My apologies for the late post. Tuesday there was no power; my devices hadn't charged over night and the wifi was out. Wednesday I start a post, but get caught up reminiscing on past travels and overwhelmed dealing with stress these past weeks. I decide to head out and spend the night in a different location, which didn't have cell service (I know there's a cell tower right there, trust me, I was trying to get reception).
Packing a bag, I hit the road within the hour; driving North to the same beach from a few weeks ago. Riding is a great opportunity to analyze my situation. A chance to be silent and let my subconscious do what it needs. I start talking to aloud, listing my blessings:
One day, earlier this week, I attempt to journey out deep into the Vietnamese mountains and do some solo camping. An item on My 50 + 100 bucket list, and something I want to do so I can detox from society for a bit. You know? Relax in a valley with nothing but my tent, a fire and a gorgeous backdrop of mountains to keep me company.
Thus, I venture out past a puny village — further and further into seclusion. Nearly out of gas, 15km downhill from the nearest hand pumped gas tank, no cell service and everything I own on my back. I find a valley that looks promising. It's just down this strongly eroded mud slide, roughly 80ft tall. No big deal. I make my descent and am nearly at the valley. First, I need to clear this brush, and climb down a few large rocks.
Setting my bag on the ground, I navigate my way through the brush. Making some headway on clearing a path, I'm nearly at the valley. Just as I'm figuring out how to overcome the last bit of brush, it starts to rain, a lot. I spin around and start rushing back up to my bag.
The last four years have brought about major change in my life:
I'm balancing my equipment list between living in an apartment in the city and camping alone out in the woods. There's the potential to work, so I need a few outfits that would otherwise be too many for back country hiking, yet I cannot take so many outfits that it fills my pack and increases the weight, especially with the additional camping equipment.
I've made a few purchases to nearly complete my backpacking list! Only a couple more to go and I'm all set!
The past two two months have also been the kickstart of a change in my health focus. I've been aware of my poor dietary habits for a long time, but April and May have been the start of my changing these habits for the better!
Listen below to hear the full story about what I've bought for my backpacking list and my health improvements being a new focus.
Finishing up with the last of my time in Singapore, I leave the hotel, check into a hostel, explore Chinatown, briefly see someone I met online, and head off to wait for 4 hours at the airport due to the flight not leaving on time.
Once I landed in Kota Kinabalu, I camped on an island for the night. Thanks to a strong sunburn and the noise from the beach, most of the night has been sleepless. Live and learn I suppose. We must try new things before we can improve them and now I know a little more of the specifics to address if I'm sleeping on the beach again.
This is last post before I fly to India. I've been working towards and anticipating this trip so much. After months of preparation and logistics planning, the time is here! Everything is in place and I take you through my last minute details. I would have uploaded this a couple days earlier but the usual internet issues are more persistent than the pollution 😒
On May 02 some expats and I travelled to a nearby mountain called Mt. Panshan about 2 hours from Tianjin city. Given my planned travels for next summer, mimicking the backpacking experience in preparation seemed to be a practical exercise (no pun intended).
In my big backpack, the following were packed: pants, long sleeve shirt (as head covering or if it got cold), sweater, 3L of water, apple, banana, orange, two sandwiches, my journal, box of cookies, wallet, sunscreen, toilet paper, lock and cable for my bag, sunglasses and a few other little things. Estimated pack weight -- about 15lbs. Climbing with this weight was not bad at all. In fact, the 4 hours of hiking with this equipment was easier and lighter than carrying my normal backpack with iPad+keyboard, yoga mat, shirt/pants, and 3 pieces of fruit.
Although travelling with colleagues and new friends to the mountain, I ventured off on my own. "Outgoing introvert" would be an appropriate self-describing personality type for me. There personalities thrive being around people, and can do so for long periods of time. Then comes a point where time alone is needed. My own company and the room to think in solitude are refreshing. Such was the intention for this hike. Additionally, when out in Vancouver last summer, I completed the Grouse Grind in approximately 54 minutes, when average times are 1.5 hours. With this mountain being several times smaller, I anticipated a quick hike and wanted to see what the climb time would be like.
