A year into my quest to improve my travel, fitness, and freelance business

Last July, I set an ambitious goal for myself – to get into the best shape of my life while running a successful business and traveling the world.

None of those things are “supposed” to go together. Traveling the world is amazing (hence, this blog!), but it’s harder to eat right and exercise while on the road, which is something I’ve discussed in previous posts. Also, running a successful business is tough enough on its own, but when coupled with working out and visiting amazing countries regularly, it can seem impossible.

But, a year later, I am happy to share that I’ve achieved my goal! My law practice has never been better, my travel in the last year has taken me all over the world (including Chile, Turks & Caicos, Colombia, the Philippines, Belize, Greece, Turkey, London, Hong Kong, and Portugal), and, below, you can see my fitness progress.

First, here’s a picture from almost exactly a year apart:

Fitness comparison.jpg
August 2016                                                                          July 2017

Though I was opposed to “progress pictures” when I started working out (hence none from July, when I first began), I’ve found these to be great motivators. There are times when I think my diet and exercise aren’t paying off, but when I look side-by-side, I can see that it really is making a difference.

Next, the numbers:

Fitness Chart

While I try not to let the numbers go to my head, taking measurements ~monthly helps me stay accountable. Some of these numbers might not be dead on (fairly certain my waist was closer to a 32 when I started, for example), but it’s accurate enough for my purposes.

The changes I’m happiest about from these numbers are:

  • Body fat down from 16.4% to 10.6%
  • Arms up from 11.9 inches to 14 inches
  • Weight is up from 150.6lbs to 160lbs

I’ve also had positive changes to my mood and self-confidence, have saved money on food by cooking most meals at home, and have only gotten sick once in the last year (and a short cold at that).

It’s challenging, though. Before starting this quest, I loved to eat cheeseburgers and cheese fries with a side of cheese pizza, and I still love that. I’m also addicted to Diet Pepsi/Diet Coke (I’m agnostic to brand, which is another one of my many flaws). I also love my bed more than life itself and consider myself to be pretty lazy.

But the results have been so good that I am going to make the same goal for myself this year, and hope I’ll be writing in July 2018 with an even cooler update.

After 3 bad experiences in a row, I am no longer going for status on Alaska Airlines

I am huge fan of Virgin America, and my friends in the Pacific Northwest uniformly won’t stop talking about how amazing Alaska Airlines is.

So, when the Alaska/Virgin America merger was announced, I decided then and there that I was going to go for status on the airline, and possibly make it my domestic airline of choice.

But as I sit in the Puerto Vallarta airport waiting for my Alaska flight, which has been delayed “at least 1.5 hours,” I’ve realized this has been my third bad experience in a row, and have decided to no longer try for status on the airline.

Somewhat ironically, the reason I’m flying on Alaska right now because this summer, a flight I was on from SFO to Portland was delayed almost 3 hours, and I was given a voucher for $125 towards another flight. Delays, in general, are frustrating, but for that flight, I was heading to Portland for a dear friend’s wedding and missed her rehearsal dinner as a result. For that flight, I told them of my urgent need to get to Portland for the dinner, but the gate agents made no effort to rebook me. This was strike one.

Then, in January, again thinking I would go for status on the airline, I decided to book a Delta flight to LAX from SFO, taking advantage of the Delta/Alaska partnership which is ending in May.

Days after my flight, I didn’t have my miles posted onto my Alaska account, which I blogged about. A month later, 3-4 calls (average wait time over 1 hour), and 5 e-mails later, and my miles still had not posted. Delta and Alaska both confirmed the problem was on Alaska’s end, so about 6 weeks after the flight, I called Alaska and told the agent (again after waiting an hour to speak to her) that I wasn’t getting off of the phone until the miles were posted to my account.

Although the woman was nice enough, it took over an hour for the problem to be resolved. She said the airline was having difficulty handling the volume of new Virgin America customers, but when I asked why my previous 5 e-mails had been ignored, she merely apologized and said this wasn’t the service Alaska usually gave customers. I politely disagreed, letting her know this was the quality of service I was used to receiving from the airline.

