I get it! You have to try that local noodle dish, and you can’t say you’ve been there until you’ve tried that creamy cake desert. After a few months on the road you might start to notice a belly forming where there wasn’t one before. You feel tired and sleep just never seems to bring you back. This post will give you your life energy back and show you how to stay healthy as a digital nomad.
When I’m on the road, it means fast food at airports, late nights and too much coffee the next day. But once I arrive I know how to get back on track. So don’t beat yourself up! Instead use this post to bring back that healthy nomad!
In this post were going to look at these areas of your life and how to optimize them to be more healthy.
Table of Contents
- Keep Hydrated
- Maintain Good Posture Wherever You Work
- A Healthy Diet Makes a Healthy Digital Nomad
- Put Daily Exercise At The Heart Of Your Digital Nomad Lifestyle
- Strengthen Your Mental Game While You Travel
- The Breath Is Essential To Health
- Have A Healthy Relationship With Alcohol
- Staying Healthy Means Limiting Caffeine
- Get Enough Quality Sleep
- Final Thoughts
Why start with hydration? Obviously it’s super important but it’s also the easiest change to make. It doesn’t require you to go to the gym or prepare food. It’s just drinking water.
Before we continue, go get some water! No actually do it, I’ll wait…
Easy wasn’t it?
I tend to stay in warmer climates most of the time, I love South East Asia but it gets hot here! Staying hydrated is so much more important when you in a hot place because you need to replace all the water you’re sweating out.
A strong habit of drinking water all day is what you need to really thrive here, or anywhere.
On the Move
Even if it’s not really hot where you are, walking around all day exploring can leave you dehydrated. If you’re not replenishing your water levels throughout the day, your energy levels will suffer and so will your health.
How Digital Nomads create a water drinking habit
Creating a habit of drinking water is not really about drinking the water. It’a about creating opportunity. If the water is next to you, you’ll drink it. You just need to make sure you always have it available and your hydration levels will go up without even thinking about it.
- Get a reusable bottle that’s just for water – Never use it for anything else
- Don’t put it away in a cupboard – Keep it somewhere you’ll see it
- Find a way to attach the bottle – to your bag, to your bike or something you always have one you when you go out
- Attach it to another habit – if you write on your laptop everyday, don’t start writing until you have your water bottle next to you.
How much water?
The idea of drinking 8 glasses of water a day to stay optimally hydrated has kinda been debunked now but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good goal.
These recommendations by the Mayo Clinic are for total water intake which includes the water you get through your food. Fruits and vegetables have high water content and so they also contribute to this total.
Maintain Good Posture Wherever You Work
How’s your posture as you read this now?
If you just sat up a little straighter, pulled your shoulders back or shifted in your seat, you have a bad posture habit. You’re not alone, I do too!
Maintaining a good posture is perhaps even more important for staying healthy as a digital nomad or anyone that predominantly works online, than it is for most people because we spend so much time hunched over our laptops.
If you call yourself a digital nomad, there must be a significant amount of your time sat in front of a laptop working remotely. Posture can seem like one of those things that you just don’t need to worry about. But postural problems sneak up on you slowly.
The most effective way to avoid problems stemming from bad posture is to adjust what you do most
If you only spend 5 hours on a plane every other month then don’t worry if you have bad posture sleeping on the flight, buying that ergonomically designed plane pillow might save you from having a slight ache for a couple of hours but it’s doing nothing for you long term.
If however, you spend 6 hours everyday hunched over you laptop, a small improvement will make a huge difference.
- Consider what you spend most of your time doing
- Check your posture while doing it
- Decide on how you could improve it
- If you’re a photography, you might spend most of your time taking photos. Film yourself while you’re shooting.
- Do you crane your neck forward to look through the viewfinder?
- Do you bend at the waist or mid back instead of the legs to get lower?
- Do your shoulders tense up every time you life the camera?
Simply being aware of the postural problems you have will go a long way to improving your posture. Next time you lift the camera you will start to notice what you are doing and can self correct easily.
Practice taking photos (or doing whatever it is you do most) with a perfect posture. Although you may never be able to maintain it, knowing what to aim for and practicing it, will help your body know what to do.
Don’t over complicate it! Shoulders back and keep your back straight.
