Health on the Road: 13 months with 4 kids

Before we left to travel the world with our four children we were very conscious of what food and what kind of environment we were living in.  Our health shift came during our 5 year old nephews battle against Leukemia when our family searched for natural solutions to help him.  We became focused on providing our family with wholefoods, making things from scratch and using non toxic products in our home and on our bodies.  When we hit the road we were a bit unsure of how we would be able to control things around us but we left armed with knowledge a few natural products and a hope that we would be able to find good healthy food on the road.

Asia

Food:

We found it pretty easy to be healthy in Asia.  The food is mostly whole foods and cooked to order.  There is an abundance of delicious fruits in Asia, they are super cheap and the kids loved them.  One problem we did have with the food however was that they like to add MSG for extra flavour.  When watching street sellers cook our food we would point to the MSG bowl and ask them not to put it in, however it was a little tricker when we were ordering at restaurants.  We would often meet locals or expats in the country and ask them to translate ‘NO MSG’ for us and then we could relay that to the chef’s.  We had a couple of incidents when family members had loose bowels but general we were able to stay pretty healthy in Asia.

Exercise:

We did a lot of walking and bike riding in Asia.  One day while in Laos we got lost and ended up riding bikes for 6 hours straight.  When arriving in a new place we were always eager to explore and would hit the streets by foot. We spent hundreds of hours walking the streets of Asia during our 5 months in the region.  We also did a kickboxing camp in Koh Samui Thailand.  This involved up to 6 hours a day training.  Our classes would start at 7:00am in the morning and finish at 10:00am and start again at 4:30pm in the afternoon and finish at 7:30pm.  The first 30 mins was a warm up followed by 2 hours of bag work and technique and finished by 30 mins core exercises and cool down.

Mishaps:

We had a couple of close calls while travelling in Asia the first one happened in Vang Vieng when we were going out to dinner one night with friends.  The streets are quite dark as there are not many street lights and we were trying to find a restaurant to have dinner.  The kids were with friends so they were excited and started to play and run together.  Our 8 year old tripped over a broken piece of sidewalk and whacked the top of his eye on some concrete and had a nasty cut.  Blood was pouring out everywhere and our friends suggested we take him to the hospital.
We had recently walked past the hospital and had commented to each other that if anything happened to us we wouldn’t be visiting that hospital so we decided we could fix our son by ourselves.  The cut was quite deep and it looked as though he did need stitches but we were not willing to walk into the hospital with one thing and walk out with several others so we treated him at home. We were travelling with some Essential Oils and Coconut oil plus we had a small first aid kit with things like plasters and alcohol wipes.  We cleaned him up and then taped his cut shut.  Over the next few days and weeks we changed the dressing and applied Coconut oil and Essential oils.  It healed up beautifully and although he is not completely scar free you can hardly see it now.
I am extremely allergic to hair dye and had been hospitalised at home as a result.  When embarking on travel I knew it was going to be super hard to find natural hair dyes without the chemicals I was allergic too.  We were about 4 months into our trip and in Malaysia when I decided I was sick of my grey hair and would try and find a dye that I could use.  I was excited when I thought I had found one and that night back at our Airbnb apartment applied it.  20 minutes into the 40 minute application I began to feel a bit itchy.  I quickly headed for our antihistamine stash and took a few pills.
About 30 minutes into application I could feel my throat tightening up and raced to the bathroom to wash it off.  After I had washed the hair dye out and looked into the mirror my head and ears were 3 times their normal size.  I quickly grabbed our Essential Oils and lathered them on the welts that had shown up and all over my head which now was throbbing.  I was praying that I wouldn’t need to go to the hospital and hoping the oils and antihistamine would get the reaction under control.  Lucky for me I was able to breathe properly that night although for the next 3 days I looked like the elephant man, but on the bright side my hair wasn’t grey anymore. My kids still tease me about that time when my head was so huge and I looked silly.

Europe and London

Food:

In Europe we mostly self catered.  We loved being able to cook again and enjoyed shopping for the ingredients. The Europeans are very health conscious so it was easy to find yummy fresh whole foods so we were stoked.  We shopped mostly at food stores like Aldi and Lidl.  We ate an abundance of freshly cooked breads, Pasta, Cheese, Olives, Olive Oil and Fruits and Veges.  When we ate out we went all out enjoyed Pizza, Pasta, Gelato, Crepes and more.  We ate out about 25% of our time in Europe.

 Exercise:

We did lots of walking .  We spent 2 days walking the streets of Rome, several days walking the streets of Paris including climbing the Eiffel Tower  and weeks exploring London.  There were several months of similar activities as we explored over 18 countries in Europe and the UK.  It was also summer time so we spent many days swimming at lakes and beaches as we soaked up some rays.

Mishaps:

Fortunately for us Europe was pretty Mishap free.  We spent lot’s of time in close quarters with each other but no one got sick.  We did have some minor cuts and toe stubs but that was about the extent of it in Europe.

USA

Food:

We really struggled to find good wholesome food in the States.  There is an abundance of cheap food but it is all fast food type and the portions were ridiculous. We shopped at Walmart regularly but fruit and veges were expensive.  When we were desperate for fresh food we would buy the Vegetable trays from Walmart at a cost of $20 USD.  The trays had some cherry tomatoes, Snow Peas, Carrots and Celery.  We ended up eating a lot of Subway Sandwiches when we were short on options and even though we tried to eat as healthily as we could we still ended up at Wendy’s on more occasions than we care to admit.  The USA is also home to the biggest and best buffets in the world.  We ate at a few buffets when we were Stateside and found the best value ones to be in Las Vegas.

Exercise:

Even though we walked all day in some major cities like New York, DC and Las Vegas we didn’t really get enough exercise while in the USA.  We travelled long distances by Camper so when we arrived we were often tired and needed a day or two to recoup.  We were in the States for 3 months and the lack of exercise combined with poor food choices saw me put on 10kg.

Mishaps:

It is no surprise that we were the most sick while in the USA.  The kids often had trouble breathing and would have skin infections and sore joints.  J had sore teeth and desperately needed to see a dentist and I was just generally unwell, bloated and lethargic.  While travelling in Brutus I also developed an extremely sore back.  The motor for Brutus was located in the front of the truck next to the drivers and passengers seats and the floor would become unbearingly hot.  To get away from the heat I would rest my feet on the dashboard.  My feet would rest there several hours a day and as a result I developed severe back pain and had trouble walking.  Luckily while in the USA we had acquired more Essential Oils and I was able to treat the kids naturally.  The oils also helped J with his teeth pain and he was able to wait until we got to NZ where Dentistry is much cheaper.  For my back and other health issues I was able to target the pain and other issues naturally too .

We are happy to be home now and to be eating lot’s more whole foods and incorporating weight, resistance training and Yoga back into our routines.  The kids are all healthy  and we still continue to treat our kids naturally with the help of Essential Oils.  Essential Oils are ideal to travel with because they are small and if you only have carry on like us they are perfect.

Learn more about what Essential Oils we used and what we recommend for travelling families here.