The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

5 ways to rejuvenate when you’re on the road — a blokey bloke’s perspective

I’m not big on spas. In fact I’ve never been to one. Perhaps because I’m a bloke (and quite a blokey-bloke at that), I just can’t see the appeal of drenching myself in yoghurt or putting cucumber on my eyes. Well, not unless I’m going to a fancy dress party as a Greek salad. 🙂

But that doesn’t mean I’m not on the eternal quest for self-renewal and youthfulness. We all are! Well, anyone over the age of 21, anyway! It’s just that some of us would prefer to avoid the lotions and potions, if alternatives are available.

Here are 5 fail-safe techniques I’ve discovered for feeling younger:

1) Try martial arts — or if all else fails, work out at the gym.

I love yoga — so much so that I practiced it once at two thousand meters at 5:00 a.m., on a tiled floor in a house with no heating. Suffice to say, there were parts of me that remained stuck to that floor long after I was ready to give up! But I believe in yoga’s rejuvenating power, both mental and physical — just not enough to carry on doing it!

Instead I’ve found something more to my tastes: martial arts — specifically Wing Chun kung-fu.

Millions of people around the world practice some form of martial art — can they all be wrong?

Kung-fu offers me the chance to push myself physically. It also challenges me with its spiritual and philosophical components, which are based in passivity and meditation. Manipulation of the invisible life-force or energy flow — known as (also chi) in traditional Chinese culture — is a big part of it, with much of it done through breathing as with yoga.

My advice:

  1. Try it.
  2. Then try it some more…

I can’t think of anything better to be hooked on! You’ll feel happy and amazing and the years will start to pour off.

(If you can’t stomach the idea of punches to the stomach, then try going to the gym — treadmills and all that. It’s odd, but on the days I work out, instead of feeling tired I have the energy of a man ten years younger. It’s all those endorphins!)

2) Travel slowly.

A change is as good as a rest, or so they say. Who “they” are in this instance I’m not sure, but they certainly had a clever turn of phrase!

It’s a lie of course — try having a week’s holiday in Fiji and see how rested you feel after two international flights, separated by five days of jet lag…

A rest is the only thing as good as a rest, which is why I love to take my time as I travel. Luckily for me, I can. These days I make a bit of money from writing, and I’m always keen to try new work experiences as I go. I’ve been a diving guide, a medical guinea pig, a toilet cleaner, a yacht delivery man, a gardener…

Living in a place for a while and taking a job is a great way to meet people and make friends, to get to know an area and its population — it’s also an endless source of ridiculous stories that I can spend the rest of my life turning into books.

If it’s not possible to simply vanish into Asia with a CV and a backpack, I fully understand — but then take longer holidays, with no fixed agenda (even if it means taking fewer holidays). Two weeks away gives you the time to properly relax, and your body will thank you for it.

And just imagine what a month in Fiji would be like! Sunny, is the answer. 🙂

3) Take long walks.

I walk a lot. Even in my bedroom I pace, but that’s not exactly rejuvenation!

I find it revitalizing to be outdoors. I now live in Perth, Australia, where I try to spend an hour or so each day roaming the streets, usually in the evenings (it’s a little on the hot side for casual strolling in the middle of the day).

And yes, I do sometimes get stopped by the police! Fortunately for me, Western Australia doesn’t have a version of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. When I walk, I feel totally free. The rest of the world goes away, or at least becomes quieter, and I can finally think clearly with all that noise gone.

Some of my best writing has popped into my head spontaneously as I walk — almost as though it were there all along, just waiting for my mind to be still enough to tune in.

And if you’re looking for the ultimate rejuvenation, do a big walk! My wife, my sister and I are still reaping the benefits from hiking the Bibbulmun Track here in Western Australia. It’s 600 miles and took us two months.

After the first week you run out of things to say. After the second week, you run out of the desire to say anything anyway. By the time you’re done, I guarantee there will be peace in your heart and a youthful smile on your face. Because you’ll either be a strong, confident individual as a result of conquering such an epic challenge — or you’ll be dead.

I can’t recommend it enough!

