There are many benefits to cooking your own food while traveling. Just like eating at restaurants too frequently at home, eating out while traveling is hard on your bank account and your digestive system. As a mountaineer and cyclist, one of the lessons I learned early on is that your physical needs come first. These include adequate, healthy, and satisfying “fuel” (food), good sleep, and hydration.
As someone with celiac disease, I need to be extra careful eating at restaurants because being sick while traveling is an unpleasant experience, to say the least. While I try to find one place I can eat out while traveling, I generally make my own food. When it comes down to it, food is fuel and fueling yourself safely and appropriately is crucial to feeling energetic on adventures. Whether you have a dietary restriction or not, here are four excellent benefits of cooking for yourself while traveling:
If you make your own food, you’re guaranteed to feel great!
That means more sightseeing, more people watching, more moonlit strolls through the piazza, and more mountain summits. Food is great, but exploration and cultural experiences are better. Don’t sacrifice one for the other. Choosing healthy, whole food options can give you the energy you need to stay active and explore.
Making your own food is more affordable.
Many frequent and long-term travelers learn quickly that eliminating all unnecessary spending is crucial to continuing the nomadic lifestyle. These days, I rarely eat out because I’m saving money for extensive international travel. A meal out can cost over $50, yet a day of bike touring (my favorite method of travel) costs under $15 per day for lodging and food and sometimes way less depending on the country! To eat at a restaurant, I would need to sacrifice at least two days of bike touring. I’m sure you have dreams, hobbies, and more travel you’d like to save for, so why not start saving right now?
If you can make your own food, you can travel anywhere.
Even without dietary restrictions, knowing how to cook for yourself can be especially useful in rural areas where restaurants are sparse. As someone with celiac disease, documented gluten free and celiac safe restaurants are few and far between on a global scale. Sure, there are some meccas for gluten free food (Italy, NYC, Sydney) and you should take advantage of these if you can. But what if you are traveling to rural locations, taking a road trip, or visiting a location where your dietary restriction isn’t recognized? By making your own food, the sky’s the limit!
(see this post for tips on making quick and healthy meals)
Shopping in grocery stores and making your own food allows you to experience culture like the locals.
Making your own food instead of eating out is not sacrificing on cultural experiences. You can people watch in grocery stores, mingle with the locals in the aisles and at the checkout counter, and get a better idea of the local experience by watching folks go about their usual routine. Sometimes searching for food stores will take you to new neighborhoods, and bargaining for food at the counter across language barriers can be fun! Best of all, you can experiment with fresh, local, whole foods in your own kitchen and work on replicating dishes you see in restaurants; if you learn a new recipe, you can take the culture home with you!
Pro Tip: While food shopping, watch the other shoppers and mimic their actions. Shopping for food is not the same in all countries; for example, in many Italian grocery stores you are not permitted to touch the produce yourself and must rely on an employee or put on gloves (if available).
When it comes down to it, you’re traveling for new cultural experiences, so why not break away from the tourists and live like a local! Stay tuned for my new series on how to cook anywhere with celiac disease or food allergies.