Iam always amazed how weak I get when I’m not traveling. When I first travel again after a period of no travel I complain about everything; I turn in to a whimpering baby. It smells. It’s too hot, too cold, too rainy. On and on I whine like a little kid who broke down after his mommy told him he couldn’t get sprinkles on his cupcake.


Travel toughens you. Staying at home makes you weak, so much so that at times you don’t even want to go out to dinner on a Friday night, hang out with friends or do anything fun and spontaneous. The best way I can sum this up is growing complacent. We don’t have a desire for struggles or challenges.

Complacency is a dangerous disease! And as I usually find out, a curable one. A few days in a foreign country surrounded by inconvenience and lack of routine  not only restores your energy levels but also wakes up your mind to the world again. When I travel I find I write better and more often, I’m more creative. I will do just about any new activity, and I want to constantly be out exploring. So this got me thinking, how can I keep my mind active and my body energetic when at home? Below, I’ve put together a list.



Do Mini-Bursts. When I feel a sense of malaise creep over me I’ll get down and do some push ups. You don’t have to do just push ups though…you could do squats, jumping jacks, sprint up a flight of stairs or around your house…or anything else that increases your heart rate and shakes your body out of malaise.

Play Chess… or some other game that requires mental processing. Turn off the t.v. for a half hour and play a game that makes you think. Force your brain to remain active even if you are exhausted after a long day and soon your brain will crave the attention.

Exercise for 30 minutes. Research has shown that elevating your heart rate for 30 minutes a day helps keep your energy levels up. 30 minutes is such a small amount of time, but we still don’t do it. Do you have a case of excusitis, not enough time in the day, are you tired? We have a whole issue devoted to address these lame excuses.

If you still can’t commit to 30 min. a day then incorporate the mini-bursts described above. The goal is raising your heart rate for a total of 30 minutes…so 10 times a day take a three-minute break and do squats, push ups and jumping jacks in rapid secession. It is often easier to justify the time commitment of only 3 minutes 10 times a day versus a solid 30 minute block.

Plus, who doesn’t have a few 2-3 minute periods throughout the day? That time commitment equates to a break taken to surf Facebook,  chum with buddies at the water cooler, time spent texting, staring at your computer screen, cleaning your keyboard, daydreaming, etc.

Money Crunch. One of the biggest challenges of traveling abroad is dealing with discomfort. Once a week limit yourself to only spending $5 during the day. This means you need to pack your own lunch instead of buying it. You need to forgo that Starbucks coffee in the morning. You can no longer go out for that post-work drink with coworkers. In essence, force yourself to go without the luxuries you have become used to, build up your willpower, and save a bit of money.

Get Uncomfortable. This goes hand in hand with the money crunch idea above. Regularly develop your mental toughness so that when you travel abroad you don’t feel like a little child crying over spilt ice cream. We have other suggestions on developing mental fortitude here.

 Go Camping. I know, the idea of camping is inherently flawed. After all, camping usually requires we pay to live like a homeless person… when across town a person begging on the street would gladly trade his box for your house for the weekend. Regardless, camping is an excellent way to train yourself to deal with difficulties in stride. While often prepared as possible, there is always something that happens which you weren’t prepared for. This is part of the adventure after all, forcing yourself to loosen up the reigns on life, go with the flow, and trust that you can deal with whatever difficulties come your way. This is also a great way to start building your travel machine.

Learn a Language. Forcing your brain to learn something new creates new neural connections to form. Over time, and with continued practice these neural pathways become more efficient and stronger. Language is a gateway skill. Research shows learning a second language improves academic achievement, memory, intelligence and staves off mental deterioration related to old-age.


By exercising our bodies and minds before travel we not only make our adventures more fulfilling (because we spend less time crying about all the deficiencies of said adventure compared to our posh lives) but we set ourselves on a path of life-long learning and improved performance. This also creates spontaneity in our lives and a greater appreciation for the lives we do live.

One of the greatest gifts of travel is to teach us about a place and a people and then send us home with a desire to incorporate new ideas and perceptions into our lives to make them and the world a better place. To remain most present and open to the lessons of travel we need to eliminate the distraction of discomfort and complaining that inevitable stems from traveling to a place completely different from your own.