Toothbrush? Check. Passport? Check. Your diet? That’s all too easy to forget. Travelling on a budget can make your diet the most boring part of your adventure trip being more of a necessity than prime pleasure – especially when money is tight. Diet is a challenge on longer trips such as a gap year or when your mode of travel restricts your eating habits; think of long distance hikes where the weight of your food is more important than choice and taste. So here I share my top three favourite dishes which could spice up your next travel experience. For the curious ones between you, this Ozzie travel mate is digging into kangaroo tail which we baked in the sand Aboriginee style while camping out in swags. 😉
A great traveller’s breakfast is porridge; it keeps you going through most of the day without getting hungry and is pretty cheap, healthy and even gluten free. Just pour boiling water into a bowl of porridge and let it sit for a while and add fruit, yoghurt, jam or honey for flavour. Avoid excess sugar. Porridge is fairly light and fits into any backpack without the danger of getting squashed. This recipe is inspired by my school friend Toni, a passionate hiker and mountaineer who gives the best advice on packing a light backpack. In fact he should have written his PhD on it. I am still in awe how he once carried his complete food supplies on a three week hike through Swedish wilderness. Here’s what kept him going:
For long distance hikes premix oats with sugar, chocolate powder, milk powder and add dried fruit or nuts for a different daily variation. You won’t believe it, but when I was hiking the Overlander in Tasmania, a 65km hike through the mountain wilderness, I was looking forward to this blood sugar-boosting breakfast six days in a row!
Healthy and fresh pasta
If you find a hostel with olive oil (which is usually a tricky one to carry in a backpack) and want to treat yourself to intense flavour, here’s my favourite quick and easy pasta recipe that I learned from my Italian friend Riccardo from Roma. It’s soooo good I have been making it at least once a month for the past 14 years and it still does impress new friends. Special thanks to Riccardo’s mum!
Use Penne Rigatte (for two servings). While waiting for the pasta to boil, cut two tomatoes and one mozzarella cheese (not the rubbery ones you get in Australia and the US though) into a mixing bowl. Pour a generous splash of olive oil on top to make it a sauce and add 2-5 peeled garlic gloves in whole so you can pick them out from your plate later. Spice up with fresh basil leaves (dried basil or rocket leaves can improvise), chili, salt and pepper. The longer the sauce sits, the stronger the flavour will be. Once the pasta is al dente fling it into the bowl, mix well and serve immediately. It can also be enjoyed cold the next day.
Fresh Spring Rolls
This is a recipe to impress new friends, ideal for a traveller’s dinner gathering. The story how I got to know this one is pretty abstract, but it proves it’s even great when camping:
After visiting the beautiful Kimberley’s in North Western Australia I found myself in Kununurra almost running out of money. Amongst backpackers, it is famous for fruit picking, mainly melons and pumpkins. Fruit picking was to be my last resort to earn money and I had done well so far avoiding it. Luckily the weather had delayed harvest time and there were no jobs yet. So I did not have to kill my back from bending and lifting these heavy weights and instead I found a note in the local supermarket offering a lift to Darwin sharing car travel expenses. The car share turned out to be three backpackers in a Jeep: two Norwegian 20 year olds and a Parisian in his mid 20s with Chinese roots, which explains the Asian link to this recipe. What a mix! It took us freaking 9 days to cover 850km! A lot of travellers drive slowly to save petrol and it’s also safer not to hit road kill. These guys drove no faster than 80km/h for about 3-5 hours a day. We made detours and stopped at all the famous National Parks on our way, for example Litchfield and Nitmiluk where we did some awesome hikes in crocodile country. Sometimes we even drove back on our route in order to camp for free along the road, just like grey nomads do… They are Australia’s pensioners who often exchange their houses for a caravan and travel with the weather. After 5 days I was getting really impatient although we saw some amazingly beautiful places. I must have been close to a few heart attacks travelling with these youngsters. First of all they jumped into almost every waterfall we hiked past, one trying to top the other for bravado… And when we reached Victory River two of them were keen on crossing it by foot at a clear, stony and shallow section. That’s the crocodile infested river where Rod Ansell famously survived 56 days in the bush after being stranded following a crocodile attack, that’s the real Crocodile Dundee.
No joke, this guy is sewing his tent back together! Parisians, aye….
So one night after a 20km hike in Nitmiluk we drove back 60km to save camping fees and I remember we drove past our first bush fire in the dark… It wasn’t exactly accommodating camping a 30 min drive away from a bush fire not knowing much about it, but then we weren’t the only campers at this stop and we talked through the day’s impressions while preparing this delicious dinner some time close to midnight:
A packet of rice paper for spring rolls
Hot water in a flat dish
Spring roll sauce
Fillings: precooked rice noodles, 1 grated carrot, half a cucumber cut into small pieces, finely cut lettuce, 1 sliced avocado, some boiled chicken cut into small pieces, precooked shrimp and anything you fancy in your spring rolls.
Soak one rice paper at the time and place on your plate when soggy, then place the fillings you like and roll it similar to a wrap: one end first, then both sides and finally roll up the open end. Vary the choice of fillings for different tastes. Dip into the sauce and enjoy! I love it because everyone is basically making their own and it reminds me a bit of eating sushi. The tricky bit would be finding an Asian Food shop of course.
Although there surely are expensive high end ready made meals and thousands of pasta sauce variations with a lot of E-numbers and preservatives. That never really was my thing. There are so many alternatives – I am also a fan of risotto when travelling because rice is easy to carry and you just add fresh ingredients at your stop.
And last but not least: make sure to stay hydrated. I usually carry an empty bottle on my travels which I refill. Handy at airports 🙂
Please let us know your hot travel meals!