“The head is the general and the body are the soldiers.” – Gezrat, My first boxing coach.
Everybody goes on and on and on about yoga and how amazing it is for you and how it is the thing to be doing if you are a zen and awesome human. Truth be told, I wouldn’t know zen if it bit me on the butt. The last yoga class I attended was hot yoga. I was in a bad mood after receiving some bad news, the instructor was brazen and rude to me, I swore I would never go back because I don’t need to be bored and offended all at the same time and so I haven’t.
It is an odd thing. People think that because I travel and am somewhat reflective that yoga would be right down my alleyway. Even my ex, after I ditched his cheating arse, figured I would make my way to a yoga retreat to ‘heal’ and ‘find myself’. Where I did ‘find myself’ instead was singing karaoke whilst dancing on a bar top shotting tequila and getting showered with cans of whipped cream in San Pedro La Laguna. Even I wonder sometimes how it is that I cannot manage to come to peace with such an activity. I love other physical activity. I box, I enjoy CrossFit, I really love hiking. And people tell me that they guess this is my way of ‘meditating’. I ‘meditate’ so hard sometimes when I am training that by the time I am done I want to puke into a bucket and that is what I define as ‘exercise’. Any form of exercise that I do not find hard is not defined as exercise in my book, especially when I am not even breaking a sweat.
So I finally figured out why this whole yoga thing is such an issue for me. I was born a fighter. I have spent my entire life arguing and screaming at my family members. It is in my second nature to be passionate, feisty and aggressive. It is why these activities such as boxing, CrossFit and hiking are among the things I love. They are a war between the head and the body. The brain being the general gets to tell the body what to do. No matter how much it hurts, no matter how much you think you can’t, you do because that is what you have to do. There is no time to be bored when you are engaging in something so difficult that you need to place all of your focus and mind power into keeping on going.
Yoga on the other hand requires the body and the brain to work together in some kind of harmony that I am unfamiliar with. One must work with the other to find this inner peace that people talk about. I am so engaged and used to the internal war that I love winning (because who doesn’t love winning, right?) that I haven’t yet figured out how to win the war by shutting the fight down. And so this becomes my next challenge. To those of you who laugh at me and tell me it cannot be done, my next challenge is to quiet myself. To fight the inner struggle of boredom and excessive thought. To let the mind be the general, still in control of the soldiers that are to stand at ease and do nothing. Let the games begin….. and shall I not die of boredom, yell at someone and tell them where to go or have a total mental breakdown from my own rapid and erratic thought processes during the week I am interred. Peace out! Namaste!
To see how I deal with my first ever yoga retreat, check out next weeks post!
One of the hardest things for some people to fathom is that much of your fate in life is determined by the cards you are dealt when you are born. If you are fortunate enough to be born into a westernized culture you will find you will have access to money, jobs, ‘things’ that are deemed to give people status and feelings of self importance and worth in the world because ‘they made something of themselves’. On the other side of this, if you are born into a country that is developing, majority of the people don’t have money, don’t have opportunity to make money and live in incredibly poor conditions.
My guilty conscience again kicked in as I am laid up on a massage table in Bali. $6 for an entire hour of massage. It is really nothing. I worked very little to make that money. I probably made it while I sat there supervising kids doing silent reading for ten minutes. My masseuse Anna is telling me that she works on commission. Of the $6 I pay, she receives approximately 70 cents. If there is no customers, there is no pay. She works 14 hours a day, 7 days a week with no break.
This whole conversation came about when she asked me if I was married. I told her no and she told me she got married a week ago. I asked her if she had a party with her family. She told me that she didn’t have time. Work gave her an hour off to go and sign the papers and then she came back to work. Her husband works down the road as a builder. They have two children that live three hours away in the village with her brother as they cannot afford to send their children to school in Kuta as it is too expensive. They are lucky to have jobs that allow them to afford to be able to send their kids to school at all because many people can’t afford it. They don’t know what they are going to do now though because her brother is very sick and has been in and out of the hospital but they now can’t afford to send him back to the hospital. Rising numbers of tourists in Bali has increased the cost of healthcare here and so it is too expensive to see a doctor.
