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No Regrets

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It has been 77 days since I parted ways with my chiropractic practice to pursue a dream of traveling around the world.

Currently, I am sitting in a giant metal tube 40,000 feet in the air on my way to NYC. I can’t believe I have been traveling for 2.5 months so far. Some days feel much longer than others, but overall the experience has flown by.

We have experienced some pretty amazing things so far and encountered some really frustrating challenges.

The highlight of the trip has definitely been rock climbing. We developed a passion for climbing that exceeded my expectations, but I am certainly leaning into the feeling and looking for ways to explore the world with a rope and a harness.

We have met extraordinary people from all over the world. We have stayed at five star hotels and no star shacks. We have had some expensive food and $1 street food. We have met some of the nicest people on the planet and encountered some of the rudest and most frustrating.

We’ve had things stolen and lost but more than made up for it with the generosity of people and experiences along the way.

Being away for so long and living out of a suitcase really puts things in perspective and makes me grateful for some of the simple things in life like a good home cooked steak and a decent pillow.

Man, I never appreciated a decent pillow until now.

I realize that we only get one life to live and living in fear is no way to live it. Life passes you by way too quickly.

I have been meeting many travelers along this journey that are in their early to mid 20s and just working and traveling around the world. They are living day to day and traveling until their money runs out. Then they go back to work until they have enough money to travel again.

There is such a freedom in that. To get on the road with nothing to lose and experience the rawness of what the world has to offer.

There are times when I question my decision to travel. Of course, it would have been more prudent to continue working, but being prudent isn’t always memorable. Being prudent doesn’t always create exceptional experiences. Being prudent doesn’t always build lifelong relationships.

Sometimes it’s important to throw prudence out the window, take big risks, and follow your passion.

One of my favorites quotes that exemplifies this idea is “You’ll regret more the things you did not do than the ones you decided to do.”

Stop always being so prudent, go against the grain, and do something you’ve always wanted to do.

My philosophy more and more is evolving into the idea that there are only 2 types of experiences: extraordinary ones that feel amazing and ones that are crap but make for great stories.

Go out and make both.

– Matt Westheimer

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Injured and Abroad in Vietnam

Injured and Abroad in Vietnam

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Hidden Valley, Cat Ba, Vietnam

Ever since I can remember, there are two qualities that stand out a lot when I think of myself.

Ever since I can remember, there are two qualities that stand out a lot when I think of myself.

These two qualities are not ones I am especially proud – anxiousness and perfectionism.

Ever since I started traveling about 10 weeks ago, I never realized how distracted I was from just being present in my “old” life.

Sure, I would meditate for 10-20 minutes in the morning but what about the other 1,430 minutes in the day?

Much of it was filled with work and other obligations and activities. Feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, fears, and doubts could fairly easily be drowned out by the noise of daily life.

It is different when you are traveling long-term.

There are many times of boredom and nothingness. Questions begin to arise about whether it is ok to just relax and do nothing or am I just “wasting” my time?

Being still in the moment and just “being” is a challenge for someone who has had such a strong experience with anxiousness and perfectionism. Some moments I look out into the corner of the world that I happened to be experiencing at the moment and possess a deep sense of gratitude. Other times I am filled with stress and anxiety and questions of doubt.

What I am realizing more and more is there is no perfect reality out there. There is no scenario in life that is going to make all of your problems go away. Every scenario and permutation of life has upsides and downsides.

Unfortunately for me, whether it is nature or nurture or a combination of the two, I tend to obsess about the downside or challenges associated with things. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach.

This usually isn’t so bad if it is something within my control.

Where I really run into trouble is when I am dealing with something outside of my control.

Many times I obsess and obsess until it drives me crazy.

For example, I have an old hip injury that has been acting up on me recently. I hurt it about 5 years ago and from time to time it still flares up pretty bad. I have literally tried just about everything I know to get this thing resolved but nothing seems to completely resolve it.

What is funny is that I help so many people resolve their health issues, but the hardest patient I have ever had is myself.

