Think like a scout - be prepared!
Travelling can prove challenging for individuals who are
accustomed to preparing their own meals and balancing their energies with
wholefood and/or macrobiotic principles. It can be even more daunting for
those practising a healing eating plan for a specific condition. However
it can be done - and very successfully at that. Usually it requires some
planning and forward thinking. Just remember to think ahead, investigate
options and lay your plans. Then let go of any worry and enjoy the
journey. Sometimes even the best laid plans can go awry and sometimes it
is equally healing and necessary to be spontaneous. No food of its own is
that harmful, especially if eaten occasionally. Often the guilt and the
worry cause more problems. Here are some tips to prepare yourself as best
you can and use the journey to learn more about yourself and how your
respond to different energies, environments, situations and foods...
A short time before you leave, tune into and investigate
the climate of the region to which you are travelling. If it is different
to the one where you live, try to start adapting your diet slightly to
include foods that would be appropriate at your destination to give your
body a head start in acclimatizing.
While travelling, eat according to your appetite which
may change vastly depending on your physical, mental and emotional
activity. Honour your needs.
If you travel frequently or at short notice, it may be a
good idea to have a bag full of non perishable staples ready to go. You
can add the perishable items at the last minute, or just use the staples,
and supplement it with some careful choices on the road.
If you travel frequently by
road, it may be a good idea to buy one or two butane burners (little
stoves often used in restaurants for table-top cooking). They available at
camping and outdoor stores, as well as through some macrobiotic suppliers
and mail order companies. The energy they provide is good and they are
safe and easy to use. If you use them a lot you can buy the replacement
cartridges in bulk from the distributers. Perhaps they are not the most
eco friendly option because of the disposable cartridges, but they can be
very useful and safer than other gas appliances. Never take butane or any
gas cartridge on an airplane. You can take the cooker with you (it is very
light) and buy the butane cartridges on arrival if travelling by air.
Pack a good knife, but donít take your best one. Buy an
inexpensive vegetable knife such as a Caddie and pack it with your food,
especially some fresh produce to make it obvious to anyone who may inspect
it, that the knife is for cooking purposes. I have heard some funny and
not-so-funny stories about people being stopped and searched while
If you will have the opportunity to use them, take a
small grater and a salad press. Pack some eating utensils, natural dish
washing detergent and hand washing soap (some can be used for both - to
save space) and napkins.
Thermal cookers can be useful. I have one from Nissan. It
is like a stainless steel crock pot without electricity - a glorified wide
mouth thermos really! You put it on the boil and simmer for a few minutes,
then place inside the outer cover and allow to "cook." I sometimes cook
porridge in it or softer millet or rice (rice and buckwheat together works
out very well in it for some reason). The texture of the grain is
different because of the long slow cooking. Beans and vegetable stews work
out well in it. There is also the Aircore ("walk away cookware!!!") which
would have some interesting and useful applications on the road,
especially if you only have one or two burners and need to prepare more
dishes. You can also "cook" in a wide mouth thermos. This is especially
good for rolled grains. Just put them in the thermos and fill with boiling
water and a pinch of unrefined sea salt. Experiment with how long you need
to leave it to get the texture that you like. Just be aware that the
energy of the food is different. Less heat, perhaps more yin. But longer,
slower cooking, more yang. You decide...
If you are on the road for a few days at a time
regularly, it might be a good idea to buy a car refrigerator. These are
quite good. They can also be plugged in at motels etc. For shorter
journeys, a cooler may suffice.
Shop around for some good containers. Have different
varieties on hand. I like the small stainless steel "bento" style boxes
available at oriental grocery stores and some camping shops to store fresh
cooked grains and vegies. Some flat plastic containers with partitions
(like for chips and dips) for meal sized serves and when travelling with
others. A small thermos is handy for tea and single serves of miso and a
wide mouth thermos for stews and for cooking in.
You can also put some leftovers for the road such as
extra steamed vegetables or oatmeal or cornmeal (this is quite good to put
in a bento box. It will harden and then you have oat or corn slices!)
Cooked rice seems to keep the longest unrefrigerated.
Millet tends to go off quicker. Some people like to add a little rice
vinegar to their rice after it has been cooked to keep it longer.
If eating out in Asian restaurants be aware that often
white rice is cooked with sugar, especially in Japanese restaurants or
when the rice is used in commercial nori/sushi/California rolls. It may
also contain commercial mirin made with sugar. Commercial soy sauce,
tamari and miso are also very different to the varieties found in natural
The quintessential way to have your rice travel with you!
The umeboshi plum at the centre (optional) keeps the rice fresher longer.
Try variations such as other grains or seeds or chestnuts (my favourite!)
cooked in with your rice, a piece of takuan (daikon) pickle, ginger
pickle, tekka or cooked vegetables at the centre. Make millet balls or
millet and amaranth balls. You will need to make the millet quite firm so
donít use too much water and make the balls when the grain is still warm.
Make these with or without nori wrapping. Balls with vegetables will not
keep as long as those made with rice and umeboshi alone.