As I lay there getting my massage I take all of this in. I get relatively cheap healthcare in Australia. I have a job that pays me enough to live comfortably and send any kids I have to school. I don’t have to send my kids away to live with other people so they can get a better start at life. I don’t have to work 14 hour days 7 days a week. And if I want to get married, I could probably get some time off from the boss to organize it if I wanted out of the 20 paid vacation days that most Australians are legally entitled to a year. And yet all we do is complain. And I feel guilty about that too.
I lay there and ponder what it is I can do about it because as much as I want to just open up my wallet and say ‘take my money, I can make more, I don’t need it’, I know that this is not a good fix in the long term. So I made a decision. I can’t help everybody. But I can help Anna by going back every day that I am here, getting a massage to keep her in work and her boss happy and giving her a hefty tip at the end of each massage. At least for this month, she will have a little extra in her pocket to help with the bills without feeling like a charity case.
What is more, this understanding makes me more patient with the onslaught as I walk down the street. “Transport!!”, “You buy sunglasses, one dollar”, “manicure??”. I understand that with each call out, there is somewhat a desperation to survive and make enough to keep their families going. I met one girl who moved from Java to here at twenty because there was no money in Java. So she moved to Bali so she could make the measly $70 USD a month that classes as ‘good money’ here. She couldn’t survive at home with her family.
My options are limitless as I flounder about the world hiking mountains, sitting on the beach and doing whatever I please. In an Australian sense I don’t really have that much money, but in an Indonesian sense I have about a lifetime of their wages sitting in my bank account so how am I supposed to feel OK about this? How am I supposed to feel OK about being on a perpetual holiday when these people get no days off work until they die and sleep only 5 hours a night every day as even sleep isn’t a luxury they can afford? How am I supposed to feel about drawing the lucky straw in this life when billions of others didn’t? Guilty. That is how I feel. My conscience weeps every single time I see something like this and I know that this is reality for so many. I am merely more than just a privileged western tourist staring into the fishbowl from the outside with all my money. And then I will go back to my privileged world and not think about it anymore because it is too hard and uncomfortable to think about. If I was them, I would hate me so much. And yet they don’t. They have a graciousness about them that well surpasses the graciousness of most people I know that have money.
I can’t change the whole world on my own. I can’t change the greedy nature of mankind. I would if I could but there are some things you have to accept that you just can’t change. But maybe, just maybe, I can help one person at a time and try and make my difference that way. Maybe by imparting kindness on all people I meet and choosing where I direct my dollars I can help to make small differences in the lives of few. If everybody in my situation made the effort to do this, then maybe we could make a difference to hundreds and even thousands of people to make their lives a little easier. So I challenge you! Be aware. Don’t sweep it under the rug because it is too big or uncomfortable to deal with. Choose something small and start making a difference there. Because it is with small steps, not giant leaps that we change the world. And the world really does need changing.
“There is nothing like a challenge to bring out the best in man” – Sean Connery.
Most people reading this aren’t off in the grand world traveling and constantly having different challenges thrown at them everyday like I usually do. And I currently am not off gallivanting around the world with all the wonder that change and the road offers right now myself. But there are different things that I do at least one of everyday to challenge myself and keep the stagnant at bay! Try to incorporate these small things into your everyday lives to challenge you, keep the boredom at bay and help you feel great!
Experiment With New Food
One of the biggest things that I miss from the road is all of the incredible food that is on offer. That said, I came back from Europe with a huge list of foods I had eaten that I wanted to try and replicate at home. While some of these have been a disaster, I have managed to stumble on some amazing recipes for different foods such as Hungarian Paprika Chicken, Spanish Tortilla, Polish Bigos….. and so the list goes on. So I encourage you as a part of your daily challenge to once a week, pick a country, find a recipe for something you haven’t tried before and cook it. That simple! If you aren’t too much of a fan of different world foods, maybe try a new cook book or a different recipe for something you already cook. Variety is the spice of life! So start your week by challenging your taste buds and cooking skills!
Do A Puzzle
Everybody has heard of the saying “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”. And this is true of the neural connections in your brain. Scientists have discovered that when you are a small child, in the first five years you develop billions of neural connections that are designed to function for the rest of your life so that you are able to perform different tasks. Many of these neural connections will sever with age if you do not continue to stimulate these pathways as the brain attempts to conserve energy. Never fear though, with brain training and neuroplasticity, we can continue to stimulate our neural pathways, sometimes making new neural connections with the right kind of training. This is important, especially as we get older, to ward off brain diseases such as Alzheimers’ and dementia. When I was living in Toronto, I used to go to The Centre for Brain Health at one of the hospitals and they used to pay me a little bit of money to do puzzles and other activities whilst either wearing an electrode cap to measure my brain waves or being on and MRI machine to detect the highest functioning areas of the brain whilst doing particular tasks. Some of the information they gained about memory, brain function and degeneration was incredible and I will write another post about my experiences with this at a later date (so follow me if you want a notification!)
