Friday, November 25, 2016

Photo Dump from Colombia, Panama, Mexico

Just getting caught up here with some photos to share. I'll begin with the most recent.

I'm writing this from Piste, Mexico which is just a 20 minute walk from the legendary Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. I was there yesterday morning and sat enthralled with the architecture. To wit...

Sunrise over Chichen Itza
The architecture is exquisite
Chichen Itza

Note the serpent head at the bottom of the stairs.
Serpent stairs

It was really hot so nice to get into the shade.
From the shade

There were a lot more buildings than the main temple, but that one is in the best shape. These ruins are all over the Yucatan and Guatemala and there are many that are still just big mounds of earth. When they were found they were all overgrown with trees and grass and dirt and didn't look like much. Archaeologists had to put many of the stones back together to achieve the original look.

This wall of skulls at the sacrificial platform may have scared the bejeesus out of rival tribes, but, alas, it didn't deter the Spanish and their horses, swords and smallpox.
Wall of skulls

Back to Ecuador. This church is built over a deep river canyon in a small town right on the border of Ecuador and Colombia. I took a couple hour detour from a 28-hour bus ride to go check it out. Not pictured is the super cheesy LED light show they lit up the church with at dusk -- purples and greens and oranges and blues. It was really tacky.


Hanging out in the World's Craziest Hammock in Minca, Colombia. Nice view.

Now on to Panama. This is the sailboat I was on for 5 days with a dozen other people. We sailed from Cartagena, Colombia to Panama through the San Blas Islands. Really beautiful trip and I only got seasick once.
Sailing to Panama from Colombia
One cannot drive a vehicle from Colombia to Panama because of the Darien Gap -- a gigantic area of jungle and swamp that is essentially impenetrable by all except for drug runners and geurillas.

Here's Panama City at low tide.
Panama City at low tide

The bicycle I used for 3 days in Tulum, Mexico. Pink and rusty and the chain came off every time I went over a speed bump. But so fun to ride a bike!!
Bicycle in Tulum, Mexico

My campsite the past 3 nights within walking distance of Chichen Itza. Cost me $2.50/night at a sweet, vintage hotel. This place felt like in the '60s it probably hosted Sinatra and Dean Martin. These days it's mostly empty and could use some love. Now everyone is bussing in 2 hours from Cancun for day tours of the ruins.
Vintage Piramide Inn in Piste, Mexico.

 Hasta luego.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Benefits of Fasting

I recently shared the fact that I did a 4.5 day water fast, where I ate nothing and drank only water for 4 days and 13 hours. But I didn't do a good job of sharing the health benefits.

Why would someone do such a thing?

Now I've done more research and will share with you what I have learned. Mostly I listened to a few podcasts where top research doctors were interviewed about their latest findings. I didn't do further research by reading complete studies or anything like that. And sometimes the interviews are over my head. But what I'm sharing here is a simplified overview of recent findings.

Important Note: This data here is all from one source for the ease of this blog post. I've heard and read similar things elsewhere, but frankly this is not a professional blog so I'm not interested in spending hours crafting each blog post, especially since while traveling I often don't have the best wifi connections. My goal is to present you with some new discoveries and let you do further research if you are interested. 

HEALTH BENEFITS OF FASTING
  1. Improved immune system. Fasting for 4-5 days kills off damaged white blood cells. Then, when you begin eating again, your white blood cells are regenerated and the new ones are more youthful.
  2. Reduces inflammation around the spinal cord. Inflammation in our bodies causes all sorts of problems.
  3. Helps beat cancer. Fasting combined with chemo is more effective than chemo alone.
  4. Lowers blood pressure significantly more than just cutting out salt, for instance
  5. "Turns on" stem cells. I don't really know what that means, but I think we are all learning that stem cells are powerful contributors to healing potential in our bodies.
  6. There's diabetes benefits, too, but fasts should be done under a doctor's care.

And here are the related show notes from the discussion, copied and pasted directly from Found My Fitness YouTube:

Published on Oct 1, 2016
Dr. Rhonda Patrick speaks with Dr. Valter Longo, a professor of gerontology and biological sciences and director of the longevity institute at the University of Southern California. Dr. Longo has made huge contributions to the field of aging, including the role of fasting and diet in longevity and healthspan in humans as well as metabolic fasting therapies for the treatment of human diseases.

In this conversation, Rhonda and Valter discuss...
• The effects of prolonged fasting, which refers to 2-3 day fasting intervals in mice and 4-5 days in humans.
• Dr. Longo’s work on the fasting-mimicking diet, which is 5 day restricted diet that is meant to simulate some of the biological effects of prolonged fasting while still allowing some food.
• How clinical trials have demonstrated efficacy for this diet for type 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and cancer patients.
• Fasting as an inducer of differential stress resistance, where it can simultaneously make cancer cells more sensitive to death while also making healthy cells more resistant to these same death stimuli (such as chemotherapy) which might otherwise induce cell death amongst healthy cells as collateral damage.
• Fasting as a biological state which humans historically experienced with extreme regularity and we may ultimately need in order to mitigate various disease states.
• The effects of prolonged fasting on the immune system, namely, how it clears away damaged white blood cells via autophagy and how this causes hematopoietic stem cells to self renew and make more stem cells and also produce new blood cells to fully replenish the white blood cell population.
• How prolonged fasting causes a shift in the immune cell population towards one that is more representative of youth by normalizing the ratio of myeloid cells to lymphoid cells.
• The positive effects of prolonged fasting and the fasting-mimicking diet on markers of systemic inflammation, blood glucose levels and other aging biomarkers.
• The conclusions of Dr. Longo & Dr. Marcus Bock’s research comparing 1 week of the fasting-mimicking diet followed by 6 months of mediterranean diet to six months of a ketogenic diet in people with multiple sclerosis.
• The strange, somewhat paradoxical role of autophagy genes in cancer progression and some of the open questions surrounding the exact role that these genes are playing.
• Dr. Longo’s high level thoughts on metformin as an anti-aging drug.
• How the growth hormone/IGF-1 axis is one of the most important genetic pathways in aging from yeast to worms to mice to humans.

