One thing that’s important when traveling is flexibility…
(and no, it’s not only so you can fit into extremely cramped car spaces)
I’m talking about being flexibility in exercise and eating habits.
Travel means a lot of things – crazy schedules, new surroundings, and new company. It doesn’t matter how well you think you are prepared for all of the above – something is always bound to come up that throws your plans for a loop and you might find yourself utterly and totally unprepared.
I will admit that I was a bit nervous before my last trip. Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling and I was very happy and exited. But there was the quiestion of how I was going to manage to keep up a fairly normal lifestyle while on the go.
I’m someone that loves order and symmetry. I like plans, schedules and lists. I’m generally a creature of habit (although I do have moments of spontaneity – like every single blog post) and I like things being done a certain way. But here I was going off to a place where I knew the schedule would be totally different from mine, the cooking would be completely different to what I was used to, and I had no idea how exactly I was going to find my rhythm.
I will admit the first day was hard. More so because I was staying with my grandparents who have very different views on a healthy lifestyle and diet then I do. They believe that pork is the best meat on the planet, and pork fat should be eaten plain on while bread for supper.
Kinda getting the picture? Their schedule is also completely different then mine – as they eat 2 very light meals before and at noon, followed by a very heavy meal around 4:00 PM and another significant meal at 8:00 PM. Needless to say I felt a little bit wary about confronting them with my “weird” food habits (such as not eating pork or eating something lighter in the evening) straight off the bat.So I tried to go with the flow and make them happy. Thankfully pork was not on the menu for dinner, but I still ended the day with a stomach ache and a less then postitive attitude towards the rest of my trip.
Thankfully though, I did something to reverse the trend. I was honest and told them I had slightly different veiws on a healthy diet then they did. I also have a pretty severe case of IBS and I didn’t want to suffer after every meal. It was hard to say this to them, as I was sure I would get nothing but glares and criticism – but they were surprisingly acceptive. I say surprisingly because their diet is the way they have been eating for years and the way their grandparents and great grandparents ate before them. So I think I can safely assume that my thoughts on the matter seemed more then a little odd to them. But they were fairly respectful of my descisions, and tried not to impose too much on me.
Since I was techincally their guest I felt almost guilty for bringing this up to them. However being in this rather awkward situation did teach me a few things that I would like to share for others who might find themselves in this unusual predicament.
Tips on being a good guest:
- Be honest. If you are a vegetarian, vegan, have food allergies or just really don’t feel comfortable eating certain foods – tell your hosts about it. It’s much better then suffering in silence or trying to come up with sneaky ways to avoid meal times. Believe me, your hosts will notice that there’s something wrong and it’s much better to avoid any potential misunderstandings by being honest right off the bat.
- Don’t be confrontational. I had to listen to more then a few theories on how pig fat was healthy. Instead of firmly arguing my point of view I just let it pass. After all, everyone is entitled to their opinion and I should respect their way of living just as I expect them to accept mine.
- Be flexible. This will mean something different in each situation. For me it meant giving up my schedule in order to participate in united meals, or eating something I wasn’t too keen on just because they made it specially for me. Would I eat a poached battered fish every day? No. But my relatives made it especially for me so I wouldn’t have to eat the deep fried fish they were eating (hello stomach issues). So I decided to show my appreciation for the effort they put forth by eating what they prepared – even if for no other reason then to make them happy.
- Share the goods :P. If you have a great vegetarian/vegan/healthy recipe you know of – by all means make it for your hosts. Show them you eat great too! It can make them feel less excluded and it might even encourage them to make some changes in their diet too. I played it safe and stuck with a Mexican themed beans and rice dish, and a curried chickpea dish. I think this was still just a little too exotic for them , but everyone was polite and tried some 🙂
- Be appreciative. Realize that having someone with an allergy or particular food philosophy can be difficult for a host. They are probably just as baffled by you as you are by them. Be sure to thank them and appreciate every effort they make to accommodate you and your needs.
- Enjoy yourself and don’t get to uptight. There are too many things in life to worry about without adding a perfectly healthy diet or exercise regime to that list . Enjoy your family, your friends, the new sights and sounds around you and everything will work out just fine.
In the end it all comes down to being confident in your views and opinions and presenting them in a way that isn’t offensive, but that actually inspires other you want to eat and live like you. Be true to yourself and and feel good about it – and others will respect you for it.