Nevertheless, when my friends decided to go on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, I decided it would be the perfect time to use my voucher, and to continue my quest for Alaska status. What a mistake! While my friends, flying on United, took off on time and had their upgrades confirmed, I was standing in line waiting to board when, 10 minutes after boarding was supposed to start, they announced that there are “maintenance issues,” that the flight will be delayed at least an hour and a half, and that they will tell us more information in an hour.

Maybe it is just my luck, but I had wanted to try Alaska to experience the service my friends in Portland rave about. Because my experience has been the opposite, I’m going to stick with United and American (where I already have status on both) for my domestic trips.

UPDATE: They delay ultimately got us to the ground 2 hours late in SFO. Those on the flight with connections were told upon landing in SF that they would need to be rebooked for the morning and given a hotel room for the night. It was apparently caused by a flat tire. This morning, Alaska sent me a $75 voucher to use on a future flight, even though I was specifically told I would not be receiving a voucher from a gate agent.

8 tips for traveling with anxiety

I’ve had an anxiety disorder for pretty much my entire adult life. Triggers of mine include crowds, social settings, absolutely nothing (this can be the worst), and, unfortunately, travel.

I guess it’s time for me to admit that I’m a travel blogger who has a panic attack before almost every trip I take. And, while it’s not easy, I decided long ago to not let my anxiety take away one of the things I love most in life.

Me before I travel

If you have anxiety, you know that it’s not always rational. In line to get my passport stamped in the Philippines last month, I saw I only had 5 visa pages left, which led me to think that I’d need a new passport, which led to me to think that the money it would cost would prevent me from taking another trip, which led me to think I might run out of pages while I’m on a trip, which led me to think I’d end up in jail (which doesn’t even happen), which led me to have a panic attack. I’m told this is called “catastrophic thinking.”

High-anxiety situations while traveling include getting to the airport on time, budgeting, checking in, the boarding process, your luggage, interactions with other passengers, connections, language barriers, and the list goes on.

While not an all-encompassing list, here are some tips and tricks I found for traveling if you have a lot of anxiety:

  1. Get your own bedroom

Sometimes, you need your own space.

That amazing zen-like feeling of being alone

While group travel is a lot of fun, as is staying in hostels with strangers (most of the time), if you have social anxiety it can be hard to be around even your best friends all of the time. Knowing that you have a sanctuary you can escape to, an island of you, can really help calm your nerves.

It’s not always financially feasible to do so, but when looking up places to stay, consider finding somewhere that you’ll have some way to escape, be alone, and unwind at night.

2. Exercise

Fun fact: taking a casual swim like this every day increases your awesomeness

So, you’re travelling, which means you can really just let yourself go, right? Well, you probably will. But there is tremendous value to working out while on the road. Exercising while you travel can decrease anxiety, help you sleep better, and make you feel less badly about downing that pitcher of margaritas that was supposed to be for the entire table.

3. Use your medicine


If you have an anxiety disorder, particularly if you’re an American, then you probably have a prescription to something. Traveling isn’t the time to come off of these medicines. Taking trips, even just for fun, can be incredibly stressful, and your anxiety can hit you at any time – whether it’s on the plane or on the beach.

If your New Year’s resolution is to ween yourself off of Xanax, then by all means do it, but wait until you aren’t on a trip to try it.

4. Carry-on luggage

What if my luggage never arrives?!

Will the airline lose my bag? Will I have to pick up my luggage on a connection? Why did everyone else get their bag already except me? Did I remember to pack a toe nail clipper? These are anxiety-ridden questions which have likely popped in your head while you’ve traveled.

Bringing only carry-on luggage can help eliminate these and other checked-luggage related problems.

