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9 tried and tested tips from someone who travelled the world

Author, avid traveller and Iraqi war veteran Akshay Nanavati gives tips on how to make the most of your journeys.

travel Updated: Apr 02, 2018 08:47 IST
Mark Ellwood, Bloomberg
Travel,Akshay Nanavati,Marines
During your trips, make sure you challenge yourself or get out of your comfort zone. (Shutterstock)

Iraq war veteran Akshay Nanavati joined the Marines after overcoming drug addiction in high school; his role in Iraq was to walk in front of convoys to find IEDs, or improvised explosive devices. On his discharge, Nanavati was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and considered suicide before turning to extreme sport as an answer. Since then, he has run ultramarathons, skied across the world’s second-largest ice cap, and climbed in the Himalayas.

Together, those experiences form the basis of his current career as a coach and motivational speaker, as well as the backbone of his new book, Fearvana: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth and Happiness.

Nanavati spends much of his year travelling, whether between his two home bases—the US and India — or on extreme expeditions in Greenland, Alaska, or Bolivia.

Approach air travel like a workout

When you travel with the Marines, you don’t get the luxury of time off to relax and recover, whether this is going to San Diego for Marine Corps boot camp or flying to Kuwait in preparation for the war. You’ve got to hit the ground running. So I took lessons from that: If I’m flying to a destination at night, to combat the jet lag and ensure I get back into the rhythm, I force myself to stay awake on a long flight. I use pre-workout supplements with caffeine in them like Gnarly Maximus.

The other thing I’ve started doing to keep me going and keep my energy and my blood flowing is to find a corner of the plane somewhere and knock out push-ups every so often. I’ve gamified it, so depending on the mileage of the journey, I’ll tell myself: one pushup for every 10 or 100 miles of the journey. You’ll get funny stares from people eyeing you in that back corner, but I think usually it’s often a smile of admiration.

My face says it all :) this was midway through a brutal workout. I've been experimenting a lot more recently with building the space between a stimulus and who I choose to be outside of it. We are not our thoughts or our feelings. There is a space between a thought and the thinker, between a feeling and the feeler, between an experience and the experiencer. We get to decide what we do in that space, meaning that there can be joy in misery, happiness in pain, bliss in sadness and even sadness in bliss if we're not careful. I've struggled with drug addiction, alcohol addiction, been diagnosed with PTSD, battled depression, been on the verge of suicide and the only thing that's gotten me out of all of it, is learning to control that space between a stimulus and my conscious response to it. Now I am evolving this practice to take my fitness, work and life to the next level. Think about it, if we become conscious enough to master that space and find bliss in anything, then nothing could ever stop us from staying committed to the grind, because no matter how hard the struggle, we can rise above it and find joy within it. . . . . #success #entrepreneurship #fearvana #motivation #inspiration #hardwork #hustlehard #grind #growth #fitness #trainhard #nopainnogain #lovethegrind #getfit #hustle #suffering #nevergiveup #successful #successmindset #ptsd #veteran #fitnessmotivation #depression #addiction #workout #crossfit #gymtime #training #usmc

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Carry a good MacGyver tool

Having a multitool always comes in handy to fix any little things that might break on my adventures. It’s got a little knife on it and a pair of pliers. Pliers are useful for everything — when my [suitcase] zip came loose, I used the pliers to zip it shut again. If nothing else, it also just serves as a useful bottle opener.

Bring an extra water bottle on cold camping trips

In cold environments, like when I was mountaineering in Alaska, it really helps to have a pee bottle. The first time I heard this, it kind of grossed me out. But then the first time I had to get out [of my tent] in a cold mountain environment to go pee radically changed that thought. The best way is to take a yellow Nalgene bottle and mark big Xs all over it because you do not want to confuse it with your regular water bottle. You learn how to pee in a pee bottle very effectively. And it also becomes like a hot water bottle you can keep with you in your sleeping bag, which was helpful in Greenland, where it’s minus-30 degrees.

Pack a runner’s kit

As soon as I landed in Kerala [recently], I went on a 10-mile run in the pouring rain, and it was beautiful. I absolutely loved it. I have a Ziploc bag in my running kit, where I put my iPod and these little 100-calorie packets, Gu Gel, that runners use for ultra-endurance sports. There’s a very specific formula I follow: You want to take anywhere from 250 to 300 calories an hour, so I take two per hour.

Get uncomfortable as soon as you can

As I like to put it, seek out a worthy struggle on every trip. I find that travelling to a new place and meeting new people is not worth it if you do everything you can to stay in your comfort zone, like never leaving the confines of a luxury resort or eating the same meals you would eat back home, for example. Sometimes it can just be staying at a lower-end Airbnb instead of a luxury hotel.

I did that when I was in Andorra. I did a whole run from the northern tip to the southern tip of Andorra, so I essentially saw the whole country when I ran through it — a 20-mile run. There’s a lot of gorgeous nature and you can do all these amazing hikes, but it’s also like this beautiful, quaint little city and the towns there. I’ve paid the price for this also: I was in the Indian Himalayas after a mountaineering trip, and my mom said, “Don’t eat the vegetables here, because those could be raw.” I thought, “I’ll be fine,” and I had severe dysentery for four days.

Take trips in strategic pairs

Another thing I learned from the Marines: When you really push your mind, body, and spirit, the feeling of rest after that is so much more relaxing. So I like to strategically plan my vacations. I pair trips — one that’s physically or emotionally intense, then one that allows you to relax. I’ve learned that when you relax on vacation after a hard [trip], it’s the best feeling in the world because there’s no greater rest than the rest that is really truly earned. I did a one-month ski across Greenland: 350 miles while dragging a 190-pound sled. After that, I was ready to relax, so we planned a vacation with my family to South Africa and went on a very nice safari and to Cape Town, too.

Prepare for monotony

The first time I took a polar expedition, I wasn’t prepared for the monotony: You’re just skiing into empty, white nothingness every day, for 8 to 12 hours. You have to deal with your mind a lot, which goes everywhere, because it’s wandering. So now, to train for an adventure trip, I practice stillness. An endurance cyclist friend of mine told me to sit and stare at the wall, with no music, no TV, no paintings even. No stimuli to engage you. He would do that for 24 hours, then go riding for 24 hours. It’s a hard thing to do; surprisingly, it brings up a lot of stuff, all the demons and everything else. But you kinda grow from it.

Immerse yourself in the community

There’s a website called Explorers Web, which is where I follow communities of the things I want to engage in. Once I figure out who the top explorers or mountaineers are, I follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and all that. I really want to visit Patagonia, for example, so I learned of this Norwegian explorer called Børge Ausland who leads trips to the Patagonia ice caps.

Pack a secret sauce

In Iraq, we would have Cajun powder, Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. We would put it on almost everything to flavour it all. The unit I went to deploy with was a Louisiana-based unit, so that’s why. I put a little of that hot sauce powder in my washbag. And sometimes when you travel, it’s hard to eat healthy, so I also pack vegetable powders like Athletic Greens.

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First Published: Apr 02, 2018 08:47 IST