PLANS FOR SUMMER

“The worst thing you can do with summer is waste it. You certainly don’t want to be stuck at home when all your friends are off on adventures of their own. And before you know it you’ll be back to the grindstone wishing you’d spent your time more wisely.

Instead of twiddling your thumbs alone in the pub garden, come away with Work the World for the experience of a lifetime. Travel to the most exotic reaches of the planet, get ahead of your peers with life-changing experiences in your chosen medical field, and get to know the most charming people you’ll ever meet.

But you’ll have to get in quick — the remaining spaces won’t be around forever!

Kathmandu

In the heart of the Himalayan mountains this ancient city swarms with life both day and night. The temples have an aura of spirituality while the narrow streets are loud with all things modern. Take a trip into the mountains where you can paraglide through the peaks before camping out under an unblemished canopy of stars.

There are stunning temples, too. The traditions of the Nepalese people are deeply spiritual, and whether you’re Hindu or Buddhist (or anything else for that matter), you’ll find solace here. A visit to the much revered child goddess at Kumari Chowk temple never fails to impress. Nor does the epic Boudhanath Stupa — one of the largest in the world.”

 

TOKYO NIGHTLIFE

TOKYO NIGHTLIFE

“Tokyo has some of the best nightlife in the world. The city’s size to population ratio means that they have to cram an unimaginable number of small businesses into a relatively restricted area.

Most buildings have 5 or more floors that house anything from hairdressers to karate dojos, but it’s the bars we’re interested in here.

This Asian metropolis has more bars than the sea has fish and if you’re not familiar with the area you’ll never stumble across the same bar twice.

After living in Tokyo for quite some time I became used to this and started documenting all my alcohol-influenced experiences. Here is a list of 5 of my favourite bars in Tokyo.

1. The BBQ bar

All you can eat and drink. That’s all you should need to hear to want to visit a BBQ restaurant. The beer flows freely as does the food. There’s a small barbecue in the middle of every table and plates upon plates of the tastiest meats you can think of are brought out by the waiters upon request.

Run out of food? Press the little buzzer on your table and as if by magic five more plates will appear. Bear in mind that there’s a three hour time limit in most of these places, so eat and drink as fast as you can… if you can stomach it.”

 SEE THIS POST ONSITE

Learning How to Be Patient May save Your Life

Learning How to Be Patient May save Your Life

Morocco is hot in the summer. And as much as I love warm weather, 110 degree heat is pushing it in a busy city where the air-con exists only in one KFC. I was used to the local people hassling me and begging for money at 5 minute intervals, but I wasn’t ready for one guy to overstep the mark. The man held his hand out to my girlfriend and I as we were sitting and enjoying the day, but he lingered for too long. He edged closer and tried to reach into my pocket without me noticing. I stood up and moved away so as not to cause a a fuss, but the man stood up and started shouting as though the contents of my pocket were his to take. Then he spat on me.

Without elaborating, I lost my patience and it ruined the entire experience.

If you don’t learn how to be patient…

…all sorts of negative things can happen to both your mind and your body; we can become stressed and anxious, or start wishing ourselves into the future.

The human imagination is so good at what it does that we can think ourselves into a preferable situation that might not even happen. When we do this it makes us want to jump forward into this imaginary future to escape the stressful present (which is stressful in itself, because such a thing is impossible to do).

When we let impatience turn into stress and let that stress gather momentum, it becomes crazily hard to return to balance. We can start to feel our muscles tense, experience shortness of breath and feel our limbs become restless – all of these are physical manifestations of our negative mental state.

Impatience is no good for our minds either; our thoughts become scattered and any trace of our ability to stay focused turns to goop. If this goes on for even a moment too long, we risk heading into the abyss that is anger, and you sure as hell don’t want to go down that road.

Worst of all, if we don’t learn how to be patient we can begin to feel isolated, and isolation can make us feel very sad and lonely. We feel cut-off and alone because rather than accepting that we’re being impatient, we assume that the fault lies with the other person or situation. The feelings themselves spring from the realisation that there are some things we just can’t control.

And so, we must learn patience.

How to learn patience

This dog knows how to be patient

By Stephen Korecky on Flickr

When people suggest that you should take a deep breath and count to ten, they’re not all that far off the truth (as annoying as that statement may be).

The below is by no means a definitive list, but there are some simple points to get you started.

  • Breathe

Step one: breathe.

Before you announce that you’re already breathing, let me explain: actively paying attention to the breath in the body can bring focus and clarity to your present experience even at the worst of times.

