3 Wellness Tips I Learned From Traveling In South America

South America

November 10, 2019

Gretchen Lidicker is a writer, researcher, and the author of the books CBD Oil Everyday Secrets and Magnesium Everyday Secrets. She has a degree in biology and a masters in physiology with a concentration in complementary and integrative medicine. She's been featured in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Forbes, and Travel & Leisure.

As a health and wellness writer — and a Brooklynite with three juice bars, two yoga studios, and an organic grocery store all within a 2-block radius — I can’t help but feel like I’m smack in the center of the wellness world. But on a recent trip to South America, I landed in the mountain city Medellín and stumbled upon a thriving wellness scene.

Nicknamed “la ciudad de la eterna primavera” (AKA, the city of eternal spring) the average monthly temperature in Medellín, Colombia is in the mid-70s — all year long. Technically it has a tropical rainforest climate, but thanks to it’s high elevation, it’s much cooler than you’d expect; no window is ever closed and there isn’t an air conditioner in sight.

During my time there, I learned (and re-learned) a few things about healthy living. Here are three of them — and why I’ll be bringing them back to my wellness routine.

1. Breakfast can still be the most important meal of the day.

Egg dishes galore, bowls overflowing with fresh fruit, homemade full-fat yogurt, and a steaming cappuccino is what my breakfast looked like almost every day while in Medellín. With the massive rise in popularity of intermittent fasting in the U.S., many of us have turned our backs on breakfast. It used to be my favorite meal but these days even I, a true breakfast lover, often opt out in favor of a 14-hour fasting window between dinner and my first meal the next day.

But in my days in Medellín I reconnected with my love of breakfast, and learned that it’s not just eating breakfast that matters, it’s how you eat it. As Salomé, the founder of a local healthy lifestyle brand, called Guatama, explains, “In other countries everything is take-away or on-the-go but in Colombia, it’s important to sit and eat.” People are busy and they eat quickly, she says, but they still sit and eat.

So I sat, I sipped my coffee, I ate papaya and dragon fruit, and I loved every minute of it.

2. Avocados really are everyone’s favorite food.

Avocados have gained a reputation as the Millennial generation’s favorite food. But let’s be honest, they’re everyone’s favorite food. In one of Salomé’s cafes, located in the lobby of a wellness-focused co-living space called Indie Studio, avocado is featured in nearly every recipe, including an avocado-cacao smoothie bowl topped with edible flowers and puffed quinoa. “Everyone loves avocados here. When you think about healthy fats, the first thing you think about is avocado,” she says.

This love of avocado is a convenient mix of tradition, convenience, and current wellness trends. “They’re in a lot of traditional Colombian dishes and there are organic avocado farms right outside the city, so it’s something you can eat every day,” she continues.

3. Plant-based is still one of the healthiest ways to eat.

Paleo and keto diets are all the rage, but traveling in South America reminded be that plant-based diets are still one of the healthiest in the world, especially when it comes to protecting the environment. According to Salomé, a ton of the locals have switched to a plant-based diet in the past five or six years. “They’re very popular at the moment for many reasons; for animals, for the environment, for health,” she says. In her close group of six friends, three are vegetarians and one vegan. And while Guatama doesn’t subscribe to any single nutrition philosophy, she says that “in Medellin, a restaurant with no plant-based option isn’t going to survive.”

When it comes to healthy living, it’s easy to get caught up in what’s trendy or new and ironically, sometimes it’s at the expense of your good health. Travel is the perfect antidote for this, getting you out of your routine and giving you the perspective to decide what practices and philosophies —*really*— make you feel good. This trip reminded me to sit down and enjoy a meal, fill up on fresh fruits and veggies first and, of course, never be afraid to turn an avocado into a meal.