How We Stay Safe & Healthy While Traveling Full-Time during COVID-19

by Jana & Grant Gamble

Some people asked if we were taking unnecessary risks by traveling during COVID-19 and we’re sure it’s a question on many people’s minds even if they don’t vocalize it. We have given this a lot of consideration and sought expert opinions from qualified people we trust while making this decision.

One very important factor in making our decision was the psychological and emotional wellbeing of our two teenaged kids, Jack, 16 and Stella, 14. We knew that their mental health was suffering under the restrictions of COVID-19 and remote school, and we also knew that these circumstances weren’t likely to change in the short term.

On the flip side, living on a 40-foot bus with your mom, dad and three dogs is not exactly a teenager’s dream. The teenage years are all about claiming your independence, which may be tough when the only privacy you can get is behind a curtain in a 6’x 3’ bunk.

We talked through all of this extensively both with the kids and also independently as parents. After hearing everyone’s opinions and considering everything, we decided that living on a bus and traveling full time is likely to be a healthier alternative to remote school and COVID-19 restrictions at home. Two months into our adventure, this seems to be the case.

We have given this ample consideration and sought expert opinions from qualified people we trust while making this decision.

Following COVID-19 Guidelines

We believe that if we stay in our pod and respect all the expert advice around mask use, social distancing and exposure risks, we should not be increasing our chances of exposure in any way by living on a bus vs. living in a home. We don’t fly or take public transportation. We avoid tourist traps and spend most of our time in nature, away from other people. And we always have our masks on hand, even while we’re outside. This doesn’t mean that there is no chance of getting COVID-19, but we feel that the chance is about the same as living at home.

We don’t usually eat much takeout food, but we do like to sample the local fare. Also, our bus kitchen is tiny and with three dogs laying around, it’s not easy to cook.

Given our desire not to eat indoors and avoid unnecessary COVID risks, we have been picking up a lot of takeout on this trip. We have also been observing mask etiquette and noting that the adherence to local ordinances requiring the use of masks varies a lot based on where we are, which makes us avoid public spaces even more, especially indoors. 

We have spent decades in the health, fitness and wellness industry and have learned a lot throughout the years. The following information is a result of our decades-long learning and subsequent implementation of these healthy lifestyle practices.

Healthy & Strong Immune System

Apart from following COVID safety guidelines, we also proactively make sure to boost our immune systems. We know that a healthy and diverse gut microbiome (the amount of healthy bacteria strains in our gut) is a key factor in a strong immune system. Many people rely on probiotics to boost their microbiome, but those offer a very limited number of strains of bacteria. Each strain is responsible for a different communication function in our bodies, so the more strains, the better. 

We know that a healthy and diverse gut microbiome (the amount of healthy bacteria strains in our gut) is a key factor in a strong immune system.

Go Outside

The best way to promote a healthy microbiome is to spend as much time outside in as many different environments as possible. Each environment has its own unique microbiome and by breathing it in, we diversify our own; you will get a different set of bacteria strains in the woods of Massachusetts than on the beaches of Key West.

Swimming in the ocean is another great way of boosting our microbiome as it offers ample bacterial diversity. Salt water also offers high levels of magnesium, an important mineral for our immune system’s health that many of us lack. Magnesium from the ocean is absorbed through our skin.

Another great benefit of spending time outside is sun exposure. The sun is the best source of Vitamin D, which is a vitamin most of us are deficient in that plays an important role in a healthy immune response. 

We need around 10-30 minutes of sun exposure several times a week (without sunscreen) to get enough Vitamin D.

The kids have remote school Monday – Thursday from 12:30 to 4pm and Grant and I also work remotely. We make sure that the kids get outside, even if it’s just to walk the dogs every day before school. On most days, we also get outside in the afternoons after school and work. Grant and I get out first thing every morning and swim in the ocean every chance we get, even in the winter (depending on where we are). We also take our shoes off outside and walk barefoot as much as possible, as “grounding” or “earthing” has been proven to be powerful for human health and wellbeing. This is a good reminder that we are a part of the Earth and the more connected we are to Her, the healthier we are likely to be.

The best way to promote a healthy microbiome is to spend as much time outside in as many different environments as possible.

Eat an Organic Rainbow & Hydrate

Another important way of promoting a healthy microbiome is to eat a wide variety of healthy organic food and to provide our bodies with sufficient hydration. It is important that we eat as much whole organic food as we can, because the amount of chemicals being used in conventional farming and food processing has been shown to cause all kinds of chronic disease, from autoimmune issues to cancer. We sometimes say that most of the food found in today’s grocery stores is not food, but “food-like products.”

Our diet has definitely been a little compromised while on the road.

Takeout food is rarely organic or very healthy and the confines of a bus on top of a busy work schedule make cooking tough at times. On top of that, some places are food deserts and organic produce is impossible to find.

But we make sure that there is a balance and never overdo it on the takeout. We also take advantage of opportunities like the wild caught fresh fish market across the street from our campground, or the local community’s farmer’s market.

Another important way of promoting a healthy microbiome is to eat a wide variety of healthy organic food and to provide our bodies with sufficient hydration.

Drink Water, Not Diet Coke

Hydration is another important health element that many people struggle with. We know people who only drink coffee all day long and we know people who only drink Diet Coke all day long, but neither actually qualifies as healthy hydration. We make sure that we always have a bottle of water that contains minerals (important for absorption) and we also love to drink a lot of herbal tea throughout the day, especially in the winter.

Always have a bottle of water that contains minerals (important for absorption).

Fun Movement

Along with nutrition and hydration, movement (or exercise) is the other obvious factor in a healthy immune system.

After decades spent in the health, fitness and wellness industry, we have observed one indelible truth: people will not stick with exercise/movement unless they find an activity that they enjoy. For some, that’s pushing weights at the gym, running on a treadmill or taking a group exercise, dance, or yoga class.

For us and others, it’s doing outdoor activities.

For the last several years, Grant and I have always exercised outdoors. We love to trail run, mountain bike ride, stand up paddle board, kayak, or even just walk or hike.

This is most suitable for the COVID-19 environment where exercising outdoors is the safest option. It is also the most suitable option for traveling. We love exploring different trails in the places we visit and finding waterways to paddle in. It’s a big part of our Gamble Family Adventure and we love it.

After decades spent in the health, fitness and wellness industry, we have observed one indelible truth: people will not stick with exercise/movement unless they find an activity that they enjoy.

Dial Down Your Stress

One of the biggest adversaries of our immune systems is stress. If you read Jana’s story, you will see that she has a lot of experience in this area from having battled debilitating chronic migraines for many years. She determined that stress was one of the biggest contributing factors to her condition and worked for years to find ways of effectively mitigating it.

In the end, she was able to heal herself through a combination of mindfulness practice, meditation and breathing techniques. She believes that each person will resonate with different stress management practices and we all need to explore to see what works for us.

Jana is a big fan of the Wim Hof Method combined with a mindfulness and meditation practice. Wim Hof Method is a combination of a breathing technique and cold exposure (cold showers or baths) that have a myriad of tremendously positive consequences for our physical, psychological as well as spiritual health and wellbeing. Jana has been an avid Wim Hof practitioner for over a year now and has experienced transformative consequences on her health.

We believe that the best strategy for developing a stress management practice is through baby steps. Start small, explore, see what works and build on that.

Here is an easy start: pause and take three conscious breaths right now. Now take a pen and draw a little circle on the top of your hand. Every time you notice the circle, pause and take three conscious breaths. The next step is to pause and take three conscious breaths every time you feel any degree of stress or anxiety. This takes practice, because we are usually not present while experiencing these emotional states and it is difficult to remember to pause and breathe while in a fight of flight state.

The magic of conscious breathing is that it brings you back to the present moment. If you talk to anxiety experts, they will tell you that anxiety does not exist in the present moment. It only appears when we’re contemplating either the past or the future. Conscious breathing also calms your nervous system and brings on the healthy parasympathetic state. 

One of the biggest adversaries of our immune systems is stress.

Creative Expression & Fun

In today’s world, it is really easy to get stuck on the treadmill going nowhere. Our society has been programmed to go to college, work 9-5 and gain as high of a title as possible, get married, buy a house, have kids, save for retirement, and so on. It’s “more, more, more, now, now, now.”

We become so focused on these things that often times we spend more time overwhelmed and stressed out than joyful and at peace. We sometimes lose sight of what’s really important and we forget about ourselves. The result is a perpetual nervous system state of fight or flight, which our bodies are not designed to sustain for long periods of time. Biologically, the fight or flight nervous system state is for scenarios such as a tiger chasing you through the savannah and you’re running for your life, but that’s it.

We believe that spending time on ourselves for no other reason but to have fun or to creatively express ourselves is critical to our health and wellbeing. It is a time when our nervous system re-sets from the overdriven fight or flight sympathetic mode to the more at ease parasympathetic mode.

Back home, Jana spent a lot of time in her art studio painting. Obviously, the bus won’t fit an art studio but there are other great opportunities for creative expression, such as photography and writing. She’s always loved taking photos while traveling and this time is no different. Grant shares this passion for photography and also takes hundreds upon hundreds of photos. He also loves to build and fix things and tinker, so he spends some time every day fixing or making something better. He is also a best-selling author and enjoys writing the majority of our daily travel blog entries.

Jack has discovered his passion and talent for photography and spends a considerable amount of time taking and processing photos. Stellie is an artist and has become interested in character design, so she is learning how to draw anime characters on her computer. She can also build a mean sandcastle on the beach, which most definitely qualifies as a fun time.

We believe that spending time on ourselves for no other reason but to have fun or to creatively express ourselves is critical to our health and wellbeing.

To sum things up, we believe that in order to have a healthy immune system, an overall healthy lifestyle is key. This includes the obvious things like diet and exercise, but also the less obvious ones like spending ample time outside, having an effective stress management practice and perhaps most importantly, have fun and be creative as much as possible.

We hope that you can find little tidbits here that you can easily incorporate into your family’s lifestyle and boost your chances for a healthy, fulfilled life full of adventures and joy.

We wish you happy and safe travels, both on the road and in life.

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