Sunday, 15 March 2015

Against the grain

Hello there peeps! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and all you UK mums were totally spoiled today. 

Our weekend was very much light and shade over here in Sri Lanka. It poured with rain all day yesterday, but we've been rewarded with brilliant sunshine today. We can't complain (I wouldn't dare!) - a grey day yesterday meant we got some important admin done, leaving us free to head to the beach and witness this scene today:


No filter on that baby! And here's the delicious lunch I enjoyed shortly after...


This leads me nicely on to my next point. What am I eating nowadays? I share a lot of food pictures on Instagram and obviously there's a huge back catalogue on this blog. (Seriously, don't start looking through if you're hungry, I make that mistake too often!). If you follow me, you may or may not have noticed a distinct lack of grains recently. Trust me, this is no mean feat in Asia. 


Those who know me well or who've followed my blog over the past few years will be aware I've dabbled in Paleo for prolonged periods. It's becoming more and more mainstream now, but for those who've not heard of it, eating Paleo means cutting out all grains (like wheat, corn, oats, rice, barley, quinoa), legumes (beans, pulses and peas), processed foods and refined sugars. I know, sounds awful, right? Trust me, it isn't. What you do eat are absolutely tonnes of vegetables, fruit, nuts and other healthy fats like avocados and coconut oil plus meat, eggs and fish. To be honest, I thrived on it. 


However, Paleo has been tough to sustain for a number of reasons. While I was still in the UK, when I reached a more stressful period in my life, it lead to some disordered eating patterns for me. I've been a binge eater in the past and spent most of my late teens and twenties on a diet. Having a list of 'no' foods started to lead to me craving them, and then over eating them when I 'gave in'. Luckily I've never gone down the bulimic path, but bingeing is no fun either, trust me. So, I decided that in the stressful lead up to us coming away travelling I needed to loosen the reins and leave Paleo on the back burner in order to preserve my sanity. 


On the road I've done my best to try and stay healthy and stick to my favourite Paleo principles, but when you're on a very tight budget and the free breakfast in the hostel is porridge or toast and jam, you either go hungry or bite it. But it really didn't make me feel good. I didn't feel like myself - my skin was lacklustre, I lacked energy... I tried my best to make good choices for myself, but often still compromised due to costs or there being no other option. 

In Asia I've reached my limit. I want to go home in April feeling GOOD. So, despite having recently travelled through countries where every meal is based around noodles, rice or bread (actually, that's pretty much global!) I'm back to eating what makes me feel great. And it still really does. It's also meant I've had the energy to step up my exercise quota and I generally feel far more positive. Cutting out booze for the past five weeks has probably helped, too!


haven't binged since October, and it's only happened twice on this whole trip, actually. I really hope it means I've finally found some balance with this eating thing, although I never say never. It's a journey. 

I still have some treats, like a delicious lassi yoghurt drink and some homemade jam, which seems to keep me happy and sane. So, if you're wondering why things have changed again in the food department, it's because I'm being true to what suits my body. 


We're all different, so I'd never suggest you should eat this way too, but if you are curious about the Paleo diet I highly recommend the resources listed below. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at chillichocolatelover@gmail.com or leave a comment below. You can also find me on Instagram pretty much constantly under jodeapakos. What can I say, I'm addicted!

Have a happy, healthy week darlings x

- Whole 30 website
- Eat the Yolks written by Liz Wolfe 
- Nom Nom Paleo blog
- Balanced Bites podcast by Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe




Friday, 6 March 2015

Let it go

As we come towards the end of our year on the road, I've started to reflect on what impact it has had on me as a person. 

At 35 I don't kid myself that there isn't still time to grow and change, but I do feel that I know myself pretty well. There have been no thunderclap moments where I see life in a whole new light, no revelations encouraging me to take a whole new path in life. And that's fine. Instead there have been lots of small things, that have made me think a little differently and reflect on what's really important to me. 

Weathering the storm in NZ. 


