Solo Traveler: Food

Pears for sale at a market in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. Photo by Sherry Hardage
Solo Traveler: Food

For people going on a cruise, where delicious food is available all day and into the night, it’s probably better to lose weight before the trip. Foodie tours of France, Italy, and Mexico can quickly pack on the pounds, too.

Even adventure travel can do in a diet. Several summers ago I went on a five-day rafting trip down the wild Yampa River in Colorado with the O.A.R.S. Company. In spite of days paddling the river and strenuous hiking, I still gained some weight on their gourmet meals and fabulous desserts.

In January 2013, on a tour with the Los Alamos Mountaineers to Chiapas, we climbed six pyramids, many church steps, and a couple of mountains over a period of two weeks. We walked several miles every day in the hilly city of San Cristóbal. One of the women referred to it as her “Stair-Master Vacation.” Coupled with her bout of Moctezuma’s Revenge, she came home 12 pounds lighter.

Losing weight on a trip has rarely been the case for me because I still haven’t mastered travel eating. I might climb pyramids and paddle kayaks, but that just makes caloric room for ice cream!

There are people who are natural eaters. They never gain or lose much because they eat only when hungry and just enough to be satisfied. But for most Americans, that natural human rhythm has been overwhelmed by a deluge of sugary food and drink, and further sabotaged by a plethora of deep fried snacks.

Eating healthy while eating out is a challenge under normal circumstances, and travel means eating in restaurants a lot. In less sterilized places like India, Central America, Africa, and Asia, vegetables and fruits are often contaminated with what is officially called Traveler’s Diarrhea. The water is always suspect, too.

Seasoned travelers drink only filtered, boiled, or bottled water. That’s the easy part. Finding disinfected fresh fruit and vegetables isn’t so simple. Expensive restaurants disinfect their salad vegetables, but smaller restaurants may not. Street vendors most certainly don’t.

Supermarkets and pharmacies sell small bottles of iodine with instructions for disinfecting both food and water. REI has a collapsible bucket that comes in several sizes. Armed with these two items, anyone can go to a local market and quickly render the produce safe to eat.

It’s always a good idea to wash or disinfect items to be peeled. Avocados and bananas have bacteria on the skins, too. Handling them could contaminate your hands and ultimately the other food you so carefully disinfected. Drops of chlorine bleach in water will also kill bacteria and in some places bleach might be easier to obtain.

A small flexible cutting board and a good knife are the only other items needed to enjoy the bounty of the markets. While it’s true that you can’t take a knife in your carry-on luggage, it’s easy to purchase an inexpensive sharp knife for the duration of your stay.

Eating out in other countries is a treat and an adventure. It doesn’t have to be dangerous if you follow two simple rules:

  • First and foremost, wash your hands a lot, and use hand gel before eating anything.
  • Second, it’s fine to eat on the street, just eat things that are cooked right in front of you, and don’t eat anything that isn’t cooked. 

Whenever possible eat whole grains and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. These will keep your immune system in top working order. Plus, they provide the roughage you’ll need to ward off the other traveler’s dilemma: constipation.

Now, if only ice cream were low cal and full of anti-oxidants, I might come home from a trip a few pounds lighter!

Editor’s note: Sherry Hardage lives in Los Alamos and has been traveling solo in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe since she retired from Honeywell in 2009. She is a photographer, writer, and guide who organizes tours of Chiapas, Mexico through her website:

Follow the continuing adventures at Sherry’s blog:

Hardage welcomes comments via email:

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