Tag Archives: meditation

Travel | My favourite ways to keep fit while travelling

imageIt can be hard as a backpacker to keep fit and healthy when you’re constantly moving between places. That transient life of late nights and long bus journeys doesn’t always translate to the bohemian vegan lifestyle you imagine for travellers, instead there can often be far too many beers and dirty 7/11 toasted sandwiches. It’s easy when you keep moving between different groups of people to give into every treat meal and to lose track of what you’re putting into your body. But, at the same time, it’s more important than ever, because let’s face it, no-one wants to get ill when they’re travelling. Eating the wrong things, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much and not exercising is the perfect way to ruin your immune system and leave you vulnerable to whatever bugs are being passed around. If you’re travelling in Asia, this can be even more of a problem when even the water and the food you eat could be carrying all sorts. If you want to be a smart traveller and keep going for the longest time, while still enjoying yourself and not feeling ill, it’s important to look after yourself. I’ve written posts before about healthy eating and staying fit on the road, but this time I want to focus on some of my favourite fitness experiences I’ve had since travelling.image

Muay Thai

When I work out, I like to finish up completely exhausted and to feel that I have worked every single muscle in my body. After trying boxing back in the UK, then Thai boxing, Muay Thai, when I was passing through Hua Hin, in Thailand, I can safely say I have never had a workout that has left me so satisfied afterwards. Martial arts are great because they really do work every part of your body, they test your body in different ways and with so many different types, there really is a martial art for everyone. I love the focus you get as you perfect the moves, and the way you can quickly develop skills if you show dedication. In just one morning session, thanks to my amazing trainer, I had mastered several of the basic moves and had completely re-ignited my passion for working out – after weeks of partying it, this was no easy feat. One thing Thailand comes with is some amazing gyms, they may be basic but damn, they get the job done, and they come with some incredibly dedicated trainers who will push you until you get the results you were after. When I was taking boxercise classes back in the UK, I noticed the quickest changes to my body I have seen with any type of exercise and was impressed to see even the areas which can be more difficult to train were becoming more toned and a lot stronger. I could totally understand why so many people decide to take on week-long or even month-long intensive courses while they’re travelling, I would love to have done the same, but sadly had too many other trips planned and not enough time to stay put.imageMartial arts are a great workout choice for travellers, whether male or female, it’s a great full body workout that only needs a gym and a few pieces of equipment, it is also perfect to try in Asia where there are specialist centres on every corner. It’s a fantastic workout for building confidence and perfect for solo travellers who appreciate knowing how to defend themselves – it may not ever be necessary to use but can give great peace of mind when you’re on your own. For those who want to feel strong and need a workout that takes them further than the usual yoga and running, this is perfect for building muscle tone and for pushing your body. It’s just what you need to give you focus when you travel and to pull you out of that backpacker slump. If you need to lose weight and get healthy again, it’s a good opportunity to learn new skills while doing so, and will really help boost your immune system – it’s hard to get ill when your body is fighting fit! If you fancy trying martial arts, wherever you are in the world, why not join Martial Tribes – it’s a social hub for all martial arts and fitness enthusiasts to connect. image

Yoga

Always popular with travellers, yoga is a fantastic way to keep lean, fit and toned while travelling, but it also can be a great way to stay grounded. It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of your life, but taking the time to practice yoga, meditation and mindfulness can really make you focus on appreciating every second. I spent a life changing week at Hariharalya Yoga and Meditation Retreat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and I don’t think I’ve been the same person since. The week of peacefulness was just what I needed to take me from the lowest time I’ve had travelling, to one of the highest. Just days before I had nearly died in a bus crash, I was injured, aching and completely exhausted, but a week of nourishing my body and my mind with health, rest and gratitude gave me what I needed to love travelling again. Whether you take part in a retreat, take a quick yoga class or just follow tutorials on YouTube with your own mat in the sunshine, yoga is so freeing when you travel. It means taking a moment out of your busy day to reflect, then clear your mind and to stretch out your body. Just what all us backpackers need after rubbish hostel beds and overnight bus rides. It’s worth having a look online and around where you’re staying for free classes – I took part in an incredible sunset yoga session on a beach on Koh Lanta, Thailand, completely for free thanks to another traveller who wanted to share his knowledge with the world.image