The number one thing I've had to do is become more tolerant. Just let things go. This is hard for me, but I've surprised myself, and Andy, over recent months with how much I now let just wash over my head. In fact, he gets more stressed out than me sometimes. Unheard of before! Plans get disrupted, people let you down, the unexpected comes up again and again out here. But we keep going and things tend to work out. Costly problems with our flights meant we got an extra week in New Zealand, which turned out to be one of our favourite places. Indian visa issues (don't get me started!) have lead to extra time here in Sri Lanka, which is no bad thing. 

Sri Lanka. 


I've come to believe that if you just let it go, things will turn out how they're meant to, and I see karma in action all the time while travelling. I really hope I can continue to feel this way once I get back to life at home. 

Can't wait to get fermenting!


Another thing that really strikes me is how I want to live much more sustainably. Eating locally, making my own food, cleaning and beauty products, shopping in my neighbourhood. If we all just looked after and nurtured our little patches of the planet and supported our own communities, things would be a lot simpler. These are ideas I've dabbled with in the past, but I've always ended up shopping at the big supermarket because it's easier and just bought the cheap nasty cleaning products because we were on a budget... But it made me feel bad. No more. It's all about feeling good about my choices from now on, even if it means going without some little consumer luxuries. 

Travelling and being away from the pressures of daily life has given me the perspective I needed. I love my life in the UK and can't wait to get back to it and make the tweaks that will make me a happier and more fulfilled person. Not everyone is able to step away for such a long period, but we can all take stock and think about what will really make our lives better. It could be that new dress or it could be something that's going to nourish your soul, like taking the time to grow your own herbs or make kombucha... Something I can't wait to try. 

Whatever makes you happy. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Pretty as a picture

Hello my lovelies! I've not checked in for a while but I've had a little bit of inspiration and a chance to slow down a bit. 

We're currently in Prachuap Khiri Khan, a sleepy little seaside town close to the Myanmar border in Southern Thailand. We are very much on the home straight now, with less than eight weeks until we head home and ten months on the road behind us. 

What I want to talk about today is perception and reality. I'll be a bit more specific - what you see on social media and what actually lies behind it. I've always been one for keeping it real as my nearest and dearest know, but of course when I post pictures on the road, it tends to be of all the fabulous bits, the highlights, the reasons we are out here doing it. And that's what most people do: the #selfie when you're feeling hot, your glamorous holiday, cocktail hour... Of course we want to share the best of times, but sometimes it all feels a bit like a competition. 

                                                   

On the other hand, I certainly don't want to start griping about our trip all the time and posting photos of every person who tries to rip us off, every toilet cubicle I walk straight back out of and every craphole mouldy bathroom we get stuck with. I'm sure I'd start losing followers pretty quickly if that was the case!

I suppose we need some balance. I've been working through a lot of long-dormant issues on this trip, particularly body image and self-love. Every image of perfection I see on Instagram seems to chip away at a tiny bit of my self esteem. The images that really make me happy are the ones that celebrate the everyday joys of life - a Spring flower blooming, a dog playing, a frothy coffee break...

                                             

Know that when I'm posting pictures of exotic locales it's not about showing you my 'perfect' travelling life, it's about sharing my experiences with you. I'm out here, feeling real, having good days and bad, feeling vulnerable and vibrant, just like you. 

Xx

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Where in the world?

Well hello from the sunny (well, sometimes!) South Island in New Zealand! We're currently in a campsite in a place by the sea that my mind resolutely cannot memorise the name of. These Maori names were made to fox me. What I can say is that my view is astounding - cliffs, golden sands and waves crashing in, plus the odd sea lion stopping by. Yes, my life is pretty heavenly right now, apart from the family next door having some kind of Mexican themed fiesta...

                                                   


We're just under a week into our 17 day jaunt around the South Island in a camper van, so I thought now would be a good time to talk about meals on the road, something which is very topical for us right now. Our camper is pretty well equipped with two gas burners, a small fridge and a microwave, so I can't really complain. The microwave only works when we're hooked up to the mains, though, and were at the edge of the earth right now so definitely none of that. Tonight I managed to cook pan fried lamb steaks with mashed sweet potato (known as kumara here) and boiled brocolli and carrots. And it was great! 