This issue acted up on me again right before our last big rock climbing trip to SE Asia. My mind started racing like it usually does. What if this thing keeps me from climbing? What if this never really goes away? How am I going to be able to climb hard and do all of the adventures and sports that I love to do? What is going to happen if this gets worse and I have to give up on so much of what I love?

 Once I am able to see past the immediacy of the emotional trauma that I am feeling and somewhat self-inflicting through the questions I am asking myself, I do what I do best.

Take massive action.

 I take massive action in regards to my physical health by reaching out to practitioners and experts in my life that could help me. I spend hours doing myofascial work, stretching, mobility, and muscle activation work.

I then work on my emotional wellbeing through meditation, writing, and asking myself better questions.

This is the most challenging part for me.

The technique that I find helps me most is this: What if what I fear most happens? What if I am limited in physical sports and adventure for the rest of my life? What would I do and how would I still find happiness and fulfillment?

I love these series of questions because if you can still find fulfillment and purpose even in the worst case scenario, then what you fear most loses its power over you.

Then I can get back to doing the real work. And the real work is taking massive action on everything that is within my control and working on the emotional aspect of accepting, and maybe even embracing, the things that are outside of my control.

I am still learning to let go more and more and lean into discomfort.

What I believe is that happiness should not be the goal. It is too dependent on our emotions in the moment.

And let’s be real. If you are really trying to experience a truly extraordinary life, it takes a lot of struggle. But the key is to struggle through the things that are worth struggling through and are most important to you.

The goal should be fulfillment, growth, and contribution. It should be finding peace and presence and curiosity in the moment. Sometimes those moments feel like crap and other times they feel great.

Either way, lean into it.

- Matt Westheimer

Cat Ba, Vietnam

The Struggle is Real

Cat Ba, Vietnam

Cat Ba, Vietnam

We are hanging 120 feet off the ground from an overhanging roof on the side of a mountain protected only by a harness that we clipped into 2 titanium bolts drilled into the roof.

Our legs are dangling underneath us are starting to lose feeling and go numb from the pressure of the harness’s leg straps. As we reach up to change our gear and prepare to repel ourselves down the side of the cliff, the harness digs in deeper into our inner thigh and cuts off more and more feeling. We have no choice. We have to keep going.

Many times throughout our week of rock climbing I found myself vacillating between moments of intense elation and extreme frustration.

Almost Giving Up

After “onsighting” (a term used for going up a route the first time without falling or stopping) a couple of challenging routes, I found myself in a euphoric state of accomplishment. This was coupled with a future route that should have been a cake walk in which I found myself almost giving up on due to the frustration of not being able to get past a certain point.

Truth be told I actually did give up on it. I got lowered back down, but in a moment of persistence and courageousness, I decided to not give up and gave it another go.

This time I made it.

I was really close to giving up, but I am glad I didn’t.

Great Metaphor For Life

I love rock climbing as a metaphor for life.

Things are going to be really hard at times. Things in life are going to be really uncomfortable and sometimes very painful. It’s important to keep going.

Sometimes you are going to want to give up – especially when no one is looking. It is in these moments of deciding whether to give up or not that your character is truly tested.

Don’t give up. Keep moving forward.

A great way to practice this is to put yourselves in situations where giving up is not an option.

I do that by putting myself in a position where I am hanging from a mountain 120 feet off the ground. Your way might be a bit different.

Either way, find your 120-foot cliff.

Sincerely,

Matt Westheimer

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The Joy and Misfortune of Spontaneous Travel

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Freediving in Koh Tao, Thailand

As I plunge deeper and deeper into the water, the pressure builds up, the water gets colder and darker, and my lunges begin to scream for a breath of air.

I am freediving in the Gulf of Thailand on the island of Koh Tao which is a little island off the eastern coast of mainland Thailand.

I have always wanted to take a course in freediving.

As a kid, I grew up snorkeling almost every weekend along the coral reefs of South Florida but I wanted to be professionally trained.