Running

Running has become my go-to workout – no matter where I am in the world or what facilities are available, as long as I have my trainers in my bag and a sports bra to strap the girls down, I’m good to go! I love cardio workouts, I like to feel like I’ve exhausted myself and pushed myself further than the last time, so when I’m travelling, running is a great way to both experience the location and to stay fit. When I was in Asia, I’d get up early to run on the beach or around the city before the heat grew too fierce – beach running has always been my favourite because the sea is always such a perfect distraction and perfect for cooling off after. In Australia, I loved running – the country is made for runners with such a big focus on fitness. There’s endless beautiful trails, paths and places to explore while you’re working out. Particular highlights were runs along Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, Noosa National Park coastal walk, around the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and Melbourne, and those sweaty runs along Darwin Esplanade in the dark. There are so many amazing places to go running, you’d be a fool not to!image

Cycling

I have a confession, before I went away travelling I had not been on a bike in about a decade. I used to love riding my bike as a kid, but just lost interest as I grew up and had no real reason to ride, but you’ll be pleased to know they are right when they say “it’s like riding a bike” – you never forget. When I was in Asia, bikes were terrible quality but cheap to hire and a perfect way to explore the countries at your own pace. I cycled around stunning old ruins in Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, Thailand, I cruised around Da Lat, Vietnam, exploring waterfalls, and through the Cambodian countryside in Siem Reap with friends. It’s a fantastic way to see the country, you just see so much more when you cycle past the world than you would from the back of a tuk-tuk or motorbike plus you can stop whenever you want to explore. If you’re not as confident on a motorbike, cycling can be a great – and much safer – alternative, just keep your wits about you when you’re on busy roads. In Australia, there are so many beautiful places to cycle and explore – one of my favourite days in Melbourne was spent mountain biking around the trails in a beautiful reserve.image

Trekking

You walk a lot as a traveller and it’s easy to forget that this in itself is a great workout. Whether you spend a day walking around exploring a new city, hiking through the jungle to waterfalls or climbing a mountain to watch the sunrise – it all counts. This is actually one of my favourite ways to workout because it doesn’t actually feel like a workout, you’re so busy looking at the amazing views or spotting creatures lurking in the woods or diving into waterfalls that you don’t realise how much you are burning. I loved huge jungle hikes in Khao Sok, Thailand, we’d be covered in sweat and chased by monkeys, but it was all worth it when you reached the stunning gorge or lake at the end of it. I had friends who climbed huge peaks in Nepal or Bali and said it was the highlight of their trip – getting outside and getting active can be one of the best ways to experience a country. In Melbourne, I spent a weekend camping at Grampians National Park with friends, we spent two days hiking to viewpoints, climbing through gorges and walking through forests – it was incredible.image

How do you like to keep fit when you travel? What are your favourite fitness experiences? What martial arts workouts can you recommend?

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Siem Reap | Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Retreat | Cambodia

imageI’m so excited to share this post with you guys, and I warn you in advance its going to be a long one, because it’s all about one of the most amazing places I have ever been – a place of healing, of peace and of happiness. Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Retreat was the only reason I stayed in Cambodia for as long as I did, and it was the only reason I didn’t immediately book a flight to Bangkok after that crash. I was devastated after the crash, worried I wouldn’t physically be able to cope with a week of yoga and exercise but it turned out there was so much more to Hariharalaya – and that week turned out to be one of the best of my life. I have never felt more welcome than at the moment we pulled up through the gates, it was like coming to a sanctuary, like coming home. And for one week, the staff and the small group of us who had signed up for the experience were a little family, supporting each other through and helping each other to deal with personal problems, get back to basics and focusing on what is really important, and just building new life-changing habits. I can’t thank Leah, of Roots and Toots, and Christine, of Don’t Forget To Move, enough for the recommendations – this place couldn’t have been any more perfect for me at this point in my life.imageimageLeah actually said something really interesting to me after the crash about how perhaps all those struggles leading up to it and finally arriving at Hariharalaya were supposed to happen – to make it an extra special experience when I actually made it there. And I think she’s right, because it really did make it all the more amazing to know what I had been through to get there – it made me really value every single second of the days I spent there and I really took a lot away from it. Being there, in the Cambodian countryside, completely cut off from technology and the outside world, I really had the opportunity to focus on myself and to live truly in the moment. When leaving the retreat five days later, I cant even begin to express how much had changed – I was a completely different person. I walked in there completely disheartened and basically a broken person from all this travelling – I was exhausted from moving so quickly between places and I was tired of feeling unsafe and victimised by the country. Then, thanks to the crash I was physically broken as well – my body had had enough of it all and was screaming stop. In just five days I was bouncing off the walls, happy and comforted by the amazing individuals around me, I regained my excitement and passion for travelling. I felt strong again, my body responded so well to the programme of yoga, meditation, great food, massages and even acupressure thanks to another guest.imageimage

So what did we actually get up to at Hariharalaya?