Here are some tips, whether you're in a camper or just away from home for a while and trying to stay healthy:

Batch cooking

If you're getting the stove going, you best make it worthwhile and cook up a few meals worth. Not only is it economical, it means you have no excuses to grab fast food when you're all stocked up with the good stuff. Tonight I used our boiling water from the veggies to boil some eggs for a quick breakfast and snacks on the road. I also cooked extra veggies to add to my breakfast. Good times and a faster getaway in the morning. 

Keep it simple, Stupid!

No one wants to carry a tonne of food around, especially when you're only away a short while. Focus on the bare necessities. For our road trip this was decent olive oil and sea salt as a baseline. These make anything taste good. Then just make sure you plan ahead a couple of days at a time, but also take advantage of anything in season/on offer. John West's Pink Salmon for 50p a can? I'll take two. As we are by the sea in New Zealand, we've been stocking up on lamb and seafood. Makes sense, see. Buy veggies that will do double duty for dinner and lunch, like carrots you can add raw to a salad or boil for dinner. I've been having salmon and sardine salads and in the evenings we've had meat/fish simply cooked with veggies and rice or sweet potato. So easy, so fresh, so tasty. 

Treat yourself

We save treats for coffee stops, rather than stocking up. So if we're indulging in the famous NZ Flat White in a local cafe, maybe we'll grab a slice of cake to go with it. I find if I keep treats in the van or my backpack, they're gone in 60 seconds. Better to wait and savour something yummy and homemade in a cute little coffee shop. Same goes for alcohol! 

                                                   



As sure as eggs is eggs

I know not everyone is a fan but keeping these in stock means you're ready for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Cook them any way and eat them any time. Pick them up from a farm or the supermarket and get the perfect protein hit. God I love eggs. Can you tell?

It takes a bit of thought but cooking your own food on the road is so rewarding. Trust me, you soon get sick of eating out all the time, even if it is a meat and double carb fest in Bolivia! Food shopping in a new country is one of life's joys for me. Check out the local produce and make the most of it being cheap and plentiful. And yes, that can include wine ;)

                                           


Happy travels!

What's your go to on the road meal? 


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

A feast for the senses

Well, hello there bloglettes! 

Please excuse the slight delay since my last post. I've been a bit busy with the small matter of walking the Inca Trail and trying to learn to surf, among other things. 

For this post I want to go back to my roots and focus on my favourite subject - FOOD (and drink, of course). And in doing so, I can fill you in on some of my travel tales along the way. You in? Here goes. 

Pizza in La Paz


We stayed right by Plaza San Pedro in La Paz, Bolivia, where we found this cute little trattoria for a traditional Saturday night date night pizza. We'd had the Kohlberg red, a Bolivian wine, on our Salt Flats tour, so enjoyed a bottle for old times' sake. At around £2 it was hard to argue against it. Unfortunately Andy went down with a stomach bug the next day, but I'm not sure we can blame the pizza. La Paz was good fun, I'd recommend doing the free city walking tour by Red Cap Tours. We learned loads about Bolivia's turbulent history. 

Quinoa soup in Copacabana


It was my turn to go down with traveller's tum next, but I can think of nowhere better to do so than sleepy Copacabana, Bolivia, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. I mainly laid in bed watching Friends and Big Bang Theory while I recovered. It was bliss. When I did venture out in to the tiny little town, this soup was just the ticket. Hearty and nourishing. I may also have had half of that cheese and ham toastie you see in the background. Who can resist?! Did you know quinoa is one of the few complete plant proteins? It means it can give you all the nutrients usually found only in animal proteins. Bolivia grows this precious grain, which can only be harvested once a year. 


Chicken soup in Puno 


Starting to feel a little better in Peru, I felt like getting back in front of the hob. We headed to a local vegetable market where we stocked up on the freshest and cheapest ingredients I've seen in a long time. Fresh peas and corn are particular specialities. There's nothing like the taste of homemade chicken soup. Sadly, our visit to the floating reed islands on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca left a bitter taste in our mouths. We felt like walking dollar signs as they tried to sell us everything. Still, it was a fascinating trip. 


Trout in Cusco


This fishy delight marked our first evening in Cusco, Peru, with our dear friends who had come out to visit. It was delicious and so nice to be eating proper food again after being ill. It was also lovely to see friendly faces from home, who came bearing peanut butter, probiotics and night cream. Serious joy. 