4) Tap into the healing powers of universal energy.

In the course of my many wanderings I’ve acquired a fairly eclectic collection of beliefs — among them, Reiki, a spiritual practice developed in Japan. A sort of laying on of hands to unleash one’s inner energy and help boost the body’s healing system.

I did my Reiki practitioner’s course a few years ago. Though some of it was esoteric, it wasn’t too big a leap for me to imagine an invisible energy field inhabiting the body that we can gain access to, or the notion of supplementing someone else(the patient)’s energy with your own (as the practitioner). It somehow made sense to me, but the proof was in the healing: it really worked!

Feeling skeptical? I can relate — I have friends who chant to the angels and friends who believe in the power of color as a healing medium, neither of which do anything for me.

Still, I recommend giving Reiki healing at least one go in the interest of rejuvenating your body. It’s the furthest I’ve ventured into the bewildering variety of New Age therapies, and the closest I’ve ever gotten to feeling The Force — fantastic! And no, you don’t have to get naked! 🙂

5) Cuddle a furry creature or two.

Anyone who knows me, knows my passion for all kinds of animals. I have volunteered in animal refuges while traveling around and have met some amazing people. I’ve also been shot at, bitten, clawed, mauled, temporarily blinded — and head-butted in the balls by a wild pig. Hey, I never said it was easy!

But as the English writer George Elliot put it in one of her stories: 

Animals are such agreeable friends — they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.

Having a dog or cat (or three!) to come home to after a long day at work is one of the best ways to soothe one’s fears about the world, and stay sane. But — before you indulge — be sure you can look after a pet, particularly if you travel a lot.

Oh, and if you rescue an animal from a shelter instead, you get double karma points!

STAY TUNED for Monday’s “Ask Mary-Sue” column.

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Images (clockwise from top left): Our family dog, Meg; on a loooong walk with my wife in Western Australia (no going back!); the fun Fiji scenery; Kung-fu Tony!

9 responses to “5 ways to rejuvenate when you’re on the road — a blokey bloke’s perspective

  1. expatlogue March 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Wow! I’ve gotta say I’m impressed with the level of consideration given to footwear preparedness in the photo above! Looks like you outdid your wife there… Great post – sound advice 🙂

    • ML Awanohara March 25, 2012 at 9:48 am

      @ expatlogue
      LOL on the footwear comment!

      @ TJS
      I assume you wore flip flops — or thongs as they say in your adopted land — because of the puddles? I hope it wasn’t for the entire 600 miles, or you will find your feet aging faster than the rest of you — thongs are not supportive!!!

      On a related note, I know you’re not much for lotions and potions, but does sunscreen come into this category? I hope not, for the sake of preserving your fair English skin for as long as possible — and to avoid skin cancer!

      • cheeriet March 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm

        Oh, sun-tan lotion was essential though. Even in the depths of winter, which it was – we had to cover ourselves in cream every day. Well, the exposed bits anyway! These days, I never leave home without it :0)
        It’s one of the fascinating dichotomies of being me. Because I absolutely cannot stand the stuff!

        • ML Awanohara March 27, 2012 at 10:22 am

          Well, too bad you didn’t get to Oz at the time when a singing, dancing Sid Seagull had Australians slipping on long sleeved clothing, slopping on sunscreen and slapping on a hat, that’s all I can say. I understand they have since added “sliding” — for sliding on some “sunnies” — to the campaign. Slip-slop-slap-slide: no excuse for forgetting!

    • cheeriet March 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      Ah, yes… the footwear. I HATE flip-flops. Loathe them, with a passion. I borrowed the ones in the pic above from my wife (who was taking the picture). And I had to give them back before we entered the swamp section of the track – and I hiked through it for 2 days, barefoot! Next time I will definitely be taking a pair, even if they do feel like wearing a toe-garrote!

  2. ML Awanohara March 25, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Your post made me think of a recent blog on Huffington Post by the Alaskan chef Kirsten Dixon. Here’s what she wrote about rejuvenation:

    Where do you go for rejuvenation? Perhaps to a beach somewhere with a good book to read or a stroll along winding backstreets of Paris? Next year, consider something cooler, literally. You might be able to join the 50 or so people that will, in the dead of winter, bicycle or ski their way from Knik, Alaska to McGrath, a distance of some 350 miles.