There is something so primal and pure about freediving. It is just you and the water. It brings you back to the old days when you had to hunt for food with nothing but your body and a spear.

I love the purity of it. I love how it involves a strong mental and physical aspect. I love that it forces you to be present and live in the “now.”

Every random thought, unintentional body movement or contraction, mental stress, anxious moment, or inefficient movement, uses oxygen and deprives your brain and body of this essential nutrient.

There is very little room for error. There is a real chance of losing motor control or even blacking out in the water. If you follow your training, it can be very safe, but you don’t want to deviate from the plan.

My Personality is BAD For Optimal Freediving Performance

As a Type A person, my engine is usually running on all cylinders. My mind is always racing. My body is always running. I have a tenancy to live in the future. I tend to sway in the direction of anxiety and the most common word people have used to describe me is intense.

These are not great qualities for an effective freediver.

In freediving you must live in the moment. You must breath to a point of deep relaxation before you dive down and maintain that relaxation throughout the dive. You must not stress or think too much because brain metabolism requires the use of oxygen, and when you are diving down into the depths of the ocean on a single breath, every bit of oxygen counts.

It was such a challenging and rewarding experience to be able to devote 6 consecutive days to pursuing my level 1 and 2 freediving certification. It forced me to confront my fears of deep diving and fighting the strong urge to breath. It forced me to push pass my limits of what I though was possible. It forced me to relax and live in the moment.

The Big Realization 

There was one pivotal moment I remember vividly while I was in the water.

I was really getting stressed out and anxious about diving deeper. I was putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to perform. I could feel my heart racing and my head pounding.

Out of nowhere I heard my mind say silently to myself: “Stop putting so much pressure on yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Enjoy the process.”

At the thought of these words, a smile appeared on my face and I decided to just have fun and enjoy the process.

I realized it’s important to challenge ourselves and do things on a regular basis that scare us. It is the only way we grow. But it is equally important to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves and just enjoy the process.

It is interesting what happened when I relaxed and decided to have fun.

My performance increased. I ended up finishing the course with an 87.5 feet (27m) free dive and a 3:15 breath hold.

This never would have happened if I let my stress, anxiety, and fear get the better of me.

Final Lesson

So what is the final lesson from this experience?

Challenge myself. Do something every day that scares me. Stop putting so much pressure on myself and always remember to have fun.

Sincerely,

Matt Westheimer

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Everyday Heroes in Thailand

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Railay, Thailand

Many times we can find everyday heroes all around us.

I witnessed a hero in action the other day.

We just arrived in Railay, Thailand a few days ago for a week of rock climbing.

The setting is extraordinary. Giant limestone walls overlooking the ocean are views that you’d think you can only find in the movies. It is the type of beauty that only mother nature could create.

The variety of climbing here is incredibly vast. They have everything from beginner routes to expert level. There are short climbs of 6-8 meters all the way to 100m+ multi-pitch routes.

One of our favorite areas to climb is a place called the Diamond Wall. It is a site perched on top of a hill with amazing views and great routes. There is also a hand ground organic coffee place on site which is an added bonus for coffee lovers like us!

It was our second day climbing at the wall when I witnessed something scary and inspiring at the same.

When you climb the walls in Railay, it is not compulsory to hire a guide. It is open and free to the public. As long as you know what you are doing and have your own gear, you are free to climb on your own. Most people, including us, hire a guide to make sure we are safe and help us navigate the walls better.

On this one particular morning, there was a duo there who were on their own.

From the moment I saw the climber on the wall, I knew they were people I needed to stay far away from.

The way climbing works is you have a climber who is attached to a rope, you have another person called the belayer who is attached to the other end of the rope. As the climber ascends the wall, he clips his rope to the wall to protect himself if he falls. If he falls, the belayer is there to hold the rope and keep him safe. At least, that is the idea granted that both parties know what they are doing.

This party did not.

You could tell from the beginning the climber did not know what he was doing. After he got about half way up the wall, it was very apparent that he was in serious danger. I only realized that because I heard one of the local guides frantically trying to tell the belayer he needs to take better care of his climber.

