How to stay fit and healthy while traveling

July 2, 2024 Kate Morland

“Finding your strength” mentally and physically whilst traveling is a pretty challenging feat, maybe not even one that is on someone’s agenda when they venture abroad. Losing one’s routine often spirals other habits out of control. We’re all guilty of having longer lie ins, justifying another bag of chippies and delaying exercise because it’s too hot, or there isn’t a facility or I don’t have the right shoes. We get it! We’re traveling and we have 4 kids in tow.  However more often than not, we come home feeling blah and regretful that we let our health go by the wayside. For us it’s not an option, as feeling blah will lead to sickness and we just can’t afford that with our big family, we have to be on top of our game. 

Endless summer days snorkeling for fun and fitness

So to paint a picture for you; Toby and I have left NZ with 4 young kids aged 6, 8, 10 and 12 years. We have a backpack each weighing about 7kg and we are traveling around 16 different countries and over 50 different cities from memory over 7 months. Whoa even writing that sounds intense. Keeping well individually and as a family, both physically and mentally, is going to be a challenge, as it has thus far. We are not used to being in each other’s company 24/7, sleeping in different beds with unusual pillows, waking to unfamiliar foods, and adapting to varying climates. 

Enjoying many a hike in the beech forests of the midi Pyrenees, France

Conquering our quest to climb Pic du Crabere mountain which is above us in this picture

Before we left for our big family OE we set some guidelines;

  • We would improve our physical fitness; our strength, skills and stamina
  • We would eat well, immersing ourselves in different food cultures, be brave and give things a go
  • We would connect with our kids on a bigger level than what we have already and also maintain our relationship whilst in each other’s pockets (Toby and I that is).
  • We would connect with others on our travels as social relationships is very important to us and something we know we would miss from our friendships back home
  • We would stay mentally fit by finding a balance between ‘time out’ to recharge, restorative activities like reading or meditation and put our mindfulness training into play when faced with stressful situations
  • We will reflect regularly on our achievements, our challenges and practice gratitude 


That is our Rubix cube concept of wellbeing. So far we are doing pretty well but it hasn’t been an easy path at times!

We are 6 weeks in and our exercise has ranged on a spectrum from being super intense and empty the tank material, to low intensity walking around medinas and parks. It is not uncommon to clock up 25,000 steps each day and we’ve certainly had a good go at stairs!

Pic du Crabere was our pinnacle of hard, it’s set the benchmark for other activities to come. This climb was around 2600m in elevation, involving step rocky climbs, zigzagging up a mountain face and lots of encouragement. We stayed in a refuge (catered hut) overnight to break up the 6 hour hike up, but managed to walk the 6 hours out in one go! 

On the top of the world, standing on Pic de Crabere, one foot in France, the other in Spain!

Now the girls especially take on smaller hikes (2-3 hours) with better attitude and confidence, as they know it won’t be as hard (we hope). Our hikes have taken place in the French Pyrenees and Chefchaouen (Morocco). Whilst it was too hot in Malaysia for hiking we certainly were active, from practicing swimming in any pool we could access to the endless hours snorkeling and diving for turtles. 

Evie, our 10 year old, motivated us to do pilates workouts on the verandah of our gite for several days, so we would be squatting, planking and laughing at each others grimmace faces (as the aches of the day before would kick in). Making the workouts fun and giving them a realistic time frame was key! 

Hiking to an aerodome was about a 3 hour walk, but made all the more special by witnessing a rare landing!

Now our way of eating has varied widely as you can imagine; the food in Malaysia compared to UK, France and now Morocco had very little similarities. The most important thing we try to maintain is regular eating pattern (we are breakfast eaters even if it’s just a banana and yoghurt), but at times it has been hard to stick to consistent times and one or two of us will suffer from intense hangry syndrome (typically our preteen). Hearty biscuits come in handy as these are the easiest thing to access, and bananas so we don’t have to worry about washing fruit. Mostly we eat cuisine of the country, however I’d be lying if we hadn’t really enjoyed a burger and fries in Chefchaouen after the mention of another tagine was met with downturned faces. 

The most rewarding part of travel is enjoying different foods! The girls loving their fresh coconut water

Deciding to travel with kids was made easier by the fact our girls are really good eaters; and they have impressed us immensely with their curiosity to try unfamiliar foods such as olives, octopus, calamari, tagines, french goats cheeses to name a few. We did however have a moment yesterday when Toby and I admitted we were a little over buying meals each day; we are ready to cook again and it’s only been 7 days in Morocco…but the simple task of preparing our own food is missed and I’m looking forward to our next destination, sourcing ingredients and making something even as simple as a tomato pasta. 

The girls getting hands on cooking a Moroccan tagine with Fatima, our neighbour.

Holiday mode is usually linked with destressing right? Well we are not holidaying. We are traveling and there is a big difference and adopting the right mindset has been critical. So responding to stressful situations is just part and parcel of our days whether it is navigating google maps when it’s trying to lead you down a oneway street, or responding to a delayed flight or negotiating prices with a non-english speaking person. “Tolerance” is a topic we have discussed as a family and how we can be more tolerant with each other, and in situations. I’ll admit this is not my strong point and I’m constantly reminded to take a pause moment regularly to respond to stressful or irritating situations. 

Taking a calm moment during the early morning wildlife safari

Having conversations with the kids (that doesn’t involve telling them to tidy up), practicing gratitude around the dinner table, helping them write diaries with their reflections and simply being with them has been so rewarding in terms of our relationships. Toby and I have had opportunities to go running together and out for a meal so we can also spend time as two. Going it alone has been a little more difficult; I personally like to recharge on my own but in foreign locations it is a little less desirable to wander out on my own. So reading has become my go to to escape, or even blogging as it supports my creative side while giving me a rest from decision making. Toby and I work together to ensure we get a bit of our own time; he might head off for an early morning run while I might stay behind to work while he takes the kids to the pool. We have to blend ‘holiday and travel mode’ with ‘working abroad’. 

Reconnecting with a mate in Oxford, from Otago uni days; it’s been over 15 years but felt like yesterday we had been doing gymnastics together!

As for nurturing relationships; well this has been one of the most rewarding parts of our travel so far. When people question our itinerary my answer is that it was mostly planned around reconnecting with people in London, France and Germany. In between we meet new people and are open to conversations, however stilted or challenging. Being a minority (English speaking) means we have to make effort to strike up a conversation and connect with people from other cultures, that otherwise we may just walk past. Our neighbour in Fes spoke Arabic and French so we had to communicate in hand signals and google translate. We connected with friends we haven’t seen in over 10 years, from university or our last travel stint, and that has been so precious.

Contemplating life with a view from Asilah medina

Lastly, practicing gratitude and reflecting on what we are learning in our diaries is just so important. It is easy for the days to just fly by and experiences to merge. Our children are incredibly insightful when it comes to gratitude, and we just know this is the best experience we can be giving them; to see how others live, to learn compassion, empathy, respect, to be curious, gain perspective and appreciation.

So, albeit long winded, this is an insight into what things we are doing to stay ‘well’ and ‘healthy’ as we travel. We expect challenges, and we make sure we are strong, energised and ready for what may come. It is part of the excitement of travel; the unknown.

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