Our programme started daily at 6.50 when we were woken by a gong that gave us ten minutes until our morning yoga and meditation session, this took place in an open studio where we could see out across the lawns. The morning session consisted of an hour of yoga, which varied daily depending on who was taking the class, followed by 30 minutes of meditation and sometimes we also led into this with chanting led by the owner, Joel. It was a peaceful start to the morning during which no one communicated other than the teachers – it was a time for self-reflection and preparing for the day ahead. After this, we would enjoy a super healthy, vegan breakfast – I cannot rave about the food enough, it was just out of this world and I have never missed meat less in my entire life. Every mealtime we were piling our plates high with all this delicious, nutritional goodness and knowing we were fuelling our bodies for the day instead of poisoning them with oils and fats hidden in usual backpacker fare. After a break during which we could read, play chess, use the gym, cycle around the village or do whatever we wanted, we would have the opportunity to sign up for extra afternoon sessions after another delicious meal.imageThese afternoon sessions included body language workshops, movement workshops, one-to-one yoga sessions to develop a personal programme, or even massages with experts. I took the body language workshop with Sean and found it really interesting to learn from someone who is also the most well-known magician in the whole of Cambodia and uses body language in a lot of his tricks. The One-to-One session with Maike was fantastic, she talked with me about what I wanted out of yoga and helped me to develop a personalised programme that worked towards my goals and used moves I had grown to love over the week – it was so good that I’m still doing it over a month later! And the massages – oh the massages! There were two to choose from and I simply had to indulge in both the four hands massage – which was fabulous and very invigorating – and the blind shiatsu massage, which was my favourite. The blind massage was done by a gentleman who actually massages Angelina Jolie at a flash hotel in Siem Reap for hundreds but I had the chance to try it for just a few dollars and oh my word it was easily the best massage of my life – it also really helped my bruised legs.imageAfter, we would be called in to our sunset yoga and meditation session which was timed perfect to catch the last rays and really was quite powerful for all of us. We all loved this wind-down session before dinner because it totally relaxed us all and gave time for some real peace and quiet. The evening meal was always something to look forward to and it was always so lovely to all sit round the table together discussing everything from the yoga sessions to heavy metal music – it all came up and it was great to spend time really getting to know each other and laughing, a lot. In those final hours before bed, we would spend the evenings being wowed by Sean’s magic by the pool, watching movies, playing table tennis and pool in the games room, playing card games or dancing the night away as musicians from the local village played. It was a beautiful way to round off the days and we always fell into bed shattered from the day. image

Why should you experience Hariharalaya?

This point is one I have mixed feeling about – on the one hand, I loved it so much there that I just want to be selfish and keep it as a secret all for myself. But the other, much bigger part of me is so filled with love for this place that I can’t bear to not share it with you. Hariharalaya is such a special place filled with love, it really helps you see things clearly and to change your view of the world. It’s not just the incredible team of staff who work hard to make your experience everything that it could possibly be, but also the guests who really teach you something. Coming from all different backgrounds and ways of life, I made the closest friends with people I probably never would have met outside in the real world, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity. Hariharalaya draws a whole other crowd of travellers, completely unlike those you will meet anywhere else and that is what makes it so amazing. It provides a home, a shelter, for anyone in crisis, and even those who aren’t, to come and feel safe, to take a break from the outside world and to rebuild. Whether you just love yoga and want to break the trend of doing it in fitness clubs, or whether you just need to reassess everything in your life, this is the place for you.imageimageimageimageThat doesn’t convince you? Well, while I was there, I was lucky enough to share my experience with one girl who connected with Hariharalya much more than any of us, she was already on her second visit in just a few months, and before the week was out she had signed up to do her third week from the following Monday, with hopes of training to become a yoga teacher the following year. I’m so happy I could be there to see how she drew as a person in just days, and that I had the chance to be a part of our little family. I know that no matter how far we are scattered around the globe, that we will all be friends for life after sharing that time together. You can find out more about Hariharalya, and how to sign up, at the website.

Have you been to Hariharalya? Tell me about your experience. Can you recommend any other yoga and meditation retreats in South East Asia?

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Dolce Far Niente – the sweetness of doing nothing

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There are plenty out there who think backpacking, when it really comes down to it, is pretty much just spending months on end lazing on a beach, tanning and partying as soon as the sun goes down. I won’t lie, there’s plenty of that, but there is also so much more to it all. I’m talking about the hours on end spent wandering the streets, looking at beautiful buildings, talking to local people, trying food and soaking up the culture. I’m talking about the times when you get up at half past five to hike up to the highest point of the town to watch the sun rise, when you are chased by monkeys are crazy dogs to get to a temple, and the times when you go off exploring on bikes. It’s actually pretty damn busy, and looking back now over the last few weeks, I can’t understand how I’ve managed to cram so much in. It’s pretty tiring actually, I haven’t really had many days of just doing nothing and relaxing because I’ve been so keen to explore and discover more about the places I am staying in.