At this point, everyone around was concerned. The climber was stuck on the wall in a dangerous position. The belayer either didn’t seem to care or was ignorant to the fact that something was wrong, and he would not listen to the guide who was trying to help. Not only would he not listen, but he was being rude and condescending to the guide.

Here is the thing. The guide was getting paid to work with another group. He had no allegiance or direct responsibility to put himself in a position to get ridiculed and yelled at.

So why did he do it? Because it was the right thing to do.

Not only that, but he wouldn’t back down.

He took a stand for the climber on the wall no matter what.

He put his feelings and his ego aside because helping another individual was more important than staying comfortable and quiet.

Moments later, he threw on his harness, attached himself to a rope, and literally ran up the wall barefoot to rescue the climber that was in a really tough spot.

This man was certainly a hero.

It was a great reminder that we must stand up for what is right, not just what is easy.

It was a reminder that we must be courageous, even if it means we might be judged or ridiculed.

It was also a great reminder even though we may not think people are looking at us, they are. It is important we always act with integrity and set a good example for other people to follow.

Thank you, Mr. Climbing Instructor for demonstrating such courage out there on the wall.

People were watching, and you inspired all of us.

- Matt Westheimer

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From Sucking to Success

 

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One of our favorite places to stay in Bali is a town called Canggu.

We’ve been there a couple of times and always said we would love to go back to do a yoga retreat.

Canggu is a mecca for healthy living. There are many yoga studios, organic restaurants, and world class surfing.

We stayed at a really quaint and quirky place called Serenity Guesthouse. It truly lives up to its name. It is a peaceful place mostly made of bamboo. There are organic gardens around the whole property, a healthy café with homemade Kombucha, a few yoga studios, a meditation room, rain collection bins for water, and they recycle everything.

I have been practicing yoga on and off for years. I started doing yoga about 8 years ago when I was in chiropractic school.

To this day, I still remember the first class I did. I always had a negative view of yoga. I thought it was a lazy form of exercise. I viewed working out as lifting a lot weight – period.

I decided to give a class a try after suffering from shoulder issues for a while. I figured it would be a relaxed way to work my body with minimal effort.

Boy was I wrong!

That first class I did was incredibly humbling. I struggled through the entire thing. I had to take rests more than anyone else in the class. I couldn’t touch my toes, my shoulders were on fire, and every muscle in my body was burning.

I was hooked.

I decided to make yoga a regular part of my fitness regime. I have struggled with keeping it a regular practice at times but like a home base, I always find my way back at some point.

Lately, my yoga practice has fallen a bit by the wayside. I have been doing much more calisthenics work like gymnastics as well as rock climbing and weight lifting.

I decided a great way to get back into the practice would be to do a yoga retreat where I would take 2 classes per day for 5 days and have a really immersive experience.

In short, it kicked my butt. It was very humbling.

I remember one class where I thought I had really advanced my practice until I looked over to my left and saw a guy making me look like it was my first class. He was doing moves I had always dreamed of doing.

At first, I started to doubt and mentally deprecate myself.

Then I realized this guy was where he was because of a ridiculous commitment to his craft. My mind shifted from putting myself down to admiration for the hours, days, weeks, months, and years he committed to molding his mind and body into the ability to master some very challenging moves.

Many times we only see what is on the surface. We see the successful person and assume she was just lucky.

We see the person with the great physique and chalk it up to genetics.

We see the musician, the speaker, the leader, or the athlete, and we ignore the fact that they put in countless hours of work, sleepless nights, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.

If we want to reach excellence in anything, we must remember it takes an extraordinary commitment.

First, stop beating yourself up if you aren’t happy where you are. Accepting yourself is the first step to transformation.

Then decide where you want to be. What is the result you are looking for?

Then decide what you need to do to reach the outcome you are looking for. Who do you need to model? What do you need to read? How much do you need to train?

Lastly, commit to taking massive action.