A Healthy Diet Makes a Healthy Digital Nomad
There are a million books, blogs and YouTube channels devoted to the topic of diet. Everyone has their own ideas on what’s best but really you need to find what works best for you.
- Intermittent Fasting
- Low Fat
- Low Carb
- Slow Carb
- Counting Calories
- No processed food
- No Added sugar
- If It Fits Your Macros
Everyone of these diets restrict the dieter either by what they can eat, when they can eat or how much they can eat. The restriction may seem like a bummer but it makes staying healthy so much easier.
Like most things in life, setting up a system is the key to success with maintaining a healthy diet. Rather than telling yourself that you are just “going to try to eat healthily” create a system of what you can eat, when you can eat or how much you can eat. By choosing an existing diet, like the ones in the list above, the system is already created for you.
You never need to feel guilty or wonder whether or not you should eat something. If your system allows it, yes. If not it’s a no. Simple
It’s just easier to stay on track when there are certain things you can’t eat or times when you can’t eat.
So just find a diet you can live with and stick to it.
- Get in the kitchen and cook your own food
- Repeat the same meals
- Choose a diet full of fruits and vegetables
- Get enough Protein
- Cut out Processed Foods
- Cut out foods with added sugar
- Avoid soft drinks
- Don’t be scared to eat fats
- Beware of most vegetable oils
- Eat what the locals eat
- Go easy on yourself if you’re traveling or between locations
Put Daily Exercise At The Heart Of Your Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Finding a gym is something I usually do before I even arrive in a destination and I’ll usually choose my accommodation by how close it is to a gym. And although you don’t need a gym to get in a good workout, if you’re trying to make consistent progress in a weight lifting program, you can’t beat a good gym.
My tips for finding a gym
- Find a small local gym – the manager will usually let you workout and pay per day if you ask rather than getting a membership, commercial gyms wont.
- If you’re struggling to find a gym, find a hotel! Just be prepared to pay a little more.
- Martial Art Clubs Usually have workout equipment, just ask
- Check Google Maps
Keeping up with a strict gym routine when you move around so much can be difficult but the gym isn’t the only place you can get a workout.
Yoga To Stay Fit and Healthy
It does sometimes seem that every healthy digital nomad you meet has a yoga practice to maintain their health, but there’s a good reason for that!
Yoga just goes so well with the digital nomad lifestyle it has to be considered when you’re thinking about your physical health. Why?
- Improves strength
- Enhances balance
- Yoga is stress relieving
- Increases flexibility
- Yoga can relieve joint pain
- Improves sleep quality
But the real reason it’s so popular with the digital nomad community is because you can do yoga anywhere. It’s just as easy to practice at the beach as it is at home or in a professional yoga studio.
There are countless other options when it comes to creating regular workout routines for digital nomads. Check out that post for a list of ideas for staying fit with YouTube videos to get you started!
Strengthen Your Mental Game While You Travel
It’s tough always being away from family and friends, travel is stressful and challenges are constant as a digital nomad.
Maintaining your mental health is even more important than staying healthy through diet and exercise.
Understand what you can control and what you can’t.
People like progress, we like to be moving forward. If our business is getting bigger we’re happy, if our skin is clearing up, we feel good, if we hit a new PR in the gym we have a great day.
But there are days when you hit a wall, when you plateau or even start to go backwards.
You can’t always control what your client does or if they want to let you go. You can’t control the mistake they made at the visa office but you can control what you do and what you focus on.
So if stress is building up change your focus from something you can’t control (like work) to something you can (like a hobby.)
I Can Control
- I will go to the gym
- I’ll write a 1000 words
- I’ll create a great resource for my client
- I’ll improve my tennis backhand today
- I’ll enjoy the day
I Can’t Control
- I’ll hit a new PR
- I’ll get 100 new subscribers
- My client will like my work
- I’ll increase my wages today
- I’ll have a relaxing day
Meditation is the key to becoming a mentally healthy digital nomad.
There is no scarcity of highly successful meditation practitioners to take motivation from. Everyone from Steve Jobs to Paul McCartney to Keanu Reeves, Oprah and even Katy Perry have confessed to having a strong meditation practice.
