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Thursday, May 23, 2024
HomeTrip DirectoryIraq HomecomingA Holiday of Healthy, Tipsy, & on Budget? Basically Impossible

A Holiday of Healthy, Tipsy, & on Budget? Basically Impossible

Healthy, Tipsy & on Budget is part of the Iraq Homecoming Trip Report. This post will be filed under Travel Lessons, where I share my wisdom on what I have learned from exploring the globe.

For years, I have been trying to find the balance of how long I can travel before I ruin all my chicken and broccoli exercise gains (see The Tahiti Diet: Making the Bungalow Selfie Count) and before I blow all my money. For years, I have failed. This trip provided a new opportunity to disappoint, but perhaps I won’t be as disappointed because I have outlined a plan that is semi-sustainable.

#1 Exercise

  • Bring Your Own Gym Equipment?

I am used to working out on the beach or in the pool (see TPOL’s Achilles Rehab Secret: Hydro Revolution & VIDEO: Battle Ropes in Puerto Rico!). I tried to bring my Auster bands and rings on my Punxsataney Trip. I used it once at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The rest of the international trip was spent packing, unpacking and resenting these otherwise great workout devices (see No More Mobile Gym No Matter What).

  • Hotel Gym?

I refuse to go back to an indoor gym, and even if I did, most hotel gyms are inadequate compared to the real thing (one notable exception is the Grand Hyatt Jakarta).

  • Body Weight?

Do push-ups and crunches. I tried this over the years and was bored before it began.

A real workout requires devoting at least 2 hours of time which includes the pre-workout supplement, driving my golf cart to the pool or beach, working out, and going home. It is an enjoyable, un-rushed experience. On the road, the joy, the desire, and spare time are not there.

Conclusion: I don’t work out when I travel. By knowing this ahead of time, I have no regrets or guilt for not doing so.

#2 Eating

At home, I have a fulfilling and healthy food regiment. On the road, I used to do the exact opposite and eat everything in sight. I am not going to travel to exotic locales only to eat a chicken breast. The primary point of my travels is experiencing the culture. Food is the a critical part of that mission. The problem with this thinking is that my trips go on for weeks at a time leaving me sluggish and uncomfortable with half of the trip remaining (see Guns & Butter: Pokhara, Nepal Travel Guide (Cautionary Edition).

This time I have decided to approach it differently.

  • Lounges: If I am not hungry, I will not eat at the lounge. Blog reviews are not worth the extra calories (see Are You the Fat Guy in the Lounge?).
  • Breakfast: I don’t think I will requalify for Globalist status with Hyatt.  Failing to do so would be healthier for me (see Who Cares About Hotel Status?). Like the lounge, I may disappoint blog readers without a review of the free breakfast buffet, but unless I’m in Asia, I won’t be missing much (see Twelve at Hengshan Shanghai: The Best Breakfast in the World). The rule is simple: eat if you have a long day ahead. Do not feel guilty for skipping.
  • Tapas Life: I want to try everything in a new country. Ordering one thing when there are so many intriguing choices would lead to regret later. Ordering too many things and eating them all leads to a different regret felt quickly in the waistline and the wallet. To balance this, I will order a few of the items and, though it goes against my principle of not wasting food, I will not finish everything.
    • TPOL’s TIP: One appetizer and one entree is enough for two people. If multiple items are ordered, only eat as if you had ordered one appetizer and one entree.
  • Street Food: Nothing is better than street food. If it’s not a meal, I will still order it. However, I will take one bite and move on. I must tell myself that I am not a wild dog with no self-control!
  • Post-Drinking Food: The short answer is ‘no.’ Schwarma is delicious but the only thing I vividly recall is the heartburn. And food post-alcohol is the recipe for putting on pounds in a hurry. The first calories to be burned will be the empty alcohol calories, leaving the fat and carb sandwich left to take its place.
  • Plane Indulgence: On long-haul flights, refusing good wine and extra cheese is next to impossible. I even splurge for dessert. Cutting down on this kills the point of the points game i.e., living the high life at the low price. For flights without lie-flat, drinking is not a priority and neither is the microwaved meal. I will have a small sample of both but primarily for the sake of the blog.
  • Bread: I know it’s over when I start eating bread at restaurants and on planes. Bread is the enemy. One croissant a week is allowed. Pretzel bread is always welcome.

Conclusion: This is not the Last Supper.

#3 Drinking

At home, I do not drink every day. At home breakfast is not 1/2 a liter of beer and a double espresso, a temporary but inadequate remedy for travel anxiety (see Travel Anxiety Sucks: Can It Be Prevented?). To maintain my mental and physical fitness while simultaneously preserving my cash flow, I am attempting to regulate how much alcohol I consume.

  • Beer: I don’t drink beer in general but can’t pass on the great dark beers that are nowhere to be found in the US, let alone Puerto Rico.  My new favorite is Grimbergen (see Guns & Butter: Lithuania Travel Guide). To keep my belly in check, I will not automatically order a beer whenever I sit down at any establishment. One conscious dark is more rewarding than ten blonde lagers. This rule may be broken when I am exploring a big city like Hong Kong (see How to Explore Hong Kong On Foot: The 7-Eleven Drinking Game).
  • Liquor: The aforementioned travel anxiety also comes from waking up the next morning wondering what happened the night before  The main culprit is the 5 letter word s-h-o-t-s! Shots are to be avoided for the rest of my life. Taking one inevitably leads to taking more than one. Mixed drinks are also dangerous. Visitors to Isla Encanta know that there’s no such thing as too much Don Q con diet. To avoid the binge and the calories, I am going with straight liquor, preferably Hennessy VSOP, a delicious drink that can only be sipped once night falls. Another advantage of top-shelf liquor is the steeper price. A $6 vodka soda contact-less payment transaction feels easier than a $11 Hennessy swipe even when the former happens half a dozen times (see Guns & Butter: Tallinn, Estonia Travel Guide). Of course, Red Bull should never be touched, especially in Thailand. I don’t do cocaine but I can imagine the letdown feeling from that narcotic is similar to the jittery, irrational anxiety that comes from Red Bull vodka.
  • Wine: Wine has sugars and plenty of calories when consumed in bulk. It also comes with a high price tag as I refuse to buy the cheapest bottle at the restaurant. I can’t pair fine food with subpar wine. Ordering by the glass alleviates the financial stress but does not address quality concerns. Leaving a bottle of fine vino with leftovers is a high crime. The only solution is to order wine only when great wine is necessary to enhance the food. The issue is not going for the top-end bottle even when the sticker price is much cheaper than it would be in the US. For example, in South Africa, the best bottle of wine was $64 (see Where to Eat Steak Johannesburg: Grillhouse Is A Great Choice). In the US, it would be exponentially more. When the top-end bottle is ‘cheap’ compared to American restaurants, how often is it fine to splurge? I have no answer for that at this point in time.
    • TPOL’s Tip: This rule can be relaxed during Wine Tasting adventures.

Conclusion: Drinking= anxiety + money burnt


As an economist, I recognize that there is an opportunity cost for trips that include multiple ‘once in a lifetime’ destinations. From a financial perspective, points may take me to those places for free but when I arrive, I still have to pay for food, drink, partying, sightseeing, and cultural experiences (see Guns & Butter Travel Guides). Without guardrails in place, this becomes unsustainably expensive. From a physical and mental health perspective, being a drinking degenerate or gorging glutton will leave me hungover and heavy, inhibiting me from enjoying the present. While there is not a perfect solution, recognizing the need to improve is the first step in implementing changes.

a man sitting at a table with food and a bottle
This photo from Pokhara is why it is necessary to try and maintain some discipline.

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