Eating while you’re between places? Well, there are good ways…and there are bad ways. The good will keep you perked up, comfortably on budget and raring to go – and the bad will turn you into a penniless nutritional wreck.
(Yes, I’ve done both. Hi there).
Any of these sound welcomingly / horribly familiar?
1. Breakfast Is At Bloat-o’clock Sharp
Breakfast: the only time it’s acceptable for Nutella to feature in the main course. For this reason, it’s truly the most important meal of the day – but only if you eat properly. A stodgy breakfast may ruin your morning by making you fuzzy-headed and leaden-limbed. Slowly released energy is the key: grains, fruits, nuts, that sort of thing. And of course Nutella, which is made from nuts and therefore totally qualifies.
You’ve a busy travel day ahead, gallumping up hillsides or haggling up a sweat with the locals.You’ll need energy. LOTS. And this is why breakfast is all about inhaling food until you want to puke, at which point you should probably start chewing it as it goes in. Ever had a 3-star Continental breakfast in Europe? Those soggy, foil-wrapped pastries filled with creamy gunk? You can eat as many of those as you like. And chase them down with a big wobbling fry-up. Yum.
2. Synchronize Stomachs….NOW
Travel means the normal biorhythms of life are on hold. Except…they aren’t really, you’re just pretending they are. If you want to stay perky, healthy and adventure-ready, you need to refill at roughly the same times you do at home. Your body expects it (at least initially).
Eat irregularly and on whims, letting the unaccustomed rushes of energy addle your instincts and unbalance your composure. Which is just what you need when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings.
3. Inure Your Innards (Against the Acrapolypse)
Other countries prepare food differently. The French hide their cooking underneath gloopy sauces. The British believe boiling something in tap water adds flavour to it. Germans put everything that isn’t nailed down into sausages. But broadly speaking, you can move around Europe and encounter foodstuffs that won’t derail your digestion too much. Move between global hemispheres or cross the equator, and it’s a different story. Don’t let the bottom fall out of your world: give yourself time to acclimatize…
…or the world may fall…well, anyhoo.
4. Dinner Is A Dish Best Served Planned
You’re on a budget, right? (The absurdly rich can skip this part and move straight to my tip jar. Thx). Then you need to plan your meals ahead. Money-wise, it’s as important as booking accommodation in advance. An unsustainable food budget can turn life ugly very, very quickly.
There’s nothing quite as gastronomically thrilling as the contrast between eating in plush restaurants for a week and trying to make a brown, squishy apple cover 3 meals. You also get the added bonus of seeing the local catering industry from both sides – as a customer, and as a bin-scavenger. Plus you’ll be able to come home tanned and fashionably emaciated. If you can afford to come home, that is.
5. Empty Stomach, Full Mind
It’s a fact that alertness has a lot to do with what’s in your stomach. When your stomach’s running on vapour, your senses bloom (especially your appetite, of course). As long as you don’t overdo it, graze but lightly and your awareness will sharpen. This goes for sedentary and energetic journeys alike. With the former, you’ll find it easier to stay away with an emptier stomach – just be sure to drink plenty of fluids with the latter…
It’s a fact that travel is dull dull dull. Either you’re walking for hours or sitting for hours – either way, a great method for staving off boredom involves reducing prepackaged snack food to torn wrapping, greasy fingers and a dull, sick, gaseous feeling somewhere just above the belt-line. Remember to buy those inaccurately-named “family” packs of snacks or you’ll regret it later.
6. Travel Is The Sweetest Thing
There’s a lot of sugar in food. Luckily, travelling is a fine opportunity to turn it into energy…and for intaking a lot more sugar than normal, in the form of confectionaries, energy drinks, you name it. Try to snack on protein when you can, and get your water quota from, you know, water.
It’s amazing how good full-fat Coke feels when you’re downing it by the sticky litre. Hey, I wonder why?
7. Stalk Your Way To A Good Meal
A good way to eat well abroad is to watch what everyone else is doing. Where are people getting those surprisingly tasty-looking gyros or tacos? What places are packed out, and by what crowd? Without appearing too creepy, follow some of the local folk around for a while. Or if you’re really organised, do lots of research in advance (reputable guide books come into their own here – the best meal I had in Crete was recommended by Rough Guide, and it was almost the cheapest too).
I want a cheeseburger. Look, I know we’re in Marrakesh and the exotic smells of lamb tagines and seafood alike are wafting yadda yadda, whatevs, the fact is I want a cheeseburger. And I will pay anything for a cheeseburger. Encheeseburger me NOW.
8. Get Fresh With Foreigners
When you travel, you go places where food you’re accustomed to seeing prepackaged are actually available fresh. Take advantage of it. See how much of a world of difference there is between king prawns caught that morning to king prawns caught, frozen, vacuum-packed and shipped 6,000 miles 2 months ago. More than that…there’ll be things here you’ve never eaten because there’s just no way to preserve them adequately. Find them!
As any fool knows, all foreign fresh food (like all foreign tap-water) is lethal if ingested. So aim for safe foods. Like anything familiar and foil-wrapped and steeped in preservatives. Hey, what’s “please direct me to the nearest vending machine” in the local lingo?