Should I Eat This? Top Tips for Staying Healthy Abroad

*You can view the original article on GivingWay’s website.

We often see amazing photos of unusual foods from other countries and read other travelers’ and volunteers’ stories regaling us with tales of the delicacies they tried. However, we also have heard of some really awful nights spent in the hostel bathroom after an unfortunate turn at the table. No one wants to miss out on an incredible experience, but where do we draw the line? And how to we avoid being out of commission due to food poisoning or other unfortunate related illnesses?

Check out the top travel tips for staying healthy abroad:

  • Ask your host family, hostel, or other travellers about the water. In some countries such as Switzerland, you can drink straight out of the public fountains! But other countries’ water supplies may generally upset sensitive stomachs, even for brushing one’s teeth. Instead of purchasing inordinate quantities of bottled water, however, try for a straw or water bottle filter. You can find these online for under 20 USD$. You’ll save money, keep the tummy happy, and be environmentally conscious at the same time!
  • Talk to your doctor or local pharmacist for some really helpful medications for typical upset stomach and digestion issues. Also, a daily probiotic and multivitamin will go a long way. It’s worth the space in your bag to bring these along.
  • Meat and dairy are some of the biggest culprits for food poisoning. Yogurt or ice cream in one place will not be the same as in another. They are different in every country and can really upset your stomach, even if you’re used to eating the product at home. I would make a big exception in Italy, ALWAYS have gelato in Italy.Tips for eating when traveling abroad
  •  Fresh fruits and veggie salads get a bad reputation as well, so remember that foods with “skin” on them such as oranges, bananas, and melons are much safer since the skin protects from any water. Cooked veggies are always safer than their raw counterpart.
  • Make friends! The people that you meet may have some great food recommendations. And invite them to eat with you because you never know when you’ll meet a lifelong friend and make some amazing memories across the table.Tips for eating when traveling abroad
  • Know your limits, because the foods and drinks that are fine for locals may not sit as well with you. If you’re unused to type of beverages and other foods, just try a little at a time and see what happens. If whatever you’re trying is really, really good, come back the next day for the full experience!

But keep an open mind and take some risks! Don’t let worrying about what’s on your plate take away from your volunteer or travel experience. Getting sick can happen and that’s okay. Sometimes those times may actually make for some of the best stories!

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Wednesday Warriors – Rob Bell

Rob Bell is one of the most controversial members of the modern Protestant church. He previously founded and pastored one of the fastest-growing churches in America only to leave after internal conflict. He now runs the popular Robcast podcast, continues to write and publish books, as well as speaking at conferences around the world.

So what’d this guy do, and why are we writing about him today?

Rob wrote the book Love Wins, bringing a progressive interpretation of the Gospel (New Testament) that revokes the status quo’s damning image of Hell and who goes there. (For those interested, this is called universal reconciliation.) He consistently brings people onto his show who are of different traditions, cultures, religions, identities, and life experiences, firmly believing that, “…truth anywhere in any religious system, in any worldview. If it’s true, it belongs to God.”

There’s humor, intense conversations, and amazing guests including the likes of comedian Pete Holmes (Crashing) and Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love). No matter what tradition or non-tradition you come from, you will finish listening to his podcast feeling better than when you started. For his writing, even the theological books are succinct and void of religious jargon making them accessible and impactful.

Rob Bell is a disruptor of the modern church. His message is to spread as much love and compassion as possible, which he believes is the true tenant of what Jesus was trying to accomplish. In a world where Christianity has been sorely lacking in those areas, Rob is a much needed voice. Where others have previously only seen divisions between religions, peoples, and nations, Rob has found the common ground. By doing so, bridges are built between otherwise separate and potentially hateful groups. For me, nothing could be more impactful than this.

Book Review – Crave Eat Heal

This is my favorite cookbook. No, I’m not kidding and they aren’t paying us to say this. In fact, I’m not even sure who the author is. However, to me it’s a revolutionary (although not unique) book on how we should feed and nourish ourselves.

Most cookbooks take the viewpoint of a particular diet, region, or tradition. But Crave Eat Heal takes an entirely different approach. The book starts with what our tastebuds scream at us to shove into our faces (tostitos and bean dip followed by chocolate mint chip ice cream, anyone else? Anyone?) and finds an alternative that isn’t “the healthy option!”, but that actually gives our bodies the nutrients, both physically AND emotionally, that we need.

