Sunday, April 26, 2015

The road warrior's cheat sheet to healthy, budget traveling

How do you live on the road to maximize your budget AND eat well without having to compromise your health? This is my "Road Warrior's Cheat Sheet to Healthy, Budget Traveling." Get ready for this lengthy read: I'm about to drop some knowledge I gathered during my recent 7-week journey.

Keep track of your budget

I tried to estimate how much money I would spend on gas, food, hostels, park fees, and emergencies. Even though I spent more than I estimated, I found it helpful to keep track of my spending along the way so I could see where my hard earned cash was going.  I have been using this app by Mint for years to keep track of my budget and spending.

Which foods do I buy?

Before leaving I rummaged through my family's kitchen.  I did a bit of grocery shopping too since I knew I would be spending the next few days camping in the desert.  I grabbed my favorite low-sugar Epic Bars, herbal teas, and coconut water for electrolytes.  

Stick to seasonal, fresh, organic produce when possible. Also good quality fats and proteins are important for sustaining your energy if you’re hiking and camping.  I try to buy in-season fruit and vegetables, specifically ones that are cheaper and easy to transport if left unrefrigerated: Apples, bananas, avocados, oranges, radishes, tomatoes, or carrots.  You can pick up day old produce at any grocery store for really cheap.  These are great options for smoothies, saut├ęs, or soups. Organic jerky and salami are the most stable meat choices when you don’t have access to a fridge. At the grocery store, I snag staples from the bulk section like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and banana chips. Artisana and Justin's sell single serving nut butters like coconut or honey peanut to throw in your backpack.  I have the WORST sweet tooth, so I gotta get my chocolate fix.  Below I've listed some of my personal essentials:

  •  Coconut oil- I use it for EVERYTHING. One spoonful of this goodness will keep you from going hungry, help to regulate your blood sugar and provide you with long-lasting energy.  Use instead of butter or in a smoothie.  Its antimicrobial and antiviral properties make it my go-to face cleanser, moisturizer, and it can even be used as deodorant.  
  • Peanut butter- Organic peanut butter is super high in protein, antioxidants, and can improve blood flow to the brain.
  • Oatmeal- Inexpensive and filling, gluten free oats are high in fiber, help remove cholesterol from the body, help regulate blood sugar, and can boost the immune system.
  • Chia seeds- High calcium content, contain protein, omega-3 fatty acids to support brain function, and plenty of vitamins and minerals.  They also help curb hunger. I pour a spoonful in my water bottle or stir them into my oatmeal or a smoothie.  You can get these in bulk at a health store.
  • HealthForce Nutritionals- My girl Roxy works for this raw superfood company.  Their blends are totally pure, nutrient dense, and affordable. I’ll mix their popular Vitamineral Green blend with water for an energizing shot of greens, or add their immune-boosting Spirulina Azteca to my smoothies.  You can purchase these products and tons more here
3 simple ingredients in this gas station score! 

Be prepared for the worst

It would be pretty shitty to get stuck in tumbleweed Kansas on an empty stomach during a snowstorm.  I'm not suggesting you need to know exactly where you’ll be stopping on your travels, but it’s good to know where you can fill up your tank (Gasbuddy app navigates you to the cheapest gas) and which routes are most direct when you’re cruising through the deep south in your Colorado-plated Subie.  

Check weather reports!  I had to change my timeline several times because of snowstorms and ice storms. A huge storm hit Colorado as soon as I landed there. Initially, I was frustrated because my plans changed. I took advantage of the white-out conditions by parking my car for a couple weeks and riding fresh powder during the day and spending nights out dancing or gossiping with my girlfriends.  This reminded me that a roadtrip is about loving the journey, not making it to the destination.  And remember, good friends have each other’s back! So you will probably get fed before you hit the road again.

Spring riding anyone?

Reach out to friends and family

People are excited for your solo trek and they want to support you any way they can.  Initially I called my friends and family because I wanted to meet up with them en route. Eventually, I molded my trip around these people, stopping at destinations because I knew someone who lived there.  

The more people I shared my trip details with, the more options the universe presented to me.  A stranger on the chairlift suggested some cool bars near his college outside Asheville.  Friends of friends offered up their couches for me sleep on. If it weren’t for these generous souls, I wouldn’t have gone crystal mining in Hot Springs or explored the painted canyons in Arizona with like-minded vagabonds. I was reminded that I have a lot of extended family out east. Not only did I reconnect with my awesome second cousins, but I also had places to stay and new cities to discover.  

Stay in and cook with friends

It's easy to spend money on going out, especially when you want to celebrate with friends you haven't seen in months.  I will usually offer to go grocery shopping with friends so we can all make dinner together and share a couple bottles of wine.  When I do go out, I’ll order an appetizer or if I get a large entree, I’ll take half home and have the leftovers for my next meal.  Sometimes splitting a pint with a friend is just enough for me (not always for the friend though).

homemade gf waffles with pecan-caramel glaze

Free stuff is everywhere!

Before arriving in Massachusetts, I stayed with my cousin in Brooklyn for a week.  New York is really expensive, so I thought I would blow the rest of my checking account when I was there.  I splurged on food and drinks one night, but was able to save when exploring.  In Asheville I stopped in several bars for free tunes.  When the weather was nice, I found local trails and went hiking for killer views and a workout.  Some museums like the Met in NYC offer unlisted “pay what you wish” pricing.  Many yoga studios give you a free class if it’s your first visit.  Community yoga classes are great too because they are usually donation based.

It doesn’t hurt to have a host who also wants to show you around to the best local spots. In NY’s China Town my cousin and I mowed down down on pork buns and soup dumplings for a dollar. Also, Road tripper app is great for finding random gems all over the nation.

Free enlightenment at BAPS Hindu stone temple outside Atlanta

Return the favor

I’m an independent girl, so asking for things is not easy for me.  I am constantly blown away by people’s generosity.  If you treat others with love and respect, they will reciprocate.  My friend Ev gets free wine and booze through his job, so he hooked me up with several bottles of wine to give away as host gifts. My friend Kyle stays with friends, old and new, while on tour with his band.  In exchange for couch surfing, he serenades his hosts with his guitar.  I adopted this expression by making smoothies or creating healthy meals for my gracious host families. If you don’t play music or cook, sometimes being a good listener is all somebody needs.

Quartz mining with hippies in Hot Springs, AK.  I gave these crystals to my hosts.

Go with the flow 

Initially I planned my timeline out, deciding where I would stop and for how long.  When I couldn’t find an open campground in Joshua Tree, I made my own little campsite under the stars.  When the snowstorm hit Colorado, I had to tell my love C-Pat that I couldn’t meet her in Nashville.  It worked out for the best because I ended up spending several days with her in Atlanta a couple weeks later.  So I say “thank you” to my failed plans, for those are what gave me the unexpected experiences I craved on this voyage.  Letting go of plans guided me to exactly where I wanted to be.