Ask Allen Travel Tips
Skratch founder, Dr. Allen Lim, travels constantly. Whether he’s off to a training camp to coach a professional athlete, going home to LA for family time, or spreading the Skratch stoke to all corners of the world, he rarely stays in one place for too long. We nailed him down for a few minutes to answer some questions and share his wisdom from his travels.
Do you pack any food when you travel?
I don’t ever pack food when I travel. It’s too much of a pain, and I’m pretty adventurous about food. I’m also good with being hungry so I’ve never found it to be that important for me. What I do know, however, is that it’s super easy to make bad food choices when on the road. I’ve got enough life experience to know that as good as the McDonald’s Sausage Egg McMuffin might smell at 7 am in an airport terminal, eating one will absolutely make me feel like crap for the rest of the day. So if there aren’t good food choices available, I tend to use travel days as fasting or semi-fasting days. I’m a fan of intermittent fasting, especially since I don’t always get to exercise as much as I’d like. Travel days and transitions are always good ways to do a fast and avoid crappy foods. What I do always pack, however, is our Wellness Hydration Drink Mix. It’s a great product to stay hydrated on my “fasting” travel days, and it’s essential in case I eat something that makes me sick.
2. How do you stay fit on the road?
I never use the hotel gyms. That said, I almost always bring one set of cycling kit, my cycling shoes, my PowerTap pedals, and my helmet when I travel, ‘cause it’s fairly easy to borrow a bike in my travel network. Mostly though, I’ve committed to the idea of traveling with a bicycle. It’s that important to me. And ya, it’s a pain in the ass, and I have done plenty of trips where I bring my bike and don’t ride it. Still, staying fit is a commitment, and I see traveling with my bicycle or shipping it ahead of time as part of that commitment.
Beyond cycling or gyms, a great way to stay fit while on the road is to walk. Seriously, walking is awesome and a really great way to get a low-stress activity in. On my last trip to Tokyo, I walked 14 miles my first day while exploring the city. That’s equivalent to 1400 Kcals of activity, which helped to justify all the ramen I had! Also, pushups, sit-ups, and jump rope are great ways to stay active when traveling. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
3. What’s the best way to find a good restaurant in a new city?
So far the best way to find a good restaurant in a new city is a combination of recommendations from friends, Instagram, and Google. If a given spot registers on all three, then you know you’re in business. My go-to Google searches are, “best croissant” in “name of city,” or “izakaya,” “ramen,” or just “best food” in “name of city.” You can also just walk around and sniff it out. The nose knows.
4. Do you bring any creature comforts?
My creature comforts are great luggage and a great packing job. I know this sounds weird, but if I feel like I am extremely well organized and have the perfect bag for the trip, I feel more at ease. That said, I do always have the following with me to make life easier. First, my Bose Quiet Comfort Wireless Headphones plus earplugs. I think that noise really fatigues me, especially in planes or in a noisy hotel. So what I do in those situations is put in the ear plugs and then put my headphones on over that. Then I crank the volume up on the headphones to either some soothing nature sound, music, or a book. The earplugs help block out big sounds and the noise-canceling headphones block the lower frequency noise. It’s an awesome way to get into your own little bubble. I also bring with me a good book, my laptop, and some fresh pens, and maybe even a fresh notebook. That’s a nice comfort. I have traveled with scented candles or essential oils…that can help. And a pillow can definitely help, though they’re bulky and are a pain to carry around. On international flights, I’ll always bring CEP compression wool socks and a pair of pajama bottoms plus flip flops that are easy to access. You can’t be comfortable in jeans on a long flight. Ultimately, as long as I have my phone, laptop, keys, and wallet, I figure I can get what I need when I get there.
5. Any "must do" in a new city?
Find the food that that city is known for. Food is a great connector, whether it be a croissant or a bowl of ramen or local fare that gives a city identity.
Wikipedia the city and read about it, so you’ve got some conversational knowledge in the bank.
Try and find a bikeshare and cruise around or just go for a really long-ass walk.
Get the job done. I almost only travel for work…so I get really mission oriented when I travel. Once done, I roam or wander or just nap.
6. Any other wisdom you'd like to share?
I get anxious when I travel…especially when I leave home. I don’t usually have a problem once I’m on the road, but the day and night before and the period leading up to take off (if I’m flying) is always a terrible time for me mentally. I get super anxious and homesick during that period of time. I think it’s because leaving represents a form of lost connection with my community that I love being a part of. I intellectually get that traveling is a way to create new connections, but driving away from home always pains me. It always has, and I think it always will. What I’ve learned is that it gets worse when I’m tired. There have been times when I’ve been so tired leading up to travel that my emotions take over, and I have found myself literally walking off of planes during boarding. So the wisdom that I’ve learned is to always try and rest as much as possible before leaving home. I’ve also learned to lean on others—to minimize the travel I do by myself and to call or talk to people as much as possible while I’m on the road alone. As much as travel can be fun and filled with new experiences and adventure, it can also be one of the most isolating things that we do. So look at people, smile, say hi, and connect. Those simple things help me not to lose my biscuits.
Finally, build yourself a second wallet that you keep stashed away with an extra everything. That way, if you do ever actually lose your wallet, you’re still good to go. You can get a passport card in addition to your actual passport for crossing into Canada or Mexico. It doesn’t allow you to fly. But, if you do lose your passport, it makes it a lot easier to get a new passport or a temporary passport if you have a passport card.
About Dr. Allen Lim: Dr. Allen Lim received his doctorate from the Applied Exercise Science Laboratory in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado. Allen worked on the Pro Cycling Tour as a sport scientist and coach for professional cycling teams. More recently, Allen founded Skratch Labs, a boot-strapped sports nutrition company that was ranked in 2014 as the third fastest-growing food and beverage company in the USA by Inc., 5000. Allen has also co-written three cookbooks with Chef Biju Thomas—the Feed Zone Cookbook, the Feed Zone Portables, and the Feed Zone Table. He has served as a consultant for Olympic teams, and for organizations and individuals ranging from the Joe Gibbs Racing Team to President George W. Bush.