Robert Burns turn of prose, “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men” (To a Mouse), is an appropriate theme for this blog post, having just attended a Burns Supper in the wilds of Scotland. The general theme of the poem is that life happens – whether to a mouse or a man – and things often get messed up. It observes however that the mouse has the easier path, merely living in the present, where we as humans often look to the past with regrets and to the future with trepidation.
For the past 4 months I have been tiki-touring Ireland and the UK, with the well intentioned idea of blogging along the way. Well that was the plan. The reality is that to date the blogging has been zilch. Initially I imagined myself propped up in some dorm room, in some small village, in some part of the UK, maintaining my links to normality and the Non-Obsessive Way of Eating to share my opinions and suggestions. Just like when in my office back home. But like the plans of mice and men – it’s not to be.
I have discovered that I need to be in the “zone” to pick up pen and paper or bash away at the keyboard and share. The idea, that I would have endless free time to carry out my blogging, has been a bit of a misnomer too. I like to term myself a “traveller”, as opposed to a “tourist” or holidaymaker, as when I travel, I journey with no set plan or time restraints in mind. For me, my travel planning is simply a wide-ranging overview of places to see and experiences to enjoy. It may last a week or two or several months – constrained by only my budget!
I then catch a plane, train or bus to a destination, lace up the boots, heave on the backpack and follow my nose. Being retired, and solo, I am relatively time rich but being money limited, I am constantly on the lookout for the best accommodation deals, economical travelling options and low-cost food items – the top three travel costs. This is not a grumble mind you, as I’ve been travelling this way for near on 40 years, which is a whole new blog subject!
However, unlike a prepaid, all inclusive 2 week holiday, being continually on the move demands a certain amount of time. Time to find a bed for the night, time to scout new locales to grab a meal or to shop and time to (obviously) take in the sights of wherever I have landed up. After a day of exploring I arrive back at my room or dorm, to either have a “power nap”, blob out with some Netflix or time waste on Face Book, before spending more time on planning the next day so to do it all again. It’s not all high end restaurants and drinking the night away when budget travelling – after all I am in my 6th decade!
Maintaining my low-carb eating approach has also fallen foul of the “best laid schemes” mantra too. The go-to foods for my way of eating is real foods that include protein, eggs, seafood, natural fats and green vegetables. I avoid starchy vegetables like potato products and “white” carbs such as bread, pasta and rice. I try to avoid snacking, generally eat only twice a day, and consume no more than one piece of fruit daily (and lots of coffee). However when on the road (as a back packer) there are a few additional obstacles to overcome – most of my diet requires a fridge to keep it fresh, while liquid dairy products and eggs do not always travel well. Additionally, my pack is fairly full already and the availability of cooking facilities at AirBnB’s and hostels vary considerably.
Surprisingly, finding suitable types of foodstuffs to maintain this low-carb diet while on the road is not as easy as one would imagine. In this respect I sympathise with the Vegans of the world and their hunt for suitable foods. Being in a first world country, the range of quality food is endless. But when coupled with a limited budget, limited storage space and limited options to prepare and cook food, choices are also limited.
Menu planning needs to be carried out thoughtfully to avoid needless over buying and waste (I generally stay no more than 3 to 5 days in any one place), and I need to avoid the buying of bulky items as I can only carry so much! Living on minute-noodles and sandwiches, no matter how cheap and transportable, is not an option.
The quandary is that the easiest and cheapest foods to carry and prepare are the high carb processed items – oats, noodles, rice and bread – and these have slowly ingratiated themselves into my daily diet over the last few months. My way of eating is now tending to consists of quick grab-as-you-go options and meals that are easy to prepare with limited ingredients. Think micro-waved TV dinners, bread based snacks, occasional fast food and clotted cream scones! Snacking has increased and because these are often carb based snacks, they are not satiating and the cycle perpetuates itself! It’s not all bad news though. I have not completely capitulated to the dark side, and still eat mindfully when I can. Plenty of butter, bacon and eggs, avocado and fresh salmon when time and circumstances permit.
It is easy to slip into bad habits. Bad habits do not happen suddenly and do take time to become habitual but if you are mindful of your habits and aware – through education – how to correct this, it will only be a temporary blip. In my case I know that once back home I can make the corrections needed and get back on track to a healthier way of eating. There is no need to beat yourself up over it. That is the advantage of being non-obsessive – DON’T STRESS over temporary situations that can be rectified.
Eating for budget travellers is not only reduced choices and poor nutrition. It is also about experiencing the pleasure of new foods, local delicacies and the companionship of shared meals, without being a fuss pot over sticking to a limited range of ingredients.
Take the Burns Supper of last week. The traditional supper consists of Haggis, a huge heap of “taties and neeps” (mashed potato and turnip), peas, carrots, ground beef and a side of grain “stuffing”, followed by sweet desserts. This is about 90% carbohydrates and the types of food I generally avoid! So does one create a fuss and say “no thanks I’m Low Carbing” or do you eat the meal and participate in a once off Orkney Island experience of Scottish piping, poetry readings and Highland dancing – and suffer the inevitable consequences? I know what I did!