people on beach, exercising

Why staying healthy while traveling is the best way to treat yourself

My first few months in Australia focused on fun instead of fitness. From the memorable nights that begin with free goon (boxed wine) offered at hostels to the easy access and convenience of snack foods (I’m looking at you, BBQ Shapes), I was a lazy traveler.

By the time I finished traveling the east coast and visited Melbourne, my body was a whole lot fluffier. Not only could I see physical changes as I lost muscle mass, but I was mentally drained and filled with anxiety. I felt gross, tired, low energy, and was no longer confident in the way I looked.

The day after I decided to live at Wake Up! Sydney for a few months, I made a promise to myself to focus on my health and form a balanced lifestyle. I began with small steps, such as cooking more of my own food and walking places instead of taking the train.

A Little Help Goes A Long Way

By far, the biggest influence in improving my physical and mental health was the personal training and yoga classes included in my stay at Wake Up!. The cost of my dorm not only paid for a bed, but it gave me free access to fitness activities where I could sweat with other guests.

people exercising on beach
Image: Get healthy with your new hostel mates

The personal training sessions consistently gave me a good sweat and left me sore for days. The yoga classes provided a mental reset and aligned my body. Having both classes included in my stay really kicked me into a workout routine that made me more mindful of my physical and mental health. I even started adding extra workouts to my routine!

Feeling the Difference

As I began working out and eating better, I started feeling better. I had more energy throughout the day and noticed I was getting stronger. The anxiety I had been coping with reduced and my mental health improved.

girl in outback
Image: Explore the country and find a different you (Source: Janine Denney-Mazzilli)

A few simple changes to my lifestyle and I finally discovered a way to travel mindfully, all while enjoying myself in this new place and attending as many free hostel events as possible. My next challenge was to continue my fitness routine while traveling because I didn’t want to feel gross like I did before.

Going All In

After living at Wake Up! Sydney for four months and getting back into a more balanced lifestyle, I ventured out. I planned to travel to Perth, up the West Coast, visit Broome and Darwin, explore three national parks, and go on a tour of Uluru. My approach to this trip was significantly different than my approach to my east coast adventure. I was determined to continue my fitness routine AND continue to treat myself.

When my tours included hikes, I pushed myself to move faster. When I encountered long days of driving, I woke up early to squeeze in a quick body-weight workout.

“It’s all about balance” (Source: Janine Denney-Mazzilli)

I was more aware of my food choices, but of course still indulged on popcorn, ice cream bars (PSA: vegan Magnums are available at roadhouses throughout the country), and local ciders along the way. It’s all about balance, right? As a result of these choices, I managed to be on the road for five weeks and even improve my energy levels! This made my journey more enjoyable because I always equipped for the next day.

Here’s a summary of why staying active while traveling can improve your overall experience:

Stay Toned

This is the most obvious benefit of staying active; you sweat, get your heart rate up, build muscle and release endorphins that improve your attitude. I found my confidence and energy levels increase with each free fitness class I took at the Wake Up! hostels.

Image: Conquer hikes with confidence (Source: Janine Denney-Mazzilli)

The combination of running, partner exercises, and weights during the personal training sessions fit every fitness level. The yoga classes, though not as physically exhausting, provide both a physical and mental challenge as you focus on your own individual power and release built-up negativity.

Meet Other Travelers

During an outdoor yoga class at Wake Up! Byron Bay that had over forty attendees, I was overcome with joy at the realization that yoga transcends barriers. There I was, practicing yoga on the beach in Byron Bay (seriously, can you imagine a better setting?) with people from every stretch of the world. Everyone could follow along and reap the benefits of yoga, regardless of where they were from or what language they spoke.

people walking
Image: Meet people and make new fitness friends

After the session, it was heartwarming watching travelers connect and make plans to spend the day together. While living at Wake Up! Bondi Beach, one of my closest friendships was made during the personal training classes. A huge benefit of group workouts is the extra push and encouragement from fellow travelers.

Reap the Health Benefits of Exercise

Traveling isn’t always the glitz and glam of cocktails during sunset at Uluru or meeting quokkas on Rottnest Island. The nomadic lifestyle can take a toll on the body. There are massive challenges that range from forgetting to reserve a bed at a hostel to losing your luggage. Staying active releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals) in the body.

Girl on rocks
Image: Stay happier with natural feel good chemicals (Source: Janine Denney-Mazzilli)

Over the past few months that I’ve been better prioritizing fitness, my stress and anxiety levels have dramatically reduced, making me happier than ever. I’m also more physically fit and can attack any hike, even army crawling through a cave in Kakadu National Park, and go longer distances than before. It’s not always easy to find a place to work out, but the benefits of exercising greatly outweigh the costs.

Be Present

One thing I’ve struggled with my whole life is getting caught up in my thoughts and forgetting to be present in my surroundings. Fitness, but yoga more specifically, has improved my ability to appreciate where I am and live more in the moment. It’s enabled me to discover aspects of traveling that I didn’t even realize exist.

yoga on the beach, people
Image: Experience yoga on beautiful Bondi Beach

From noticing the changing pitches of birds chirping or the tangled branches of trees, yoga teaches you to be more intentional and I’ve chosen to be more present as a result. When I don’t exercise, feelings of stress and anxiety naturally overwhelm my head. On the other hand, when I incorporate fitness into my travels, these negative thoughts disappear and I thoroughly enjoy my once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Staying Active and Happy

For me, staying active while traveling means I have the energy and physical fitness to conquer long hikes and the mental well-being to live in the moment. Waking up to a yoga class helps me find balance in my traveling lifestyle. It has helped me find the perfect balance between continuing my fitness routine AND enjoying the free Wine & Cheese nights.

Be sure to attend the free fitness sessions during your stay and read this article for more tips!

Exercising can be as simple as taking the classes offered by your hostel, going for a walk or run, taking a hike, or using a free iPhone app for a guided workout. Check out the daily activities schedules on the hostel websites, or ask any friendly staff member to find out when classes are offered that week!

by Janine Denney-Mazzilli

Hi there! My name is Janine and I am a self-professed, travel obsessed foodie from Seattle. I recently graduated the University of Washington and am now living my Australian dream on a working holiday! Follow along on @janini133

backpacking australia, health, travel tips australia

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