We are the modern age of reduce reduce reduce reduce. Less sugar. Less meat. Less sodium. Less fat. Less gluten. Less oxygen. Wait, that one’s not right. I get these things mixed up sometimes. Sorry.

And while there are certainly foods that are more healthy or less healthy, beneficial or detrimental, etc to our physical bodies, aren’t we missing something? Or rather, while we’re taking all of these bad things out, what are we putting back in? Low calorie instant freezer meals kept in fallout shelters from the 60s and then repackaged?! (I’m looking at you, LeanCuisine.)

The book also bases its contents on the simple fact that our bodies are constantly providing feedback for what they need. We get thirsty, so drink water. Our lips get chapped so put chapstick on. Our eyes get itchy and we sneeze in polluted air, so fiche le camp! Why is our food any different? If we’re craving something sweet, our bodies could genuinely be needing something that sweet foods have in them. Here’s the kicker, what we need may partly be physical, but it can also be emotional.

When do we feel like ice cream? After bad breakups and getting fired. When do we like salty chips and popcorn? Movies and parties and other exciting events. Whatever you’re craving, there’s a good possibility that a connection between your emotional and your physical needs exist. And Crave Eat Heal answers what to do about it.

This cookbook lets you choose what your craving is and offers a variety of simple and truly nourishing, unprocessed stuff (re: with nutrients) that will give your entire being the physical AND emotional filling that you need, not just your stomach. A hardback cover and pretty pictures will get you interested but coupled with a charming and funny rogue-chef-gone-writer to take you along this culinary journey, well, I leave the next raving reviews for you.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with some ice cream, either. Cheers!

Wednesday Warriors – Maria Bamford

Ask Steven Colbert or John Oliver who’s their favorite comedian, and they name Maria Bamford. Her impressions are hilarious with a pretty much unlimited supply of voices at her disposal. Her fast-paced wit keeps the audience just one step behind her, something reminiscent of a Robin Williams hour, but with fewer Hawaiian shirts and much less sweat.

But what makes Maria stand out, or perhaps, why she has yet to reach the fame of her counterparts no matter the gender, is her unabashed discussion of struggles with mental illness. She is unafraid to tell her story of breakdown and time in a mental hospital, no apologizing (and she definitely shouldn’t). Check it out here. It is uncomfortable. Unsettling even. And it should be. However, Maria also makes it funny and lets the audience laugh, turning what should be a horrifying nightmare into a mechanism to share, release, and maybe even heal.

You can find her on many a Youtube video and her special on Netflix, Old Baby. Enjoy.

 

What to do, when you don’t know what to do?

This Friday post has turned into a Saturday ramble, and that’s okay. Because life gets a little hard and timeliness takes a bench to necessities. Such as sleep. And tea-making.

What’s up with the funny title? Allow me to explain. As recently stated, life can be hard. There are times when options seem few and far between. Or maybe too many. Is there a difference? The end result is something that feels like an impasse of the mind and a veritable Mount Everest of stress-inducing sh!t with which to deal.

But certainly, at some point, action needs to take place. A decision, a movement, a play in the game of life. It’s like chess, you’re not allowed to not make a move. Throwing one away is accepted, but it’s still a choice. Good choices, however, may include taking a step back and giving time and space to see what could be done next. When challenges come ’round, checking in with, dare I say the most over-used and under-appreciated word in the millennial vocabulary, self-care, may be just the thing that’s needed.

I’ve noticed that attempting to tackle the big “problem” or major “issues” first rarely works. That final paper? Let’s just start with finding where you left your laptop under the two months worth of dirty laundry. Rejected visa and about to be potentially fined and kicked out of the EU? Let’s just get the employer’s kids home from school in once piece. (Both equally true stories.) Whatever your series of unavoidable, uncomfortable, and overwhelming situations are, start doing. Even if it’s actually doing nothing, or something super, duper tiny.

Everyone’s path is a little different. All I’m here to do is say, hey, we’re not alone. Our I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing moments are unique, but our responses to them probably are not. We’ve been beaten down before, but we got back up, so maybe we can do it one, more, time.

So, without further ado, here are Natalie’s top ways to regroup and get back to your path, whatever that may be. Feel free to try them out.

