Saturday, November 30, 2013

Albers Down Under: Kangaroo Island and the Beauty of Local

There is something really special about Kangaroo Island (KI) in Australia.  It may be the perfectly quaint size, beautiful bays and beaches, or the abundance of wildlife.  But I would be more willing to bet it’s because of the local people and their absolute pride in everything KI.  They love to showcase local honey, eucalyptuses oil, wine, fish, and wildlife.  The local pride is amazing- like sweet, normal pride.  Not the beer guzzling, cutoff jean shorts, ‘Murica type of pride that we’re used to.

As most people know, I am hugely passionate about supporting a local economy.  Being on vacation is no exception.  Kangaroo Island is a great example of how staying local creates more than just a memorable vacation.  It creates an adventure.

For example, KI’s climate is perfect for bee keeping.  We visited a bee-ery (??) where a local bee keeper discussed what makes KI so great for honey.  The local flora creates different tasting honey based on the different types of flowers visited by the bees (I’m sure other people know that… I didn’t).  So the bee keeper moves his hives around the island to create different tasting honeys.  The honey (particularly the honey ice cream) were ah-maz-ing.

Side note- if you suffer from seasonal allergies, honey from local hives can help alleviate those allergies.  Since local pollens are present in local honey, ingesting it acts sort of like a natural flu shot (without all the questionable side effects).  Raw honey works best, but any would be beneficial. 

On the topic of local flora, KI is full of Eucalyptus plants.  These plants produce a very powerful, potent, and perfectly beautiful oil and KI is home to a perfectly local and sustainable Eucalyptus distillery. 

Now, those people who have been with me on this crazy wellness journey over the past several years know that I am completely nuts about making my own cleaning and beauty products.  Some experiments have worked out better than others, but most homemade products call for essential oils.  Eucalyptus oil is a powerful additive to homemade cleaners, as well as anti-septic and cleansing agent for the skin.  So when I walked into the gift shop my head almost exploded.  Good thing there are weight limits for checked bags, or else I probably would have rolled out with as many 2 liter bottles as my suitcase would hold (at the expense of bringing any of my clothes back). 

The last, and most fun part about KI, is the abundance of native and introduced wild life.  As the name suggests, there were Kangaroos everywhere (I mean everywhere).  Our visit included several wildlife sanctuaries and a beach full of seals for some up close and personal time with wildlife.   

We pet and fed Kangaroos. 

(I mean seriously, I’m like a Kangaroo whisperer.)

We cuddled with some Koalas.  Warning- your head may explode with a cuteness overload.  

Held a baby Wallaby.

Hung out with some kookaburras. 

Met an Owl

Went all Brittany Spears with a snake (I didn’t catch the name of this snake since I was trying not to cry with its’ slithery and disgusting snakiness around me). 

And had a close encounter with some Australian fur seals.

Joel and I tend to fancy ourselves adventurers when we’re on vacation.  We’re not the type that can stick to a resort for a week (or even beyond a day) and be happy.  In reality we’re probably no better than the rest of the camera clad, map wielding tourists at which we scoff.  But in our minds we’re the Lewis and Clark of the tourism industry.

KI is beautiful and I’m so glad we got a chance to get out and explore.  I can understand why the locals take such pride in their home.  And whether we’re far off explorers or zinc covered camera jockeys, KI made for some awesome memories and even better pictures.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Albers Down Under: Tasmania and the Art of YOLOing

Next up on our visit Down Under- Tasmania.  Now, I can honestly say that I have no idea why we put Tasmania on our itinerary.  I’m pretty sure it has something to do with Looney Toons and the fact that I grew up associating a large Tornado Rodent with Australia.  Either way, it got on our itinerary. 

We got the distinct impression that “mainlanders” don’t think much of the inhabitants of the southeastern island.  Our tour guide at the Sydney Opera house imitated them with a distinctly harder Aussie drawl (think Crocodile Dundee) and the front desk attendant at our Sydney responded (condescendingly) when I told him we were going to Tasmania “why would you want to go there?”
These impressions left us a bit apprehensive as we flew into Tasmania.  

I’ll paint the picture of a smaller sized jet flying into an airport no bigger than my grade school and deplaning in the middle of a runway.

But I’ll describe Tasmania to you in three words.  But first I want to you channel Janice from Friends through your mind:  Oh.  My.  Gawd. 

Tasmania is a beautiful, humble countryside riddled with livestock, rolling hills, and breathtaking coastlines.

