With the return to normality comes the return of day dreams. My desire to sit down and write out my thoughts and experiences over the last two months has been minimal to say the least. I have come to the conclusion that this is due to the fact that I was living my dream instead of living vicariously through my thoughts.
I got married just prior to Christmas and then hit the open roads of South-East Asia with my new wife. We did nothing except explore new places, eat great food and immerse ourselves in cultures that are completely different to our own and to everything to which we have grown accustomed.
Now that I am home, the grind of normality, and the fact that I am working harder than ever to pay my taxes, has got me feeling that our trip was just some kind of cruel dream. One that gave me only a sniff of the freedom that I have been craving for so long, only to be shaken awake just as it seemed to be my reality.
The smells, tastes and chaos of life in South-East Asia are addictive. Immediately upon landing, the excitement and anticipation shoot through my veins. I feel like a child again. No cares. Nothing holding me back.
Of course, Asia being Asia, things rarely go to plan and you inevitably end up with some kind of setback, but the key is to let it ride out as a part of the chaos. You take the good with the bad and without the bad; the good just isn’t quite the same.
One of the gifts of travelling through countries that are not as ‘economically well off’ as our own, is to see the genuine happiness of a lot of the inhabitants. I know that poverty in a lot of these countries is rife, but I had a hard time finding too many people who did not have a smile on their face. This perplexed me for some time, but I came to the conclusion that their pleasure in life comes from their interactions with those around them, their family and loved ones.
The idea of saving over the next six months in the hope that they might be able to afford an overseas holiday simply isn’t a reality for these people. I doubt they sit there in their simple house, thinking about the fact that they are mortgaged up to the eyeballs and wondering how on earth they are going to afford their Friday night $18 cocktails. A lot of the people I came across seemed to be at peace their reality and were happy knowing that they had their loved ones around them and the basic elements they needed to survive.
In contrast to this, the pressure that we put ourselves under due to our lifestyle choice is immense. This pressure is facilitated by every aspect of our society. It is the backbone of our financial system, one that requires us to spend more than we earn in order for it to succeed.
Now I am home, the chaos of Asia has become extremely appealing. The trade-off for living with such chaos was being able to surf a few times a day, sleeping in if I felt like it and having the time to take in my natural surroundings - time to reflect on how lucky I am. Life just seemed to slow down.
Coming home is always great. Nothing beats that first night back in your own bed. Now that the novelty of sleeping in my own bed has worn off, I turn my attention to the future and find myself once again pondering the complexity of combining my 9-5 life in a big city with my deepest desire to slow my life down. Talk about first world problems right?
After much thought and reflection, my focus for the foreseeable future is concerned with slowing myself down, enjoying what I already have and deriving happiness from the people around me. Sounds simple, but in essence, this ideal is a difficult one to achieve when I live and breathe a reality that promotes and is indeed the total antithesis of what I hope to achieve.
Here I sit, in my ideal state. Red wine in hand, Eddie Vedder’s ukulele album playing in the background and my head filled with the thoughts, smells and taste of the street food that I have been enthusiastically consuming over the past couple of weeks.
For me, Vietnam has the best food in South-East Asia. Bold statement I know but one I will die for! The simple mix of fresh herbs, sugar, chilli and fish sauce is a taste of which I will never grow weary. Whether it be in the form of fresh spring rolls, a steaming bowl of pho or the grilled pork skewers made by the little old lady on the corner,the freshness of Vietnamese food is second to none.
Of course, being in Vietnam, pho has made up a significant part of my diet for the last fortnight. It is the national dish of choice and really warms you up in these colder months up in the mountains of the north-west. Now I am half way down the country in Hoi An. I think it is fair to say that Hoi An is the ‘Paris of Vietnam’, considering its artistic culture, cafe scene and romantic atmosphere.
Anyway, I digress… Back to the food.
Everyday in Vietnam is a new day of culinary discovery for me. Last time I was here, 10 years ago, I was only a young chap and decided to lean towards the safety net of avoiding street food. One of my biggest regrets in life, hence I am making up for it now!
While the pho and spring rolls have a place in my heart, my favourite morsel to date is definitely the grilled pork skewers. The thinly sliced pork is marinated in chilli and crushed lemongrass and makes for the perfect snack on the run. And at 30 cents a skewer, it is hard to settle for just a few.
The price of streetfood here is not the only bonus. The flavours are authentic and the produce is fresh, which is usually guaranteed by the high turnover. Lining up for food off a street vendor also gives you an excuse to stop and chat to the locals without appearing to be that ‘over the top tourist’ who tries too hard to become a part of the local scene. As the little old lady smiles at me with her only three teeth, thrusting the hot pork skewers into my hand, I only have happy thoughts.
I am in Vietnam on my honeymoon and I had my first massage ever today. I was expecting a relaxing hour of remedial bliss but what I got was 45 minutes of awkward discomfort.
