Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road

By Kach Umandap - Howe May 30th, 2014 Posted in Inspiration and Love Stories, Travel Blog, Travel Guides 26 Comments

I was given many warnings about travelling before I started my journey – Liam Neeson’s movie “Taken” style kidnap and human trafficking; Con Artists and Delhi Belly to name a few but nobody warned me of the one true danger of being a female backpacker. 

Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road

Note: This post doesn’t intend to offend readers; Just sharing my personal experience. 

Before embarking on my dream backpacking trip in April 2013, I used to be body conscious; maybe because of my culture or just self-image. I thought traveling would make me free from the common dilemma of gaining weight as I planned to travel with a limited budget, but no… It actually made the situation worse – travelling can make you fat!

kach v11 with jon

If you’re on a limited budget you tend to eat the cheapest food that will fill you up for the whole day. You’ll end up eating bread, rice and noodles everyday! All Carbs! Another culprit is the nutella (my favorite), oreo and pringles you’ve been munching on those long distance bus and train rides in Southeast Asia.

I remember telling my brother that in Thailand we would both lose weight on our 25 day South East Asia backpacking trip and re-assuring him by asking, “Have you seen a fat backpacker?!” Then he pointed at this group of female backpackers who seem like they’re just on a food trip for their whole time in Asia!

Maybe not all of you will experience this, as it depends on your genes and metabolism.  Like my partner, Jon, who lost 10 kgs within 6 weeks of leaving the UK. But if you’re like me, who experienced gaining weight – 12 lbs in 12 months – then beware!

The Reward Trap

The long, uncomfortable and exhausting journeys between destinations are just one of the many challenges that makes travelling so rewarding. Sometimes the reward of accomplishment and increased physical and mental efforts are supplemented by the BIGGEST, juiciest, greasiest burger you can lay your hands on! yummmmy! burger fat! nomnom! Oh well! After all you deserve it after that trip.

If you’re like me, you’ll just collapse into a food coma nap for a few hours after your giant meal. However, if you’re trying to do some damage control, some simple exercise programs like the ones on Youtube or Big Blue Test should help you out.

So, I asked myself what made a backpacker gain weight even if you only have a limited budget or maybe a $15/day budget like me?

Food… Yummy Asian food!

If you’re on a short trip in Asia, you might just want to eat all that yummy local cuisine without realizing that you’re overeating…. 3 times a day 7 days a week.

Kach v2
Enjoying the Vietnamese dish enroute to Castaway Island in Ha Long Bay!

If you’re invited to eat with the locals you can never say NO or even leave the table without finishing your food.  


Long haul trip on buses, trains and motorbikes 

When you’re a backpacker, you usually choose the cheapest mode of transportation, so you’ll definitely go for that 12 hour train ride in India or the 25 hour bus to cross the Laos and Vietnam border… you will end up just sitting or sleeping for about 10% of your trip!

Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road
Overnight Bus ride from Hanoi to Hoi An, Vietnam!

Even being a passenger on a 10 hour/day motorbike trip in the North Vietnam can easily turn into a week of inactivity, while someone is enjoying the sweeps and curves of mountain roads. Thanks a lot, Jonathan Howe!!!

Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road
Relaxing after 5 hour driving in the North of Vietnam


No Regular Exercise — The “Bus Potato”

Before your backpacking trip you had a gym membership and you thought that you could keep burning off calories by just walking and carrying your 15 kg backpack…forget it!  In backpacking reality this often don’t happen because it’s too hot to walk or just too cheap not to take a rickshaw or tuk-tuk.

Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road
Walked 5 kms from the bus stop to the Thailand-Laos Immigration Border

The Softdrinks Syndrome 

It’s hard to go and workout if you have limited time in each city unless you’re exceptionally dedicated and really good at time management and most of all don’t have a hangover from the night before.

If you don’t drink soft drinks before traveling expect to have at least twice as many; especially when you’re riding non-AC buses and trains in 28 to 41 degrees heat.  The only thing you want is cold drinks, but maybe you’re too afraid to drink that juice they  sell at the train station as you might get a bad tummy.  Then you have no choice but to have that unhealthy Coca Cola or Thumbs up to quench your thirst and cool you down!

