to reach some places in the world. It can take any combination of flights, long layovers, short layovers, transfers to trains, boats, and always a lot of standing in line with all your gear. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Is it a bit exhausting? Also, absolutely!
To give you an example, on my latest trip just to get from Columbus, Ohio to Barcelona, Spain--which doesn't sound like two places that would be too complicated to travel between--I had to fly from Columbus to Boston, Boston to Lisbon, then Lisbon to Barcelona.
With layovers and everything else, this was a whopping 22 hours of travel.
All with no way to get a real night's sleep, recycled dry air in the plane, airport food being the only thing to eat, and a lot of physical exertion managing bags, walking, and standing. It all adds up and can start to wear down the immune system.
This has taught me a few things:
- Pack light because what you pack is what you have to carry.
- Be mindful of your health leading up to and during travel days, taking preventative measures for an extra immune boost.
- Come prepared for everything! (Hot or cold, aches and pains, upset stomach, sniffly nose, sore throat…it all can happen.)
After thousands of miles traveled, I have learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to staying healthy while traveling. These are my travel-tested and approved methods!
Turmeric and Ginger Tea
Turmeric has been said to be the most potent medicinal herb on the planet and is known for its impressive anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger is loaded with nutrients and has a long history as a herbal remedy for digestion, nausea, and fighting cold and flu among other ailments. I buy organic powdered turmeric and organic powdered ginger, then mix them together half and half in a jar that is always in my backpack. Regardless of whether I feel sick or not, I always drink this throughout the day when I’m traveling. All you have to do is ask for a cup of hot water from the coffee shop in the airport or once you get on the plane, then spoon a teaspoon of this mixture into the water and voilà! You have a nice warm cup of tea filled with the immune-boosting power of two of the most powerful plants on Earth. (Pro tip: Add a pinch of pink salt or sea salt for an extra boost!)
Where to buy: I buy my powders from ZNatural Foods and have been for years. (They have great prices and a Master Herbalist on staff to ask about where they source products and any other questions you have.) You can also find powdered ginger and turmeric in smaller quantities in the spice aisle of just about any grocery store.
Natural Vitamin C
I don’t go anywhere without a bottle of Wild Amla—it is the strongest form of Vitamin C on the planet. Our bodies are most deficient in Vitamin C, and as you probably know, it’s the most important nutrient when you’re feeling under the weather. In the US, over 95% of the Vitamin C supplements have some form of synthetic ingredients and many are harmful to the stomach, kidney, and liver. Alternatively, the Wild Amla fruit has no side effects and 1 fruit is equal to the Vitamin C of 160 apples. I personally will always choose natural over synthetic, so Wild Amla is my number one source of Vitamin C. I love it so much that I sell it through my nutrition company, but even if I didn’t sell it I would still take it. When I’m traveling, I will double or sometimes triple my dose to give my immune system extra support.
Where to buy: I get it from my nutrition company Oness Nutrition because I have vetted the product and it comes from a sustainable source. The final product is 100% high-quality Wild Amla (no fillers, binding agents, etc.). Bonus: it’s in a vegetarian capsule! If you do seek out Amla from another source, do your research of where it is sourced from and what process it goes through to create the final product.
Melatonin is a hormone your body makes to control your sleep and wake cycles; however, you can also take a melatonin supplement as a natural sleep aid on an as-needed basis. This is great when traveling because the sudden change of time zones can confuse your sleep cycle, leaving you with not enough rest to stay healthy and functioning on your adventures. Sleep plays a major role in your ability to function and in recovery if you do get sick. I typically take melatonin on long-haul flights to help me get better airplane sleep, and if I find that I really haven’t slept well at my destination I will take it at bedtime. It has helped me sleep through some extra firm beds at Airbnbs around the world!
Where to buy: I use the Natrol brand melatonin that you can find at just about any store or online.
The ginger listed above is great for nausea and even motion sickness, but I like to help my body out with some healthy probiotics from time to time. Yogurt is also wonderful for calming your stomach after eating spicy food that you may not eat at home. (That’s why it is always served at Indian restaurants.) Depending on where I’m traveling, I’ll often just buy some natural yogurt and eat it after meals or for a snack. The key is finding the kind of yogurt that isn’t loaded with artificial flavors and tons of sugar. The best is just simple yogurt, and if you can’t handle the taste add just a touch of honey or some fruit jelly. I especially love the yogurt in France, it is the best I’ve had so far!
Where to buy: Wherever you’re at! Yogurt does not travel well. If you’re in the US, Trader Joe’s sells a "European Style” yogurt that is very similar to the yogurt in France. That’s the closest I’ve found in the states.
My feet are my favorite form of transportation! On a two week trip to Europe, I walked an average of 4.5 miles per day totaling about 60 miles for the whole trip. I was with family so it was a bit less than I usually walk, but that’s still a lot of walking. When you’re suddenly increasing your physical activity, you’re bound to have tired feet and maybe feel a little achy at the end of the day. I make sure to pack several tubes of the Boiron Arnica Montana 30c. It’s a homeopathic pain reliever in the form of a melt under your tongue pellet. I find that they work great for the minor aches that can pop up on trips.
Where to buy: You can find them online, at most health food stores (like Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc.), and at some pharmacies in other countries. I did buy them at a pharmacy in France once but otherwise have only bought them in the US.
Oregano Oil (I’m talking about the kind you ingest, not the essential oil) is antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal—basically anti every bad thing you could think of! I will warn you though, it’s not for the faint of heart because it does NOT taste good. BUT, it works wonders when you’re sick or could use an immune boost. You will never catch me traveling without a bottle. You can mix it with juice to offset the strong flavor, but I just take it with a bit of water and gargle it in the back of my throat before swallowing. It is great to take right before bed when you won’t be eating or drinking anything for a while because that allows the oil to sit in your throat and really get to work if you have cold symptoms.
Where to buy: My most recent bottle is from Vitacost, but I’ve also bought it at health food stores. You can find it at places like Sprouts or Whole Foods, and many places online.
All of these remedies are fantastic for maintaining health while traveling, but they're also part of my everyday wellness routine at home. I have used these natural methods for several years and feel that my immune system is stronger than it’s ever been. However, I spent time researching each of these and making educated decisions for myself. Because it is a health-related topic, I will include the following disclaimer.
**Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and the information stated above is not to be taken as medical advice. These are my recommendations based on my personal experience while traveling. It is always best to do your own research and consult with your medical professional when trying a new wellness regimen, especially if you take prescription medication. What works for one person may not work for everyone due to a difference in genetics, diet, medications, disease, etc.**