Madi's Memos: How I eat while Traveling
Food is my greatest joy. Making it, sharing it, experiencing it… I’m happiest during those moments. So when I travel, I always search out food experiences that will stay with me. I was fortunate to travel a lot with my parents when I was young. I can barely recall what the inside of the Sistine Chapel looks like without a photo to reference but I can tell you with absolute clarity how it felt to eat my first stuffed zucchini flower.
This week I got home from a 10 day trip - I spent 4 days in Budapest, Hungary and then flew down to Albania and spent 6 days on the coast in Himarë with three generations of my family.
This was the first vacation I’ve taken while not working daily in almost 6 years so I wanted to go into it with intention - The intention to properly disconnect from my phone and email, the intention to take moments during the day to sit and enjoy a coffee doing absolutely nothing, and the intention to experience all that the food cultures had to offer me while maintaining respect for my body.
I used to travel with the mindset that I would take care of the damage done (ie. lack of sleep, complete dehydration, weight gained from excessive alcohol and eating) once I was back and that I deserved to let it all go and just indulge. But that mentality always led to a disastrous yo-yo effect that made me feel less stable, both physically and mentally.
I’ve learned a lot about my connection to food and how to bring a type of balance with it. When preparing to leave I asked myself two simple questions so that I could make sure that this vacation would align with what I hoped I could experience. I asked:
- What do I want to be able to do in a day?
- How do I want to feel when I get home?
1 - I knew that I wanted to be able to see many different sites, visit as many outdoor markets, and swim in as many coves as possible which meant that I would be walking 10km - 15km per day. I knew that I wanted to be able to enjoy the sunrise in the morning. I knew that I wanted to try every local food experience they had to offer.
2 - The only answer I had for this question was that I wanted to feel recharged when I got home.
Having the answers to those questions allowed me to make decisions during the trip that always left me filled with joy and amazement.
My 7 Tips on how to Enjoy your Food AND your Vacation
TIP #1 - Be honest with yourself on what you want to get out of the trip.
- Take 10 minutes to ask yourself those questions, then work backwards from your desired outcome on how you want to feel when you get back home.
TIP #2 - Schedule moments for pure indulgence & eating for pure joy
- I knew that every morning I was going to enjoy a cappuccino and a croissant because they make me happiest, especially European coffee and croissants.
- I made dinner reservations at restaurants that I had heard about and knew that I was going to go in with an open mind to try the dishes that they were known for without any boundaries.
TIP #3 - Add colour to your plate
- Regardless of what type of cuisine you are enjoying, simply try to get 6+ colours into each meal. Order the side salad - If they don’t have a side salad, ask for a plate of vegetables. In Budapest, a plate of vegetables was an amazing assortment of pickled veggies and even bitter plums.. Pickled fennel, carrot, peppers, onions, cucumbers, plums, grapes, cauliflower.. I was blown away by how many vegetables they pickled so I ordered pickled veggies at every meal I had. In Albania, a plate of vegetables was always grilled with balsamic (they simply call it vinegar), lemon, and feta cheese.. Each place had a different ratio of three and you could see the personality of the different restaurants by ordering this plate again and again.
- If the restaurant that you are eating at doesn’t have a dedicated plate of vegetables, simply ask them for some - even some raw veggies cut up
TIP #4 - Release the Guilt
- Vacation is meant to be a time to relax, create memories, and experience new cultures. When you start to hear that little voice in your head saying “You shouldn’t eat that - It’s too many calories” kindly dismiss it. We are in control of our thoughts which means that we can release ourselves from feeling guilt.
TIP #5 - Find Daily Movement
- Walk the city, it’s the best way to explore it. Do a 20 minute yoga stretch. See if there is a gym in your hotel and visit it for 30 minutes with the intention to have a fun session of movement. Change the narrative to “I don’t have to move my body, I’m on vacation” to “I get to move my body while on vacation without any distractions and I’m going to enjoy my vacation way more if I do”. Movement brings endorphins and allows our immune system and digestion system to function better which, in turn, makes for a more enjoyable vacation.
TIP #6 - Hydrate
- It is so easy to become dehydrated while traveling but it is imperative that you keep drinking water! I really struggled with this as the only water available in Albania was in plastic water bottles but even if that is your only option - Take it.
TIP #7 - Bring Your Supplements
- Daily I take Omega-3, magnesium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and a mushroom complex. If you take supplements, bring them with you on vacation. Your body will thank you.
By applying these tips, I was able to be fully present during my vacation and enjoy every food experience that I wanted to have. I was able to maintain my energy levels so that I could explore. I believe that one of the greatest ways to learn about a different culture is through their food and experiencing it the way that locals do so open yourself up and try something new. Try the goulash even when you have no idea what the ingredients are just to experience it. Open yourself up for adventure with kindness and curiosity and go explore.