Speaking of which, time for me to practice some yoga. I have a lot of work to do.

– Matt Westheimer

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The Cure for Always Wanting More… 

 

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Phoenix Hotel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The world has been going through so much change over the past 10-20 years. Through globalization, there are very few places that still retain the essence of the “good old” days. Western culture has permeated much of the Eastern world but there are still some places that have retained quite a bit of the Eastern charm.

Yogyakarta was one of those places.

I sensed it the moment we stepped off the plane onto the tarmac and faced a small old building that they call their airport.

Inside the terminal there was the hustle and bustle of locals and very few Westerners. Things were old, worn, and had lots of character. Just the way I like it.

We hired a driver from the airport to drive us to our hotel. Our hotel was spectacular. It was an old Dutch mansion that was built in 1918. It was fully renovated but still held the essence of the old world. We had a gorgeous room overlooking the pool which was an amazing site to see.

The floors and bathroom were marble. The bed sheets were soft and the pillows perfect. It was like being in a palace.

But do you want to know what we appreciated most about the hotel? Not the lavish rooms, picturesque pool, the outstanding service, or the old world charm. Don’t get me wrong. We loved those things.

But the thing we appreciated the most was the shower.

I’m not talking about the beauty of the shower either. I am talking about the water pressure.

Eighty percent of our trip had been showers that were either unusable, freezing cold, or plagued with water dripping out at a pace that resembled a leaky faucet.

It is amazing how you begin to appreciate the little things when you know longer have them.

My life in Singapore was really good. I had a really good shower. The water pressure was excellent and I never had an issue with hot or cold water. Do you know what happens when you have a perfect shower?

You find other things to complain about. We always find things to complain about. That is just who we are as human beings.

We get comfortable with the luxuries in our life that we call “necessities.” But really, if you are part of the 1 percenters of the world, which you are if you are reading this, what we call necessities are really luxuries.

I was complaining to my friend about having to go a week using a bucket of water to bath with. He started laughing and said, “You call that roughing it. I call it how I grew up. That’s how I bathed my whole life growing up.”

It takes effort to look at our life and realize what are luxuries and what are necessities.

It takes an even bigger effort to practice conscious minimalism. Get rid of some of the stuff you don’t need anymore. Take a cold shower. Stay at substandard accommodations for a week or go camping. Minimalize the distractions in your life and learn to appreciate more.

Every time we increase the standard of living in our life, it becomes the new baseline.

The things we once appreciate we no longer do as we up our game. This way of living can be really exciting but you have to look out for the downside, and the downside can be really big.

We lose ourselves. We lose our happiness, joy for life, and our appreciation for the little things.

Life becomes about achieving more and having more and we lose our sense of self in the process.

I am not saying we should ever lose our drive for achievement or that having more is bad. I wholeheartedly believe we should look for the harmony of drive for achievement and appreciation and gratitude for the little things.

But just think about how much better your life would be if you had a deep sense of appreciation for a nice warm shower with good water pressure.

Sincerely,

Matt Westheimer

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

How to Be as Happy as a Woman Dying from Cancer…

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Let me paint the picture for you. 

We just arrived at the first destination of our long-awaited trip around the world. We arrived at a place that has been on my bucket list for a really long time – El Nido in Palawan.

It landed on my bucket list a few years ago when I had a conversation with a billionaire who loves to travel. He had been to over 80 countries around the world, and when I asked him what place was his favorite, he said without hesitation, “El Nido.”

That was good enough for me.

The journey to get there was not an easy one. We had to fly from Manila to Puerto Princessa and then take a 7-hour van ride to El Nido. 

 Once we arrived, we got settled into our “villa.”

I use that word very loosely. It was more of a cardboard box with a tin roof. No air conditioning, non-working shower, and filthy. But it was right on the beach with spectacular views which made up for all of that.

One of the cool things about the villa was it was part of a local “baranggay,” or community, so we got to interact a lot with the locals.

One such local had a major impact on my life. 