If you’ve decided to walk that 5 km from Chiang Khong to the Thai-Laos border to save money instead of paying for a tuk-tuk, you just end up drinking the coldest drink you can find at the store and it’s usually…Yep, you guessed it – SOFT DRINKS!

Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road
Quenching my thirst!!

Shotguns, Cheap Buckets and Beer Pong

If you’re a cocktail and wine person before traveling, you need to know that you won’t be able to have that if you’re on the road for long a time, perhaps just on your birthday! Beer is the cheapest and you can find it everywhere.  I’ve been places in Cambodia where it’s almost as cheap as water!

Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road
Challenged by the kids, first time to drink Beer Lao in Luang Prabang, Laos
Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road
My first shotgun experience in Castaway Island, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

If you want to socialize with fellow travelers then you MUST learn how to drink BEER, if I say drink it means.. yes that crazy shotguns, beer pongs and the infamous full moon buckets!!

Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road
Full moon party in Koh Pah Ngan, Thailand

The Fashion Victims

You might not even realized that you’re gaining weight while traveling, because for sure you will be wearing those loose-fitting Ali-baba pants and “SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT” t-shirts you bought on Khao San Road.

Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road

You will only realized at the end of your journey or from the social media comments of your relatives and old friends back home who’s been following your travel adventure photos that you’re indeed gaining weight and becoming FAT!

Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road

Well, you can easily answer them this:  “Oops, yeah well I guess I must have gained that 2 kilos eating Pho, Banh My and Bun Cha on my 2 months in Vietnam; 1 kilo drinking Beer Lao in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang; 2 kilos partying and eating Pad Thai in Thailand; and that last 2 kilos on my quest to find the best Momos and garlic naan in India.”  A worthwhile sacrifice when I think of it that way!

Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road

 If you agree with me, please share and warn others!

Note to yourself: Actually, after being on the road for a while, you won’t even be thinking about a few extra kilos as travelling will make you more confident in yourself and realize that inner happiness DOESN’T depend on your physical looks (but I will do my best to be healthy again!) !

Looking for other articles? Check out our DIY Travel Guides Around the World. For cheap and luxrious places to stay while traveling, here’s our ultimate list of best hostels and hotels!

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26 thoughts on “Female Travellers Beware! Reasons On Gaining Weight While On The Road

  1. Your definitely right I can relate to you…I don’t know how much I gained after backpacking from cambodia to vietnam. Foods were so delicious that you can’t even refused to taste all of it. It’s also cheap especially street foods.

  2. You’re so right! Thanks for writing this, it was very funny to read.

    I went on a 6 month cycle tour in Europe… as in… I cycled everywhere, and I still put on some weight!!

    I was cycling 6 hours a day, and so had the attitude: I can eat whatever I like. NOT TRUE. Haha!

    1. Hahaha! Same here Penny! Just recently, I’ve been hiking for almost every day during our 9 day trip in Australia and every hike I always reward myself by eating TimTam! LOL

  3. I feel your pain. One year living in Brazil and traveling S. America and I’m up about 10 pounds or 5 kilos, and I’m not traveling constantly! Then we have visitors and of course we must take them out to eat at all the most delicious restaurants. Ha ha! I say the weight gain is worth it and part of traveling is trying all the new foods. 🙂

    1. yes Elizabeth!! Oh food, trying to distance myself, it’s been 2 years that I use that alibi – that I might not try this food again! haha

  4. This article is too funny. The advice people sometimes give to “keep working out while on the road” is almost impossible to follow. Thanks for the warning 😉

  5. hahahah omg agreeeeed! I’m 3/4 way through a 2 year advenutre after I moved to London and am now backpacking Europe. I couldn’t work out why I had put on the weight in London and why it doesn’t shift now that I’m walking around haha. Possibly indulging in all the amazing food all the time could be an answer….say what! I loved this. Was just feeling slightly down, but it’s pepped me up again. I do like to remind myself that when I’m stuck in an office at home this time next year, with my gym membership and routine life, I’ll look back on the days when I just walked and ate and explored. Great post mate!

