Finding Strength While Experiencing Darkness [Journey Part 2]

caregiver lifestyle Jan 13, 2019

(travel memoir blog series part 2 of 3 written in February - March 2018; photo taken from inside our bus near Makarora, NZ)

Welcome to Part 2 of my travel journey where I get open and vulnerable with my food experiences abroad and trying to maintain my physical and mental health while being away from my home routine.

This post is aptly named finding strength while experiencing darkness.

In my last post I wrote about giving in and surrendering to what is about to unfold and that when we do, all will be revealed.

It’s not easy.

Have courage to both observe what is unfolding around you and take it in at the same time. And also be able to face your darkness with a deep knowing. That is the underlying message of the New Zealand landscapes I encountered and I wanted to share with you my experience of the spiral cloud.

But first, let me back up. After the initial 15-hour flight over the Pacific from LAX, we touched down in Melbourne, Australia.

After three weeks of experiencing this part of Australia for the first time including meeting with a massage therapist who uncoiled my muscles form the long flight, we delighted in the amazing food and transit, the architecture, the history and the Great Ocean Road then we set off for our four-week trek across New Zealand.

And now for the spiral cloud. The what? Can you see the spiral in the cloud formation in this photo?

As our bus drove along the flat highway towards the town of Wanaka, we had descended the Haast Pass (within the Southern Alps of New Zealand) and I found myself staring at the green grassy fields and mountains behind them from inside my bus window. What else was there to do but watch the world go by?

I thought my eyes were playing a trick on me. I saw what looked like a spiral or hook suspended from the above clouds. I looked away and then looked back. It was still there. Maybe I was just tired and my eyes were playing a trick on me. It was a strange-looking white cloud.

I looked at my partner and looked around to see if the other passengers were noticing the spiral cloud. Nope, just me. Am I losing my mind? I looked again. It was still there. Bizarre. Usually cloud formations are brief in their appearance and transition quickly to something else.

What would it do next? Was this the beginning of a tornado? After all, we are driving along a flat plain. Are there tornadoes in NZ? I really didn’t know (and still don’t).

What did it mean?

In traditional Maori culture, the spiral is a symbol for growth, harmony and new beginnings, peace and tranquility.

I can handle that. I’m ‘looking’ for that. I had just spent a solid year chasing my tail, creating new nutrition programs on everything from curbing inflammation to supporting digestion to weight loss to hormonal balance to emotional eating to low carb high fat keto diets that I really didn’t know where to focus on anymore. This was all good at the time but I knew it was time to get clearer and serve in a more structured way.

Bring on the spiral symbol

This encounter helped me to allow my true travel journey to unfold. Little did I realize my nervous system was beginning to be re-wired. As well, I began to distance myself from big cities, their pulse, drive and push. I was in the rural countryside now facing the wind and the subterranean earthquakes.

I went to NZ with the intention of getting to see its many landscapes. How would the south island differ from the north island? Would the Southern Alps remind me of the Canadian Rockies? I did not expect to see deeper, hidden meanings in the land.

The south island is moody. Especially the west coast along the mountains and sea. You’re driving at sea level with foothills that are covered by an ancient temperate rain forest with hanging mist. Above them are snow capped mountains that form the backbone of the land. It’s awe-inspiring and daunting at the same time. There’s a lot of precipitation then fog then sun then more mist and rain. Moody with beauty.

Where else can you see glaciers from within a rainforest that is ancient ferns and moss? Such a dichotomy. I love a good dual nature. Do you ever find yourself co-existing in two ‘zones’ at once? Parent and manager? Health practitioner and sports coach? Small business owner and shift worker? Live with a chronic illness and work full time? Volunteer and caregiver?

How I found strength while experiencing darkness

Everywhere I went I saw faces in the sides of mountain ranges, on rock faces, in clouds and in trees. I wasn’t looking for them. They found me. The thing is, none of it was scary to me. It was somehow comforting.

The natural world of New Zealand was reflecting my inner world outward. When I think back I feel that my darkness was sadness. And in that sadness was release. I was allowing myself to let go of beliefs and habits that I had been holding on to that weren’t serving me. In fact they were exhausting me.

I bought a black pendant with Maori carvings. I didn’t choose vibrant colors. I think I held a lot of sadness and needed to transition. And yet the sadness wasn’t negative. It was all positive if you can understand that dichotomy.

When I look back I realize that I was beginning to let my guard down and let the flow of the meaning of the time away from my routine begin to guide me.

I began to study more about the vagus nerve and how when we strengthen that, our nervous system strengthens.

I welcomed the pervasive masculine energy that revealed itself to me continuously throughout my travels across New Zealand because it was teaching me insidiously and quietly. That energy pushed my boundaries.

As I look back, all of our tour bus drivers were male except for one. They all had confidence and a reverence for the land on which they were driving. They also imparted a lot of local wisdom and folklore of the region.

This masculine energy was in sharp contrast to the uber-feminine, maternal-like caregiving support qualities that I had imparted in my upbringing and career.

And I loved every minute of that energy, mainly because it was all unexpected.

The food-mood connection

I wanted to share with you what I call my hunter-gatherer food experiences. Maintaining your physical and mental health while travelling takes just as make planning and effort as keeping track of all the flight, train, bus and hotel details. As a holistic nutrition consultant, I was always on the search for foods that would nourish me and sustain my health.

Here are the tips I employed while on the road:

  • Know your non-negotiables - know what you can and cannot eat. There are certain foods that I know if I eat too much of them I will not sleep well and my bowels will be in a knot. Food can be kind and it can also hurt. These include too much bread and cheese (wheat, gluten, dairy, casein).
  • Probiotic supplementation was key - one thing I really focused on was my gut health. I always made sure that I had shelf-stable probiotics (acidophilus and bifidus based). These helped support my gut health, immune system and mood.
  • Greens superfood powder – this was my morning go to. I would mix a tablespoon of greens powder in a glass of water. Nutrients! (I used Vital Greens, a product of Australia)

Just like North America, bread, cheese and potatoes are staple foods in New Zealand. These formed the basis for many of our hotel menus. Let’s just say we frequented grocery stores on a daily basis for our meals. Did you know that New Zealand has the third highest rate of obesity in the world?

Just like at home, I did online searching for vegetarian restaurants, health stores, organic food-based café’s and farmers markets. I’d spend extra time in the natural section of the local grocery stores in the major cities (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown) and was always delighted to try something new with ingredients I recognized.

Was I ‘perfect’ in my food choices? Not always and I can honestly say there were times when I felt full of inflammation because of it – sore muscles, bloated belly and an underlying lethargy. In those times, I was focused on eating food for energy (calories) rather than for vitamins, minerals and quality of ingredients. Can you relate?

When you are away from your routine it’s important to let go of food guilt. You know you’re in this for the long term and so the short-term quick fix is just that, short term. Tomorrow is another day and an opportunity to start fresh. Pun intended.

One of my saving graces was eating a lot of protein and nut based bars that I would find at local grocery stores and health stores. I’d stock up on those and drank lots of water between breakfast and supper.

I have called my third blog (Part 3 of 3) on this journey Abundance and Expansion.

Thanks for reading and journeying along with me. Tell me, do you love your food choices when you travel? Do you find it hard or easy? Do you let your mind or body dictate what you eat? When we keep a foundation of daily nutrients (like a greens powder, probiotic, multi-vitamin, omega-3 fats, vitamin C, collagen, etc.) and water for hydration, we help our cells do their important work so we can experience the deeper meanings our travel landscapes.

See you in my next blog post!



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