Keeping Healthy: Drinking

It is important to try to maintain a healthy lifestyle no matter who you are, how old you are or where you are in the world. However, it is much simpler to do this when you have a routine and there is no better routine than working a nine to five job in your home country. This isn’t for everyone though as some of us yearn to be free of routine and to live a location independent lifestyle. In the absence of routine, how do we stay healthy and what happens when it all goes wrong? This series covers staying healthy and dealing with illness whilst travelling.

A balance in what you drink does not refer to one beer in each hand – although this may be a popular perception of a ‘traveller’ held by those who have never travelled much themselves. A consideration of what you drink and how much you drink – especially water – can be the difference between life and death. So here are our top tips for drinking:

  1. Drink plenty of water. It might seem like an obvious one but we can’t stress this one enough. It’s easy to obtain bottled water in any country (though you really come to appreciate those countries where it is clean enough to drink it for free straight from the tap). If bottled water is unavailable, it is often safe (though please check) to boil tap water which can be a cheaper and easier alternative. Furthermore, if you’re travelling in a warm climate, it is essential to avoid the dangerous effects of dehydration which, if left untreated, can lead to heat exhaustion, sun stroke or even death. So make sure you have plenty of clean drinking water with you and, if necessary, dissolve a rehydration sachet in to avoid the dangers of very hot/humid conditions.
  2. Rehydration treatment
    Rehydration treatment
  3. Always carry rehydration salts. These can be added to cold or warm water and come in powder or dissolvable tablets. Some recommend only taking them when you feel the effects of dehydration. We have found that this can sometimes be too late. Look out for the signs of dehydration early and if you have just arrived in a new, much hotter climate than you are used to then consider taking one every two or three days until you get used to the temperature and know you can get the necessary salts and sugars from your new diet.
  4. Drink flavoured water. It may seem that water is therefore the best thing to drink but not everyone enjoys the taste of water and it can get a bit bland if you drink it all day, everyday. However, it needn’t be bland. There are now a number of flavoured water options sold all over the world. You can also use cordial (liquid) or powder to flavour your water as you go along. These are a great alternative to plain water and often can be found in a range of flavours to suit all tastes. A number contain added vitamins which may appeal to you if you would normally take vitamin supplements (which may be expensive or difficult to come by) and some can even be added to milk too!
  5. Powders can make plain water tasty
    Powders can make plain water tasty
  6. Avoid alcohol. We are not teetotal and nor are we suggesting that you should be either. However, alcohol is a diuretic which means it will promote the production of urine. This might not sound that bad but remember you’re body needs a fair bit of water to function optimally. Alcohol can therefore also increase the chances of you becoming dehydrated. We’ve felt the adverse effects of severe dehydration and even had to go to hospital for this. Trust us when we say, you don’t want to become dehydrated if you can help it. Therefore in extremely hot climates where you are not used to the high temperatures it might be best avoiding alcohol or at least drinking less than you normally would. In addition to any health benefits, alcohol is often pretty expensive compared to water – however, in parts of SE Asia we found it to be cheaper than soft drinks so try not to get tempted!!
  7. Use a straw. When drinking out of cans or bottles that have not been kept in clean conditions or show signs of rusting/corrosion then a straw is a must. Keeping up high levels of hygiene is essential when travelling, especially when travelling through the developing world. It is easy to pick up bacteria and viruses that your body has never encountered before and these can floor you. The last thing you want is to end up in a foreign hospital where no-one speaks your language, trying to explain how you feel like you might die any minute and being sent for tests that you have no idea what they’re for. We’ve been there, done that, and certainly will be trying to avoid it happening ever again! Drinking soft drinks with a straw is also much better for your teeth, directing the sugar down your throat can help to reduce the effect of plaque build up.
  8. Avoid caffeine. You may think so no soft drinks without a straw , no alcohol and no caffeine! What CAN you drink? Just water? We’re not saying no caffeine ever however, if you are in a particularly hot climate that you are not used to and could be at risk of dehydration then this may not be the best cure. Like alcohol, caffeine is a diuretic that could aggravate the effects further and therefore water is always considered the best way to hydrate.
  9. Drink milk. We do not like milk and in this case do not take our own advice. However, we have been told on numerous occasions that this is the best thing to drink when eating spicy food. Drinking water will only worsen the effects of the spice. We are not convinced and do not like milk enough to try as of yet. However, we are off to India soon and may need to take local advice such as this on board if we want to truly sample Indian cuisine. Don’t forget that milk is also a great source of calcium if cheese or other dairy products are unavailable/limited such as in China.