Anyone who knew me, or read this blog when I was at home, will know that I never stopped. I was working four jobs at one point to pay for this trip, alongside blogging and still having a life – I love to be busy and to enjoy the world around me to the max, so much so that I would often exhaust myself because there was no let up. Out here, I’m definitely a lot better at giving myself time to enjoy, appreciate and to relax, but I’m still on the go all the time – I guess it’s just me, I really like being busy. But travelling has really made me understand that sometimes doing nothing can be the experience in itself. Just having that time to let it all sink in, to reflect on my experiences while I am out here. And this doesn’t just apply to me out here, I wish it was something I had done more of when I was at home, perhaps then I wouldn’t have felt such a need to get away from it all.

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I think it is something we all could learn – to appreciate “Dolce Far Niente” as it is called in Eat Pray Love – anyone who has seen the film or read the book will remember the description by the Italian guy of “The Sweetness of Doing Nothing”. That we shouldn’t feel guilt for taking time out to just be still and at peace instead of sitting in front of mindless and brain numbing TV, instead of rushing around like a crazy person, and instead of expecting so much of ourselves all the time. Look at the way we greet each other after a long day at work – “what did you do today?” Like the success of our whole day is measured around what we achieved, what we ticked off our list, and if it isn’t enough, we feel guilty or lazy. Why don’t we ask what has made us happy today, or what has made us smile?

They say travelling changes you, but I disagree, I don’t think it changes you. I think it just brings you out of yourself – into the person you always had potential to become. It just takes all of those pressures of society, family, friends and the rest away, allows to you to breathe and to look at what you want to do, for yourself, and not for anyone else. After a tough two years of putting insane pressure on myself by working so much, studying, writing both for this blog and for the festival website, plus keeping up with my family, friends and my boyfriend – it became too much. I removed myself from the whole situation and I can honestly say I’ve never been happier. I no longer feel pressure to achieve, achieve, achieve at work, or to write when I’m exhausted so I don’t disappoint myself or my readers – now I do things because I truly want to, and if feels great.

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I’m writing this post in the middle of a week spent in Phuket Town, which is actually becoming one of my favourite places so far. It’s so bohemian here, full of amazing little coffee shops and cafes that are filled with books and art, so quiet I almost think I am the only person to discover them, and totally inspiring for writing. Through these heavenly little discoveries, I have truly found the sweetness in doing nothing, which has in turn completely inspired me to write. The first visit to my favourite of these little cafes, The Gallery, I sat on a sofa covered in deliciously comfy pillows, I ate poached eggs and avocado on toast with salsa, I drank fruity smoothies and I read a magazine. The magazine was two months out of date, but it didn’t matter because I was outside my comfort zone, I was relaxing and feeling no urge to move or walk or do anything, I was just enjoying that moment of mindless food and reading. To put this in perspective, I genuinely haven’t read a magazine for about two years because I am always too busy.

Since then, I have spent lots of time doing the same, escaping to these little havens where smooth jazz versions of my favourite songs play in the background while I take in the art hanging on the walls, where I watch the world go by on the other side of the window and where I find my inspiration to write for you guys. I tried this a few times back at home, but the fast pace of life there always got to me and I always ended up tapping my feet, impatient to get on with the next thing, here I feel I am able to give myself this time without guilt or worry. It’s such a good feeling, but one I think can be achieved anywhere, it just depends on whether you will let yourself – I never did at home, but here I finally do. So how can you achieve this at home?

Try these tips and see how it works for you – if you saw my previous post on mindfulness, those tips are also great for this!
1. Turn off the TV
2. Give yourself 10 minutes a day to just sit
3. Lock yourself in a room, or go to a coffee shop, just anywhere you can be alone with your thoughts
4. Let your mind wander and appreciate everything around you
5. It might sound silly, but trust me, it makes a huge difference to your life and heck you deserve it!

What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you give yourself enough time to just be? 