Fried rice on the Inca Trail


I just want to have it on record that I am never doing the Inca Trail again! Twice is more than enough for one lifetime. Oh my God, so tough. But, the magnificent food did ease the pain of my creaking knees. South America has awakened a rice obsession in me, and this veggie fried rice delight was hard to quit. Those chefs on the road are gods to me. No chance of losing any pounds on the trail with those bad boys in charge. We had an awesome trek but it is not for the faint hearted. I repeat. Never again. 


Brunch at Jack's in Cusco


It will come as no surprise to you that the thought of food got me through the Inca Trail. Brunch at Jack's to be precise. You only have to look at it to see why. Pure bliss. We love Cusco, so pretty, with good food and lots of llama themed goods. What's not to love, people?


Egg white oatmeal in Cusco


For our last breakfast before heading to Lima I decided to use our eggs up and try this out. And it was good! Not sure it filled me up more than normal porridge thought, as I was still munching crap at the airport a few hours later. What is it about airports and eating junk? On to Lima and goodbye to our cosy Cusco home. 


Fish Tacos in Barranco


Yes, a little bit of California by the sea in Lima, Peru. These were very tasty, washed down with the local favourite, fresh lemonade with mint. Divine. Barranco is a pretty suburb by the sea, and we really enjoyed chilling there after Machu Picchu and a few days's surfing. Lima has a great foodie scene going on - we were treated to a fabulous meal at La Nacional in Miraflores. I could have stayed longer, it feels so familiar there, and the supermarkets have peanut butter. More than one kind... Time to move on! 


Porridge on a bus


When life hands you an olive paste sandwich for breakfast, laugh in its face with your leftover Peanut Butter and Co peanut butter, a banana, some oats and some hot water stolen out of your tea cup. Ha! This bus had personal TV screens, so it wasn't all bad. I watched The Hobbit and Les Miserables. It passed the time as we journeyed from Peru to Chile. 


Fish soup in Arica

  

And so here we are in Arica, Chile's northernmost city. You can surf and sunbathe and walk up big hills. Or just check out the local wildlife, like we did at the port today. We also enjoyed seafood empanadas and I had the biggest mussel I've ever seen, all washed down with a local beer. Monday lunchtimes, eh...




Until next time! What's the best thing you ate recently? My favourite has to be that brunch at Jack's. Long anticipated!














Sunday, 24 August 2014

Salt shake-up

Hello there everyone. I apologise if I sounded a little sorry for myself in my last post. To be honest, I'd lost my travelling mojo for a while back there, what with feeling ill and tired of moving around all the time. 

But fear not. She's back! I found her somewhere out in the middle of Bolivia's altiplano desert landscape. Andy and I spent four days in a Toyota Landcruiser with two new friends, a driver and a fabulous cook, making our way through some of the most spectacular sights I've ever seen, ending up on the Salt Flats. It was amazing and, to be honest, I'm not sure how we'll top it. 

                                                   

must admit I was a little nervous about travelling through Bolivia, but it's been a real highlight of our trip. And the food has far exceeded expectations. A four course lunch for £1.50 each? Yes please!

Eating on the road is notoriously difficult, though, and I've definitely had my ups and downs with it over the last four months or so, so I thought I'd share some tips...

Don't expect to eat as you would at home. You need to throw that notion out of the window right now. I'll admit I've been pining for peanut butter since we got to South America, but you have to adapt. Yes, there's no PB but I've focused on the fabulous bounty of fresh and cheap fruits on offer. Focus on what you can have rather than what's missing. (Although I do have my friend bringing me my favourite peanut butter brand, Peanut Butter and Co. out to Peru next week!)

                                           

That said, sometimes we all need a bit of familiarity and comfort, so do make sure to include some old favourites. I'm not a big bread eater at home, and once I'd had my fill of it for breakfasts, I invested in a bag of oatmeal to cart around with me. Having my usual banana porridge just makes me feel good sometimes. 