Doing a puzzle or two a day will help to keep you sharp. The key to choosing your puzzles though is to choose different ones. Right now I have a small crossword puzzle book and I do a crossword each night before bed. These are great for stimulating recall pathways and associations. I also bought an IQ test book on the road with hundreds of different types of puzzles to challenge spatial awareness, mathematical skills, language skills, memory and logic. There are many different programs that you can find on the internet that help stimulate brain growth and neuroplasticity as well so get jump on them. Just don’t fall into the age old trap of doing sudoku after sudoku after sudoku. Once you have learned the techniques required for solving a sudoku, it no longer poses an adequate enough challenge to keep the brain growing. So keep it mixed up. Do different types of puzzles and crosswords to keep you thinking.
Many people go to the gym and fall into the same standard routine of exercise every day they go. Exercise is about betterment of the self. And to get better, you need to set small goals and slowly work your way towards achieving them. Currently I do Crossfit, a constant daily challenge with yourself to be stronger, faster and fitter. The people I train with are super supportive and we will often compete against each other in a friendly way to help push each other to be better. It helps when you have a partner to train with. So if you train on your own, maybe try starting up a conversation with someone you see all the time at they gym and ask the train with them. They will keep you honest and make you work harder.
My current challenge is to get to be doing strict pull ups with my own body weight by the end of the year. In February when I started I was using twice as much resistance as I am using now, so I am working towards achieving that goal, slowly but surely. Everyday though is a small challenge within the larger challenge. Today I do one or two more reps than I did yesterday. I try stringing more together at once than I did yesterday. Eventually it gets easier, and you can move to the next small step within the push towards the greater goal.
Start up a conversation with a stranger
It is easy in this technology-driven world that we live in to get caught up with what is online and not what is in front of you. I challenge you every day to look up and put the phone away. When you go into a coffee shop and order your morning coffee, instead of texting/checking emails/standing around not speaking and waiting, start up a conversation with your barista or another person in the queue. Ask them how their day is going and make a joke. Pay them a compliment. Trust me when I say that you will feel better about yourself and your day for having made a small effort to strike up a new conversation. That person will also most likely feel better about themselves if you can make the simple effort of saying something to make them smile. Who knows, with time you may even end up with a new friend. And it will certainly help you develop some awesome conversational skills.
Do A Kind Deed
We have covered challenges that are good for the body and good for the mind. It is also great to incorporate challenges for the soul. No matter how small or how insignificant it might seem to you, try and do at least one kind deed per day. This could be something as small as helping somebody pick up something that they have dropped on the ground. I am a grand believer in the idea of paying it forward. Over the years I have met many amazing people that have bestowed incredible generosity and kindness upon me during my travels and in life in general. I am so grateful for the amazing help and support that I have received that I feel it my duty as a human to pay this amazing kindness forward. Whilst I was walking the Overland Track, a six day, 90km hike in Tasmania, I met two guys who were transiting back through my home town. So I went out for dinner with them, showed them to a local pub with original music for the night and in the morning I picked them up and drove them around to see some of the sights before I dropped them off at the airport. Something I have had others that I barely know do for me and I have appreciated it hugely. That and I also find great enjoyment in meeting new people and helping them to enjoy my hometown. While your daily kindness doesn’t have to be of such a magnitude, every kind deed regardless of size is important.
I honestly believe that if people work towards being kinder to one another and towards being more grateful for the things they have in this life, then the human race together will be working towards being a better species. And it starts with you! So help someone. Make them smile. And then hope they too will pay it forward.
So venture forward into your week! Do something out of the ordinary, cook something new, do a puzzle, help a stranger and have a chat to them and push yourself when you exercise to be better. Be a better version of yourself! I challenge you…..