Bringing carry-on luggage can cause anxiety of its own, though, including not being able to bring the liquids that you want and worrying about whether there will be enough overhead space for your luggage. But I’ve found the latter is more tolerable, especially if you…

5. Travel on airlines and stay at hotels where you have status

This is another luxury that not all travelers have. But, if you travel often enough and have anxiety, you should consider trying for status with an airline or hotel because many of the benefits will decrease your anxiety.

For example, with United, Premier MileagPlus status gets you priority boarding (so you know there will be space for your overhead luggage) and complimentary access to Economy Plus seats when available, which will give you a little bit of additional space in an otherwise constricted area.

Wondering if you’ll have space for your overhead luggage

Hotel status can get you guaranteed late check-outs and early check-in times, which can decrease your anxiety about what to do with a late departure or a really early morning arrival.

6. Get credit cards for each major airline

If you can’t get status on an airline, the next best (and sometimes even better) thing you can do is get a credit card for an airline. In addition to the sweet sign-on bonuses they offer (sometimes well over 50,000 miles), airline credit cards often get you priority boarding, which can help to get your situated on the plane with your luggage set much earlier on in the boarding process.

Some credit cards, such as United’s, come with free lounge passes to use, which is another way to help decrease your anxiety during travel – both because of the added space and the easier access to booze (which is unfortunately not always free in airline lounges).

7. Tell your travel partners about it

If you’re traveling with friends – or strangers that you just met but plan on continuing your trip with – let them know that you get anxious sometimes. When you’re with someone who doesn’t know you have anxiety, you can freak out even more when you do start to have an attack.

Friends can sometimes help you when you’re anxious

Even if someone doesn’t have anxiety, they likely already know someone who does. And even if not, it’s worth letting someone know that you’re prone to it and explaining to them what it does sometimes. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, and by letting your travel partners know you have anxiety issues, you may end up reducing the chances of having any issues.

8. TSA PreCheck and Global Entry

I saved the best for last.

If you don’t already have TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, particularly if you take a fair amount of international trips, go and get it. It is worth every single penny that you will spend on it, and the hassle of signing up.

Do you know what it’s like to fear the line at immigration? I don’t anymore (at least, not in America). Do you hate going through security? I do, too, but it takes 1/4 of the time and I get to keep my shoes on.

When you have PreCheck, the airport is your red carpet

I can’t tell you how many panic attacks TSA PreCheck and Global Entry have saved me, but I’m guessing it’s a lot.

Finally, probably the best piece of travel advice I’ve received was from my friend Bob who told me, “If you forget something, don’t worry. There are stores wherever you go.” This mantra has saved me from so many panic attacks, and it’s a good thing for any anxious traveler to remember before their trip.

Chasing Fitness Goals While Traveling

In mid-July 2016, I started focusing on my health and fitness like never before. As a kid, I participated in sports, but past high school, I largely relied on my metabolism and genetics for making me look somehow different than how I should, considering the food I was eating and my lack of exercise.

My day job is as a freelance attorney, and, while working remotely in Medellin, Colombia, I met a client who was forming a private personal training gym right next to my apartment in San Francisco. When I got back to California, I decided to stop in, and I was convinced to sign up for 3 free sessions; since then, I’ve been hooked.

Whenever I’m in San Francisco, I work out with my trainer 2-3 times per week. But when I’m traveling, which can be over 2 weeks per month, my workout schedule suffers. Unfortunately, I am not very self-motivated when it comes to working out. That said, to help stay on my game, I take my measurements once per month, looking at my muscle growth, body fat percentage loss, and other metrics. This gives me motivation to make sure that when I travel, I , at the very least, will not lose the progress I have made.

Another fitness issue I’m finding when traveling is food. At home, I can guarantee that I will eat 150 grams of protein and 2,800 calories, and still stay under my carbohydrates goals. I can also make protein shakes every day if it looks like I might not make my protein goal. It’s much harder to do this abroad, especially when you aren’t sure what’s in the food, when you don’t have protein powder or a blender, when you’re in a rush, or when you’re drinking because you’re stressed (it happens).

I am still trying to find how I can fit my fitness journey in with my travel obsession, and to maximize my results.  If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments!