Travel and running

Most people I know who spend some time travelling tell me that they don’t work out while they’re on the go. There just isn’t time.

My approach wasn’t any different until I decided to overhaul my life while travelling the world for long periods of time. It’s almost a fluke that I went running at all, but the fact that there weren’t really any gyms around meant that I had to start running to keep in shape.

And it’s not like there weren’t obstacles along the way – in Kathmandu on my very first morning, I ran by some stray dogs who were fighting each other and then decided to turn their attention to me instead. They wouldn’t leave (even when I dodged traffic) until I begged some Nepalese guy to chase them off. After that point, I ran in the hotel garden for exercise (and got some strange looks).

But while I now have a bit of a fear of dogs, I didn’t want to let them keep me from what I wanted to do. So I continued to run, and see different cities in a whole new light.

Like in Hue, Vietnam, where I ran past a group of people having coffee on the sidewalk, who moved their tables and cheered. Or, on the same run, the woman who laughed when I bowed to her small dog and calmly explained that he couldn’t join me.

Or in Hoi An (also in Vietnam), where I saw the shopkeepers setting up for the day, seemingly unaware of my existence. Or in Hanoi and Saigon, where a local grabbed my arm and pulled me across the street to save me from navigating the plethora of scooters.

Or in Aqaba, Jordan, where a group of small kids shyly approached me and said “Welcome to Jordan”, and a taxicab driver decided to challenge me to a race (I won, but he was fast for a big guy)!

I saw a winter sun rise over the Eiffel Tower and the Ayasofia in Istanbul; ran past the palaces of Phnom Penh; ran through the streets of small Tunisian cities and through the desert (unaware of the changes that would be wrought less than a year later); took a running tour ten miles through the streets of Buenos Aires; ran along the ocean in Montevideo; through a forest outside of Prague; ran past Buckingham Palace and through St. James Park; ran along the beach in Mombasa with a Kenyan; ran through the deserted streets of St. Petersburg, past the Hermitage, virtually alone; ran through the streets of Barcelona; and tons of other travel experiences I would never have had otherwise.

So the moral is, what I thought I was doing just for exercise actually turned out to be a valuable travel experience in its own right. Who would have thought?

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