Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 in Review and 2013 Resolutions

The other night I watched a National Geographic documentary on the first full ascent of the Everest made by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. The most inspiring thing (which I didn’t know until now) was that after this moment, Hillary spent most of his life in Nepal, building schools and hospitals for the Sherpa people. As of now, he’s one of my new heroes in terms of making life choices and living a meaningful, fulfilled life. In this documentary, Hillary mentions a great quote that I’d like to share with you all: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature. Avoiding danger is not safer than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” - Allan Keller.

2012 Overview
2012 was a good year... I would even go as far as to say that it’s been the best year of my life so far, at least in terms of adventure accomplishments. Considering I spent only 4 months out of 12 working, and the rest of the year traveling about and living frugally, I guess it was indeed the perfect recipe for a happy, fulfilled year. Long story short, here’s my 2012 in a nutshell: 

  • Fell in love with Nepal and swore to go back there again some day.
  • Rode motorbikes in Bali, Thailand and Nepal.
  • Learned how to ride a motorcycle.
  • Got in a cage with a (baby) tiger.
  • Rode a camel in the desert in India.
  • Fell in love with a Berliner at a street party in Rio de Janeiro. We never exchanged contact info and I’ll probably never see him again...
  • Got a new job.
  • Got my first motorcycle.
  • Learned how to climb.
  • Got really freaking good at bikram yoga.
  • Started eating healthier.
  • Went sailing with my friend Elliot and his Hobbie Cat.
  • Spent quality Thanksgiving time with my awesome group of friends in a luxury mountain cabin in Tahoe.
  • Struggled with some health issues, (which I’ll talk about in more details later.)

2013 Resolutions
I am still not sure what my ideal personal ratio of adventure-to-routine is, but I know I craved routine, stability and security at the end of my trip around the world, and now, after a few months of routine, I crave adventure again. Luckily, living in California, little fixes of adventure are not that hard to make happen. Living in such close proximity to great unexplored outdoors leads to weekends of explorations and new discoveries. There’s still so much on my California to-do list (hot springs, hikes, retreats, swim holes, motorcycle rides on back roads, backpack trips, new restaurants, etc), that I could never get bored. You get it: I’m living the dream life, and if California was a brand, I’d make a really good endorsement.

“BE STRONGER!” represents my main “mantra” for 2013. While it sounds very unspecific, the underlying goal is to get better at some things that I already do. Whether I’m mediocre at doing those things or completely suck at them, the goal is to get past the mediocrity, complacency or laziness and do better. Put more focus and motivation behind them. Get less distracted. Get less affected by peer pressure. Get better at prioritizing what’s really important for me and the future that I want for myself, whether personal or professional.

I also have a more specific breakdown of this “Be Stronger” mantra:

1. Mens Sana in Corpore Sano
This old-timey Latin proverb literally translates “A healthy mind in a healthy body” - meaning that only a healthy body can produce and sustain a healthy mind. Earlier in this blog post I mentioned that in 2012 I struggled with some health issues. Upon my return from the trip I was hit with an intense explosion of anxiety symptoms. Everyone experiences anxiety during certain trying moments in life, but going through a full-blown anxiety disorder can be quite debilitating. Just when you expect it the least, your heart starts pounding uncontrollably, feeling like you’re on the verge of a heart attack. There are often week-long headaches, dizziness or claustrophobia in crowded or small spaces. Normal activities like driving, getting on a plane, being on a crowded subway train or in a packed concert venue, become daunting. Mind disorders are even more terrible because they are invisible.

Modern medication is often the worst solution to a problem like anxiety - and since I’m a firm believer in the above mentioned Latin proverb, I increased my weekly amount of physical exercise, changed my diet (more about that later), started taking B vitamins and other supplements rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (all things that are good for your central nervous system) and guess what ??? BAM! The anxiety symptoms gradually went away to the point that I’m now feeling almost back to my normal self. This blog post is more personal - and I’m sharing all this info because I really want to get the point across: exercise + diet = a healthy body; a healthy body = a healthy mind (for the most part, at least). 2012 has been a trying year for some of my closest friends, who discovered they had serious health conditions (cancer, diabetes, psoriasis, tumors). The bottom line for all of us (and everyone else out there reading this) is that regular exercise and healthy diet are the keys to enjoying a long, happy life inside a healthy body. I know I sound preachy, but this is so important and yet so overlooked by many people. And the saddest part is that most people choose to take up exercise or eat a healthy diet only after they’ve been personally affected by a disease; in other words as reactive measures, rather than as pre-emptive, healthy lifestyle choices.

2. You Are What You Absorb
I mentioned diet earlier and promised to expand on it later in the blog post. Another famous saying is “You are what you eat.” and to put it more accurately, you are what you absorb. I’m not going to go into too many details here, but I’ll instead resort to a quote: “The nutrients that we get from our food are only absorbed when interacting with other nutrients. It works a bit like the engine of a car. For that engine to work fuel alone is not enough. The nutrients we require need to be delivered in a way that encourages as many of them as possible to work together.” What this means is that it’s not enough to eat healthy or organic, but you also have to mix the items you’re eating in a certain manner to get the most benefits out of them.

What I’ve done is compiled a basic list of food items you should strive to eat as often as possible: nuts (walnuts, almonds), fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (sardines, mackerel), dark-green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, bok choi), yellow/red vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, beets), the good grains (brown/black rice, flax seeds), the good dairy (yogurt, kefir, ghee, butter), the good oils (coconut oil, olive oil), the good fruit (grapefruit, lemon, blackberries, blueberries, pomegranate), avocados, eggs and more.

I’ve also compiled a list of food items you should strive to avoid as much as possible, if not completely eliminate: sugar (so, so bad! - this includes all candy and all soda), the bad grains (anything made with white flour, bready things, white rice, pasta), the bad fats (corn and sunflower oil, cheese, and especially melted cheese), fruit rich in sugar, beer, potatoes.

3. Other 2013 Resolutions
  • Get better at riding motorcycles.
  • Go on a long road trip.
  • Take a woodworking class.
  • Take a pottery class.
  • Engage in more crafty/creative projects.
  • Go on at least 4 overnight backpacking trips.
  • Surround myself with more outdoorsy/active friends.
  • Run a half-marathon.
  • Lose 8 pounds.
  • Redo my photography website.
  • Do more creative photoshoots.
  • Get some paid photo assignments.
  • Call my parents, brother and grandparents more often.
  • Be better at keeping in touch with people I care about.
  • Go to a new country. (Australia, Canada or New Zealand)
  • Do some volunteer work.
  • Get better at skiing.
  • Get better at climbing.
  • Read more books.
  • Make a more conscious effort at buying environmentally-friendly products with least amount of packaging. Reuse, recycle and use second-hand items as much as possible.

Happy 2013 everyone! Let's make this year as full of accomplishments and memorable as we possibly can. And don't forget, we only live once!