How to Stay Healthy while Backpacking through Central America

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Tikal temple in Guatemala

Maintaining positive health while traveling can be a challenge. Foreign countries and foreign food can put quite a strain on your body and mind since it is trying to adjust to something new. Here are some basic but important factors to help maintain your health abroad.

1. Good Night Sleep: Traveling can be quite strenuous and physically exhausting. Always try to get a good nights rest before a big day of traveling from one place to the next because you are not 100% sure how long it will take you. You will need all your strength to carry and walk with your pack, and you will need to be alert to catch the right buses or other modes of transportation.

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Cup of coca leaf tea in Cusco, Peru

2Drink A LOT of Water: Water is essential to your well being, considering the majority of your body is made up of H2O. Being dehydrated can become dangerous and a serious inconvenience in your travels. Always carry a bottle of water or a water bladder with you to stay hydrated.

3. Vitamin Consumption: Since you will not be able to eat a proper meal all the time, especially when traveling on buses or trains, it is important to try and replenish your body with essential vitamins. Taking a multivitamin every day will definitely help when you have no access to fruit or vegetables. Also, try to eat yogurt whenever possible. Latin America has drinkable yogurts at every corner store or rest stop. Yogurt has probiotics that help fight off unwanted bacteria and can do wonders for your digestive system.

4. Cooking when Possible: Eating out every night can become extremely expensive and if your on a budget like I am, it’s hard to do. Some hostels have kitchens available for you to use. Try and cook there whenever you can. It’s also better because you know what you’re eating. Whenever you eat out you risk the chance of getting food poisoning or diarrhea.

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5. Being Cautious of what you Eat: Be careful when eating out if it looks sketchy it probably is. Always use your best judgment. Ice cream might be tempting on a hot day in Central America, but don’t eat it unless it’s in a wrapper. From personal experience, getting food poisoning in a foreign country is NOT fun and can ruin a good few days of your trip. Even worse you could obtain a parasite and need antibiotics.

6. Proper Medical Kit: Before you leave, invest in a good medical kit. It may seem like too much at the time but it is definitely worth it if you get an unexpected illness or injury. Backpacking requires great flexibility and many things happen that would not be expected. Being prepared will help you a great deal.

7. Staying Fit: Most of the time you will be moving whether it’s walking from a bus terminal to your hostel with your gear, or going on a nature hike. However, sometimes you find yourself in a place where it is too dangerous to stray too far from your hostel or hotel. Download fitness/wellness apps, there are plenty of exercises you can do right in your room.

8. Snacks: Snacks are very important on travel days. Sometimes you will be on a 15-hour bus ride with just a few stops. Try to stock up so you have something to hold you over until you reach your destination.

9. Meditate: It is easy to get stressed out when traveling. Things are not as easy or at your disposal like they are at home. It is important to roll with the punches and do the best you can. Try to set aside 30 minutes a day to sit and reboot your mind. If your mind goes, so does everything else.

10. Keep a Journal: Memories from travel are a wonderful thing. Keeping a journal allows you to look back and recap on your journey. Take note of things you’ve done that day to refresh your memory in the future. It is also good as a release. If you have no one to talk to, write down your troubles to help ease the stress.

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