I was just about burned out from a combination of work, stress and a general lack of looking after myself, and I needed something to redress that balance quickly. As always, travel provided the answer. Just as the Alpine Sports Week in Tirol invigorated my muscles and my body, the fresh alpine air and picture postcard scenery of the Wilder Kaiser region rejuvenated my soul and replenished my health and wellbeing at a time when it was really needed.
I have been travelling the world now for fifteen years, with plenty of gap years and snap years under my belt, one stint of long term nomadic travel with no fixed end and countless short breaks. So it’s pretty fair to say I know the value of a good work life balance.
Since gaining my second degree as a nurse my lust for travel never stopped, and I have managed to maintain that career by working for a short period of time and then travelling the rest of the year.
Only this time I had allowed my period at home to go on too long, and let it get far too stressful.
For anyone who thinks that the life of a travel blogger is just about hopping from one tropical island to the next or exploring an endless string of exotic locations, they are in for a shock when they see just how much work goes into building what is essentially a small business, and I have been putting a lot of effort into travel writing lately.
But I am not just a travel writer, I am also a charge nurse, and with that comes a mandatory obligation to complete so many worked hours every year to keep my professional pin relevant and legal.
So combine those two factors together, and for the past few months give or take I have been putting in a lot of hours in work, too many, and my health was beginning to suffer as a result.
This normally isn’t much of a problem as I manage to work roughly half of the year and travel the rest (not always all together), but for the past few months I have been ignoring my own personal rule of work life balance and just as badly I have also been letting my fitness levels slide by not exercising. My whole health and wellbeing was freefalling into a chasm of stress, overwork, way too much junk food and general ill health.
I’m a nurse dammit! More than that I am a long time backpacker, one who is normally inherently predisposed to pulling a sickie from work and going on an adventure whenever the mood takes me!
So what the hell had I been thinking? I should know better that to let my work life balance get so screwed up!
But for the past few months I have ignored all of my own advice. I’d fallen into the very same trap that I so often advise and warn against. I had worked too hard, not taken any time off, not exercised. Worst of all I had been ignoring the incessant and addictive call of my own wanderlust.
I needed to get away again. I needed to travel.
So when the timely invitation to the Alpine Sports Week in the Wilder Kaiser region of Austria crossed my desk, the answer was obvious, and I found myself accepting before I had even finished reading the invitation!
It was just what I needed. As always, travel was providing me with the fuel I needed to get through life, it was giving me an actual purpose, a reason for being, reminding me that I was here to experience life in all its wonderful variety and see as much of the planet as I can before it is too late. Even the simple act of throwing my backpack onto my back again felt like a soothing balm to an aching wound. It felt as if the weight of the last few months of work was lifting off my shoulders.
For any traveller, any forced period of stillness can eventually feel like a prison, but with my pack on and my plane ticket in hand I was free again! My backpack was my file in a cake, my getaway car, my get out of jail free card!
I was travelling again, I was free!
And Austria provided me with some of the most spectacularly picturesque natural scenery to escape to that I have ever seen.
The simple act of arriving in Austria felt like another huge booster shot to my depleted wellbeing. Tyrol in Austria is one of the most beautifully stunning regions on the planet, and the Wilder Kaiser region is awe inspiring.
Simply being in a completely new environment was enough to start recharging my wellbeing, and the fact that it was so picture postcard beautiful was an absolute bonus but one that made the effect of the boost all the more potent. I felt instantly happier, immediately more relaxed and stress free. Being outdoors, breathing in the crisp mountain air and seeing the stunning vistas of Tirol was enough to instantly dismiss any negativity from my mind and force me to concentrate on the positive.
I was travelling again, back to my natural state of being. And it felt good!
There is a scientific basis for this. It isn’t just me waxing lyrical about the benefits of travel. There have been many studies that show how exercising and being outside can significantly raise the levels of the so called happiness hormones such as endorphins, dopamine and seratonin, and can stop many mental health problems such as depression in its tracks. In short, surrounding yourself in new, beautiful outdoor scenery genuinely makes you happy.
This is just one of the many benefits of regular world travel!
And if simply travelling somewhere new and being outdoors felt this good, just imagine how I would feel when I threw myself into the adventure activities that had been planned.
Exercise produces the exact same happiness hormones as being outside in a natural setting and then some. With the added benefits of increasing your cardio fitness, making you fitter and stronger, reducing body fat levels and increasing production of these hormones over the long term. It also helps reduce the levels of cortisol, one of the hormones responsible for stress, over the long term too.
This is why I threw myself into the activities and adventure sports that the Alpine Sports Week offered.
With a range of activities from mountain biking, climbing, abseiling, canyoning, hiking and even ascending the via ferrata along the Wilder Kaiser on offer, I was in my element, like a kid in a sweet shop. I wanted to try it all and then some!
The Mountain or Alpine Sports Week is an event where travellers can experience six different mountain sports in six days. It is open to anyone, from experts to absolute beginners, and is run by a team of qualified guides and professionals that will take you and give you a taste of a range of amazing adventure activities.
I spent the week participating in as many adventure sports as the guides could lay on for me. Whatever they could throw at me I was up for trying.
And I loved every single minute.
Mountain biking down an actual mountain in the middle of the alps wasn’t just a unique and powerful experience, I got to stretch my legs – literally – and blow the cobwebs off my muscles whilst giving my cardio fitness a long overdue workout. The thinner mountain air had a bracing effect on my cardiovascular system and the adrenaline from speeding down a mountain trail with nothing but a pair of handlebar brakes to control your descent was invigorating.
Climbing, abseiling, hiking, all had the same effect and my whole body got a thorough workout before the week was done.
If anyone of you has experienced that feeling of utmost satisfaction after a normal workout, or that feeling of happy achievement after attaining a level of fitness you never thought you could, well that feeling is amplified tenfold when you experience it alongside the benefits of travel and the thrill of adventure activities.
A short time spent getting back to nature in a stunning part of Austria had helped realign my priorities, and the string of adventure sports had reawakened my dormant muscles. I felt rejuvenated. Alive. Happy.
I’d learned my lesson.
Travel more. Work less. A good motto for anyone I think.
To read more about the adventure activities I took part in throughout the Alpine Sports Week, look out for my next post.
The Alpine Sports Week takes place in June every year in the Wilder Kaiser region of Going, Ellmau, Scheffau or Soll. Interested? Click here to sign up or simply get more information.
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This article was written in partnership with the Austrian National Tourist Office and the Wilder Kaiser Tourist Board. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.