I love nothing more than exploring a new part of the world. When adventure calls, I answer — even though it means traveling with celiac disease.
My autoimmune disease is one you might have, too. It’s more common than most people realize, but it doesn’t have to hold you back from the adventurous lifestyle of your dreams. Check out the tips I’ve learned that help me stay fit while traveling as a digital nomad with celiac disease.
I Rent Places With My Preferred Amenities
When I first started experiencing symptoms of celiac disease, I thought they were temporary discomforts. The bloatedness, stomach cramping, irregular bowel movements and rashes on my upper arms would come and go. When I got the autoimmune disease diagnosis, I felt crushed.
A foundational sense of comfort comes with feeling in control of your body. When I discovered I was living life in reverse, I thought my dreams were at the whims of my digestive system. Experts estimate that 1.4% of the global population has celiac disease, so you might be on the same life path as me.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve learned an encouraging truth. Anyone with celiac disease can still do things like travel. They just have to approach their plans differently.
Instead of getting a hotel room and hoping for the best, I rent places with amenities that make my life easier. Now I look for full kitchens to care for my digestive system. Avoiding discomfort when making meals that help my body thrive is much easier.
I also love the power that comes from working out. If a rental home or unit comes with a gym, I know I can maintain my routine even while traveling as a digital nomad.
Searching for options with gym equipment or a nearby venue that accepts guests makes traveling much easier. I can stick with my workout routine or adjust it according to the resources I’ll have during my next trip.
I Research the Nearby Restaurants
Living a life of constant adventure sounds romantic. I always thought if fate wanted me to have a good time somewhere, everything would fall into place. It’s a common piece of advice that doesn’t always have the best outcome for people traveling with celiac disease.
You’ll have much better experiences by planning as many dietary details as possible. It leaves nothing up to chance, which is so reassuring. Once I pick a destination, my restaurant research begins.
First, I locate where I’m staying. I look it up on a map and find restaurants nearby. Any that seem appealing go on my list of places to eat.
I look up each venue’s website once I have enough restaurants to fill my upcoming time abroad. They often list their gluten-free menu options and even upload exclusively gluten-free menus if they offer one.
I hate the stomach-dropping disappointment that happens when you can’t find any safe foods on a menu. Researching restaurants before arriving at my future destinations prevents that from happening. I know I’ll be in for a great time when I select a meal from my curated restaurant list.
Many places even have exclusively gluten-free menus. People are ditching gluten to help their general digestive issues, experience clear skin and reach their health goals. Restaurants want to appeal to this ever-widening audience, so I always check for these venues to taste their creative foods.
While you’re looking for restaurants, remember your fitness goals. After I’ve done this extensive research, I consider my current health objectives. It’s helpful to know the meals I’ll enjoy will have enough protein and veggies to help me build my muscles, lose weight or achieve any other fitness goal I’m currently trying to reach.
I Download Helpful Apps
You don’t need to be an experienced digital nomad to understand the life-changing power of apps. My first smartphone changed my life with apps that track my to-do list, schedule appointments and challenge my brain with satisfying games. They also help with celiac disease.
Find Me Gluten Free is one of the first apps I tried. It’s still on my phone today. When I’m abroad, it locates gluten-free options at restaurants and bakeries so I never feel lost during last-minute food purchases.
Having a fitness app or two ready on your phone or tablet is also smart. If you can’t find a nearby gym, you’re only a few taps away from your next workout.
One of my favorite workout apps is Sweat by Kayla Itsines. I customize my workout to gym or home routines, then let it know what equipment I have. Each comes with visual guides so I never worry about improper posture or miscounting reps.
Combining these resources keeps me fit and feeling my best. They empower me to make personalized decisions about my food and exercise routines. Adventuring hasn’t complicated those foundational parts of my life since I took this new perspective on my nomadic lifestyle.
I Check My Reusable Meal Plans
Staying fit is much easier with a meal plan. You might think they aren’t possible when you’re away from home, but I use them on most trips.
Whenever I eat during a vacation or working adventure, I record whatever was on my plate in my meal plan document. It creates a log of every traveling experience since my diagnosis.
Sometimes I use box charts to organize days and meals. During busier trips, I find bullet point lists easier. You could also try meal planning apps to see what works best for your organizational preferences.
I check my meal log if I’m wondering what to eat or feel out of ideas. It’s also helpful for creating a plan when traveling and working out to reach a physical fitness goal.
Some of my meals have notes that are easy to search within a document. They might point toward recipes that require little to no cooking, like gluten-free bread and sandwich meat. They also detail how long it takes to make each recipe so I can pick the option when I’m in a rush for my next travel activity.
Budgeting is one of the most important things to remember when making a new meal plan. Sometimes I don’t have as much spending money as I did on previous trips. Budgeting for grocery shopping before leaving for my new destination makes me feel more comfortable when it’s time to pay for my groceries at the register.