But our trip to Tasmania didn’t go exactly as planned or hoped.  We ran into inclement weather (cold, windy, rainy, oh my), lost hotel reservations, and driving in a foreign country with foreign rules.  But all of this reminds me of one of the greatest lessons one could learn from traveling.  The lesson to be flexible.  To embrace challenges.  To roll with punches.  Learning this principle will help to optimize your life, reduce your stress levels, and create a view of the world beyond your wildest dreams.  Basically, what I’m getting at, is to learn how to YOLO. 

For those of you who don’t know what YOLO is, and for those of you who think you do, let me explain.  YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once.”  Most people have a very negative association with the term YOLO.  They frequently associate the noun YOLO it with skinny jean wearing, spring breaking, hipster wannabes.  But I’m here to introduce the verb YOLO.  Changing this word into a verb will change your entire outlook on life.  Situations that may have been stressful or frustrating before YOLOing become an opportunity to strike out and learn something about yourself or your world.

To be clear, I certainly do not condone YOLOing when it comes to fundamental principles of safety (don’t YOLO when welding), security (don’t YOLO down a dark alley), narcotics (don’t YOLO in the presence of cocaine), matters of the heart (don’t YOLO when it comes to bad boys), nutrition (don’t ever YOLO in the presence of a Twinkie), or general common sense (if you’re behind on a deadline at work, it is not recommended that you YOLO).

I’m sure I’ve made myself as clear as mud.  But let’s apply this to our trip to Tasmania.

What do you do when you’ve rented a car in a country that you’ve inhabited for less than two days who drive on the opposite side of the road?


What do you do when you get to lodge, only to find that they cannot find your reservation?  Freak out?  Yell?  No way.  Wait it out for a $400 per night upgrade and…


What do you do when the hike that the park ranger sent you on suddenly becomes a bit overwhelming? 


What do you do when you come across a creature that according to the Tasmanian department of transportation can deadlift a car

and has only existed in picture books and on TV?


What do you do when you plan on taking an after dark tour of penguins, only to be confronted with rain, wind, and cold?  


What do you do when your plan for a peaceful harbor cruise turns into a storm of Titanic proportions? 


What do you do when confronted with a saltwater booger (otherwise known as an Oyster) for consumption, but the thought of it makes you want to puke?


What do you do when you’ve been confronted by one of the most beautiful habitats on earth with no creative photography plans? 

YOLO.  (Pistol Style)

And for my canine readers out there, what do you do when you’re on a fishing boat with 15 strangers and no dolphins to chase?


You see, at its core, the principle of YOLOing has nothing to do with the type of jeans you wear, the brightness of your PCB tank top, or even how many Twitter followers you have.  YOLOing is not sweating the small stuff.  YOLOing is about finding ways to maximize your short time on this planet.  And most importantly, YOLOing is learning that life begins outside of your comfort zone.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Albers Down Under: Sydney and the Basics

Traveling can be stressful- airplanes, transfers, people who seem to have never left their mother’s basement.  Add foreign foods, bad coffee, and exposure to almost every germ known to man, and you most likely have the perfect storm for exhaustion and sickness.  But traveling doesn’t have to suck. 

The next several posts will be capturing our trip to Australia, but I’ll also tie in some best practices for health and wellness from our trip down under (and I've’ve become quite the travel authority on traveling in my everyday life, too).  A critical part of overall wellness goes far beyond making sure you eat the right macro and micro nutrient ratios.  It’s about taking adventures and learning to love life (this is the THRIVE part of Ignite.Nourish.Thrive.).  So while we’re in Australia, I’ll be sharing our adventures as well as about how to be well, eat real foods, and make this lifestyle work from the other side of the world.


Sydney is a beautiful city.  Well, the 8 square blocks that we stayed within for the two days we were there.  But those 8 square blocks- beautiful.  We rolled into our hotel at about 10am in the morning probably looking like death (and possibly smelling worse).  24 straight hours of traveling will do that to you.  Luckily we were able to get early check in to take a shower and change clothes. 

My favorite part about Sydney was the food (no surprise there).  We stayed in an area of Sydney right off the harbor called The Rocks.  The area was built into some natural bluffs, so there were steep hills and hidden staircases everywhere.  

And with any quaint, tourist infested area of any city, there was an abundance of food.  Pubs, pizza parlors, coffee shops, chocolatiers, gelato, coffee, steak houses, fresh seafood, and Asian fusion.  I don’t know that any of it was distinctly Australian, but it was distinctly delicious.  

We toured the Sydney Opera house.

Took a Harbor Cruise.

