“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ― Virginia Woolf

How to Eat Well & Stay Healthy While Traveling

Written By Jennifer Duty

Traveling. I love a good road trip. It can be a couple of hours or a couple of days. Leaving the house is also when it can all go sideways for me. To maintain optimal health I must eat clean and stick to protocol. I feel that is the truth for everyone.

I grew up every weekend going somewhere. It was either a one day drive to the Napa Valley or a weekend at the coast. We had a family truckster. A Ford Station Wagon in a pale yellow with green interior. It was the best thing ever. Before seat belts were mandatory I could lay down in the back and look out the window. I could watch the scenery change and watch the clouds form. The family truckster was always stocked. My mother thought of everything. We never eat out. I mean, never. My father hated eating out and most of the places we went were rural. We would go hiking and see nature. Also, this was before there was fast food everywhere. We also had a travel trailer. It was quite large and had all the bells & whistles. My mother kept it fully stocked so we could leave at a moments notice.

Sometimes on Friday my father would come home and announce he wanted to go to the coast for the weekend. We would grab our clothes, hook up the trailer and go. In the winter, when my father was not working, we go and stay for weeks in places like Yosemite. It was amazing. We would always boondock. The trailer was our sanctuary. I remember one year it snowed feet. My dad had to go outside several times and push the snow off the roof of the trailer. We had icicles 5 feet long hanging off the back of our trailer. It was a magical time. It was the first and last time I walked on a frozen river. I was so small, but I will never forget. When I went back as an adult and saw the river, I thought my father was nuts. Always, my dad and I would come back to the trailer and soup was on. Soup and sandwich. I miss that meal. I no longer eat bread. Sad. 

I am who I am because of my family. So, therefore, I am nomadic. Fuel is way more expensive, but that didn't stop me. Early in my marriage we would do the same thing, load the kids and drive places. Look at things. Like my mother, I packed everything. I did it for a different reason, we were poor. We could not afford to drive somewhere and eat out. Not even fast food. We did not have a travel, but we had a tent. A small tent and a Styrofoam ice chest. I would make ice cubes all week, because why waste money on ice and be ready to hit the open road. To this day my grown children talk about the best time ever when we moved to Arizona in a tent. We would homeschool during the day. Hike and bird watch. We would meet the most amazing snowbird travelers from all over the nation and Canada. In the evening I would fire up the Hibachi and cook dinner. We never once felt poor. I was happy. My children were happy.

There is great joy in simplicity.  In our 30s we joined the rat race. Tired of just getting by we moved to San Diego. We did so in a borrowed motor home my grandfather no longer used. We lived in it for three months until we found a house we could afford to rent. During that time we homeschooled, hiked, and was dawn patrol with the surfers. The first time I saw a dolphin in the water and never swam so fast to get back to shore. I thought it was a shark. We learned about riptide and picking up other peoples' trash. We learned about closed beaches after a rain. We learned in the winter the beaches and hiking trails were ours to have. In the summer, not so much.

After we moved into the house everything changed. There was cable TV for the first time in our lives. Internet soon followed. Riding bikes in the neighborhood was way too dangerous so we packed them up and drove across town to a park. Suddenly, there was no time for nature.

We were busy. How does this happen? Slowly. It creeps in. Just like my disease.

With homeschooling behind me and my disease more controlled I can get back to things I love, like traveling.

We have our own family truckster now. A 12 passenger 4x4 Mercedes Van. It takes us everywhere. We also have a small trailer. I mean small. It serves us just fine. We lived in for 6 weeks when we were evacuated for the Valley Fire. We lived in it again for 6 months when we sold our house. I thought about going full-time RV before we found our current home. All of these things have prepared me for now. How to stay well and do things I love. Quality of life. The now, and not be completely derailed by a fast food meal.

I am a planner. I like things orderly. Clean & easy to find. The van always has handy wipes, water, napkins, some plastic silverware, sunglass cleaner, shopping bags, plastic bags, a warm poncho for me, warm coat for my husband, umbrella, fire extinguisher, golf clubs and our emergency go bags. With these items, we are pretty okay to just go for a drive. I just got a picnic basket. That carries snacks, canned fish, pickles, olives, paper plates, biodegradable silverware. Just add some fruit and you could have a quick meal. I have had to learn to pack a picnic and stay on protocol. Finding things that are shelf stable that I can eat was at first a mystery to me. I was making it too hard. I just needed to find things I ate and look at different ways to store them. I eat a lot of salmon. Salmon comes in a can. The chicken comes in a can. You get the idea. Quick lunch items I can eat that don't need refrigeration. I keep these things at ready so I can load and go.

Now if we bring the ice chest it opens up a whole different menu. Gone is the Styrofoam ice chest. We splurged and bought a Pelican. I mean splurged. They are pricey. They have a lifetime guarantee, which I had to use when I broke the latch. They are bear proof if you need that kind of thing. Boondocking, camping in Yosemite, or Yellowstone? The most important thing they will hold ice for 10 days. Yes, 10 days. We have put it to the test. They are made in the USA. Mine was made in California.
My Pelican is one of my prized possessions. It sits in the living room waiting for the next trip. We take it every time we leave the house for more than a day. I freeze drinking water. That really helps with cold longevity and bonus, cold drinking water after it starts to melt on day 3 or 4. With the Pelican I can now have cold pressed juice on the 5 when we are in the middle of nowhere. Lettuce wraps are a favorite when traveling. Our Pelican is very large, so if we are going out to the desert I can pack all the grass-fed, pasture-raised meat and organic vegetables for a week.
A couple of times we have packed whole Thanksgiving meals to prepare. This is essential when the nearest health food store is an hour and a half away. We like to be out there. I also pack a BBQ and a crockpot. I do this even if we are staying in a hotel with a kitchen. Hotels with kitchen are great. This helps with a lot of things. If you have food available you won't be so likely to bail out and just get something. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy eating out, but too much can ruin a trip.
Besides planning your food I have come to realize that stress is a major contributor to health. Planning my food helps me not have to worry about what I can eat or if there will be anything for me to eat. It allows me to eat when I need to eat. I also become very dehydrated when we travel. Making sure you take on enough fluids is very important. Avoid sugar and caffeine, these are not your friends. Getting out of the vehicle every two to three hours and walking is helpful. It is good for your body and your mind. Helping to reset and drive safer.  It is not just the destination, it is the journey, too. Make it a good one. A safe one. Planning makes all the difference.