You are a finite creature.
I want you to read that again just in case you missed it.
You are a finite creature.
Granted, some of you may have bought any number of hot books these days about becoming superhuman, but the reality of your simple, bodily needs remains… You are a hobbit, a very earthly creature with very earthly needs.
What You Need
I wrote a few weeks back about some mistakes I made when traveling into Bogotá. Among them were not getting enough sleep and not drinking enough water. And, as I continue to spend time here in Bogotá, learning Spanish, and spending hours traveling around the city, the more I realize how important it is to take care of your normal, everyday needs first as you acclimate to your surroundings and experience new places.
What are your normal, every day needs for health? Basically: water, food, rest, and exercise.
Water. You need to stay hydrated at all times to remain healthy. Your body is 75% water, so you know you’ve got to replenish your supply. If your urine is yellow, the amount of water in your system is too low… So start drinking! Furthermore, access to clean, drinkable water can be a challenge depending upon where you go, so make it a top priority to establish your water supply. Alternatively, you can check out the travel filter I use.
Food. Similarly, you need an ample supply of nutrients from the food you eat to keep your body going. Ideally, this would include foods rich in protein and vitamins, such as fish, chicken, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. A vitamin deficiency is a real possibility abroad, so make sure you have taken the time to eat healthy. (Also, keep your intestinal tract healthy considering the new cuisines you might be tasting… Be sure to secure over-the-counter remedies for “bowel balance” issues.)
Rest. It is tempting to try to do everything, particularly in your first few weeks abroad. There is so much to see and to do, and you don’t want to miss any of it. Much of this carpe diem attitude is good, but if you’re not careful, it can lead to a serious sleep deprivation. Try to get a solid 8.5 hours of sleep each night to stay charged and ready for the day. I think my moods are affected more by my lack of sleep than perhaps any other factor. Don’t allow yourself to get grumpy. Get some sleep!
Exercise. Most likely, you will get some degree of exercise walking around to different places while you are abroad… especially on the days when you are carrying your luggage. But you want to make sure you are engaging in some aerobic activity to get your blood moving several times per week. The benefits of this are enormous: you will be in better shape, your moods will improve, and you will have more energy for the things you want to do.
Why You Need These
Without getting to philosophical about the issue (and I could get philosophical :)), let’s just state the obvious: you encounter the world around you through your body. Your physicality is the way you interact with the world. If it is not healthy or it is not in good shape, you will experience difficulties in all that you attempt to do, and you will not perceive the world in an optimal fashion.
This is a special considerations when you travel abroad, and ESPECIALLY if you are in a foreign land where few speak English, and where you may not have met many Gringos.
It takes a lot of energy just to acclimate yourself to a foreign land, and much more energy giving your attention for significant periods of the day to a new language. Make sure you are attending to your bodily needs.
You need to make sure you are in full health in order to fully experience the new world around you… so don’t make unwise decisions too often:
- You don’t HAVE to go out every Saturday, especially if you are tired from the week.
- You don’t HAVE to get up early on your only free day in order to get to the park before it gets crowded.
- You don’t HAVE to go to every darn museum in the whole country.
Take your time. Be selective about what you do. Make sure you are fully nourished and rested, and you will have a much better time.
What Might Happen If You Neglect These Needs
If you don’t keep your body well, you may end up like I did — dehydrated, feeling icky, and dead tired.
Or maybe worse– You may get sick. You may suddenly start having weird rashes. You may have a nervous breakdown. You may get angry at the whole friggin’ foreign culture you just came to.
You need to maintain your health as best you can because otherwise your trip could turn ugly.
Think about it: you don’t have your own comfy bed to go home to, or your familiar surroundings, culture, language, or food. You don’t have your trusted family doctor, your mom’s chicken noodle soup, and perhaps not even a hot shower.
Really the worst thing to be while abroad is to be sick in body or mind. You really want to make it top priority to stay healthy.
A Hobbit Goes Abroad
Fortunately, I feel like I am slowly learning these lessons, and now I make it a priority to obtain proper food, water, rest, and exercise. I think this could be a formula for successful time abroad and enjoying your time abroad…