Linden Schaffer knows a thing or two about international travel. The founder of wellness travel company, Pravassa, Schaffer has led groups of adventurous, health-conscious vacationers on international trips to places like Vietnam, Costa Rica, Bali, Cambodia, Thailand, Italy, Spain, and Colombia since 2009.
Before Pravassa, Schaffer had a booming fashion career that required constant business travel. Instead of spending her time in hotel rooms doing work on her laptop, the industrious Shaffer decided to use her time wisely in every city she visited by exploring during her off-hours. Usually, that meant hitting up a local fitness class, sprinting through the city streets for an early morning running tour, and patronizing local cafes and restaurants for a great, healthy meal. Inspired by the fun she was having—and surprised by how much healthier, more relaxed, and mentally clear she felt when traveling this way for work—Schaffer eventually left her job in fashion and started leading wellness vacations with Pravassa.
Now, almost ten years into being able to call herself a professional wellness travel guide, Schaffer has collected all of her best tips into a full-length book, Living Well On the Road: Health and Wellness For Travelers.
Here, she shares with us her best international travel tips.
“When eating in the airport, you need to approach food options mindfully and opt for a filling, nutrient-rich experience. If you have time, sit and have a proper meal so you are not rushed while eating. Choose high-value vegetarian options, where it’s easier to stay away from high-sodium, added sugar ingredients, both of which will leave you dehydrated and more bloated on the plane. A brown rice and steamed vegetable dish with tofu or a Mexican salad with black beans and avocado will satiate you without leaving you too full and heavy.”
“The fastest way to truly understand a culture is through their food as its full of history and local ingredients. If you have a serious allergy or illness, I suggest getting a Food Allergy Card, which translates your needs into the local language. If your dietary needs are purely a lifestyle choice, then relaxing your guidelines a little while traveling will make for a much more enjoyable experience. Often times eating vegan or gluten-free isn’t a typical diet outside the US, which means the options can be tasteless as the chefs are not experienced cooking this way. If your diet is non-negotiable, then doing research in advance and traveling with a list of approved restaurants will save you time and bloating. Websites like Happy Cow or Gluten Free Travel have worldwide reviews and listings or booking your trip with an experienced travel provider, like Pravassa, will give you access to vetted restaurants that will meet any dietary needs.”
“After years of traveling on long-haul flights and adjusting to different time zones, the best wellness travel food hack I’ve learned is to fast on the airplane. The food airlines serve is not healthy and it does not do your digestive system any favors. Instead, opt to give your body the opportunity to rest and reset. A Harvard University study concluded that fasting resets your stomach and helps to overcome the effects of jet lag faster. Once you arrive, eat at the next available meal time, make sure you drink a lot of water daily, take probiotics, and begin each day with gut healthy foods such as yogurt, bananas or miso soup.”
When traveling I move my exercise outdoors. To be an expert traveler, you have to learn to be flexible and exploring a new location helps your body settle into a new routine, even if only for a few days. There is no better way to see a place than on a morning job, a hike up a mountain, or on a bicycle. If my time is very limited – say 20 minutes a day – I’ll turn my hotel room into my workout area using the desk or bathroom sink as my ballet bar and doing jumping jacks and push-ups next to the bed.
“My number one, non-negotiable wellness practice? Meditation. You only need 5-mintues to do it, although longer sessions are ideal, and other than yourself and a commitment to sitting peacefully, you need no other props. This non-negotiable self-care practice centers me and helps me to mindfully approach the world, preparing me to handle airport chaos, lost taxi drivers, and language barriers. When I’ve spent some time in meditation I am able to approach these situations from a place of calm.”