"What did you notice first?" some friends and relatives would ask when I returned to the US from my year-long trips around the globe.
"There are a lot of really fat people here," I would respond. Not real positive, but it was the certainly the most obvious difference.
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about the lengths some companies are going to with their architects in order to get us "knowledge economy" fat-butts to get some exercise during the day. They're putting parking lots as far away from the offices as they can, in order to make people walk further.
They're installing wide, well-lit stairways and slowing down the elevator
speeds to prod people to use their legs.
Anyone who is overweight already will do wonders for their body by traveling around the world.
Anyone who is a fitness nut will likely weigh the same or less when they return. Long-term travel is a painless weight-loss plan.
What do you
do all day when you travel on the cheap? You walk, you swim, you hike,
you bike, you lift weights (your backpack), and you walk some more. With
this kind of lifestyle, Who needs a gym? Most travelers walk for miles
on any typical day: looking around for a place to stay,
there's the food. Yes, in Eastern Europe the heavy food and inexpensive
beer can be trouble, but in most of the world it's cheaper and easier
to eat healthy than not. In most of Asia, the cuisine is based on rice,
noodles, vegetables, seafood, tropical fruit, and chicken. Even if you
pig out every meal, you're not likely to gain weight.
You'll also lose weight in some countries because you need to avoid eating meat. Once you see a butcher shop in some of these places, you'll know why. I lost 20 pounds (8 kilos) while I was eating vegetarian-only in India for 6 weeks and was looking thinner than I had since high school when I left. (Thankfully I was off to Turkey next, where they put meat in almost every dish.) Plus you can't always get three squares a day: on long bus or train rides, you have to settle for what's available when you stop.
None of this
applies to a week-long vacation of course. A
short break from work, with the leisure and hedonism that implies, isn't
much help. It takes some time and movement to get the benefit. But when
I think back on my three trips around the globe, I can picture very few
overweight backpackers. Most of those had only been away for a month or
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