As someone who grew up in the countryside I find that staying in a busy city does affect my mental well being. Other times in remote or distant places I can feel like I don’t belong or just feel homesick.
Meditation is a practice that is a constant in my world of constant change. Where ever I am on my digital nomad journey, I can go inside myself and know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Tips For Staying Mentally Healthy On The Road
- Don’t work all the time
- Make time for family
- Socialize and make friends
- Keep up with your hobbies
The Breath Is Essential To Health
We have to fuel our bodies with nutrient rich, healthy foods but food isn’t the only fuel we need.
You can be healthier just by breathing!
We tend to forget that the most important fuel is the air we breathe. While you can live for days without food, you can’t be without air for more than a few minutes.
It’s easy to understand that higher quality food is better for us, but what about air?
Having lived in places with some of the worst air quality on the planet, I can tell you that air quality makes a huge difference to every part of your life. On polluted days i’d feel terrible.
I wouldn’t want to work out or go outside, instead I’d hide away inside with the air filters on.
You probably aren’t dealing with hazardous levels of pollution but is the air there as good as it could be? Check your Air Quality Index and see. You might be able to improve your air quality quickly just by doing these things.
- Open a Window
- Using an air filter
- Cleaning away dust
Have A Healthy Relationship With Alcohol
There’s a healthy balance to be found between enjoying yourself and drinking too much and that balance is a personal thing. As a digital nomad, you want to make the most of your travel experiences but that doesn’t mean you need to always have a drink in your hand.
“Adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed.”2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Signs you are drinking too much
- You drink most days
- You find it difficult to stop at one drink even when you’ve told yourself you will
- You can’t socialize without drinking
- You feel an urge to drink at a certain time each day
- The desire to drink is your automatic response to negative emotions
If you think you may have a serious drinking problem, seek help from a medial professional or an organization such as AA
Getting alcohol right can be the key to succeeding in the other parts of your healthy living plan
Staying Healthy Means Limiting Caffeine
In Bali, Okawati sat a tall flask of Balinese coffee on the table outside my door every morning. In Luang Praban there was a little shop that sold cold bottled coffee drinks just round the corner. In Daramshala I drank black americano with Himalayan sea salt every morning as the owner or Bhutan Cafe opened up.
I don’t really care how I get it, I just need my morning coffee!
But it’s really easy to overdo it, mainly because it’s so good! Drinking too much coffee will make you feel tired and unmotivated though. The caffeine lowers the quality of your sleep, making your want more coffee to pick you up.
If you’re drinking 3 or more cups of coffee a day, you might be affected, try taking a caffeine break.
How to take a caffeine break
- Know that you’re going to feel rough and tired. Choose a few days when you don’t have critical work to do.
- Have a replacement drink ready. This could be decaf coffee, juice or just water. Just make sure you wont run out of it!
- 3 Days is a good start for a break 7 days is a complete cleanse *** study ***
- Go slow when you go back to coffee, start with half a cup
- Create a new, healthier coffee limit for yourself.
Here are the rules I follow to keep my healthy and on track with my coffee and caffeine intake.
- 1-2 cups of coffee per day
- Never drink coffee after noon
- No energy drinks, ever
- Tea in the afternoon but not in the evening
Get Enough Quality Sleep
While there’s no exact number of hours that you need to sleep for, everyone knows when they haven’t slept enough. Most sources quote 7-9 hours of sleep for the average adult.
Quality vs. Quantity
Keeping healthy is not just about how long you sleep, it also matters how well you sleep. Avoid these things which can ruin the quality of your sleep
- Caffeine (within 10 hours of sleeping)
- Late night Food
Staying healthy will ultimately allow you to enjoy your digital nomad lifestyle more than any location or gadget ever will. It will create a happier, more productive nomad in you that will give you the opportunities you need to do what you want to do.
See the ideas and tips in this post more as motivation and method to improve your health and not as a benchmark you have to achieve.
Remember, it’s fine to give yourself a break and indulge every once in a while!
Originally from the U.K, Greg has lived in Asia for over 15 years. Fluent in a handful of languages, he ran a management consultancy before creating Face Dragons. He spends his time now traveling around Asia, writing, taking photos, and drinking coffee.