Monday 4 February 2019

Why Travel and Kindness is the best thing the Doctor can't prescribe

I have to admit, when it comes to gloomy winter time, I go back to animal instincts and prefer to be in hibernation mode...until I start getting cabin fever. 

At the start of every year I like to make a winters outing to two travel events The Adventure Travel Show and The Destinations Show, both held at Olympia, London.

I go purely to spend the chilly wintry day or weekend listening to other people, people with inspiring spirits of adventure and can-do attitudes as they regale tales of journeying around the world for all sorts of different reasons and needs - a real pick up from the dark, dreary days of British winter.

At the shows this year, there were a couple of talks that I felt were worth talking about in this blog post and the message that I myself have inwardly felt as I've embarked on various adventures in my short life so far.

'Travel is my medicine'

This is the strap line of adventurer and blogger Lindsey Cole who was a guest speaker on a panel of travellers who had used travel as motivation to help themselves heal from trauma. She had experienced a devastating blow to her personal life by the death of her dad while she was backpacking around Australia, returning home in mourning and feeling a lack of direction and purpose in life. It was in dealing with her poor mental health and emotional well-being that she decided to return to Australia and embark on a great adventure to help cope with her broken heart.

Lindsey set upon returning to the great outback of Western Australia to walk, unsupported, the line of the Rabbit Proof Fence - North from Moore River to Jigalong 1600km in the South. She would be following in the footsteps taken by three young Aborigine girls in the 1931 who had followed the guide of the Rabbit Proof Fence home after escaping from a Native Training Settlement as part of the Stolen Generation.

Not only did you complete the journey to Jigalong, she had the privilege of meeting the youngest of the girls Daisy Kadibil and Doris Pilkington Garimara the daughter of one of the other young girls Molly who if you don't know already, wrote the book 'Follow The Rabbit Proof Fence' which in turn became a screenplay in 2002. Lindsay received notably praise and recognition for her expedition and decided she wasn't going to stop there but hitchhike her way back to Darwin with truck drivers before returning to England to help and inspire others from her experience.

She has gone on to chase other wacky adventures, roller skating to Paris, running to Wales, Cycling across Africa and swimming the River Thames dressed as a 'Urban Mermaid' to promote awareness for plastic pollution in British waterways and inspire others to achieve great things with their lives. 

It wasn't just Lindsay's story of remedying her downtimes by throwing herself into an unknown adventure that I took notice of. At the Destinations Show there was a good hearted young woman name Ishbal Holmes - a half Iranian, half Scottish Woman (with a very strong Stirling accent!) who had rescued a street dog called Lucy in Turkey whilst she was pursuing a world cycle challenge.

Ishbal's background had been horrifying - rejected by her family at age 15, she was homeless, and penniless, in and out of foster homes and social care, had been sexually assaulted and had learnt to rely on herself when no one else would give her an ounce of unconditional love or sense of belonging in this world. Although struggling with depression and contemplating suicide, she had found solace in Cycle sprinting and was talent spotted to represent the Iranian Women's Cycle Track Team. But it was in 2012, dejected and traumatised by the cruelty and horror she had suffered in her upbringing, Ishbal impulsively set off on a round-the-world cycle trip which would change her life indefinitely when she found a kindred spirit in a street dog called Lucy. Strapping a vegetable box to her handlebars, the dog accompanied her on her travels and spawned a new purpose to Ishbal's endeavours - rescuing street animals that were suffering and getting them to medical care and new loving homes. Ishbal's blog World Bike Girl - Pedal For Paws documents her three years of solo cycling adventures across 20 countries with the new purpose as an Animal Rescuer. 

It was these two inspiring women's stories that reaffirmed the idea that travel can be the best medicine a Doctor can't prescribe for you and your troubles. Focusing on planning a great expedition of getting out on the road can give you a new sense of hope and discovery, rekindle your trust in the kindness of other human beings and the thrill of an unknown adventure just waiting for you whilst fulfilling a challenge you had set out to achieve.