Upon arrival, the waiting room was abuzz with masseuses milling about waiting for their customers to arrive. I was introduced to a young man who I was told would be my masseuse today. Ok, I thought, no problem, it is only a back rub.
After being led to the massage table I was given some privacy to undress. I was also given a rolled up pair of underwear that I was told were mandatory attire for all customers. Upon unrolling the small package, I was confronted with what appeared to be a pair of women’s panties. The lace trim and the lack of “junk-space” was the dead give away. The option of changing into these did not even cross my mind and within a second I was out the door insisting that I would be wearing my own boxer shorts, no questions. After contemplation, the little Vietnamese man agreed.
“Please laying down on your stomachs sir”, I was prompted. Doing as I was told, I was sure that the awkwardness was now over and I could enjoy my massage. “I will be starting on your legs sir”. Great, might as well start there I thought to myself. After lifting the towel, the masseuse proceeded to pull my boxer shorts a considerable distance up my butt crack, exposing the bottom half of my left cheek. Shooting bolt upright , I encouraged him to leave my shorts in place.
I will give the man credit at this point and tell you that he was pretty good at his job (apart from reading my discomfort) and the massage side of my experience was pretty good. 30 minutes in, and feeling very relaxed, I was told to “please rotate over sir”. “No mate, just the back is fine this time”, I politely replied. He continued to rub down my shoulders before he very intimately interlocked his fingers around mine for what I can only assume was to gain more traction to ply his trade. I again made some polite excuse for him to pause so I could roll my hand into a closed fist.
Having taken some kind of offence, the man pleaded with me to flip so he could “rub down my front side”. That was the point of no return. I sat up and thanked him for his work before quickly dressing and heading for the hills.
Obviously there was a lot lost in translation in this ordeal but I don’t think this is just a cultural thing that I was not aware of. As you can guess, I am not in any hurry to book in another massage anytime soon.
I am having one of those days today. I am sitting in an inner-city office going through the motions. The air-conditioning is broken (again) and the surf is pumping. The first I heard of it was on the bus this morning on my way into work. “Should I just stay on and head home?”, I wondered briefly before herding off with the rest of the cattle.
The afternoon is here and it looks like conditions haven’t deteriorated over the day. The emails are flooding through into my Inbox of all my local breaks looking the best they have in the last couple of months. “These days only come about a couple of times a year” the captions rudely scream into my face.
Sure I’ll be able to pay the mortgage this month and will have food on the table, but you have to wonder don’t you, whether all this is worth it. There is a lot to be said for being surfed out, sleeping on a mate’s couch and eating boiled rice for dinner.
In case you did miss it, I’ve included some shots from local photographers. Subscribe to their daily email so you can also dream of being elsewhere.
OURS (photo shot by http://www.oneshuteye.com)
(photo shot by http://www.oneshuteye.com)
(photo shot by http://www.aquabumps.com.au)
(photo shot by http://www.aquabumps.com.au)
I’ve been getting some use out of my GoPro Hero 3 of late. Below are a few stills of a shore break session from a couple of weeks ago at my local beach.
I’m heading out on a deep sea fishing charter this weekend so will hopefully have some more footage to post soon… Fingers crossed it is of 10 kg tuna or a marlin on the end of my line!
The last 12 months, and what seemed like all the time in the world, has past me by in an instant. Despite this, I am ready. I am getting married.
I have spent the vast majority of my life up until this point knowing with full confidence that I would not find myself in this position. After seeing my parents fail, I decided early on that marriage was not for me. I remember thinking that there was not a single person in this world that I could spend the rest of my life with. That was until I found the one person who I realised I could not live without. There it is. The difference in perspective that changed my mind and my life forever.
So, here we are, one month out, finalising a few last-minute details. And me, the eternal sceptic, looking forward to this day more than I have looked forward to any other.
Not only am I looking forward to having all of our loved ones in the one place to celebrate with us, but I am looking forward to our extended honeymoon where I can get back to one of my other true loves: travel writing. The thought of being back on the road, with my new wife (saying that is going to take some getting used to!) and nothing but a laptop, my camera and a good book is something I have been longing for, for the last few years.
Before the wedding however is the true test of survival: the stag weekend. I’ll keep you posted.
For those of us in the southern hemisphere, summer is just around the corner. Well, really, summer here in Australia started a lot earlier this year. From early September (our first month of spring), the weather has been hot. Not hot as in “oh this is nice”, but HOT!
For many of us, Mother Nature got the jump on our spring workout, where we work vigorously for a few months to trim the extra pounds we have gained over winter. So, you may be sitting back and wondering how you are going to fit into your swimsuit now the warmer weather is upon us… well the answer to this little conundrum is right here my friends.
Below are my top 10 tips for getting in shape for summer and also being healthy (yes, there is a difference between looking good and feeling good!). While there are many different options for getting in shape, this is a good place to start.
