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How a Joyful Gym Rat Does Europe

How does a Joyful Gym Rat do Europe?  Well, not that often for starters.  My first and only other European adventure was Italy back in 2011.  Though I do enjoy traveling to other countries, I am not exactly a jet-setter (the fact that I just used the term “jet-setter” probably solidifies that last statement….).  So when the opportunity presented itself  to travel to London and Amsterdam, my initial hesitation about leaving T for nine days gave way to my sense of adventure.  Grammy came for T (thanks Grammy!) and we flew across the pond.

When it comes to travel, I strive to come back feeling better than when I left.  Though many things are out of my control (damn you wisdom tooth infection on the 13 hour flight home from Italy….) I do what I can.

So, in typical Joyful Gym Rat fashion, I’d like to share a few insights from a not-so seasoned traveler on finding healthy plant food, managing travel stress, and keeping active in two of Europe’s coolest cities:

Plants a Plenty:  

According to the Telegraph UK, Amsterdam and London rank as the second and third most vegan friendly cities in all of Europe.

In London, there were fabulous plant based options everywhere, many of which were grab and go.  We’ve been vegan long enough to know to stay somewhere with a kitchen when we travel just in case, but the ready made options were just as good (and more convenient) than anything we could have cooked ourselves.

Amsterdam was even better with a slew of totally vegan restaurants and health conscious take out chains.  There was even an outdoor market every day right outside the apartment!  Again the kitchen went unused, as did the little blender I travel with to make smoothies in faraway lands.

Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First:

I only had to do this figuratively, not literally (thank goodness). This particular trip was both less stressful due to the fact that T wasn’t there (not trying to keep a 3 year old entertained) and also more stressful due to the fact that T was not there (we were flying almost 4,000 miles away from T!!!!).

Something I did differently this time around was airplane research.  Without a 3 year old to keep me distracted my mind can travel to some pretty dark places (What was that noise?  Did the wing just fall off?  What if this emergency door I am sitting next to pops open mid-flight?).  Though we were blessed with a pretty smooth flight both ways, it helped to have a little more understanding of the mechanics of flying.

In an article on reducing stress by travel guru Rick Steves, he points out that since the European opinion of the US is sometimes quite unflattering (as in the oft used term “ugly American”) it can be helpful to do at least one thing that makes you proud of your homeland.  Scoring tickets to Hamilton helped quell rising feelings of inadequacy (and accent envy).

Have Yoga Mat, Will Travel:

Yoga mats make wonderful traveling companions.  Keeping a morning routine anchored to the current timezone is thought to help the body adjust quicker.  I found that even when I woke up confused as to what time it was, sticking with my morning yoga practiced helped convince my body that the day was just beginning.

I decided to skip the gym in favor of spending more time walking around (and getting lost in…) the cities we visited.  The 5 flight climb to our Amsterdam apartment was a nice bonus.  The misguided confidence I had that living in New York City and Chicago meant I could navigate London resulted in thousands of extra daily steps.

It’s said that in Amsterdam there are more bikes then people.  Though I traversed by foot rather than two wheels for fear my skills were sub par, I consider the fact that I was not hit by a bicycle a win.  Maybe next time I’ll join in.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!


Taking a pic of a double decker bus to send to T….one of the few times I wasn’t lost in London….

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