This post appears in 18 Health Mistakes You Don’t Have to Make by Nicole Akers. Click here to get your free copy.
I was six days into a muddy, solo trek in the Scottish Highlands, when I encountered an American couple starting their first long-distance hike. Delighted to have found each other, we slogged on to a tiny pub for dinner, toasted each other with local whiskey, and traded stories of our adventures.
Then it was time to order the meal.
“I really want to try Scottish food,” she said.
“Haggis and black pudding,” he said, neither of which was on the menu.
The server glanced nervously toward the kitchen, and suggested some nice hot, vegetable soup.
They insisted, however, and the server complied with their special order. Haggis, if you haven’t had the pleasure, consists of sheep organs, oatmeal, suet and other things best left unmentioned. Gruesome to think about. Delicious when executed correctly.
Having been in Scotland for two weeks already, I’d experienced both the gruesome and the delicious versions. I ordered the cold ham plate with bread and butter. And nice, hot veggie soup.
My new friends laughed at my boring meal, and gobbled up two plates full of sheep bits, eggs, back bacon and globs of pork fat.
Then they spent most of the night in the wee hostel bathroom.
Have you ever been alone and sick in a foreign country? Unable to communicate with the doctor?
Neither have I. And I never want to be. After years of solo travel, I’ve developed a few food rules:
- Taste the local specialty, but don’t binge on it. Give your body time to adjust.
- Slow down. In the United States, we do everything as fast as possible, including eat. Speed is good for airplanes and restroom lines. Not so good for your digestion.
- Shop at local markets or grocery stores any time you can. It’s cheaper and healthier to buy whole fruits, instant oatmeal and fresh cheese.
And if you’re ever stuck in a place that hasn’t been cleaned in a month, order a bottled or canned beer — and open it yourself. Beer will keep you hydrated until you find a safer place to eat, and it works wonders on your mood as well.