This hike itself was much easier on its own, however the weather added an interesting challenge. It became cold early on, started raining, and was really windy. The three combined made the trek across the ridge from the first to the second peak an opportunity for building mental stamina -- which it indeed did.
The following are 11 points I became mindful of which will really help me on subsequent hikes:
1. Clothes: You should have three sets of clothes. The first, you wear and these should be selected based on weather forecasts. The second for adjusting to unforeseen weather/environmental changes. The third set for changing when you finish and need a back up dry set. This time, I wore shorts and t-shirt, however, upon arrival it was cold, windy and started to rain. The long sleeve shirt came in handy quickly. I ended up taking the pants back off because it was getting too hot with them on. A small pair of gloves would have been much appreciated.
2. Act early on observations: Something which became apparent very quickly is to notice and act on your circumstances before they become problems. What do I mean? Act before it's obvious to do something ie. Have a snack BEFORE you are hungry, change your clothes if you start to get cold, not once you've become cold. This requires attention to detail and the capability to not think it will pass or you're ok. This was helpful when wearing the pants I brought and started to sweat in them. Taking them off early meant being able to better regulate my body temperature.
3. Mistakes with clothing: When starting to hike up the hill, I put the long sleeve shirt and pants on over my t-shirt and shorts. Shortly after starting to climb, the pants were taken off and put in my pack. My mistake? Not putting the pants into a plastic bag like my sweater was. The end result? Once the hike was over, I was soaked and cold. I had to keep wearing my shorts because my pants weren't inside a plastic bag and got wet. The second mistake was not taking off the t-shirt when putting on the long sleeve shirt. This would have been an extra layer to wear under the zip up thin sweater I had.
4. Poncho: I bought a poncho, which I was glad for, though purchasing two, the second for my pack, would have been the wiser move. While on the mountain ridge, it was super windy, I guessed wind speeds were reaching 45m/h plus. The poncho did have a few buttons, but being so spread out created a pocket for the wind to catch and noticed many people having wet spots given the blowing wildly and rain getting inside. I put mine on, spun it around and with the buttons on my back, I didn't have to worry about the wind or rain going inside. This did create a problem, but this problem lead to the discovery of a new awesome solution!
5. Head covering: With my poncho on backwards, my new solution created a new problem - no use of the hood! What to do about covering my head?! Luckily, I was able to use a bag holding my little items from my pack (because a separate bag was covering the top of it) on my head! The cherry on top? I always have elastics on my wrist because when you need one they come in SUPER handy! Imagine this, it's a moderate rain, winds are ~45km/h, it's cold and you need a head covering. Put the plastic bag over your head and ears, take the elastic and tie the loose part of the bag in a pony-tail! The bag won't let in any water, but better yet, the plastic is great at reflecting the heat from your head and will actually keep your head warm! Now some studies have debunked estimates of loosing 40-45% of your body heat from your head, and this may be true... But, in any case, your head houses your brain, so, that's kinda important, and when out on a hike, any part of your body being cold sucks. So, just put the damn bag on your head, and keep a few elastics handy. If nothing else, you can find some other use for both of them.
6. Plastic bags and elastics: Having a few of each was essential for nifty little tricks, and will no doubt reveal numerous more. I used my bags for keeping clothes and food dry, easy categorization and un/packing of items from bag and making a cover for the top of my pack. Elastics are also great for sealing items such as opened packages, holding items together like writing utensils, passport and papers etc. A quick note on how to seal your plastic bags with food/clothes inside. Initially, I tied tight knots for mine, however this was a mistake because once the climb was finished, I was cold and too weak to even tear a pack of cookies open let alone the tight knots on the plastic bags (which can be tricky normally). How to avoid such problems: use the elastics to tightly seal the bag, or tie and leave a small handle from completing the know which allows you to tug at the handles of the plastic bag and undo it.
7. Devices: Although I was able to take a few photos, I would have took more had there been a waterproof case on my iPhone. Or I had a GoPro. I'm contemplating both.
