In order to do the top notch kashrus work that we do here at the OK, we make sure to personally visit our facilities on a regular basis, even when located in far flung parts of the world. I feel very strongly that this personal involvement is what makes the OK such a premiere, top of the line hechsher. Alas, extended trips to the other side of the world come with lots of challenges to a person’s physical, spiritual and family health. Just as a simple example, in the first 6 years that I worked for the OK, I gained over 30 pounds, to a large extent attributable to the challenges of eating healthy when travelling (B”H, using the tips I learned below, I have lost 50 pounds since).
Travelling is inherently very tiring. Time zone changes further disrupt the body patterns making it harder to concentrate on learning and productive activities and/or relax. The out of whack feeling drives a craving for comfort and junk.
By being physically separated from family and community, there is a mental detachment that makes one feel less connected to one’s regular life and family. For example, shortly after starting working for the OK I moved into a new house. Because of market conditions, I am renting out (rather than selling) my old house. At some point, I got a phone call when I was out of town about my rental house. When I came back I realized how out of touch and unrealistic my answers were because of how [mentally] removed I was.
When traveling, one seems to be bombarded by inappropriate images. Whether from other travelers, or advertisements, it is a challenge to avoid such an environment.
At the end of a hard day of work one typically arrives at a hotel tired, exhausted and stressed (driving on the Autobahn at 224 km/h might be fun the first time, but it is also very tiring). There is a need to relax and unwind. In the 4 walls of a small hotel room there is not much relaxation easily accessible other than the obviously problematic TV, Internet, etc.
Boruch Hashem, the OK has much experience with travelling and along with making sure that the food we are certifying is fit and kosher, we make sure that our employees are kosher and fit. The following are some tips from our experience that can apply to all travelers.
Take Care of Yourself
Set reasonable goals and expectations. Don’t expect to work a full day, travel a few hours to the next day’s work location, and, when you finally get to your hotel, answer emails and workflows (not to mention daven, learn and eat) and then still be a functioning human being. You need to know your limitations. Make sure to plan enough time to take breaks and get enough sleep.
Keep up an exercise routine.
5BX is an excellent exercise program. It takes 11 minutes per day and requires no equipment to do. Download a PDF at
If you explain that it is for religious reasons, you may be able to arrange for the hotel to allow you access to their exercise equipment when it is closed to the public, especially if you have preferred status.
Drink lots of water. It is essential to maintain healthy functioning. (Get aisle seats on your flights if you need.)
When you are on a longer trip with lots of travelling around, you don’t need to shlep your entire luggage with you. You can carry around a few days’ worth of items in a carry on and ship your larger suitcase ahead of you. At least in Japan, this is very inexpensive.
Airport lounges, when access is possible, are frequently an oasis of serenity. You can find a quiet cubicle to daven, learn and work, undisturbed by the outside world.
Many hotels will remove or disable the TV upon request. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Bring along something healthy to relax with when you get to your hotel. Personally, I like to take a book of light short stories, but it could be anything that you find relaxing.
Stay in Touch
Stay near a frum community and daven tefilla b’tzibbur when possible. www.godaven.com and www.chabad.org are excellent resources to help you locate minyanim and frum communities wherever you go. The websites of local shuls found on these sites will usually help you locate local kosher food options.
Try hard to keep up regular learning programs.
Stay in touch with family. Call home to do homework with the kids and hear about your wife’s day. There are numerous free internet calling options. I personally prefer Google Voice. If you have an unlimited data plan on your phone you can have unlimited worldwide calling on your phone for no cost, using the Google Hangouts app. This is even available on phones that are totally “kosher” with no Internet access.
Create a Mission Statement for Yourself
- I am on this trip because the Ribbono Shel Olamhas sent me here and here is where I have my job in life.
- I will represent the Ribbono Shel Olamwith everything that I do on this trip.
- I am here to benefit my family and Klal Yisroel spiritually and physically.
When no one is available to talk to because of the time zone difference, write letters/emails to your family.
Try to have a spiritually safe friend that you can be in touch with, especially if you will be in a particularly challenging situation.
Prepare meal plans in advance:
- Crisp Snax are excellent starch
(24 = two slices of bread).
- Nuts are a great option, but you need to count them to not overeat. (25 pistachios, 17 almonds or 10 cashews = 100 calories)
- Flat pack tuna is very convenient to carry around, eat on the run and get though airport security.
- Some people find Cheerios packed in Ziploc sandwich bags to be a good on the run breakfast option.
- Beef jerky is an excellent shelf stable high protein meal core (though it is high in sodium so those sensitive to sodium will need to avoid it).
- It is frequently worth staying a hotel where you have preferred status, just so that you can get fruit/vegetables from their lounge or breakfast.
- Vacuum packet meals (e.g. grilled chicken or pastrami), available at some local stores can last a long time, especially when refrigerated overnight (freeze before you leave).
- Cholov Yisroel milk powder may be available in the baking section of your local kosher supermarket (Baker’s Choice currently makes it).
- Arrange meals or food pickup with local Chabad house or Jewish community (see above on how to locate them).
- Most (if not all) Asian hotel rooms have hot water kettles. You can even kasher the kettle if you want to by filling with water, boiling and emptying and rinsing (ask your personal rabbi for guidance here). Then you can make oatmeal from instant oatmeal packets for breakfast. You might even be able to boil eggs in one. (I have heard reports of others doing this successfully. I’ve never tried it myself.)
- Dagim has some healthy shelf stable fish meals (heatable in a microwave or on a hot plate).
- Airport lounges can frequently be a good source for fruit (or even vegetables).
Useful Travel Apps:
Note: The Internet and other harmful material can be much more easily filtered/restricted on an iPhone than an Android, so the iPhone is the smartphone of choice for the kosher traveler. Your local Technology Awareness Group office (www.taghelpline.org) and others can easily take care of the filtering.
- Kosher GPS
- ובלכתך בדרך
- Kol Halashon
- Daf Yomi
- OK Kosher Food Guide
- Hadaf Hayomi (Hebrew Letters)
- Jewish Days
- Compass (built into iPhone)
- Daily Tanya
- Rambam Daily Study
With Siyata D’Shmaya we should all be blessed to make kosher travel choices, both physically and spiritually, and bring the light of Torah and mitzvos with us, wherever we go.