Ab Lucy sign off

 

Mind full or Mindful? How you can regain control of your life

sunset 2As you guys will have gathered from my posts, I’m a pretty busy person. I work two jobs now, but it was four not long ago, and I have been constantly busy either at car boot sales, with friends and family, blogging and planning my travels along with anything else I can cram in. Ever since booking my flights, I feel like time is running out faster and faster, and yet I still have so much to do – so much to prepare for travelling, and so many people to spend time with before I go. I’m not quite at panic mode yet, but I’m definitely feeling the effects of going full pelt all the time. Luckily, I’m quite good with managing my time, and I am Little Miss Organised, to the extent that my friends call me “Monica Gellar” from Friends. But that doesn’t take away the fact that you are constantly on the go with no real time to spend reflecting and unwinding. I guess I’ve kind of postponed that until next year when I know I will have a lot of time on my hands to relax.

At least, I had postponed it until a blogger friend of mine sent me some details about an NHS Wellbeing Service that works in the area and is holding a series of free taster workshops for those who are busy and stressed out, and are in need of time to unwind. Well it sounded perfect for me and knowing how many others are, like me, in a situation where they have to give 150% every single day with no let up, I thought it only right to share these Mindfulness workshops with you guys. So what is Mindfulness all about? And how will it help us to feel more in control of our life?

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment by using meditation, yoga and breathing techniques.

It involves consciously bringing awareness to our thoughts and feelings, without making judgements about them.

By paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in this way, we can become more aware of them, less wrapped up in them and more able to manage them.

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Remember my post from the start of the year about when life became a bit too much? Well we’ve all felt that way at one point or another, and it is how we deal with these times that often defines the type of person we are. Some shy away from the problem, push away family and friends and bury their heads in the sand. And others take a break from the situation, give themselves a chance to rest and put things in perspective, them make a decision about where they want their life to go. These are the more mindful in society, and according to research they are the ones who are less likely to suffer from psychological distress, including depression and anxiety. Basically ,I think the message is that problems don’t just go away if you ignore them – I’m sure we all know someone who likes to avoid their problems, perhaps by just not talking to a loved one after a fight, but it always catches up with them eventually.

By using the Mindfulness techniques suggested, you can help yourself to keep your problems in perspective, to keep control of your decisions rather than being forced into panic or impulsive decisions. So it seems that as well as helping you to chill out and get a moment’s peace to reorganise your mind, you also have the chance to save yourself from worsening the situation by not rushing into making the wrong move. There are three main techniques for introducing Mindfulness into everyday life:

  1. Observe Mindfully by taking mental notes of everything around you, indulge your five senses by thinking about what you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Every day, make the effort to notice and appreciate an object of beauty, whether it is your child, your car or a natural wonder. It only takes a few minutes a day, but can make all the difference to your overall happiness.
  2. Walk Mindfully when taking your daily walk to work, or around the park at lunchtime. Give yourself 10-15 minutes to focus purely on the movements of your body and the feeling of walking, giving your mind a chance to clear of all the stresses and worries of the day. Plus some fresh air is great for you.
  3. Eat Mindfully when scoffing a piece of fruit, chocolate, or even a bowl of soup. Take in every detail of the food you are eating, the colour, shape and size, the feel of it in your mouth and the flavours. So many of us just grab a sandwich while continuing to work through our lunch breaks and it is really bad for our health. We need this time to enjoy our food and to have a break from working.

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All of these are so simple and can really make a difference to your day – trust me, I’ve spent the last week trying them all out and it really has helped me to see how trivial work, money and personal stresses really are in the grand scheme of things. It really makes you appreciate the things your body does on a daily basis – the things we are usually completely oblivious to because we are so caught up in everything else. Not only does it make us appreciate ourselves more, but we appreciate others more because we take the time to take in every detail, to share food with them and to really listen. For those who have more time to dedicate to the practice, meditation, yoga and Tai Chi are also great ways of taking the time to to take a deep breath, relax and be mindful. I used to love yoga and used to do it at home alongside pilates classes, but I just don’t have the time any more unfortunately. But I would really recommend it if life is getting on top of you and you want a way of both relaxing and exercising at the same time. I’m definitely planning on a lot more time spent on all three next year when travelling.

If you like the sound of these techniques – why not give some of them a try this week and see the difference they make to your day? For those living in Norfolk and Suffolk, there are a series of tfree aster sessions and stress-control workshops available, plus telephone support (0300 123 1503), group therapy and short-term one-to-one therapies. Find out more about all of these here. For my local readers, there are upcoming free Mindfulness Introduction workshops taking place in Attleborough, Norwich, Lynn and Cromer this month, with a Lynn session at Providence Street Youth Centre on Monday, October 20, at 6.30pm-8pm.

Do you struggle to keep on top of things? How did you find these techniques helped your daily life?

 Ab Lucy sign off