Spending a few moments focusing on the breath can loosen the grip of impatience like a Chinese finger trap; the more you relax, the easier it is to escape it. Breathing is probably the easiest thing ever, so it’s amazing how dramatic the effects are when we pay it even a little bit of attention.

The best thing is that you can do it anywhere; in a long check-in queue; at an unhelpful immigration office; with that one travel buddy who drank too much and can’t make it home without you; anywhere.

  • See the challenge

The next time you notice impatience creeping on, silently say the following three sentences to yourself:

“I am intelligent enough to realise that this response is not beneficial.”

“It’s completely normal for me to respond this way, but it is not productive.”

“From this moment on I will breathe, pay attention to my breath and observe my feelings mindfully.”

The moment we see situations that cause impatience as challenges, we’ve already shifted our focus away from losing our cool. This takes a lot of practice, so don’t be disheartened if you find it completely impossible the first few times.

There are plenty of opportunities to learn this skill while travelling, as life on the road presents us with frustrating challenges almost everyday. For some of us, personal growth is why we travel in the first place.

  • Teach

Teaching requires incredible patience. If you find the above point too difficult, try and teach someone something. It gives you more control over the situation as you’re going in prepared to feel frustrated.

Teach someone local three reasonably complicated phrases in your native language and see how you get on. Judge your mood before, during and after to see what the patterns are and which triggers start the frustration and make the feeling of impatience worse.

Next time see if you can accept frustration and be with it by being kind to yourself and focusing compassionately on the needs of the person you’re teaching. You’re there for them just as much as you’re there for yourself.

  • Meditate

Daily meditation is an irreplaceable ally. There are many forms of meditation and they all have their own individual benefits, but for simplicity I recommend mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation helps us to become more aware of the present moment rather than dwelling on the past, or wishing ourselves into/worrying about the future. It hones our ability to drop into the present – just what we need when a little patience is required.

  • Ask your friends

Our friends and family see a side of us that we do not.

If we want an honest opinion, we must ask for one – it’s no good roping in a relative unless you’re going to tell them to be brutally honest.  Ask them if they recognise anything that causes you frustration and compare that with self-assessment.

Write a list of everything you learn and try to take one item each week and look out for it. If you notice frustration arising from any item, refer to points one and two, rinse and repeat.

 

The most challenging thing about this process is that it requires persistence, which is in and of itself a challenge. Fortunately, next week’s post is all about the benefits of persistence, so subscribe to the mailing list if you don’t want to miss it.

You’ll start to notice that many of the things I talk about are interconnected and dependent on one another. The best way to nail them all is to chip away piece by piece – take baby steps and don’t lose hope.

If you’ve got any stories about a time you managed to keep your patience instead of switching on the rage, please let us know how you did it in the comments below.

Elephant Rides in Thailand Are Bad… For Real

Elephant Rides in Thailand Are Bad… For Real

I must preface this post by admitting that, yes, I have been on elephant rides. At the time I was utterly convinced it was fine and that the elephant was more than happy to carry me. That was a year ago and I was definitely wrong.

My experience with elephant rides

I happened to be in Thailand in March 2012 and one of the things I had planned was, of course, to ride an elephant. I’d been romanced by the idea such that I believed these beautiful creatures would actually enjoy the experience with me. “I’m having a blast, Joe!” The elephant would say, and I’d reply “Indeed… Onward!”

My brain was clearly malfunctioning, but I know that other people convince themselves in much the same way.

To cut a medium-length story to blog post size, I arrived where the elephants were kept, climbed aboard and off we went. It was all downhill from there (metaphorically speaking).

There was a small, irritable Thai man sat on the elephant’s head and he had a wooden stick which at one end had a metal spike and hook – I’m no Freud, but it’s my understanding that rage and sharp objects tend not to mix positively. The man prodded and poked the poor, grey beast as it moved reluctantly through the jungle, and I imagined that the elephant was filled with resentment.

It was clear from its groans that the animal did not want to cooperate, but was forced into doing so knowing that, should it refuse, it would receive a painful blow to the forehead from the spiked tool.

I wanted to get off.

This was not at all the way I’d imagined it, but then these things rarely are. I hated every second of it, but then realised that however much I disliked the experience, my suffering paled in comparison to the suffering of the elephant.

Let me next explain how to catch an elephant.