  1. Hug someone (animal friends count) and tell them that you love and care for them.
  2. Make some tea or other healing beverage.
  3. Watch a comedy (Bridesmaids is my personal favorite that always makes me feel better.)
  4. Make a journal entry including 3 gratitudes.
  5. Clean literally anything. Purse, horse, clothes, desk, phone, toenails, whatevah.
  6. Make a list. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be relating to your current issue. Make it a list of top ideal Hollywood stars you’d like to see run a marathon, just to watch them suffer.
  7. Make another list, this time with your next steps to solve {{insert problem}}.
  8. Go back to bed and continue watching movies and drinking tea.
  9. Get out of bed, clean that, and then check your second list. Up to doing anything on that list?
  10. Repeat steps 1-8 until 9 seems sorta feasible.
  11. You know what to do.

Wednesday Warriors – Marina Franklin

I’ll be honest. This post’s content was partially chosen so that I had an excuse to binge watch more Youtube clips of Marina Franklin performing standup comedy. She is just that funny.

You can watch her on Conan here, and on Late Night Show with Steven Colbert here. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to talking about white guys later *cough, not, cough*).

And if, by happenstance, you’re one of those people who has convinced themselves that they don’t like stand up comedy, Marina is a host of Friends Like US, a podcast by women of color on contemporary hot topics, which you can find on Itunes or Spotify. Remember the whitewashing of Ghost in the Shell? They interviewed the makers of this Public Service Announcement.

Her comedy shines in the visual and auditory departments, and by that I mean, she makes really funny faces and voices. Many of her stand-up bits talk about issues between white and black people, like when she was dating a white guy. She has a knack for pinpointing the little moments of difference in inter-racial relations and turning them into a laugh, without dismissing the inequality that exists nor blanketly condemning white actions (even if it’s deserved).

So come on, Netflix, and can we get a stand-up comedy special with her, please?

The Magic of Sharing Food

This week I’m writing about food. A general passion of mine. I will forego gifts, clothes, even museum tickets if yummy food is at stake. Some people enjoy the activities or the shopping while the travel, I, on the other hand, prioritize les repas. But very rarely have the expensive meals (few and far between) or even the delicious solo dessert enjoyed in front of a monument or park, those have not been the great food moments. Nope, the ones I remember most are the brief moments of a shared package of store bought cookies, the extra apple purchased for a stranger, me, on a train, the simple dinners of pasta shared at a large, filled table.

Food has always held an important place in each culture. It’s where we meet, where we break bread, share the day, develop our own culture, introduce and make war or peace, it can connect in ways that few other shared experiences can. Nothing proves this more than in the little, poor moments. There’s the quotation from the New Testament Christian text, echoed before and after by many other similar sentiments, “It is better to eat a crust of bread in peace, than a grand feast with enemies.” And what a powerful statement that is. Below I share just a few of these moments. These are excerpted from my travel journals.

Mfangano Island, Kenya

For dinner, I had meat for the first time in 3+ years. Well, fish, actually. Not sure I could stomach red meat or chicken, but the fish was served w/ugali and stewed cabbage, all of it was delicious. Yunis, the mother,  asked me what I did and didn’t eat, and started talking about other volunteers who only ate “greens” and how she didn’t understand that. So I felt really and I said I didn’t eat meat.

“But fish, yes?”

“Uh, I haven’t for awhile, but I try it.” Slight regret already.

I attempted to explain that the meat in the States and elsewhere isn’t like here, it’s full of hormones and antibiotics, but all this was irrelevant to her it seemed. We prayed before dinner, a genuine giving of thanks, and I prayed with them. I added a silent prayer to the fish, thanking it for it’s sacrifice. Eating with them felt like the right thing to do. It was full of respect and in fact, had I refused, would have been the opposite. So I ate.

 

Kathmandu, Nepal

We’ve been eating breakfast in the guesthouse kitchen every morning. The cute Nepali hostess makes amazing vegan breads, crepes, and potato-heavy curries. We sit and sip tea on the floor pillows and read The Himalayan newspaper, smudgey ink and all. Chatting with whomever happens to be taking their breakfast at the same time. Two college Aussie’s trekking to Everest Base Camp (EBC). A Holland jazz teacher.

The owner told us about the earthquakes, how their house stood through the shaking, but they spent many nights under the rain and stars on the street outside “Stars, no rain and very happy. But rain made very hard.”

St. Julien de Genevois, just outside Geneva, on the French side

Tuesdays the maid comes, and we had a nice chat over her lunch and my tea. She’s a slight lady, who at first glance appears much younger than she really is. Up close you can see the wear and tear of life on her. She has a calm, but kind aura about her. Invited me to share her sandwich, a simple repas of cheese and yoghurt, wrapped in cellophane. It reminds me me of a school lunch I would have packed up and brought myself.