1. Simple Mathematics
In order to gain/ maintain a healthy body, you need to burn more than or equal to the fuel that you put into your body. I know, you’ve heard it all before but it is true. If you insist on eating a chocolate bar, be prepared to put in the effort to burn it off…(It takes 50 mins of hardcore aqua-aerobics to burn off a Mars bar!)
Think about everything you eat throughout a day. Now, think about the amount of exercise you do in a day…Hmmm.
2. Exercise Like You Mean It
The latest health advice is to exercise for at least 40 mins a day. Let me tell you, walking around the block while chatting with a friend for 40 minutes just isn’t going to cut it. If you ain’t sweating, you ain’t working hard enough.
When you exercise, your heart rate needs to be raised to a level where your body is burning the fuel that you have put into it and this needs to be maintained for at least 30-40 minutes (see point 1). Another bit of advice is to mix up your exercise routine. Take the time to plan out your exercise for the week and set yourself goals to measure yourself against. If you aim to do 60 sit ups on Monday, then push through to 65 if you feel that you can. It is the little bits extra that make the difference.
3. If Your Grandparents Don’t Know What It Is, Don’t Eat It
My nan eats well. She is 83 years young and she loves her food. I’ve never seen her go without anything she enjoys but what I do know is that the vast majority of the things she eats are actual foods and not food products. She eats fresh-baked bread everyday, with real butter. She eats meat. She eats cereals and indulges in the occasional cup of warm milk and homemade cake. Trick is, everything she eats is natural. She wasn’t raised on a diet of additives and preservatives, and she eats until she starts to feel full. Nothing more, nothing less. She is healthier than some of my 30 year old mates.
4. Contentious But True… Beer is Not Good for Your Wasteline
I know, I know. Blah, blah, heard it all before. Ignore this point at your peril. I recently cut back (not gave up) and have dropped a few unwanted pounds. Set yourself a limit and make sure that you have at least four alcohol free days a week. Couple this rule with an increased exercise regime and you will notice the difference very quickly. I am not promising that you will look like Hugh Jackman but you will notice the difference.
5. Don’t Make Excuses Not to Exercise
How many of you know of someone who would rather die than take the stairs over the lift? Answer: The vast majority! If you live within walking distance of work, the supermarket or the pub then do yourself a favour and walk. Even if you only walk to work every second day, your body will thank you for it.
In today’s world, a good chunk of us who live in the Western World sit down for a living t a desk. This is not an activity your body was designed for! To compensate for this, you need to ensure that you are doing additional exercise to make up for the fact that you are sitting there for nine hours a day in a semi-dormant state.
6. Look at Your Eating Habits
Looking at what you eat is a great place to start, but you need to be aware of what you are eating and when you are eating it. Prime rule: don’t skip breakfast. You need to jump-start your body of a morning and get your metabolism firing on all cylinders. If you are a carb-conscious person then breakfast is when you want to be consuming your carbs. Try a bowl of fresh fruit, low-fat yoghurt and muslei for a start. A favourite of mine and will keep you going until lunch.
Lunch should be your largest meal of the day. Once you have had a few hours to digest lunch, you should be exercising to burn off any unused energy.
Dinner should be eaten at least three hours before you go to bed and should consist of a light meal. Do not eat heavy carbs such as pasta late of an evening and do not go to bed on a full stomach! In between your meals, snack on fresh fruit and unsalted nuts.
7. Exercise in a Group
Exercise for most of us is boring. Especially when it involves walking, running or anything else with a repetitive movement. Find someone who is as motivated as you are and workout together. For those of you who are competitive, you will reap instant rewards. Having a workout buddy offers motivation to get out there and actually workout instead of just thinking about doing it.
8. Love Yourself
Nothing screams looking good like someone who is comfortable in their own skin. Each and every one of us is different. If we were all the same, the world would be boring. Learn to love yourself and love the body that you have been given. Being a healthy person is just as much, if not more so about having a healthy mind.
Being happy with the skin you are in will translate to motivation to get out there and exercise more and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with it.
9. You Are What You Eat
Yep, you eat junk food as a staple, then guess what… You will look like and feel like rubbish. The fast food industry has a lot to answer for I believe, but that is a topic for another day.
If you eat a variety of fresh food, including loads of fresh vegetables and fruit everyday, then you will feel fresh and have the energy to accomplish everything you want to do. Fresh fruit and vegetables is not everyone’s favourite but it is by far and away the best fuel to keep you going and to keep the waste line intact. If you are not familiar with what is in everything you eat, then take the time to learn about what you are putting into your body. Try to avoid products that are packaged and contain preservatives. Never, ever drink sugar-based soft drinks.
10. It Is All About Balance
Balance is the key to all things in life. It is the key to being healthy and it is the key to being happy. A healthy state of being is as much about building and maintaining a fit body as it is about knowing what is good for you and relaxing your regime and spoiling yourself to maintain your sanity. Enjoy that weekend beer or two but make sure you are disciplined enough to put in that little bit extra effort next time you workout.
Eating with your eyes… Which would you pick?