    The Alaska Ultrasport Iditarod Invitational is a human-powered race along the Iditarod Trail, the same route as Alaska’s famed 1,000-mile sled dog race. The race offers two options: to ski or bike (or run) for 350 miles to the village of McGrath or to continue on to Nome to complete the entire 1,000-mile route. To walk or bike anywhere for a thousand miles might sound formidable enough, but in potential negative-degree temperatures and unpredictable ice and snow conditions, the Iditarod Invitational is the world’s longest and most remote ultra race in the world.

    Not being a blokey bloke (Dixon is married with kids), she doesn’t do the race but supports the participants — the lodge that she runs in the Alaskan backcountry is a checkpoint for the race, a place to stop, eat and rest.

    Why do people put themselves through this? After talking to people and doing some research, she has come up with this answer:

    …from my perspective, there are things to see, people to meet and potentially life-altering experiences that just can’t be accessed in any other way but to bike or ski or walk along a trail in the backcountry of Alaska in the dead of winter. When I read through racer recounts of their experiences of previous races, one thing consistently came through: the emotion of being there, and, I suppose, a heightened sense of being alive.

    • cheeriet March 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      Heightened sense of being alive… oh man, this is SO TRUE!!! If I was anywhere near that competition I’d be all over it. I am a big adrenaline junkie, but I figured I couldn’t cram all that into this post – no-one wants to read about my extreme sports fixations!
      But nothing – and I mean NOTHING – makes me feel brand new like blasting down a mountain on a snowboard at top speed, jumping off every bump and edge in my path! Of course, this comes with a caveat – on at least one occasion I have snowboarded right off the edge of a cliff… so, you know, be careful :0)

      • ML Awanohara March 27, 2012 at 10:36 am

        Snowboarding right off the edge of a cliff? Not being an adventure sports person myself, I was thinking more of the recent book claiming that yoga may not be good for you! The New York Times journalist William J. Broad applied his investigative reporting skills to yoga (which he’s practiced since 1970), and concluded that the benefits of this age-old Eastern exercise are somewhat mixed. Without careful precautions, Broad says, yoga can produce painful impairments — eg, torn Achilles tendons, nerve damage, back injuries and even stroke! After centuries of practice by millions of people, it shouldn’t be a surprise that yoga has some gimmicks or trashy methods — but somehow it was a surprise for many of us, who extol Eastern rejuvenation techniques (see your #1 above). Ah, well…

        • cheeriet March 28, 2012 at 11:12 am

          Yeah, I heard about that! What a lot of people forget of course, is that these eastern systems, whilst very attractive imports, were never designed to be adopted piecemeal as we tend to do things in the west. Practitioners of a discipline, from yoga to kung-fu, tended to put an awful lot more emphasis on their training and practice than we do with our once-a-week yoga classes. By the time a yogi was progressing onto more complex positions, they would have had many years of practice for many hours per day – gaining more experience in a year than most western masters could achieve in a lifetime! It’s just a different philosophy and approach to this kind of study. As a result, their bodies (and minds) are rather better able to handle the demands made of them. We have our western impatience and expect to be advanced to a high level after doing something for a year or two, and so in our equivalent systems, the grades are much easier and quicker to scale. I achieved a fairly high level in kung-fu (purple sash) in two years. In China, they start at age 5 or 6 and train to adolescence full time before they advance beyond being a beginner… of course they don’t know or care what a ‘purple sash’ means, but I dread to think what would happen if I ever had to fight someone of a supposedly equal grade… :0)
          We’re just not as tough, or as prepared, either mentally or physically, to fully adopt these disciplines, so there’s always a risk! And then of course, the ‘science’ they were originally based on, wasn’t quite as advanced as our own… the same science, for example, that suggests ground tiger penis as a remedy for impotence. So I can understand there may be some slight problems with it from a health and safety standpoint!

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