A good variation. A bit more visually appealing than rice
balls. Good when travelling with others and avoiding comments about the
grenades (rice balls) in your lunch box. I find that they often start
conversations. Especially when people see that I have used brown rice.
They often ask me why and depending on whether I want a quiet lunch or
not, this often leads to a conversation about macrobiotics and wholefoods!
Be inventive with fillings. You can also make rolls with cooked greens
instead of rice or lay alfalfa on nori, some carrot etc and roll it
When the rice is still warm from boiling or pressure
cooking (the firmer rice that pressure cooking producing is more conducive
for this style of preparation. If boiling make sure the rice is not too
Dip measuring cups (I cup or Ĺ cup size) or small bowls
(try different shapes!) in cold water (to prevent it from sticking), then
pack rice into them, invert to remove grain and allow to cool. Try with
millet, buckwheat or various combinations of grains such as buckwheat and
quinoa, millet and quinoa, millet and seeds, rice and chestnuts
(unbeatable!),rice and walnuts or rice and adzuki beans. The possibilities
are endless. These can also be made with a hamburger former.
Organic whole cornmeal, millet meal, cracked grains
rolled grains. Can all be cooked in a wide mouth thermos or on the stove.
Easy to prepare on the road. Whole grain organic cous
cous is an especially good staple to have on hand. Just add boiling
Take some ready prepared creations or bring the dough
The dried varieties in packets (Mitoku and Muso brands)
keep indefinitely out of the fridge. Take a waffle iron along and have
Take along a few boxes/packets of buckwheat, spelt, kamut
etc pasta/noodles. If cooking for yourself these are quick to prepare.
Often restaurants will be happy to cook it for you if you give it to the
kitchen upon arrival.
No grain or grain product keeps better than true
sourdough bread! Buy it from a reputable source before you go, or on the
road. If cooking while travelling, steam a few slices to make it more
digestible, especially if it is more than a few days old. Good quality
sourdough bread actually improves with age and can be used for around 2
weeks. There is nothing better than making your own (see sourdough bread
article to appear soon!)
This doesnít keep too long out of the fridge. Good for
the first day of your travels or if you have a fridge or cooler with you.
Also available in most health food/natural food stores.
Make some sweet or savoury cookies/biscuits to take with
Take some fresh rolled oats with you. Cook as usual if
you have the facilities or use the thermos method.
Most restaurants that serve breakfast will have porridge
or oatmeal. Just ask if they can make it with water instead of milk. If it
is already made, just produce some that you have brought with you and ask
them to prepare it or a packet of the least processed instant oatmeal you
can find (for once in while) and ask for some hot water.
Take some cooked vegetables for the first day in your
containers. If you are going to cook on the road you may want to take some
already chopped vegetables with you. Replenish your stock as you go. Try
to get organic/biodynamic if possible. If not available, donít stress
about it. Just select the best available. Apparently it is spiritually
strengthening to occasionally eat old or not so vibrant looking
A few tins of organic adzuki beans, lentils, chick peas
etc are great to have on hand. Some have unrefined salt already added
(American Prairie) and could be eaten straight from the tin. Others need
to have salt added and be cooked into it (The Eden brand). Try to buy the
ones in lead free cans. Remember the can opener!
It is important to keep eating greens when travelling.
Often when you eat out, you can order salad or cooked spinach, but you can
also try the following:
dried nettles tea. Buy the organic or biodynamic variety
(tastes better, is more tender and has more nutrients etc). Put some in a
container and pour boiling water over it and cover the container with a
lid or plate for a few minutes.
Optional: add dulse, wakame or other instant type sea
vegetable flakes before adding the water. Strain. Drink the liquid as tea
and eat the greens!
Variation: Try dried alfalfa leaves, dried parsley or
other dried greens. Dry some greens at home in a food dehydrator, on low
temperature in the oven or in the sun. Try kale!
Take small jars or sachets of tekka, umeboshi plums
and/or paste, miso - it should keep well in a small glass container. There
is no need to bring the whole tub! (I recommend avoiding most instant
miso). There is no harm in doing without miso for a few days if you donít
have access to cooking facilities. A little tekka on your meals may
satisfy you if you are attached to having your miso daily and is a great
alkalizer when on the road!
If travelling for a while make sure you take a small
supply of your favourite type of unrefined salt with you for cooking and
if taking items such as oatmeal or pasta to restaurants and you are
particularly sensitive to salt you could ask them to use your salt in the
preparation. Some people need more salt when travelling to centre and feel
grounded, others get very "yangized" by travel and need less - listen to
Take some toasted seeds (sesame, pumpkin, sunflower)
along for use as a condiment. Make some gomashio using the ratio of salt
appropriate for your condition, climate and travel plans before you go and
take that along as a healing condiment.
If you eat fish and are going to be preparing meals on
the road, take some tins of whole sardines, salmon (with the bones) or
tuna with you for easy meal preparation. You can add them to miso soup,
vegetable dishes or eat on their own. If you do eat fish then it is fairly
easy to find something straight off the menu at most places. Lately I have
found that eating fish with vegetables is more balancing for me than
taking my chances with a token vegetarian dish. The latter are usually so
heavily seasoned and have all sorts of ingredients to try to Ďcompensateí
for a lack of animal products! Just be wary of too many fish based meals
in a short space of time if you are sensitive to strong foods or have a
tendency to become too yang and contracted. Some people find fish
balancing while travelling, others find it unbalancing. The trick it to
listen to your body and see how it responds. Some people balance fish with
fruit and others with more vegetables or raw vegetables. Some people just
find that it naturally balances out.