                                           

Do stock up on healthy snacks for journeys. For a recent 26 hour coach trip we bought loads of fruit and nuts and cooked up some chicken and brocolli risotto. It made the journey so much more bearable feeling like I was nourishing my body rather than eating a load of sugary treats to get through it. 

Don't worry if you do indulge, though. Travelling is tough - it's tiring, disorientating and stressful. If a dulce de leche cookie is going to make you feel a bit better, go ahead and have it, just don't use travelling as an excuse to eat foods that ultimately don't make you feel good. 

Do make an effort to cook some old favourites when amenities allow. I made a cracking chicken soup while we were ill in Mendoza, and it really was the best medicine. It makes me feel just that little bit more in control of my life if I can cook healthy meals for us on the road. 

                                                

Don't forget to enjoy the local cuisine as well, though. It's what travelling is all about!

                                                

Happy Sunday friends, and enjoy the bank holiday in the UK. 

Do you have any tips for eating on the road?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Fit for travel

There is a hint of irony to the title of this post in that I have a cold for the second time in the space of a month. I am not coping well with this. I don't do ill very well (I know, who does?) and feel very frustrated and fed up. I don't usually resort to Berocca and pharmaceuticals but am currently taking a cocktail of these in an effort to steel myself for our 26 hour bus ride to Bolivia tomorrow. Yep, traveller shiz is about to get very real after being relatively coddled in the US, Brazil and Argentina so far on our journey. 

Part of my frustration is due to the fact that I had just been getting back into my exercise routine after the first cold struck in Brazil. Yes, believe it or not I did have an exercise routine on the road. Before we set off, Andy and I agreed that we wanted to make sure we keep fit on our trip. Not least because Andy has signed up for the Patagonia Marathon which is fast approaching on 27 September. In my case, I just want to make sure I feel at my best and ready for anything while we're out in the big wide world.

Obviously, travelling and exploring new cities involves a lot of walking, which has been excellent training for our four day Inca Trail hike in September. My beloved Fitbit tracked this particularly busy week in Toronto. 

                                                      


                                                   

While Andy has focused on running, I started off doing outdoor bootcamp style exercises during our first few weeks in the States. Our arrival in April meant the weather was great for outdoor exercise. Before we left the UK I made sure I had a few of my favourite no equipment workouts printed off or noted down. Good sites for these include two of my favourite blogs, Carrots and Cake and Peanut Butter Fingers, just look under their Workout pages. Pinterest is also a brilliant resource for workouts or just good old fashioned Google. 

Whenever we were headed to a new destination, I'd look at Google maps to figure out what parks there were near where we were staying. Once we arrived, I'd go and take a look first and make sure they seemed suitable - safe, clean and not too exposed to public view! Then, I'd get to it! Most of the workouts are focused on body weight exercises, so I'd add in 30 second runs between each move to add in some cardio and break it up. I'd usually do each set of exercises through twice in this way, plus a warm up and cool down. I tried to do this at least three times a week, and managed to stick to it pretty well. 
                                                   

Then we got to Texas and the summer heat and 90% humidity hit us like a truck. Ouch. 

                                

It was time to take my workout indoors, under the aircon, and rediscover my love of barre method workouts. I have the Barre 3 app, so used this to string together the short ten minute workouts into longer sessions. When we got to Nashville I went a step further and went to a BarreAmped class which was great fun and really spurred me on to keep going. BarreAmped was created by Suzanne Bowen of Suzanne Bowen Fitness, so I signed up to her online workouts which are really great. You can tailor a programme to what you want to achieve and how much time you have, or follow one of the programmes she has created. 

Keeping up the exercise has been a little harder over the last month or so in South America, though. Although the weather is cooler, it's a lot more difficult to find decent outdoor spaces, particularly with regards to security. And the wifi connections are not as speedy, so streaming the barre videos can be an exercise in frustration, pardon the pun! Add in two weeks and counting of illness, and things haven't been going so great. But, when I've felt up to it, I've done what I can, including the online streaming and taking my bootcamp workouts indoors. The main thing is to do what you can, and I've realised we use the same excuses on the road as we do at home, so they are just as easy to overcome. I look forward to feeling better again soon and getting back to it, whatever form it may take in Bolivia.

I hope this inspires you to keep fit, on the road and every day.