Once I left the Netherlands in November, I did not know much about my trip. The only thing I did know was that I had ‘something’ with sports. It was obvious to me that somehow it would be a part of my life wherever I was. However, I did not expect it to teach me so many valuable lessons, and the most valuable lessons I have learned so far. As days (or actually weeks) past I found myself not able to write about it yet, however I did feel that the story needs to be told. So I kept trying. However, as it turns out the story got quite long, which is why I cut it into three stories.
My sports journey started quite forced. Afraid to lose the result of all the effort I had put into last year’s transformation I started to do a workout almost every day. Using my precious jump robe, which my friends carefully picked because of its Gepidae colors (and which lasted about a week and is now taped together carefully after every use), and my resistance bands (which did not make it out of Nepal since my legs got too strong 😉), I concurred quite some workouts. Soon I was known as that overactive girl doing some serious exercises on the rooftop (while the others were doing yoga, prostrations and circumambulations). By the end of the course, however, I had also switched to walking/ hiking and wing chun. I can here you thinking right now, what the hell is wing chun? At least that is what I thought. So I just tried it. Wing chun is a martial arts sports in which you use the other person’s attacking energy to counteract its own attack. Important in wing chun is not to think, but to feel. Not really one of my strong suits at this point 😉. One of my fellow brothers in the monastery teaches wing chun and he started a group to practice. Learning this art was very challenging for me as I was used to absorbing other people’s energy and using all of my own power to counter it. Which is actually exhausting and caused my muscles to be very uptight. Practicing this sport at the monastery allowed me to learn to keep my own energy and using other people’s energy to counter theirs. That is, to leave their energies with them, not absorbing them. It was beautiful to feel how my body was more and more able to relax, and still able to not let other people get to me. It was the beginning of a long and rocky road of softening and opening up. Both the walking and wing chun allowed me to get more settled into my body and less in my head. A struggle which I will continue to battle throughout my journey.
After the monastery, hiking and walking soon became my new go to activity as one can read about in my first two blogs (so I won’t go into detail about that now). Just as cycling.
However, once I left Nepal, or escaped Nepal since the cold and the food were getting the better of me (read: I was mainly sick and cold), the sports changed. For those who have no clue what my journey has looked like since my last post. In January I left Nepal and exchanged it for Thailand, where I met my brother and his girlfriend for 1,5 weeks. It was as if I stepped into a totally different world. A world full of sun, real roads (no more dirt roads), metro systems and tourists! Suddenly I did not have to worry about taxis, I could just take the skytrain to my hostel. I did not have to worry about shops being open to buy water, cause every corner had a 7/11. Compared to Nepal this was so easy that I actually could not believe it (I did not know there was such a thing as a western culture shock in Bangkok). Unfortunately Nepal had left me one little gift on the last night I was there, i.e. another food poisoning. Luckily, this only lasted one very rough day (which I will not go in to detail about) and I was able to catch my flight to meet up with my brother without having to run for the toilet! Since the first 1,5 weeks were mainly chilling and scootering around in Thailand I will not say much more about that. However, after 1,5 weeks of moving around in the south of Thailand my brother and his girlfriend left and I headed to the island of Koh Tao, where a whole new journey of sports started.
The first few days on Koh Tao I went back to my previous favorite activity, walking! I walked, a lot! It started with me thinking (and maps.me telling me) that my hostel was not that far and could easily be done by foot. The owner of the hostel said it would be around 45 minutes, and where I thought that meant ‘you can do it easily’, his interpretation was ‘so you should take a cab’. So about 40 minutes after I got off the boat I find myself in front of my hostel, sweaty, exhausted but very very satisfied. That is, until I walk into my room at 15.30h and find some people in bed, hungover. Damn, I landed in that kind of hostel. Since I booked for two nights I sort of accepted it and stayed. However, the first night I did not sleep. Luckily the hostel had one pro, and that was that the gym was close. Very close. So the next morning I head to the gym and for the first time in ages I have a proper workout, with proper gear. I could not have been more thrilled! The little child in me got all excited and could actually not stop. However, my body was tired from the not really sleeping so I decided to listen and to come back the next day. Since I did want to see more of the island and wanted to find a new hostel I decided to go walking and exploring. Before I knew it I found myself walking for another two hours around the island, but I did find a new hostel and my body, again, felt very pleased with all this exercise. All in all, good day.
