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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

Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

The Joy and Misfortune of Spontaneous Travel

Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

It seems like every time I sit down to write I am doing so from an entirely different vantage point.

Last time was from the living room of a 34th floor apartment in Hanoi.

The time before that I was overlooking Cat Ba Bay from the dining room of our hotel.

This time it is on the rooftop terrace of our Airbnb with beautiful views of Saigon.

When we departed on this adventure, I really had no idea what was in store for me. I had never done anything quite like this before, and historically I have preferred much more stability in my life.

This time was going to be different. Unlike the rest of my life, I had done very little planning for this trip. Truth be told, we are supposed to fly out of Saigon tomorrow and up until just a few minutes ago, we hadn’t even booked a plane ticket. It was really stressful for me in the beginning to have such an uncertain future but I am learning to let go more and more and enjoy the adventure of it all.

Many wonderful things have been able to occur due to this spontaneity such as rock climbing in Vietnam. It was never even on our radar before this trip started, and it only happened because we let go of the need to plan and decided to be open to what came up along the way.

It is the same reason we are here in Saigon right now. We never had any intention to visit Saigon. I had been here before and there were 50 other places on our list that we wanted to see, but along the way an opportunity came up to spend time with an amazing individual so we took it. We said yes immediately, booked our tickets, and we were off.

Living this way is tough sometimes though.

We never really know where we are going to be. We literally live out of a suitcase and it seems like every time we turn around, it is time to pack up and move on.

The things we took for granted like the ability to go to the grocery store, buy some fresh fruit and vegetables, and cook our own food has been more of a luxury than a regular occurrence, but it has opened the door for some pretty interesting experiences.

One of these occurred just last week in Cat Ba.

There are no supermarkets that we could find in Cat Ba, good Western food was almost non-existent, and we had nothing but a mini fridge in our room so we had to resort to eating every meal at restaurants and food stalls.

We asked around where the best Pho Ba was located which is a stock based clear soup with beef, rice noodles, scallions, and sometimes fresh ginger. It is always served with fresh lime and really spicy red chilis on the side. Eat the chilis with caution. They are hot!

If you want to know where the best pho is, just look for the places with the giant vats of broth simmering for hours or sometimes days with beef bones. They are the tastiest and most authentic. Some other places just use instant broth and just taste like one of those cheap cup of noodles you buy at a convenience store.

Anyway, we had been eating at this place probably a half dozen times. This time was the first time I needed to use the bathroom.

After we order the food, I walk to the bathroom and open the door. There next to the toilet I find a giant plastic container of beef bones sitting in putrid water.

I was immediately grossed out thinking that I had been eating here for the last few days, and I am just about to eat a soup made from old beef bones that had been soaked right next to the toilet.

I realized I had been traveling in Asia for a while when my next immediate thought was, “These bones will be boiled in hot water and probably kill all of the bacteria so I am sure I will be fine.”

Next thing I knew I was sitting back in my seat enjoying a delicious bowl of Pho Ba.

If you want to grow you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone.

I know you have probably heard me say this before, but are you doing it? If not, then it is worth repeating.

Book a ticket or drive a few hundred or even a few thousand miles to meet someone that you have always wanted to see. You can’t connect with someone the same way over the phone that you can sitting face to face with them.

Yes, it costs more money. Yes, it takes more time. Yes, it requires booking a hotel and dealing with some of the misfortunes of travel.

But also, it is an emphatic yes that it is worth it.

You will never regret investing in yourself and your relationships.

– Matt Westheimer

Hanoi, Vietnam

Experiencing Fear and Doubt – A Lesson from Hanoi

 

If you ever experience doubt or uncertainty, you are not alone.

I’ve always prided myself on being unwaveringly and unshakeably confident in the eyes of all those around me.

The truth is I am not always confident. I have doubts at times. I have insecurities. I have plenty of things in life I am unsure about.

I used to run away from things I was afraid of. I would run from any feelings of discomfort and insecurity.

I was always really good at attaching myself to things that I was really good at and things that came easy to me, and avoiding things that really challenged me emotionally.

It was great for capitalizing on my strengths but made me weak when dealing with things that scared me or made me emotionally uneasy.

That was one of the reasons I decided to take this trip around the world.

My strengths have always been working, achieving, and being productive.

My weaknesses have been dealing with downtime, times of being idle and not pursuing something tangible or big future goal, and taking time to just be present and live in the moment.

Quitting a great job, selling 90% of my things, not knowing where I will be sleeping a week from now, and dealing with times of idleness and boredom have proved to be as challenging as I expected it to be.

In the past, there was a place I could run to when feeling uneasy – work and achievement. Now there is nowhere to run.

There is only so much site-seeing and activities I can do to distract myself, but inevitably I must face these feelings of discomfort and learn to be at peace with them.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

There are a few ways I do that.

Meditation is the biggest and most powerful habit I have added to my life. I start every morning with anywhere from 10 – 26 minutes of meditation. Sometimes I do silent meditation and other times I do a guided meditation (Hence the 26 minutes). Meditation has been incredible for me.

Writing. Sometimes I sit down and journal about whatever is on my mind or challenging me at the moment. I just write about whatever I am thinking about. I don’t try to sensor it. I just write. These are things that are just for my eyes. Actually, I usually don’t even go back and read them. Just the act of writing is incredibly cathartic.

Other times, I do exactly what you are reading now. I write about something I am working on, challenged by, or realized. It helps solidify an idea, concept, or practice in my own mind, and by putting it out for the world to read, I deeply hope it benefits your life by reading it.

Movement practice. Doing some type of exercise every day does wonders for my sanity. Sometimes it is an intense lung-screaming, muscle-beating workout, and other times it is a stretching and mobility session. The key is to get my body moving. Also, I always do this while listening to a podcast to feed my mind while I am feeding my body.

If you ever feel uncertain, scared, or stressed about life, you are not alone. I experience it as well.

The key is to lean into that discomfort and make it your friend. Don’t try and run away. Don’t try to avoid it. You can’t outrun it no matter how hard you try.

It helps to deal with these feelings by having some powerful rituals like the ones I mentioned. You just learn to be able to sit down and be at peace with those feelings and emotions. When you do, they no longer have power over you.

At least that is the idea. I am still working on that last part.

– 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