I Pick a Workout Plan
Working out while traveling requires flexibility, regardless of your medical history. I know I won’t always have gym equipment in my rental space or even time for extensive workout routines.
None of that holds me back from staying fit while traveling. I set expectations to get creative with my exercise routine so I don’t feel let down by any necessary adjustments.
First, I determine my rental options and if they have gym amenities. A condo might have a community gym, while a rental house doesn’t have any exercise equipment at all.
Hotels also provide full gym access. If I’m going on a shorter trip and don’t need to cook meals, I often pick places based on the gym equipment they have.
Is it worth spending more money on a place with workout amenities? It depends on the circumstance. I might pay a bit more for a rental unit with a treadmill if I’m preparing for a race and can’t run outdoors due to extreme heat.
I also prepare backup ideas for my workouts. If my stomach is acting up or my expected schedule changes, I use my backup plans to get a few minutes of exercise. I might follow an online video in my rental living room or attend a local workout class.
There will be days when my body needs to take it easy. I don’t push myself if my stomach reacts badly to a snack or meal. Instead, I gauge what it can handle and follow its lead.
Sometimes I do a gentle yoga routine instead of compound movements that build muscle, like shoulder presses or situp pulses. It’s better to become friends with yourself and support your body’s needs than force it through intense workouts when it’s not ready.
I Preview My Travel Arrangements
Travel arrangements get a bit more complicated when you have celiac disease. Instead of stopping at gas stations for a quick snack, I plan what I’ll eat between destinations.
It may seem exhausting or time-consuming, but this part of traveling with celiac disease feels effortless after a while. I’ll research the dining options in the airports I’ll encounter if I know I’m flying. Packing snacks for road trips or finding menus for the trains I’ll ride is easy.
This tip can save the day. One time, I booked tickets with an airline for a nine-hour flight. I wasn’t thinking about food until it got closer to my departure day.
A week before my trip, I realized I didn’t know what food they served on the plane. It only took a minute to find the two gluten-free meals they offered, neither of which I wanted. I switched my tickets to another available flight with a menu I could look forward to, preventing the unfortunate experience of eating something that was safe for my stomach but wouldn’t make me happy.
Remember to call your airline a few weeks before your departure if you have an international flight coming. I always give them a quick call to request a gluten-free meal. I also call at least 48 hours before my flight to ensure they remembered my request.
After I know my travel arrangements align with my health needs, I can coordinate workouts around them. I might hit the gym before leaving for a long flight or do a quick round of squats in the bathroom between layovers.
Flexibility makes it easy to stay in control of my exercise habits. Every detail is still within your power, no matter how you need to travel or where you go.
I Schedule My Workouts
Timing your workouts is great for any digital nomad. You don’t have to sacrifice your exercise routine just because you’re changing locations.
I figure out what my schedule will be like before arriving at my destination. Sometimes I work the entire week and other times my days are full of tourist activities.
I know I’ll feel better if I exercise before a long workday. I also have less anxiety if I work out before trying a new restaurant. If the food negatively affects my digestive system, I won’t feel disappointed about skipping the workout I planned to do after the meal.
Flexibility is key to staying fit while traveling. Estimate when you can do your workouts after setting up the things you can’t miss, like your work schedule, tours or fun excursions.
When life changes your plans, you can always use a backup exercise idea to get physical movement into your trip. I enjoy attending local classes or working out with a YouTube video when I can’t access a gym.
I Prepare a Self-Care Regimen
My autoimmune disease felt more manageable when prioritizing self-care at home and abroad. We shouldn’t feel like we’re constantly fighting our bodies. Treating them with love and doing what’s best for our ever-changing needs is essential to living a happy life.
I enjoy self-care ideas that prioritize my digestive system. Making anti-inflammatory smoothies and drinking plenty of water are great ways to soothe my stomach and aid muscle recovery. They’re also helpful if my body reacts to gluten I didn’t realize was in my food.
That’s when I use another form of self-care — compassion. I forgive myself if I think negatively when frustrated or upset with my body. Sometimes I even counter the thoughts by writing something I love in my body positivity journal. I’ve found that touching the parts of my body where I feel tension and following the movement with a positive thought can work wonders for my mood.
Self-care is an evolving practice. Keep an open mind by reflecting on what your mind or body needs when you’re not feeling well. It’s the best strategy I’ve found for loving my body, no matter how it’s feeling.
The hardest part about self-care as a digital nomad is learning when to cancel plans. Sometimes my body isn’t in the best condition for an adventure. It might break my heart to skip a tour or postpone my next workout, but I view it as working alongside my body to avoid resenting it.
Make Traveling With Celiac Disease Easier
Digital nomads with celiac disease can go anywhere they want. It takes a bit of planning to set yourself up with the necessary health amenities and travel arrangements, but it’s not impossible. I hope these tips make your adventures more enjoyable, no matter your health, fitness or adventure goals.