The next day, I do start with my early gym session and then start my walk to the new hostel (back to the pier, another 45 minutes with backpack). By this point I actually got so used to walking that it did not really bother me anymore. Everything seemed close. That is ,until I started walking to my second viewpoint, the mango viewpoint. Once again I trusted maps.me to show me the way and once again maps.me created new non-existent roads, which led me to some really good places but also forced me to climb up some paddy fields and hills that were clearly not meant to be climbed up against. However, I thought it was quite fun and was set on not having to walk more. It was way too hot to be walking at this time of day and I realized I still did not by myself a hat, which I really needed at this point. I was clearly overheated (which you will definitely see on the pictures). Heading back I walk with my towel over my head. I was set on seeing another viewpoint but again maps.me did not show me the right way. I end up at a deserted resort, where I actually did not see anyone… It sort of creeped me out, so instead of searching for the right viewpoint I decide to walk back. At this point I was quite in need of food and the foodie in me wanted to try this restaurant I read about. It should be halfway on the way back and that seemed perfect, especially since I was running out of water. So once again, I follow maps.me, and end up in the middle of nowhere. No restaurant to be found. Just a hostel being built… At this point I am really starting to question the quality of maps.me (the doubt had to start some day), so I decide to do the only sensible thing I could think of. Walk back to town. Luckily for me it is less far than I thought and I find the place I was looking for initially (yeah!). However, looking at their menu I am not craving anything.. I am disappointed. What to do? So I leave. And I decide that I am craving this amazing chicken cashew I had two days before, which is on the other end of town. Well, now I have been walking for hours anyway, those extra 40 minutes won’t hurt. And that is how I ended up crossing town for my cravings for the first time. Now that I am embracing the foodie in me more and more, many many many times will follow.
The days I was not walking you could find me in the gym, which at one point was actually a 30 minute walk as well. I started to see this as the perfect warm up and cooling down, and started actually enjoying this as well. I loved it (which now makes me realize how much I miss it). Working out every day, doing yoga and having everything available to me. These moments of the day would be the most grounding ones. Listening to my body, every moment of the workout. Feeling what I could and could not do that day and not pushing. I learned to be kind to my body, not to ask too much. I learned I love these moments of the day and I learned they would energize me for the whole day.
However, of course there were also other sports to do on Koh Tao. It so happens to be that Koh Tao is known to be one of the best (and cheapest) places to get your diving license. And thus I did. The funny part is, up to two years ago I never considered getting my diving license and up to now I always found an excuse not to. I have always felt this fear of having to breath under water. However, after having been in the monastery for a while which changed my view on a lot of things (including what fear is), I realized that this was maybe not my own fear. Or maybe the fear was just a story I was telling myself. So I tried it. And it was not scary at all! Once I was under the water I felt like I was in the Finding Nemo movie. Before I knew it, I started making up stories in the water and totally forgot about the fact that I was 9 or 19 meters deep in the water.
For those who have never dived, an important part of diving is (controlling your) breathing. And in my case, it again (just as meditation and yoga does) made it painfully clear that I do not always breath correctly. So once in a while you would find me either 2 meters higher than the rest of the group not able to go down, or at the bottom of the sea, not able to go up. Whereas in the beginning I panicked a bit and felt like I was a failure for not being able to control it, at the end I started to find it hilarious. The group, however, asked me every time what the hell happened. As soon as I explained I could not control the breath properly, they looked at me as if I was a moron. How hard can it be to control your breath? 😉 Well, I can tell you, apparently pretty hard. By the end of the course, however, I figured out that if it would happen again I would close my eyes and just feel my breathing. (There it is again, do not think about it but feel it!) Diving, again, showed me how important it is to feel, to listen to the body, and to listen to your breathing. Your body is pretty damn smart and will tell you what you need to do. It is just very important to take the time to actually listen. In this case diving forced me again to listen because I would get feedback right away. I could not run or hide. It was there! Very obvious. It showed me once again how important the breath is in calming me down and in my journey of finding some peace within. It is confronting, but a beautiful way to learn.