8. Pack the right food: I tend to favour bananas, oranges and apples. Bananas are great for keeping energy up, helps to keep you alert and can keep hunger pains at bay. Just be mindful where you pack them as they can get squished. Apples are super easy to pack, lightweight, and apparently provide energy faster and longer than a coffee does. I can back this up, the day I did the Grouse Grind, I only had around 5 hours of sleep and partied a little the night before. I ate a large apple right before starting and was sustained throughout the hike (along side some water and strong mental attitude). I repeated the method of eating the apple before the hike this time, and it worked again. Oranges can be a bit of a pain to peel, and I'm sure there are nutritional benefits, this is not why I like them though. Peeling an orange and taking it apart requires a little focus. This can be a small refreshing change to the brain. The real reason is the juices of an orange are sweet and actually wet. This is great if you have little water left over and want to wet your tongue, or if you get tired of the bland taste of water. Lastly, they provide a sweet liquid without the dehydrating sugars found in energy drinks or sodas. I'll be looking more into nuts and dried fruits for my larger hikes. It's important to eat just before you get hungry, this helps your body and mentality stay maintained instead of loosing focus on your hike because you are hungry. The proactive mindset is just helpful in general.
9. Breathing: Keeping focused on your breathing rate will deliver consistent oxygen to your muscles and help your endurance. A portion of the climb included 740 stairs in increments. I took these stairs 2 at a time, and stuck to a strict, rapid breathing schedule. Each new step I had to start a new breathing cycle (1 inhale and 1 exhale) before the next step. After each set, I took approximately a 30 second breather and deliberately took slow deep breathes, to lower my heart rate. The net result was being able to climb all sets with surprising ease, and only getting sore thigh muscles on the top few stairs of the last few sets. Recovery time also seemed to be significantly shorter as well. Each time I do an exercise, a quote from the movie Never Back Down rings in my mind where the coach tells this hot shot kid "you'll defeat yourself if you don't control your breathing".
10. Control water intake: Having a pack with a bladder pocket is great! Mine holds 3L, and let me tell you, water is HEAVY! It's important to control your intake not only so you do not consume all your water early (which leads to numerous issues later), but drinking too much can lead to feeling bloated, cramps and constantly having to go to the bathroom. By controlling the intake, you stay hydrated and your body will use most of the water resulting in not having to pee as much.
11. Posture and centre of gravity: My developing yoga practice has provided insights I didn't foresee applying to numerous other areas of my life. Posture has been one of the major benefits, and it is equally important, if not more so when hiking. With the added weight of a pack and the incline of the mountain, proper posture is essential! Many people start to bend forward to compensate for the incline, make sure to do so at the hips, while keeping your back straight and leading your body with your heart pressed forward. This reduces sweat build up on your back, removes pressure on the bladder pack, and helps your central nervous system (spine) communicate with your body more effectively. Hiking also requires a lot of core and back strength. Having a strong core is not appropriate only for countering the weight on your back, but also for lowering your centre of gravity! This helps prevent you from loosing balance, and plays a role in creating a strong foundation. Try the following tips to: 1) Flex your abs, 2) When climbing try stepping with the ball of your foot, not the heel 3) Rooting down through your legs and toes (flexing your toes into the ground as if they were fingers grabbing a handful of dirt - visualizing it helps). These tips will provide you a better stance any time they're practiced.
There is talk of doing another climb on the much bigger Mt. Ling near Beijing next month. I will keep you updated as details emerge.
With a new work schedule, weekends are each Monday and Tuesday, every week. The new consistency is appreciated. On these two days, there is opportunity to explore the city or do activities with other expats. Thus far, only the former has been exercised, while the later will happen later today. Something most desired when making this move was an increased capacity to wander, explore, walk/hike and spend time alone. Exploring thoughts, listening to audiobooks (currently on The Tao Of Seneca, see Resources page for more), seeing new things and just having down time is very relaxing, and provides opportunity for much personal growth.
