I have a large family.
And one spring holiday (a long time ago), we all went to a bungalow park (a typical Dutch thing to do).
My grandfather went along. As did uncle Wout. Uncle Wout is my grandfather’s best friend from childhood. Both were about 70 at that time. They married two sisters. My grandma and Aunt Jannie.
My grandfather (2 meter 5, 120+ kilo) did not see much of the park. He dragged himself out of bed and onto the couch. Whenever he felt good enough he would drink Dutch gin and smoke cigars. Then he felt bad and shouted incoherently at people.
Uncle Wout was a different story.
He went everywhere. Cycling. Hiking. He even went with us to the “Tropical Swimming Paradise”. In hip shorts he was sliding with all the screaming children of a very bumpy wild water slide. We went over and over again! In normal life he did, all sorts of trainings and taught “old people” how to use a computer.
Same age, but veeeeery different life.
To be honest, It wasn’t just the alcohol and smoking that resulted in the sorry state of my grandfather. He also was forced to start working at the age of 10 during the war. And he kept working until he died at 75. It was all he knew.
Heavy lifting and hard labour. Often 6 days a week. Friends of mine told me that he could lift things while in his 60s that two young guys could not move. This, of course, placed a heavy burden on his body as well.
As with all people, my grandfather died. There was not a specific cause. My grandmother passed away and he said: “I hope I can be with you quickly.” And so he was, two weeks later. Uncle Wout had a stroke. He died a few years later.
The point I am making is that there are two ways of becoming old.
-> One is active and healthy. Learning new things and discovering the world.
-> The other is with a lot of pains and low energy. With a very small world and little excitement.
And yes, you can become old with bad and unhealthy habits. But it will be a long way downhill and you will NOT enjoy it.
I though about this story last week when I went for a general health check.
Just for the record, I am pretty healthy.
I am in good shape. I am not fat. I don’t drink often (although when I do I go full throttle). I have never called in a sick-day at work. And I eat healthy (although lately I have been a bit sloppy).
All my readings were pretty good. Except one thing. My blood has a high triglyceride level. This is a form of fat. Very similar to cholesterol. The kind of stuff that clogs your arteries, causes high blood pressure, strokes, heart failures and other fun stuff.
Make no mistake, the diseases contributed to this condition are the NUMBER 1 cause of dead for Dutch people.
Unchanged, this WILL kill me. But I found out now and can change things. In fact, I have been munching salads for three days like a rabbit on acid and did a fasting / detox this weekend. And with just changing my diet a bit and stepping up my Thai box training I will have my readings back to normal in no-time.
No big deal.
Let me give you another -short- example.
When living in Dubai I did Capoeira for two years without being convinced I actually liked it. I kept going because I had decided that I wanted to be good (I never became good either).
This sport really strengthened the muscles outside of my legs. This dislocated my knee cap. Soon, I was having serious knee problems. It got worse and I figured my hiking days were over.
I visited a physiotherapist in Cebu. He diagnosed the problem and gave me some exercises (for 10 Euro). I have been doing the exercises and the problem went away (relatively easy).
And this concerns you…
Because I sit behind the laptop all day, I start to develop posture problems. Shoulders inwarts. Stomic out. A LOT of people have this, btw. It leads to problems when walking and messes up joints. It can be solved by doing some very simple stretch exercises. But only when you start early.
What Does This Have To Do With Staying Healthy As A Digital Nomad?
I want to emphasize a way of thinking…
In the West, we usually visit a doctor when we have a complaint.
Like calling the fire department after the house is on fire.
In Asia, people visit doctors and therapists BEFORE they are sick.
They keep little Johny Lee away from the matches and the gasoline truck.
This way, they PREVENT a lot of illnesses and get old with less problems.
If you have not yet adopted this mindset, I suggest you do it NOW.
All these little problems I mentioned will seriously hurt, depress, limit or even kill me if I don’t take simple steps now. And those steps get harder and harder over time. And one day you have chronic problems and you are to late.
I, for one, am not going to let that happen. I do the health checks. This month I will visit a chiropractor and a skin doctor. I am reading up and adding to my food supplements. I will have someone stick some needless in my skin and who knows I will even get a soapy massage.
I think that part of being a traveller is learning from other cultures. And not being afraid to adopt things that are simply better.
In Asia, check-ups and doctor visits are VERY cheap. Especially in Thailand where you will find one of the only real free markets in health care in the world. You’ll find very good doctors here with very affordable prices. Moreover, they also treat you much better, there are no waiting lines and you can choose which doctor you want (or don’t want) and what kind of care you decide to buy.
I hope I have convinced how you can stay healthy as a digital nomad.
If not, just rely on the collective health care systems in the West that will implode to a pile of misery way before you start to fall apart 🙂
I wish you a long and healthy life.
Julius “Fat Blood” Lee