ou would think the impeccable work-life balance us digital nomads enjoy would put high on the list of healthy lifestyles. But, like many things in this profession, assumptions are quickly put in their place and you soon realize there’s an art to staying healthy on the road.
There’s more to it than being sensible enough to buy travel insurance before you set off (I did, honest) or getting your jabs updates (definitely did that one too). In fact, it’s more the day-to-day health that poses a challenge to living out of a suitcase.
The physical health challenge
Something you can’t get away from in this game is spending a large chunk of each day in front of your laptop. That’s bad news for just about every part of your body and a real silent killer (not reserved for the digital nomads, of course).
This is where standing desks can be – quite literally – a life saver and a great investment. But they only help you if you’ve got a place to call your own or you happen to know a café kitted out with standing desks. I don’t. Bottom line is, though, you need to find a way to keep off your rear-end or you’ll nomad your way into an early grave.
And closely related is the severe lack of physical activity that comes with digital careers. So between the long bouts of traveling, hours spent over a laptop and however much sleep you manage to treat yourself to, you have to find the time and a place to fit exercise into the mix.
Then you have to spare a thought for your poor eyes, which spend the majority of their time in front of a laptop, smartphone, Kindle or some other glowing screen. If they’re really lucky they might get to catch a glimpse or two of one of those old-fashioned books people used to read, but that doesn’t do much to fix the short/long distance vision imbalance you have going on.
The lifestyle health challenge
It’s scarily easy to slip into bad habits as a nomad and there are unhealthy traps everywhere. Whether you get a taste for a couple of incredibly cheap beers with every evening meal or you slip into 12-hour working days, there are lifestyle hazards at both extremes and everywhere in between.
The first challenge you have is eating anything close to a healthy diet in the road. No kitchen means added this, extra that and a side serving of only God knows what – none of which does you much good. And things haven’t gotten that much easier since I started renting a place with a kitchen either. At least I get my daily fix of 8-10 coffees in me without much trouble over here.
We’ve already touched on exercise as a nomad (probably the easiest to fix) but what about downtime? Personally, I find this more difficult. Exercise is precisely what you want after being huddled in front of a laptop, but shutting down that brain for a moment’s peace takes longer than Windows 98 (which I’m only just about old enough to remember, by the way). As with most things, I guess this will vary from person to person, but switching off after a long day (not) at the office is something I still haven’t managed to figure out.
The reality of healthy living on the road
The reality of healthy living on the road is you simply have to take the time to look after yourself. No one else will do it out here, that’s for sure, and you don’t have the reassurance of free or five-star health care in your typical nomad destinations.
The real challenge is finding a way to fit work and travel into a single routine. I still haven’t quite managed that, without reserving ‘spare’ time for plain old living. So the closest I’ve come to the art of staying healthy as a digital nomad is choosing one or the other – work or travel – at any given time and dedicating the rest of it to a healthy(ish) lifestyle.
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