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A Brief History of the Panama Canal

For some of you, when you hear the word Panama your mind instantly flashes back to the anthemic PA!-NA!-mah in 1984 and David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen flying across the stage wearing neon spandex. Enjoy:


But for most of my esteemed readers, you instead think of the economic wonder that is the Panama Canal and the interesting political history involving the USA and Jimmy Carter and...er... France?

I had the pleasure of visiting the canal yesterday. They have a nice museum and the story is told well in both Spanish and English. There were lots of tourists there, most came via bus from cruise ships. We got to watch a massive cruise ship go through one of the three locks along the 80km route.




I recommend visiting if you find yourself in the neighborhood.

HISTORY
  • 1513: Spanish explorers are introduced to the narrow isthmus that is now Panama and realize it's a great place to cross between oceans
  • 1819: Spanish government authorizes the building of a canal
  • 1881: French begin construction of the canal, lead by the guy who had recently completed the leadership of the digging of the Suez Canal
  • 1880s: Construction extremely difficult and many workers die from malaria and yellow fever
  • 1902: French admit failure and sell their ownership of the rights to dig to the USA
  • 1914: Canal opens but is controlled by the USA
  • 1964: Protests by Panamanian students over the USA landholdings, a corridor along the entire route of the canal. Riots ensue. 9 die and 600 injured.
  • 1977: USA President Jimmy Carter signs deal to turn over ownership of the canal to Panama on Dec. 31, 1999
  • 1999: Panama takes ownership amidst great national celebration
  • 2016: Expansion of the canal is complete, allowing it to now accept even larger cargo ships
Wikipedia has more stats, including over 5,000 workers died and over 1 million ships have passed through the canal.





Monday, November 7, 2016

One Year in South America

I sit in a hostel in Cartagena, Colombia. Cartagena lies on the Caribbean Ocean at the northern tip of South America and has a very Caribbean vibe to it. In one year of traveling I've moved from a Patagonian (Chile) port city that sends boats to Antarctica to one with a heavy Cuban influence.

FLASHBACK: ONE YEAR AGO
One year ago I flew from Denver, CO USA to Buenos Aires, Argentina with a goal of seeing the world. I was driven, in part, by this quote from Mark Twain:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”





Mostly, though, I was driven by curiosity -- exploration and discovery (both internal and external) are things I value greatly. I love the constant discovery of new places, delicious food, interesting people, gorgeous landscapes and different cultures. There is no boring routine when traveling like this. There is no knowledge of what might happen next. It's like every day is Christmas morning and I'm constantly unwrapping gifts full of (mostly) wonderful surprises.

Those values are still close to my heart.

When I left I really didn't know how much I would enjoy constant travel, living out of a backpack, and sleeping in hostel dorm rooms. I wasn't sure if after 6 months I might have had enough of this lifestyle. What would it be like to be homeless?
Magellan Strait as seen from Patagonian Chile

TODAY
After traveling constantly for one year I can say that I really enjoy it. Sure, I still fantasize about having a home base in the mountains near a ski area. And, yeah, I miss my friends and family. But right now I still want to continue to see the world. The daily sense of wonder and discovery is just too amazing to stop.

I also want to better understand different cultures and different points of view. You may be reading this in the USA on or around Election Day 2016 when it seems like nobody has the capability of understanding how other people came to have their belief system. The people voting for the other candidate seem crazy or out-of-touch or just plain stupid.

I thought that way once, too. But the experiences I've had have helped immensely in my personal growth. Try sitting in complete silence meditating for 10 straight days without challenging your own belief system. Try spending a week in the jungle drinking ayahuasca in a traditional medicinal plant ceremony and not having your inner fears and wounds held up in front of your face, demanding to be reckoned with. Try easing into the growing majesty of Patagonian peaks like Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy without being overcome with gratitude for all the people who helped you get there. Try spending 20-hour bus rides talking with citizens from every corner of the globe and not developing a greater empathy for everyone, including Trump supporters.

Traveling and allowing myself the time for personal growth has been amazing.

Plains and mountains in northern Chile

WHAT'S NEXT
At the end of January I will be flying to Japan where I will accomplish two important tasks. First, I will be starting the Asia portion of my adventures. Very exciting (and a little daunting because..damn..that's a gigantic continent to try to tackle). Second, and perhaps more importantly, I will be skiing the now world famous powder snow of northern Japan. Ja-Pow! I haven't gone skiing in two years and can't wait to remedy that.

Also, I'm developing a small business that I hope will allow me to help people while continuing to travel or live anywhere in the world. It's brand new version 1.0 and my goal is to help adult children of dying parents better manage the stress of that difficult time. http://myparentisdying.com.

In early December I have some dedicated time set up in Playa del Carmen, Mexico with a group called Nomad House to focus on building out the business. The service will be growing and evolving over the coming months. Please share it with anyone you think could benefit.

ANOTHER WAY TO FOLLOW ALONG
Here's my travel map so far. I update it as I move to new destinations. Click it to see my route and get a little info about the places I've been so far.