Traveling is tough — not only financially, but also physically and emotionally. As a travel photographer, I have to put a little extra effort into remembering to take good care of myself. Unfortunately, sometimes the best lessons are learned through experience. Let me share how I learned to cope with the physical and mental struggles of long flights, horrible road trip diets, and exhaustion.
Cardio Cardio Cardio
Growing up as a very active child and collegiate athlete, I took for granted how all that regular activity kept me in shape. At that age, you just feel invincible. But following college graduation, I began to slack off. My health began to generally deteriorate. I constantly felt fatigued, unmotivated, and even depressed.
As a photographer, I have hiked countless miles in order to get a particular shot. Sometimes, getting that shot means I have to go the extra mile to get to a certain vantage point or destination. At the rate I was going, my time as a travel photographer was going to be cut short by my health.
It was at this low point that I realized I needed to make a life change. I NEEDED to start working out again. Not just for my health, but so that I could continue to pursue my passion. It can be so easy to forget how important our bodies are. We make hundreds of excuses to avoid taking care of them, but in the end, the cost is just too high.
Food On The Go
Eating healthy on the road has to be one of the hardest aspects of traveling. Cheap and fast is the name of the game, and healthy food often just doesn’t make the cut. (My favorite pit stop snack: Wendy’s 4 for 4.) But have you ever tried climbing Maroon Peak after inhaling five soft tacos?
If your only option is fast food, there are some decently nutritious choices on some of the big chain menus. But I recommend bringing your own food. I normally stock my bags with Mountain House meals. They’re packed with protein and fill you up. But they can also be pricey and high in sodium. I also try to pack tons of granola, fruit, and trail mix.
Vitamins are another key way that I supplement my diet on the road, especially if I know I might not be eating enough. But make sure you take more food than you think you will need. There are plenty of deals at the grocery. The way to find your best options are to just go out and experiment.
Go With The Flow
Planning a trip is easy. Coping with the fact that anything and everything could go wrong at any moment is hard.
This past month, I had a trip to Scotland completely planned out. Itinerary, transportation, flights booked. I even planned on proposing to my girlfriend (now fiancé), Danielle. While on our layover in Iceland, Scotland was hit with one of the largest snowstorms in the country’s history. Long story short, our flights were cancelled and we were stranded in Iceland. This whole process was mentally draining and our spirits were plummeting.
On top of the flights being cancelled, I lost the photographer that I had booked to capture the proposal. I lost the campervan that would have been waiting to pick us up. I basically lost my entire plan for what was supposed to be one of the biggest days of my life. Not to mention, I had brands counting on me to capture content of their products.
So, we adjusted. We rented a car the next morning and drove south. The weather was beyond perfect, so we took a chance. We experienced some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. At the end of our journey, I was able to get us alone in front of Vestrahorn at sunset. It was the perfect place to propose, even though three days prior, I knew nothing about it.
In the end, you have to be ready to adapt. The trip WILL NOT be perfect. Whatever adversity you might face, keep calm, and realize you’re most likely standing in paradise. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.
Rest and Reflect
The worst moment of each trip is always the same: the end. I always look back and reflect on different elements of the trip. Did I have fun? Did I get the shots I need?
When traveling, I try to live in the moment. Even though it is so easy to look ahead and think about all of the great things I still have left to see, I make a point of sitting back and reflecting on where I am, or what I have done that day.
Taking the time to relax on these trips is essential. You’re using energy that you didn’t even know you had, and most of the time, you don’t realize you’re using it all until you crash. It is so easy to fuel yourself on nothing but adrenaline, but once that subsides, you can easily exhaust yourself to the point where you can’t enjoy where you are or what you are doing.
Take naps if you aren’t in a hurry. Listen to music, relax in a gas station for an hour and eat something. You’re going to need that energy later on in the day, or even the next day.
Without exercise and a semi-healthy diet, there is no way I’d be able to push through some of the hell that my friends and I seem to put ourselves in. Healthy habits are crucial to the lifestyle we live. Can these lifestyle changes happen overnight? Nope. It took me months to get back into decent shape, and it was hard. But you will soon see the progress of your hard work and never look back. Although, the occasional Wendy’s 4 for 4 does sound pretty rewarding.