And walked across the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

A lot of Sydney was a blur because we were still recovering from our mega long trans-pacific flight.  And it terms of setting the bar for our health for the trip, the Buck (or Wombat) stopped there.  As I’ve detailed in previous posts, I have food intolerances as well as a sensitive immune and stress system, so traveling can and will wreak havoc on my body.  Below are my top 5 critical travel behaviors.  These can be applied to everyday life as well as travel:

Get Plenty of Sleep.  This one goes without saying, but there are a couple of items to note here.  The first is to get enough (duh) and somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-8 hours per night is great for most people (some need more, some need less).  You’ll know when you’ve had enough when you awake refreshed.  Now, I know that isn’t always possible especially when you’re traveling abroad and want to make every moment count.  The second part of this is re-setting your sleep cycle to local time.  Our bodies rest best when it’s dark and quiet out, and this is how our natural rhythm will tend to set itself. 
But sometimes these two sleep principles don’t go hand in hand.  For example, when we arrived in Sydney it was 8am local time (we had been traveling for over 30 hours by that point).  It took everything we had to not fall into bed and sleep the day away.  But because I was super concerned with resetting our sleep cycles, we went out sight-seeing and powered through the day (with a little help from some coffee shops and chocolatiers).  But we gave in and went to bed at 7pm.  And although we were really tired, we were both wide awake at 3am (10am our time).  There was a temptation to get up and watch TV or read, but we stayed in bed for an hour until we fell back asleep.  And when we awoke at 8am the next morning, our cycles were basically reset.  From there, we’ve been very intentional to get enough sleep every night. 
I know we all want to party like rock stars on vacation, but if we don’t sleep our Moves like Jagger will start to resemble Moves like Miley.

Drink Lots of Water.  This one doesn’t need very much explanation.  I’m a fan of indulging on vacation, but skipping on the water will make you dehydrated, tired, sick, constipated, crabby, and give you wonky cravings.  I usually try to find a convenience store and buy a gallon (or more depending on how long I’ll be in one spot) and another water bottle to carry with me and refill.  Depending on where you are, you could even use tap water to fill up the water bottle on the cheap.  You’ll want to do some research, though, on the tap water quality.  A simple Google search should provide enough information for you to make a decision.

     Take  Fermented Cod-Liver Oil/Butter Oil Blend.  Alright, I think this may be where some people jump ship, but hang with me for a second.  First, to be clear, you can get it in capsules and it will not make you burp fish oil all day.  Second, this stuff is basically an elixir of the gods.  It’s a fermented food, so it will help to strengthen your gut which means you’re more resistant to getting sick.  It also has copious amounts of Vitamin D (and A&K, which help your body absorb it).  Vitamin D gives you energy, helps regulate your sleep, keeps you from getting sick, and will help manage and reduce sunburns.  And as a bonus, this particular supplement could help clear your skin and make your nails and hair grow. 
But as always, source matters.  I can only recommend getting this from Green Pastures (available on Amazon or at Green Earth Grocers in Edwardsville for my Southern IL peeps).  Green pastures uses quality ingredients and does not heat the oil during fermentation ensuring the nutrient quality is retained.  I should point out, though, that this is not a good source for Omega-3 like most fish oil (I personally don’t take any fish oil, but I can cover that at a later date).

Take Digestive Enzymes.  I know this one sounds gross, but I am totally in love with these supplements.  They also come in pill form and should be taken with food.  These little buggers help break down your food and absorb nutrients.  When we’re stressed (and hey, like we covered, traveling can be stressful) food becomes only a vessel for calories rather than a life giving sources of nutrients.  Also, for those of you with food sensitivities, this can help you tolerate more foods.  I find if I ingest small amounts of gluten and dairy while on digestive enzymes, they do not have quite the number of ill side effects.  But three words of caution on digestive enzymes:
a.       Test them before you get on vacation (like- several weeks out) because they will impact your digestion.    
b.      This is what works for me.  We all have different bodies, so just be cautious if you’re using them to help manage food intolerances.               
c.       Taking digestive enzymes is not a free pass to eat like garbage.  Garbage food is still garbage food.     
You can find digestive enzymes on Amazon- NowFoods Super Enzymes are good quality and have a great reputation.

Get in Some Smart Movement.  When a vacation involves quite a bit of beach time, bar time, or driving/flying, we forget to move.  This doesn’t meant that you need to go on a 5 mile run or CrossFit every day (you can if you want to), but vacation is a great time to get back to something most of us don’t do nearly enough in our everyday.  Vacation is a great time to get back to walking.  Walk on the beach, explore a city, or go for a hike.  Walking is a great way to save money (cab fare is redonkulous) and catch more sights (you see more going 2 mph than 40).  Plus, getting in some solid natural movement will help you feel a little less guilty about that double scoop of gelato.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but using the above 5 behaviors in conjunction with a fun and relaxing week will help you stay healthy, happy, and ready to take on the world when you have to get back to it.  Do you have any go to health or wellness tips that keep you healthy when you’re traveling?  If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!