I travel for my job, a LOT. My heavy travel schedule often prevents me from cooking and eating how I prefer. More often than not, my co-workers and I end up eating at chain or fast food restaurants. While we would LOVE to support small-scale, local businesses with our meals each night, it just isn’t economical. I often find myself wondering how I can be more sustainable while I travel, and I think I may have come up with a halfway decent list.
- Stay somewhere with some semblance of a “kitchen.” – Since my preferred chain of choice is IHG, we usually end up staying at Holiday Inn’s or the like. This week, I have found myself in a Candlewood Suite’s because my normal Holiday Inn was booked full. Normally we go for Holiday Inn (Express) because of complimentary breakfast, I am finding that I enjoy Candlewood and the other suite-style hotels a bit more due to the fact that they give me a bit of wiggle room when it comes to food. In my room today, I have a two burner stove and a full size fridge. There is also the common microwave, coffee maker, etc. The full fridge (with freezer) and stove burners (with pots & pans) allow me to at least make some simple meals such as easy soups or store fresh ingredients (ie. 7 grain sprouted bread – freezer; goat’s milk ice cream – freezer; fresh veggies – fridge; yogurt – fridge).
- Pack your lunches! – Even if you can’t stay at a location with a suite-style room, you can at least make an attempt to pack your own little lunches. Typically I will eat a decent breakfast, drink water throughout the day, have a light lunch, and then complete my day with a hearty dinner. Lunches for me, while traveling, generally consist of some nuts, some veggies, one piece of fruit, and a more “hefty” carb such as a slice of bread or a banana. I try not to take anything that requires refrigeration, or keep a cooler in our work vehicle if I need to.
- Shop local, if possible – As I generally travel to heavily contaminated locations in the southeast, sometimes we find ourselves in some not-so-savory locations, or in areas where there is NOTHING. One thing I do enjoy doing whenever possible is going to local grocery stores or farmers markets and picking up some local foods. If you don’t have local businesses available to you, try to support businesses that carry local food items (ie. Kroger in Flowood, MS carries some local brands of milk and ice cream, local fruits & veggies). If you are going out to dinner, try and go to a local restaurant instead of a large chain. Every little bit helps.
- Set a budget – I have found that this one is my biggest issue. While going to the grocery store or out to eat and spending a lot of money on high quality, delicious foods is something that I am NEVER ashamed to do, it can make traveling a damper after a couple of times. Instead of going somewhere and splurging, come up with a list of days you want to dine in and days you want to go out. Look at the pricing of the foods where you’re wanting to go and give yourself some sort of reasonable ballpark limit, and don’t forget to include your booze in that limit!
- Cook for each other – If you are traveling with comrades and have the accommodations that allow your to be able to cook simple meals, make a plan and cook and dine together. This will do a couple of beneficial things: 1. It will prevent you from eating a whole pot of soup by yourself in one sitting out of boredom or loneliness; 2. It can allow for a larger variety if you cook one thing and they cook the next; and 3. Time spent sharing a meal can be used for small talk or to plan a work strategy for the following day.
While it is incredibly difficult to be sustainable and healthy while traveling, it can be done! As always, try and stay away from heavily processed foods (and as I have recently found out – most vegetable oils). Do some simple planning and you can end up eating somewhat well on your work travels! 🙂