This nomadic action has been taken a step further. The routine starts with taking a taxi somewhere random within the city, usually with the intent to do yoga. Sometimes it's done immediately upon arrival, if the spot is appropriate, other times, not so. The mat is always brought along given it has multiple uses: yoga, something to lay on for a sleep mid-afternoon or to sit on while eating lunch. During these days off exploration is the focus, both personal and geographical. There is no worry, or consideration, for time or location. Why should there be? How many of you can say you've wandered around, even within your own city; without checking your phone, worrying about time, being mindful of your location, or secluding yourself from the outside world while in the midst of it? It is something everyone should at least attempt. Too many people are oblivious to their distraction because they do not know who they are or what they want in life.
These actions (not keeping time, nor location, and regular exploration) are being practiced so such "skills" may be adequately rehearsed once the upcoming journey to SE Asia next summer commences. This will be alongside rigorous physical training for hiking long distances, weight endurance (carrying backpack over long distances), and mental stamina.
Take some time in your life for planned relaxation and self-reflection, without access to Internet, social media etc. Observe who you are, what you enjoy, what you think about and allow your mind to wander freely, not in judgement of thought but simple observance. Journaling these thoughts will come in handy. Make these notes on paper, with a pen, and not in your phone. The physical aspect of this makes it more meaningful. See the upcoming post on journaling, due out tomorrow.
Many people who operate at a high level take steps to reduce the number of redundant decisions they make in their daily personal and professional lives. This includes setting a strict weekly schedule which doesn't vary ie. Gym work outs on set days at set times, having the same food for specific meals (breakfast), outsourcing tasks to assistants, and even how they dress -- by having a small set of outfits which are rotated (think Steve Jobs and his black turtle neck with jeans).
When aiming to travel abroad to backpack, it's important to not overpack on clothes (or anything else), since it's largely dead weight. Every extra pound you pack is compounded when on the trail. For people who live in North America it will come as a surprise to hear this, in many parts of the world, people wear the same clothes multiple days in a row. In NA you'd be asked "didn't you wear that yesterday?" if you wore the same shirt, more than one day. Here, I've seen my colleagues, and even my top boss, wear the same outfit multiple days in a row. It's nbd. The most people do this in NA is wearing something black all the time, any other colour and apparently it's too noticeable.
I anticipated this (wearing the same clothes), though not for the reason of saving laundry or reducing the quantity of clothes I brought. Before leaving, I knew I'd be in a climate which varied, would largely be hot, have me sweating, and I'd be doing a lot of activities such as yoga and hiking. I purchased a new wardrobe, all from the same store with a focus on soft colours, were made of sweat absorbing material and stylish enough I could wear in many environments. This included, pants, shorts, t-shirts and long sleeve shirts. Most importantly, I bought clothes that all matched each other. This is what I am referring to above, and the reason for buying all the clothes at the same time from the same store. This removes the obstacles of having to match clothing pieces. With everything coordinated, I can swap them all with each other and not worry about it! Furthermore, I bought the same number of of each item, so everything is interchangeable!
If you're a guy and want to go even further, and save yourself a bit more space and money, buy all your shorts as bathing suits, particularly quick dry ones. The quick dry will help with the sweating, and you'll always be ready to go for a swim! Clothes made of this material is light, the quick dry comes in handy in many situations. And if you're leaving the water and going to your next spot - you don't stay wet long. If fact, the bathing suit will air dry much faster than you will!
When it comes to packing your bag, I packed my clothes in plastic bags by item ie. Shirts together, boxers and socks together etc. This has multiple benefits. The first is being able to easily remove items and repack them without clutter. Having them in bags can also help against them getting wet if you haven't purchased a rain cover for your pack (which I highly advise).
For more information on how to distribute the weight in your pack, check out these links:
1. How remote you plan on being
Typically, people online suggest being under 30lbs, with some people even going as light at 15lbs! A rule others go by is under 25% of your body weight, and preferably at 20%. Check out these links on reducing the weight of your pack:
When I moved to China, my two bags combined, were about 40lbs. Not bad for my first time moving abroad to live. However, even just going around downtown Toronto, the bags became heavy quickly! I'm really going to have to reduce some weight before my backpacking trip next summer! Some big books I brought along, from TESOL as a cautionary note, will be the first to go. This alone should save me at least 10lbs. You also need to watch how much water you carry. It's the heaviest item you'll be carrying on a density/volume basis.
I look forward to seeing you on the trails!