We sat there talking about how it’s hard to learn French (but complementing each other on our skills), my textured, multi-colored wool pullover and her maids uniform stark contrasts to the black marble and stainless steel appliances of the modern kitchen. Our laughter and her warmth filling the large, empty apartment where we both work. She laments about how hard it is here in France, but how money is much better here than in Portugal, where she’s immigrated from with her family.

“Very lucky to have nice family, they are good,” she tells me. “Not all are good.”

I’ve been very fortunate to meet many people, to extend and be extended a veritable encyclopedia of foods from around the world. These are the moments when my emotions have turned from loneliness and uncertainty, to feeling welcomed and accepted. The gift of offering food transcends language barriers and shows, even if only a brief moment, a connection from one human being to another.

Wednesday Warriors – J.K. Rowling

This lady needs no introduction. Author of the Harry Potter series and universe, she’s the lady who single handedly raised children’s literacy rates as none has done before her. But with all of her popularity, I believe many of us have forgotten what an underdog’s tale she is. And, she did it all without the use of magic. At least, as far as we know.

The success of the Harry Potter series followed only after her mother’s death from multiple sclerosis, miscarriage of her first child, an abusive marriage and subsequent divorce. Rowling was unemployed and with her daughter on welfare. But what she writes and speaks about now is how those very dark times, especially the shrouds of death in her life, made their way into the books in ways that spoke to millions of people.

Rowling epitomizes who we all so desperately would like to be: someone who can turn the moldiest of lemons into lemonade. A person with so much character and heart that she can learn from the very dark and ugly feelings, and make them into a way to connect with others. She, through her characters and novels, has helped us feel a little less alone and misunderstood in the world.

J.K. Rowling may have most of us beat on the scale of connecting and encouraging people, but that doesn’t mean we cannot do the same each and every day in our own circles. A smile, and hug, and friendly word or the hundreds of ways that we can express ourselves make a difference. It doesn’t have to be through words, although that is certainly a great medium. Other methods of art, not just literature, can channel those thoughts and feelings.

And hey, this is how I’m starting, a big smile and hug from me to you!

Wednesday Warriors – Shoutout Edition

This weeks Wednesday Warriors is what I like to call “shoutout edition,” where we give a big virtual round of applause and hug to contemporary people doing awesome work. In this case, Madre, a NGO holding hands and partnering with grassroots women’s organizations around the world.

It was started a few decades ago during the US-led Contra Wars in Nicaragua. Mothers there reached out to other mothers in the States and asked for assistance. When the US women responded, they realized that despite traveling to go help, they were actually gaining more than they were giving.

As they say, the rest is history. Madre continues to be a women-led organization working with others to reduce inequality, sexism, poverty, and injustice wherever it is found.

You can check out there website here. And how do I know about their awesome work? I am very proud to say that I interned for these wonderful people a couple summers ago.

A Letter to My Friends with Anxiety

Everyone has experienced anxiety or stress, but anxiety orders are completely different animals. They often go unannounced and unrecognized, even by friends and family close to the people who have them. Where our culture fails to consider mental health to be just as important as physical health, we must step up to even the score. This is a letter of support and solidarity, genuinely written to each and every friend I have who has such a disorder.

 

To my friends with anxiety,

I write this letter as someone who may not always understand what you’re going through, but who wants you to feel understood. I may not always get “it”, but I want you to feel like I get you. And I like you a lot. I sometimes get irritated, because your tolerances for certain situations aren’t the same as mine. You have to fight to overcome so much more than I do, and I take that for granted. I know there have been times when I haven’t understood what you were going through emotionally, and I may have even said something that put you down or made you feel less-than because of it. A friend should never make you feel that way.

Like any other physical or mental struggle, some of the best medicine (but certainly not the only!) is the support and encouragement of those around us. I apologize for when you haven’t felt supported. Or when you were unable to reach out, and I didn’t meet you halfway. When I didn’t notice that you were feeling down or struggling. When I was too caught up in my own sh!t to notice that something was not quite right.

I hope you know that despite all of these shortcomings I really, truly care. You make me a better, more compassionate person. I’m super blessed to have you in my life. You prove each and every day that human beings can overcome incredible challenges, reaching out to others even when those other people aren’t accepting or understanding of you in the same way. You’re some of my role models, and the bravest people I know.

 

Mad love to each of you,

Natalie