Recently I ordered fish in a restaurant and wasnít really
inspired by the white bread that they offered. In the absence of other
grain products I ate a plain baked potato with the fish and steamed
vegetables and felt surprisingly balanced afterwards. It pays to keep an
open mind! Most restaurants will have a fish of the day or fish dish on
the menu. Just ask for it to be grilled/oven baked or steamed with no oil
or butter - or to use minimal olive oil depending on the restaurant. Ask
for some well cooked (otherwise they tend to serve them half raw) steamed
or water sauteed vegetables and some salad (opt for dark leaves such as
mescalin or salad mix or arugula/rocket if available).
If you eat raw vegetables, some carrots, celery,
jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) etc are good to have on hand. If you eat
fruit, take a few organic apples to munch on, or other fruit in season
that travels well. Avoid travelling with "squishy fruit" - you just end up
with a mess! Snap dried or ordinary dried fruit in small amounts can also
be useful. Be wary of the multitude of supposedly healthy snack foods
available. Although with some, the ingredients may seem okay, these are
still processed and somewhat devitalised foods which donít have the
optimal chi needed for digestion and assimilation. In Ayurveda, processed
foods are seen as devoid of ojas and prana - the life force and thereby
use up more energy in their digestion than any nourishment that they
offer. As an occasional treat they are fine for people in good health with
good digestive capabilities. Read labels, trust your intuition, make your
decision. If you choose to eat them, enjoy the experience without
Some people like to drink very little when travelling.
Others tend to dehydrate when travelling, especially by air. In
restaurants order green tea (undyed if possible - if it looks bright
green, it is probably dyed), chamomile tea (check the tea bag, I have
found some with sugar IN the tea bag!) Or plain black tea (once in a
while). In fact if you have eaten more oil than agrees with you, order
some strong green or black (ordinary or English breakfast, Earl Grey etc).
Apparently there are substances in it that help metabolise the oil and
reduce the possible effects. Supposedly it is one of the Chinese secret to
staying slim and lowering cholesterol levels! Take along some bancha tea
bags, green tea bags, roasted grain tea bags and any herbal tea that you
These always travel well. Take dulse flakes, dulse
strands (I find these hard to resist right out of the packet), wakame
flakes, toasted wakame, sheets of nori, nori flakes (good if you havenít
any greens while travelling) and any other sea vegetables that you like.
Invest in a food dehydrator and you can take any
vegetables that you like with you! Or buy dried daikon, lotus root etc.
These can be soaked and prepared easily when travelling.Dried daikon is
particularly delicious and has many medicinal properties that can help if
you are eating wider than you would at home. You can just soak it in hot
water (the liquid makes a nice and very medicinal tea) and eat when
travelling, though generally it is better to cook it!
Time to eat
If eating on the road, try to avoid eating while driving.
Plan time to stop and eat and savour the foods that you have spend time
planning for and preparing. Even if the meal is not as balanced as it
could be, give thanks and put it down to experience. Try to find something
about it that you can appreciate and enjoy. I find it useful to actually
sit in the back seat if eating in the car to distinguish the two actions
and make the meal more of an event that doesnít just blend into the
journey. Set out your meal as nicely as possible instead of gulping a few
mouthfulls at the traffic lights. Be relaxed about food choices. Chew well
and eat slowly. Enjoy the journey.
Travelling to a deeper level
Travelling is a grand opportunity for emotional and
spiritual growth. The stresses, strains, challenges and joys of being on
the road can help us journey fast and far on the inner road. Our buttons
get pushed with delays and inconveniences; we are challenged to ask for
what we want and need; we meet a cast of new and interesting characters
who can inspire us; we can be presented with breathtaking scenery that
throws us into the present moment and wakes us up from living life on
In Ayurvedic terminology, travel upsets the Vata dosha,
which among other aspects governs the nervous system. This dosha functions
best when the body is given warmth, regularity in daily patterns,
stability, nourishment and rest. All things that can be challenging when
travelling! Do gentle stretching when possible or if you meditate, do tai
chi, chi gong or yoga spend some time nourishing yourself and keeping your
energies balanced. Intention is a powerful ally as well.
The Spleen/Pancreas/Stomach (Earth element in oriental
traditions) likes stability.
In my opinion these are the organ systems and the element
most unbalanced by travel. In fact it is recognized that many people
diagnosed with a disorder affecting the pancreas such as diabetes have the
onset of their condition following emigrating or major travel. Obviously
this is an extreme scenario and not the sole cause, but the stress of the
instability and unawareness of the effects can be a triggering factor.
If you find yourself travelling frequently either by
choice or necessity it may be a good idea to examine the condition of
these organs and if appropriate take some time to do some deeper
healing/nurturing with them.
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