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Multivitamins are Essential for Healthy International Travel

I’m not going to fake it: it’s often difficult to continuously eat healthy when traveling long term. I’m extremely pragmatic about food, I eat to be healthy and to fill myself up — good taste is a mere side benefit that I’m not overtly concerned with. Some could say that I’m a touch obsessive about [...]

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High potency multivitaminI’m not going to fake it: it’s often difficult to continuously eat healthy when traveling long term. I’m extremely pragmatic about food, I eat to be healthy and to fill myself up — good taste is a mere side benefit that I’m not overtly concerned with. Some could say that I’m a touch obsessive about eating healthy, I make sure I consume the right amounts of meat, get all of my vegetables, fruit, dairy, grains, etc . . . each day, and I often cook for myself. But even with the attention that I put towards eating healthy I can’t say that I feel I’m able to cover all my nutritional bases all the time with food alone.

So I take a multivitamin daily.

Taking one simple multivitamin means that I’m taking in my recommended daily allowance of most essential vitamins and minerals right off the bat each day. Though I know that I do not absorb all of the essence of these pills (some is expelled from the body as waste) I know that they do help me round out my diet as they supplement my intake of food. Multivitamins are as essential for the traveler as a backpack, a good pair of boots, and cooking gear.

In point, traveling across large expanses of geography means that I only have certain foods available to me in certain places at certain times — and there are great variations in local food preference and agricultural production in different areas. When in places like Thailand — where there is an abundance of cheap and readily available meat, vegetables, and fruit — I know I can eat healthy. But when in Mongolia — where vegetables and fruit don’t really grow — my diet is often cut down to meat, dairy, and noodles. I want to keep my nutritional intake consistent no matter where in the world I am, so I supplement with a high-potency multivitamin.

Another habit of travel is to rely solely on restaurants for food. In most places this means consuming a lot of meat and starch at the expense of well prepared vegetables. Green plant matter are not really part of the cuisine in many types of restaurants in the world, or if vegetables are offered they are done so as a sad side dish or a scant toppings on the main course. People need more vegetables than this.

So I highly recommend taking a multivitamin daily.

What kind of multivitamin to take?

The type of multivitamin you take is key to how useful it will be. I recommend avoiding the “supermarket” variety of vitamin (like Centrum) as they simply do not have enough of the good stuff in them. In point, the recommended daily allowance of many vitamins and minerals are extremely underestimated, so taking vitamins that have up to 100% of everything is not the most effective type. Ideally, I recommend aiming for the high-potency type of multivitamin, the kind that has at least 100 to 500% of all the essential vitamins and minerals. I’m currently taking a multivitamin that has the following nutritional properties:

  • Vitamin A – 100%
  • Vitamin C – 200%
  • Vitamin D – 100%
  • Vitamin E – 250%
  • Vitamin K – 100%
  • B-1 – 350%
  • B-2 – 353%
  • Niacin – 250%
  • B-6 – 500%
  • Folic Acid – 100%
  • B-12 – 417%
  • Zinc – 100%
  • Selenium – 286%
  • Copper – 175%
  • Manganese – 375%
  • Chromium – 167%

You get the picture.

I also take a Vitamin C drop that has 633% DV, an additional Zinc supplement that has 333% DV, and another B-Vitamin complex. But I admit that this supplementation load is truly not needed — sticking with a single high-potency multivitamin per day is often good enough.

Buy multivitamins before leaving home

Though multivitamins are common fare in the supermarkets and drugstores of the over-developed West, they can be very difficult to come upon elsewhere. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried in vain to find suitable multivitamins when traveling in countries like El Salvador or Albania. Simply put, the “take your daily vitamin” ethos of the USA have not been uniformly exported around the world. One reason for this is that multivitamins are relatively expensive in many countries. In China, a three month supply of a low-potency multivitamin costs around $20. That’s too much to pay for something that sells for five bucks in the USA. In point, I highly recommend picking up a big bottle (or two) of multivitamins at home BEFORE leaving to travel abroad. I always try to have a year supply with me, as I never know how long it may be before I’m again in a place where I can buy a good multivitamin cheap.

Multivitamin conclusion

The way you feel dictates how much you’re able to enjoy yourself throughout a day of travel, and the way you feel is directly connected to how healthy you are. Sure, you’re probably not going to drop dead by eating an unbalanced diet and not taking multivitamins, but there is a good chance that you’re not going to be as alert, active, and healthy as you would be otherwise. By making sure you’re eating well and supplementing with vitamins and minerals you ensure that you’re taking one major step towards feeling good when traveling the world.

Buy the multivitamin that I take

The one on the left is one bottle of 300 vitamins, the one on the right is for two bottles.

Buy the multivitamin that I take

The one on the left is one bottle of 300 vitamins, the one on the right is for two bottles.

Filed under: Health, Travel Tips

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

7 comments… add one

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  • Jack August 20, 2012, 1:48 am

    One of the more important articles on your site, Wade. I started doing it by accident back in 2003 in Thailand and I went from getting sick every couple of weeks to every couple of months.

    I wholeheartedly agree that vitamins need to be bought in the US if possible. You are spot on about the costs and availability. I’ve had to get a supply now here in China and I’m paying $10 for a month supply of regular Centrum vitamins. I’d prefer something with more potency.

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    • Wade Shepard August 20, 2012, 6:01 am

      Right on. Those things are my lifelines. I had to have a friend cart me over a big supply from the States. It’s my impression that it may actually be cheaper to order a good amount from the US and have them mailed to China than buying them here??? I have to do this for some other health products (i.e. whey protein). It’s amazing that anything that is considered a “middle class luxury” in this country is marked up 5X the price it probably should be. It’s especially funny that some of these things are made in China and sell for less in the US than they do here.

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      • Abigail Martin December 15, 2017, 10:59 am

        I am sorry it may not be popping up on my screen- but what is the name of the multivitamin you take? I am very curious to find a good one because I am about to leave on an 18 month service mission to Peru.

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        • VagabondJourney December 15, 2017, 1:25 pm

          My current position is that vitamins are a waste of money, do little for health in normal circumstances, and can actually have a detrimental effect. You’re going to Peru, a place that has well balanced food options. Just eat food.

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          • Frugal Frequency Holder December 16, 2017, 1:21 am

            Multi-vitamins are modern-day snake oil. Every foreign geography has their own healthy diet. Local cooking classes are great place to learn them. Common sense eating + a drug and alcohol-free lifestyle + daily exercise works wonders for the immune system.

            Appreciate you having the courage to dismiss your original suggestion VagabondJourney. Great blog.

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          • Jack Woods December 16, 2017, 2:44 pm

            I still stick by my original comment. I have seen vitamins make up for a lousy diet. Sure, it’s better to eat good and real good, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. I take a packet of EmergenC every night. I take it as much for the vitamins as I do for orange flavored drink. That said, if you eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables then you have no need for vitamins.

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  • whitemonkeytravels February 4, 2018, 10:21 pm

    I just chop up ginger, pop in a mug, add hot (boiling)water, leave it to cool, drink half, re fill with hot water repeat. keeps the immune system going. i never get sick… add a massive squeeze of lemon, and maybe some honey.

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