  6. Hi Kach,

    pls post your hanoi guide, can u add stuff like where to eat, sleep etc ?? thanks i have just started backreading all your posts. im going to hanoi on march and planning to book india also next year, india has always been on my list but because of your fb posts, it is now on the top of my list. looking forward to your complete guide. thanks


    1. Hello Kim, we dont have full travel guide in Hanoi.. but we actually wrote about our lifestyle there while we were there, this link:https://twomonkeystravelgroup.com/2014/05/memories-of-hanoi-backpackers-to-expats/

      Where to eat? Oops, everywhere with bun cha and bahn my! But if you want to try a real vietnamese food then go to Sen Buffet it’s outside the tourist spot, quite pircey ($25 at least for a buffet) but the best restaurant we’ve ever been with unlimited seafood! Where to sleep, I suggest Queen Hotel in Old Quarter but it’s quite mid-range, if you want backpacking then Hanoi Backpackers in Ma May =) You can message me on facebook anytime if you have questions! =)

  7. I love this post. It applies to men as well. I have to watch what I eat at home, because I gain weight so easily, but when I am on the road, I just go nuts. The street food!! So many good things to eat, especially travelling around Asia.

    1. Hahahaha, thank you so much for appreciating it! I love the street food, which if your favorite? I love Asian food!! Ah Thai and Vietnamese esp!!!

  8. Hey kach! 🙂 been reading your entries; just saw your blog now from an article published in Rappler. 🙂

    I’m a Filipina too, still in college now but been super inspired to travel ever since i spent 2 months in cambodia. Its so funny cause i’ve been telling my relatives that i just want to travel the world before i turn 30! Some of them think im just young and naive but i can feel it’s what i really want. Would you consider posting an article about a solo female backpacker? 🙂 i have years to go but im already concerned about the logistics of it all, and is it dangerous for a solo female? :s

    Thanks for the informative and inspiring posts here ❤️

    1. Hello Tin! I’m impressed with you, I love Cambodia too! Yes sure, I’m gonna write something about that. the Pros and Cons of travelling solo! You will be fine though and you will never be alone since you’ll be meeting a lot on the road! You’ll always have a travel buddy! I was travelling on my own before Jon and I become together, I had more friends on my own! hahahah

  9. saw your link on nomads.
    such a funny post, you had me laughing right from the start, and yes i can totally relate to this. i cant understand why i cant be one of those thin backpackers haha.
    from jasmine 🙂

    1. Oh thank you Jasmine!!! Well, wait for the thin backpackers to end their trip.haha. Anyway, please share and warn the other female backpackers.. thank you again! =)

  10. Hi Kach,
    your article couldn’t be more apt! Since I left Greece to travel Europe, about 8 months ago, I haven’t exercised at all -for all the reasons that you’ve already mentioned- instead I started eating cheap, junk food in large quanitites especially after a long tiring journey gaining weight as a result.
    The truth, as you also said, is that I never regreted a moment of seeing my body changes because of my travels!!
    But I would like to say that we should take more care of our everyday diet in order not only to avoid gaining extra weight but mainly to enable our body support us decently when we are tired and weak while travelling.
    Nice article, well done!

    1. Sotiria, I really appreciate your comment! Now, after learning this..then we can be both careful not because of the physical aspect but the health aspect!:)

  11. I laugh a lot as actually even if I’m hiking more than 6 hours per week, for sure it’s not enough. As an international food lover I always want to try / tast all the meals…
    I’ll see how will be my own trip next year as I’ll take a sabatical to travel.

    1. Hello, yeah esp if you decide to start your trip in South East Asia and you’ve made the right decision to take that sabbatical leave! Enjoy it and dont worry about gaining weight! haha =)

  12. I love this post! So funny …. yet so true! :-s But I especially love your end note – happy ongoing travels. 🙂

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Written by Kach Umandap - Howe

Founder of Two Monkeys Travel Group. Since 2013, Kach has visited all the 7 continents (including Antarctica) and 146 countries using her Philippines Passport. In 2016, she bought a sailboat and went on sailing adventures with her two cats - Captain Ahab & Little Zissou in the Caribbean for 2 years. She now lives in Herceg Novi, Montenegro where she's enjoying her expat life and living on a gorgeous Stonehouse. She writes about her experiences traveling as a Filipina traveler with a PHL Passport. Also tips on backpacking trips, luxury hotel experiences, product reviews, sailing & adventure travel.

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