But its not just the experience of travel alone that will aid you in the long run - both women's stories came from a dark place but the brightest lights come out from these darkest places and gave them the motivation to do things for the good of others happiness and the people (or paws) they touched along the way - both spinning their negative situations into something positive.

'If you care about your own happiness, care about the happiness of others. If you want to remain unhappy, remain selfish'
                                                            - Lama Marut


This quote came from a recent documentary called 'Incite Happiness' revealing what is believed to be the key to deep seated contentment and happiness from teachers of Buddhist and Tibetan philosophies. Take a look at the trailer above and see it on Amazon and FMTV - well worth a watch. 

Nothing makes me happier when I can help others in need and make a real positive impact to their lives - which is why volunteering at home and abroad can really aid you in healing from life's hardships and blows to your emotional well being. 

During the show I got to speak to staff involved in Habitat for Humanity Great Britain - an International Relief operation that recruits volunteers to go to debilitating communities around the world and assist local builders in buildings homes for impoverished families.

You don't even need to volunteer, but giving back to others during your travels and at home can really do so much for your emotional well being and there's always someone out there who needs your help and appreciates it (even a dog!).  

Whether you have experienced rejection, disappointment and different levels of trauma -  nothing boosts your self-esteem and warms the heart more than making someone in need happy and to know you have really helped create a positive moment in their life - no drugs, alcohol, pills or excessive material objects can match. 

Adventure and Altruism is the best remedy. 

And a much healthier one in the long run. 

If you're interested in volunteering abroad or at home (really recommend it) - here are some credible and ethically minded organisations I have previously helped in the past.

Sporting Opportunities

If you love sport and adventure, this company is fantastic in giving you a chance to travel the world and combine your love of sport at the same time. Sports Voluntary projects from 4 weeks + in Asia, Africa and South America

Volunteer Building Cambodia (VBC) is an in-country non profit organisation which aims to improve the living conditions of families in need in rural areas by providing them with wells, toilets and safe, dry housing .

Volunteer in Conservation protecting Ecuador's Amazon Rainforest - the most bio-diverse place on the planet!

Available worldwide. These help exchange programs are primarily set up for a cultural exchange with an array of hosts all around the world, inviting volunteer helpers to stay with them in exchange for food and accommodation. Its a great way to get to really know a culture and local people aswell as learning practical skills. I did this alot during my travels around Australia and New Zealand.

Every year with a handful of other organisations (Link to Hope) Teams4U conduct Christmas shoebox appeals for impoverished children in Eastern Europe, some of which have never received a gift in their life! Show some love at Christmas time and make up or donate £20 for a care package of goodies and necessities for those who will really appreciate it. It just feels good!

Post Pals

Post Pals is a charity which invites members of the public to send cards , letters or little gifts to
seriously ill children and their siblings in the UK to make them smile and feel less isolated.  

Elephant Valley Project Cambodia

Love animals? Want to learn about fascinating Asian Heffalumps? I spent a week volunteering at the Elephant Valley Project in the Mondukiri Province in Cambodia, a sanctuary for abused elephants to recuperate and relearn to be Elephants again! Help wash the elephants, conduct medical checks, study their behaviour in the valley and help with construction tasks at the Sanctuary. Well worth some of your time if you're visiting Cambodia and it runs on volunteer donations and help. 

For one week from Christmas Eve, Crisis opens up hundreds of day and residential centres to give the some of the roughest sleepers in the UK a safe and warm place to be and get support over the Christmas period. Hundreds of volunteers are needed every year in local centres from general volunteers, specialist volunteers and kitchen staff. Volunteer applications open every October.

UK Charity with a mission to encourage mass participation in tennis at grass-roots level for free. Volunteer as a tennis assistant or coach to help give free lessons to disadvantaged children and communities. 


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