First you must break the elephant’s spirit using a centuries old method known as ‘Phajaan’. Information varies from source to source as to the exact process, but we know that when an elephant is around 4 years of age it’s forcibly removed from its mother (forever breaking their natural bond), caged and then immobilised with ropes and chains. The ‘trainers’ proceed beat the schnitzel out of the elephant with heavy, sharp things till it becomes forever submissive to human beings. I’m told that the most effective area to attack is the inner ears and eyes, as they’re the most painful.

Here’s a shocking ‘PETA-esque’ video of Phajaan in action – Bear in mind that, as far as we know, every domesticated elephant in Thailand has experienced this

After a few weeks of torture you have a tame elephant that you can ‘use’ for… well, whatever you want really.

The elephants are either kept, or sold off to new owners who use them to make money through offering rides and putting on shows – they can even be trained to paint pictures, which I find terrifying.

To me this process is heartless – intentional or not.

I understand that one shouldn’t judge the people that participate in this process, as I’ve no idea what their motivations are or what sort of strange path led them to this sort of life, but ultimately there needs to be local and accessible education that animals aren’t for people.

As a ‘higher’ species we should take it upon ourselves to discuss this sort of thing – in many parts of the developed world we already know better, plus it’s really shitty karma. Even Lonely Planet haven’t got the message yet.

Am I a hypocrite for eating farmed meats? Probably. Am I a hypocrite for having a pet dog? Probably. But I believe that taking small steps is better than taking no steps, provided that they’re steps in the right direction.

So, what I’m saying is: elephant rides in Thailand are bad… for reals.

 

…And now, a funny cat:

A Happy Life is Not Spent Chasing Happiness

A Happy Life is Not Spent Chasing Happiness

Spending your life searching for things, events, people or places that will make you happy is a fool’s errand. Aristotle was right, however you look at it. The line that follows this quote says, “…similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.” – the message seems clear.

A happy life is not spent chasing happiness

Happiness is hot topic right now – in fact it’s probably the hottest topic of all time because it’s something we seem to search for relentlessly. Being happy is so important to us that it dominates almost everything we do, and new ways to get there are always being studied.

But the problem is that looking for happiness leaves us dissatisfied. It leaves us dissatisfied because happiness isn’t something that can be found in the way that you can find a lost set of keys. To truly be happy is a constant state of being.

Our understanding of happiness is based on the assumption that it’s something that can be pursued. That assumption has even spawned its own film with Will Smith in it – how could we not be convinced?

The problem is that looking for a happy life in things, people, places or future events is that those things are all transient – they don’t last.

The only thing you can find true happiness in is the one consistent truth: you exist.  Your sense of self, your own existence, is the only thing you can ever be absolutely sure of – so try starting there.

A happy life of travel

Happiness is not a destination. You can’t get on a plane and get to happiness, and no amount of time will bring it closer. Again, I understand where this idea comes from – so much of what the western materialist viewpoint teaches says if X then Y.

  • If you work hard, you will be rich.
  • If you eat food, you will be full.
  • If you drink too much vodka, you will be unconscious.

If you try and apply that reasoning to happiness, you’re at risk of chasing your tail which can actually do more harm than good.

World travellers, myself included, are often massively guilty of this. We seek experiences, which isn’t a bad thing by itself, but when we’re seeking experiences in search of  a buzz, we’re definitely doing it wrong.

Moving from country to country when you get bored goes against what most seasoned travellers will recommend – instead try to stay, and be, in one place. Start to look a little deeper into your present experience – the here and now – rather than letting your thoughts take you into the future.

Remember: less is more.

It’s inside yourself that you will begin to cultivate happiness, rather than find it.

A happy life starts inside

Things that are external to us cannot bring us a long-term happy life – they can influence our mood in the short term, but nothing beyond that. The first bite of the Big Mac tastes great, but we always end up with the McSweats, and they stink.

All of these external stimuli have a ‘happy limit’ that we hit after a while, and this leaves us looking for the next quick fix.

The path to solving this problem starts with realising that there’s a problem to begin with, and the sooner we realise this the sooner we can start to pay attention to the ‘me’ that’s here right now.

Slow down and breathe for a moment. Try a simple meditation and turn inward, presently. Quietly observe what the weather’s like inside yourself and how it’s constantly changing, chasing thoughts that appear from nowhere.

Is what we want what we think we want, or is there more to happiness than a 6-week round the world ticket and a new Macbook Pro?

When we’re able to stop taking happiness like a drug and focusing on contentment in the present moment, a long-term happiness at the core of our very being will emerge before we even recognise that it’s there.

 

Did this post strike a chord? Let me know in the comments – your feedback is the most valuable thing I have, because it’s for you that I’m writing.