There are a number of things that you can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle even when on the go. This is not an exhaustive list and we are certainly no medical experts so this is all from personal experience. If you would like location specific advice then please ask in the comments section. Furthermore, if you have any of your own top tips specific to the places you have visited then please feel free to send them to me so I can add them for others to benefit from.

2 thoughts on “Keeping Healthy: Drinking

  • 3 Jul 15 at 13:56
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    Hey guys! I have a few questions I have been wondering about. For one, do you find it easy to lose weight or stay the same over there? It looks like everything is either fried or filled with carbs and I’m afraid of gaining weight. Also, do you guys ever need some space from each other? I am going with my boyfriend and am worried that it will be difficult to be around him so much without really having other friends? Were you able to make friends? I know it would be difficult due to the language barrier. How do you cope with that? Also, will I have access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram? More American websites? Will my apps work the same there as they do here? And one more thing, are you guys paying for international phone plans or just got an app like what’s app to communicate with your friends and family back home? Sorry for all the questions!

    Taylor Wishnov

    Reply
    • 5 Jul 15 at 13:14
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      Taylor reply

      Hey Taylor, no worries about the questions – this is why we’re writing the posts – to help others (especially couples) who are about to take this huge step into the unknown. We wish we’d found someone to answer our questions before we left.

      1. We don’t really worry about our weight but we have both actually lost weight here. Not massively – just lost a lot of our excessive fat not that I feel we had much. Main reasons for this is we eat a lot more fruit and vegetables than we’ve ever done before, we drink mainly water and we get a lot of exercise (just walking to and from school can take an hour each day plus we go jogging some evenings too). There are fried food options if you want them but I wouldn’t say it’s the main food in our area except for fried chicken.

      2. We’re quite good at spending 24/7 with each other. We met at work and have always worked with each other. After only two months going out we moved in together and other than a few weeks when I was on holiday we’ve never spent anytime apart. That’s how we like it but it’s not for everyone. It’s pretty easy to get space when we need it – most of the apartment blocks contain beautiful gardens in them so you can go for a walk, jog or sometimes I like to just go out and sit in the Sun reading my book – Anthony will usually come and find me at some point. Even in school we have time apart where one of us is teaching but the other isn’t and I use this time to catch up on my emails/calls to family or friends. We have made friends with the other foreign teachers (2 guys from America) and we’ve been out for food and drinks with them on several occasions. There are plenty of expat communities over here in China so you can get out and make friends as much or as little as you want. Most other interns were placed in larger groups than just two so there’s a high chance you’ll have other interns in the same school, town or province. Most interns are all connected on a WeChat group (Chinese version of Whatsapp) and we’ve heard of them joining gyms, yoga classes and meeting up for drinks in Shanghai!! Plus making friends with Chinese teachers can be great fun too – they get to practice their English and you get some local knowledge – it’s win-win! The language barrier is difficult but a smile is universal and like I said expat communities will help you meet others without this barrier.

      3. Twitter, Facebook & Instagram are all technically illegal in China. They are only accessible using a VPN which needs to be bought before you arrive in China as it’s not always possible or easy to do whilst over here. Try Astrill as a basis and go from there to compare others you come across. It all depends on whether you choose a free one or paid service (& if you pay what you want from the package). The in-country team here recommended Astrill to us and the six-month package was fine across all our devices. You will have to be very patient with the Internet in China at times but generally it’s fine. Never heard of anyone having trouble with American websites or apps. It’s easy to update them here too even without a VPN.

      4. On arrival in Beijing the in-country team can sort you out a SIM card. We just got the one for Anthony’s phone. We pay 70 RMB a month for the ability to call, text and use 2Gb of data – there are other more expensive plans if you like. For contacting home we don’t use an international phone plan. We use Skype via wifi (which is by far the most reliable provider for face and voice calls) or FaceTime for iPhone to iPhone video calls. Whatsapp calling wasn’t very clear (but we’ve not tried it extensively) but we mainly use this app for group text chats with family and friends.

      Really hope this information is of help to you? Please don’t hesitate to contact us again as and when you have further questions. We’ve got plenty of new videos coming to our YouTube channel over the next two weeks with lots of tips on living here. Just subscribe to youtube.com/c/tolovetoliveuk

      Reply

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