This week I’ve been travelling around quite a bit, and that’s because we are now coming to the closure of the interpreting season – normally the last leg of it is in June but hey, when work calls, here we go. My itineraries have included Reading, London, Frankfurt, Portugal, Oslo and I’m preparing to go onto a long-haul trip – will post more soon! The issue with travelling is that your time, sleep patterns and routine changes and with them, your nutrition does change too, needing to adapt based on the schedule. When interpreting in France or in Spain, I know I’ll be surrounded by brioches or tortillas, and for as much of a stereotype it is, that’s what happens – you just indulge. As a frequent flyer who has not the privilege to travel Business Class most of the time, I found myself forced to figure out how I can avoid disruptions to my meals and habits, because I noticed that along with air conditioning and sleeping poorly, it does affect my concentration and my biorhythm for the worse.
But first, coffee.
Yes, I adore my espresso. And also, I cannot do anything else before I’ve had breakfast. In the next 10-15 minutes after waking up, it’s all about washing my face, becoming aware of year, name and place again and then get going with food. Be it 4 am or 11 am, I need my breakkie. These days, I tend to go for poached eggs and a double espresso – no sugar, no milk. Alternatively, I would have a bowl of porridge with whole milk and raspberries, my all-time favourite fruit.
That normally keeps me going for almost 3-4 hrs, based on what time I actually got up.
Thing is, when I’m away on interpreting jobs, I have to rely on hotel breakfast. And while sometimes it’s wonderful to have so much choice and so much variety, on other occasions that is just interrupting my routine: brioche, pancakes, pastries, jam… how to say no? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this for dieting purposes. I just found that a savoury start gets the best of me in the long run, while a sweet option has me starving again in just an hour. Then sometimes, the other side of the story: there’s no choice at all – and you have to go with the flow… especially if you have 8 hrs of work ahead with no certainty of when you’ll be able to get a break.
So, how to tackle this uncertainty? Make sure you plan ahead
Are you travelling on a long-haul flight? If so, you would have more baggage allowance, and that allows for more space, which translates into the opportunity to stash some food into it!
Are you going to be able to get food at the airport? Quickly surf the website of the airport – it normally lists all the food halls and restaurants, so – esp. if you know the country – you may be able to estimate
a) the size of the terminal and the availability / choice of food
b) see what restaurants / shops are there in advance
Snacks are key – and they’re a freelancer’s life saviours.
I remember being in Bratislava, landing at around 8 p.m. one evening. I am not very familiar with Eastern European countries but I did know the locals tend to eat fairly early – similarly to the UK, really. I could have never expected for the hotel restaurant to be closing at 8 p.m.! I had had no food before departing and I was relying on the hotel room service – but I was wrong; no room service after 8 either. Oh well! I turned to FourSquare and found a pub in the area (I was outside the city centre and I don’t speak Slovak so I would not venture late at night by myself) but when I got there, they told me it was too late, no food after 8 p.m….
Lesson learnt: I always either get food sorted before I land or carry some snack in my bag to be covered in case I need to eat. There’s nothing worse than going to bed hungry, trust me 🙂
So, what’s in my snack bag?
- Bananas – great healthy choice, Only downside, they get your hand sticky and then you’ve got the skin to get rid of…
- Protein / cereal bars – they can be very sweet. I am an aficionado of Naked – they’re vegan and delicious. Low-calorie and individually wrapped. A good habit is carrying porridge sachets with you (and tea, if you like drinking it in a specific way).
- Nuts – my absolute favourite (of course it’s the perfect choice unless you’ve got an allergy!): they are very filling and easy to find and pack. I like to split them into snack portions (I buy a 500 gr pack and then make small 50 gr bags that I can easily fit anywhere).
- Dried fruit – much higher in calories, but very practical and because the pieces are not very big, it’s quick to eat and clean too. My dried fruit of choice is dates, raisins or dry strawberries. Fab.
- You can always bring something like a sandwich or a more filling solution – I like salmon sandwiches because they are lighter and salmon is packed with omega 3 and good oils. It’s a compromise between bread and healthy choice 😛
- Chocolate – I am a huge fan of milk Lindors. Yet, I like buying 80% dark chocolate, as it’s more digestible and it’s good for you! Best place to get it? Any Swiss airport, imho!
- Water – never underestimate the importance of being hydrated. I am using an app called iDrate to keep track of how many glasses I’m getting but I can still improve. It’s a good habit to carry a small 30 ml bottle in your bag – I normally stick it into the luggage empty, so I can fill it in / empty it when I need to pass control at the airport. Smoothies are also good, but they are very sugary and the result can be you’re even thirstier after drinking it!
And don’t forget that if you work in an office, or if you’re in the booth, or on location away from home, these options are great too. Just never underestimate the importance of eating well and stick to a routine. Your body and mind will thank you.
- What about YOUR bag? What does it have it it?
- Any tips or ideas to improve mine?
I think your snack bag sounds great, but one word of advice about the chocolate and the dried fruit: only eat sweet stuff as a snack if you know you’re going to be eating a proper meal 2–3 hours later. It’s exactly the same logic as eating a savoury breakfast to avoid being hungry mid-morning, and it’s based on your body’s physiology.
If you eat sugary food, your blood sugar rises quickly: unless you’re a type I diabetic, your body’s response is to release insulin, which causes muscle and fat tissue to take up the excess sugar. The problem for most non-diabetic adults is that the beta cells in the pancreas that produce the insulin tend to over-react to a rapid rise in blood sugar, producing more insulin than is actually needed, and so you “over-shoot” in lowering your blood sugar and you feel hungry again. These reactions aren’t instant, and the length of the “swing” varies from person to person, but 2–3 hours is typical. When you eat most savoury food, you blood sugar rises more slowly and so it’s easier for your pancreas to keep the levels under control without overshooting, and so you feel more comfortable than you otherwise would if your next meal is delayed for any reason.
Another little hint is that alcohol might as well be sugar the way your body deals with it, and so you should be careful about drinking on a plane, and especially before take-off, unless you know you will have a meal as soon as you arrive: otherwise you’re going to feel hungry. The budget airlines have understood this one very well!
Love the tip about bringing sachets of porridge. Done!