We decided we wanted to explore the surrounding islands, pristine beaches, and hidden lagoons so we were directed across the dirt road from our villa to a lady named Ezra. She was a really sweet middle aged lady who ran a small business out of her very modest home. Think a whole family in one room, a tiny kitchen, and doubled as an office.

She owned a small boat and had a guy that operated the boat to bring guests for tours around the islands. We walked over to her house and inquired about the different options for the tours and then told her we would discuss it over dinner. We asked if she had a small scooter for us to rent so we could get around town.

Her reply, “You can take mine. It is free for friends.” Friends, I thought? We just met two minutes ago. I was speechless, which doesn’t happen often and graciously accepted.

I was moved that this woman who barely has enough money to take care of her family was offering and trusting a stranger with her only mode of transportation. 

That was lesson number one. Find ways to give with no expectation in return. 

The next lesson after dinner I learned from her was even more powerful.

We arrive back at her home to confirm the tour we were going to take with her. She was no longer on the porch so I called for her from outside, and she asked us to come in.

As we entered her home, she apologized for not being able to come out to meet us, but she has difficulty walking due to bone cancer. This lady is raising 3 young kids with stage 4 bone cancer and she was one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met.

The whole experience was wonderful with her and her generosity continued throughout our stay in El Nido.

She was more concerned about everyone else rather than herself. And under the circumstances, she would have been more than justified in focusing on herself. 

She never made anything about her. She was present. She was peaceful. She was loving. She was compassionate. 

She immediately became a role model for me.

When interacting with her, I realized I need to be kinder. I need to be more present. I need to be more loving.

Because if she can do it, I can do it.

- Matt

Sugba Lagoon, Siargao, Philippines

Their Highlight Reel to Your Blooper Reel

Sugba Lagoon, Siargao, Philippines

Sugba Lagoon, Siargao, Philippines

If you just looked at the pictures I have been posting, you would think this around-the-world trip has been all sunshine and rainbows.

This assumption could NOT be further from the truth.

Yes, the trip has been an amazing experience, but for every beautiful photo I post on Facebook, there is an equal and opposite experience that I can’t post or would be inappropriate to post.

I remember reading a great message a while back: “The problem with social media is that it isn’t real. Everyone just posts their highlight reel. We get depressed or feel bad because we compare our blooper reel with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

A powerful message that I need to remind myself of often.

While we have done amazing things like paddle boarding in secret lagoons on pristine islands in Siargao and had a breathtaking scuba diving experience in El Nido, we have also had many challenges that we couldn’t or would be inappropriate to take pictures of.

I couldn’t take a picture of 2 weeks of cold and barely usable showers. For a week, I had to bath using just a “tabo,” which is basically using a small bucket to dump water over yourself because our shower was not working.

I couldn’t take a picture of the heat we had to combat for a whole week because our villa had no air-conditioning and the screens for the windows were so dirty, they would barely let any air through.

I couldn’t take a picture of the fact that I have not had a good night sleep in over 2 weeks due to the heat, pillows that felt like they were stuffed with a handful of cotton balls, scratchy sheets, barking dogs, and loud motorbikes and honking cars, and many times a combination of the above.

I couldn’t take pictures of the re-arranged flights and nasty weather that kept us from surfing which was the main reason we went to Siargao. On the plus side, we did get to do SUP in the Sugba Lagoon which was amazing.

I couldn’t take pictures (or I guess I could but that would be gross) of the dirty clothes I have had to re-wear because I ran out of clothes and couldn’t find any place to wash them.

As we all go through life, we have choices we get to make.

Do we run our own race or do we run some else’s race?

I notice that many times when I am unhappy, frustrated, or depressed, I am comparing myself to someone else; I am focusing on what I don’t have rather than what I do have; I am focusing on what is missing rather than what is present.

Run your own race. Be present. Practice gratitude. Meditate. Continue to refine your core values and live congruently with them more and more each day.

And please stop comparing your blooper reel with everyone else’s highlight reel.

– Matt