One aspect of being in an unfamiliar place that worries me most is having access to fitness facilities or a safe, easy-to-navigate place to run. Having stayed in many hotels in the US, I believed this to be a simple issue to fix. When I arrived in Nairobi last summer, I realized that there are more factors involved than I realized.
When there is no brick-and-mortar gym available, the next best thing is having a route to run. In Karen, where I stayed for the first half of my time in Kenya, the closest gym was a 45-minute walk or a taxi ride away. On top of this, the facility would cost at least $5 per use if they gave me the price I was quoted while accompanied by locals. A problem I often ran into was that the more foreign a person looked, the more money they were charged for things that didn’t have a price set in stone. This wasn’t an issue most of the time since we were often with at least one person who could haggle for us. The truth of the matter was that going to the gym was a near-impossibility because no one else was interested in it enough to go with me, and we were warned about never going anywhere alone.
Next option: running around the neighborhood. Something that struck me even in my half-asleep stupor as we first arrived on our compound by bus in the dark: every property was protected with some sort of wall and barbed wire security system. Many have the additional protection of security guards at all hours of the day. With this level of security and the many warnings we received about not leaving the compound alone, the area was not made to seem like a safe place. Somehow, I was the only person in our group who was concerned about getting a daily workout in. Because it was an extremely rare occasion that I found someone else willing to leave the compound for a run, I had to run around in a small circle on the inside. There was no way to gauge how fast or far I had gone, but it was better than nothing.
Once we moved into the city in an apartment complex, we were closer to workout facilities, but I had moved farther away from having anyone willing to go with me. Having my own studio apartment, I was emotionally and physically separated from the other members of the group. It seemed less safe here to go for a run outside the gates, but I at least could move around in whatever funny manner I wanted in my apartment. I did a lot of Zumba-type dancing and workout videos with the spotty wifi. (I somehow hurt my foot doing this which seems to be a fun, annual occurrence now, yay!)
I went to Iceland directly after Kenya, and I can’t gush enough about how amazing it felt to be able to go for a lone run, especially along the coast. (On a hurt foot nonetheless, please don’t judge me for my extreme tendencies.)
My time in Kenya taught me a lot, but so much of it was about myself. I learned how severe my Type A-ness is and how difficult I find it to adapt. This is something that I am really working on because it is a necessity to be able to adapt while traveling. I’ve done quite a bit of traveling since then, and I always make sure to get a clear picture of what the fitness facility access is from the beginning. Even if it’s a challenging situation, I would much rather be prepared than to have it be a surprise.
How do you deal with working out while traveling?