After climbing Mount Ossa it was time to get a move on to the Kia Ora Hut. My shoes and my pants were drenched from climbing Mount Ossa in the snow, namely from falling in holes and sliding down it on my butt. We were on limited time, my feet were aching and the track was terrible. There were many places filled with deep mud puddles, tree roots and really unstable track. I started to fret that I was not going to make it to camp as it got darker and darker outside. It got to the point where I could barely see where I was going and about to take my headlight out of my pack. With five minutes of daylight to spare, I rolled into the hut, cranky, tired and thankful that I was not trying to navigate bush in the dark .
The surroundings of the hut was full of animals and I saw a wombat and a couple of possums fighting with each other up a tree. Given the atrocious state of my shoes, I cut up my seating foam and made a pair of makeshift flip flops. My body is starting to adjust to the long distances and the pack. I actually felt pretty good at the end of the day before heading to bed.
Today was themed ‘Waterfall Side Trip Day’. The walking distance was only 9km between the huts but there were several small side trips to different waterfalls along the way. Despite the drenched shoes, I made pretty good pace and was feeling quite good.
The first waterfall that we went to visit was D’Alton Falls which were just spectacular. I could stand on the ledge that is the viewpoint all day and watch. The Ferguson Falls along the same track were also amazing, but not quite as good as these. Waterfalls in Tasmania are world class. As good as any I have seen travelling the world and totally pristine.
After a quick lunch, we moved on to the next waterfall, the Harnett Falls which were difficult to see at points, but the boys managed to scale their way down and along the river to get to a good vantage point.
Another hour or so saw us arrive at the Bert Nichols Hut, which I must say is the Hilton of Overland Track huts. The place was huge, decorated with beautiful art decorations on the ceiling. On the walls was information about the man for which the hut was named. Bert Nichols, the pioneer of the Overland Track, the man who knew the countryside here best and mapped the track. Described as one of the “most cunning and most cleverest man who ever was” for his keen poaching and survival skills, Bert is one of the biggest reasons that this walk exists and it is now known as one of the best in the world today.
The only issue with this stunning hut is that there was no gas and as such, no heating at all throughout the entire building and the thermometer was reading at one degree celcius at six in the evening… It was destined to be a freezing cold night.
The morning was stunning and clear with an immaculate view over the valley. It did however present with a few problems. Namely that overnight it got so cold that is froze solid both my shoes and my socks. It took me a good ten minutes of working the shoes with my barely warm hands to get them to become flexible enough to slide on my feet. And then so began the walking with feet that I couldn’t feel for a good part of the morning in the ice blocks.
With lack of feeling in the feet, I managed to smash it out to Pine Valley Hut in record pace. The walk through was stunning and over the top of a couple of swinging bridges and through orange fields and beautiful rain forest along the way. We were hoping that it would be clear enough to climb to the top of the Acropolis, but by the time we got there the familiar cloudy haze had set back in and there was nothing to see from the top so we decided to go down the path a short way to a waterfall where the boys decided to entertain themselves with yet another underpants shot.
For the first time in six days, we had a coal heater with coal actually present in the hut. So the ten of us there hung all of our stinky clothes and boots out to dry and ramped up the heat. We sat around, played Yaniv, ate the last dehydrated meal of the trip and enjoyed the knowledge that there was only nine more kilometers to walk in the morning and it is all over.
The last day and it was the worst day for my feet. I woke up swollen from the top of my Achilles all the way down through my feet. It was painful and uncomfortable to walk but for some reason, the adrenaline of having nine kilometers to go and the familiarity of walking on sore feet made my body and mind adjust to the task before me.
Within three hours retracing our way back along the Pine Valley Hut trail and then legging it the south on the trail we made it to Narcissus Hut and called the ferry to come and collect us. We sat out on the dock in the rain waiting for the boat that drove us across Lake St. Clair. It was over and we had done it! 90km. 6 days of walking. An amazing adventure! All that was left to do was to drive over the Central Highlands home via a stop at The Wall at Derwent Bridge, an amazing 100m long wall of wood carvings by a local Tasmanian artist detailing the history of the Tasmanian Central Highlands, and at the Deloraine bakery to devour two meat pies. Real food!
Looking back on that week feels like a haze. It was one of the most mentally challenging and incredible weeks of my life. One that I am glad I decided to do. All there is left now are the pictures, the stories and the amazing memories. The pain of knees and feet and the mental slog lessens as the days have progressed until there will be no memories of that left at all. Just the memories of spectacular views, “going deep”, frozen shoes, cheeky birds and some amazing company along the way. This is what it is all about. This is life.