Acquiring a spare tire on vacation is the least a gal can do for friends stuck at home. And I would, if I could. But when I travel with Bob, I always lose weight. Traveling like we do, anyone else would, too. Allow me to make amends for my next getaway by revealing how you, too, can enjoy a great vacation and still come home a loser.


The camping coup.  The key to burning the most calories camping is choosing the right site. Pick one as far as possible from the showers and rest rooms. A well-sited site will give you up to a quarter-mile sprint every time you brush your teeth, take a shower or use the toilet. If you’re scatterbrained as I am, you’ll burn three times as many calories as the fatsos at the next site who have their clothes, towels and toiletries neatly organized in bags they always remember to take when they head to the facilities.

Another waist-whittling strategy is camping several sites from the nearest water spigot. You’ll knock off plenty of calories scurrying back and forth to fill the coffee pot, wash the dishes and hand-wash clothes. An added bonus is the ironclad thighs you’ll develop squatting over the wash basin. Give your socks and underwear a good wringing every day, and you’ll also end up with arms to match.

Camp in the summer and you’ll burn even more fat swatting mosquitoes. If you’re truly blessed, there’ll be black flies and no-see-ums, too.


When in Rome… There’s a good reason Europeans can feast on Belgian waffles, cheese fondue and bratwurst, wash it all down with beer and wine, and still look like Juliette Binoche. They burn 6,000 calories just going to and from the café. Let me explain.

Europeans live in apartments, which they jokingly call flats. During our trip to Europe last summer, Bob and I stayed at six Airbnbs. Not one had an elevator. The lowest was on the third floor. Europeans call it the second floor, in yet another witty poke at sedentary Americans. Not that I’m complaining. Real stairs work as well as StairMasters, without the gym fee.

Negotiating the stairs is just the start of a crème brûlée-burning workout. Next comes the hike to a train station or bus stop Airbnb hosts boast is “conveniently located” at least three blocks away. Get off at your stop and you’ll walk another three blocks or more to get where you’re going. I don’t know what goes on in the buildings within three blocks of train stations and bus stops, but I suspect it involves the aliens who occupy the first two floors of apartment buildings.

Then there’s the language barrier, which pops up even if you know the language. When Bob and I boarded a bus heading to our first Airbnb in Paris, I asked the driver in what I think was French if he would stop at Chateau. He said oui. I felt reassured 20 minutes later when “Arête prochain Chateau” appeared on the sign up front. I don’t remember much French from school or my mother’s cursing, but I do remember arête prochain means next stop. The driver apparently didn’t as he zipped past Chateau to the next stop. Chalk it up to French bonhomie; he gave us a thigh-toning, uphill walk that warmed us up for the climb up five flights of stairs to the Airbnb. Our host just happened to be a pastry chef who refilled our tanks with warm chocolate cake. The next morning, Bob and I devoured a homemade fruit tart and still had to tighten our belts.


The housesitting hustle. Housesitting may not sound strenuous, but it can firm you up faster than a Marine Corps boot camp. You just have to pick the right gig.

For Bob and me, it was Costa Rica, although any banana republic should do, especially during the rainy season.

Our workouts started the first night watching friends’ John and Kaz’s house, when I got up to use the bathroom and stepped in a puddle. Darn cat, I thought, until I realized only a pride of lions could be that productive. The culprit was an overflowing toilet threatening to flood the entire house. Instead of wasting the night sleeping, I burned off the airplane pretzels wiping the floor, wringing out towels and carrying them with a couple wet rugs outside to the washer. I got a second workout in the morning as I carried and hung the damp laundry on the clothesline. When the sky burst an hour later, I practiced sprinting from the house to the clothesline then back inside, where I hung the rugs and towels on furniture. I’d repeat the hang-sprint-rehang routine every time I did laundry over our four-week stay.

The next time we housesat for our friends was during the dry season. The toilet worked perfectly. Laundry I hung on the line dried on the line. Housesitting alone wouldn’t keep me from acquiring a spare tire. So I got out and ran, like I do at home, except it was on dirt roads through the jungle, with a view of the ocean. It beat the heck out of sprinting with a basket of laundry in the rain.