Upon graduating from university, many people take some time off to travel around the world. For Emma Contaoe, a 25-year-old Montrealer, it was an obvious choice. In August 2013, she packed her bags and got a one-way ticket to Australia. Since then, she travelled around the country and visited South-East Asia.
She started a fundraiser campaign known as The Travelling Movement in order to raise funds to help rebuild the rural villages of Nepal, raising $11,750 in 30 days — 118 percent of the initial goal. She will be travelling to Nepal from July 5 to August 11 and recently became a member of We are Sole Sisters, a blogging community that inspires dreamers to make travel happen for themselves and others.
You can follow her journey on her travel blog, The Active Travlr, where she shares her adventures, gives travel advice and more.
She is excited to share her stories and inspire others to pursue their passion.
How do you stay fit?
It’s mainly gym and rock climbing and hiking as well. I go on weekend outings to go hiking. When I first arrived in Australia, I joined a gym that had a rock climbing wall. I was training five to six days a week while working for three to four months so I was more fit than ever. When I started getting into rock climbing, I climbed three times a week. Wherever I was, I made sure to plan my destinations around climbing. If I couldn’t do that, I’d go for a run. When I’m not rock climbing, I go to the gym.
What is your favourite workout and why?
Squats and sprints. First of all, sprinting is a very effective workout because it is high intensity and you get the most out of it rather than just jogging. You’re bringing your heart rate up and then back down, you spend more energy. You don’t need much besides a treadmill. It’s in small sprints so first you’re resting and then you’re just running for 15 seconds and back.
Squats engage the whole body because you have to lift your own weight plus the weight that you’re carrying. It’s a good workout. People don’t focus on their lower bodies because aesthetically you don’t see it but it’s what supports you everyday and you need to train the part of your body that holds you all the time.
What is your eating philosophy?
Even if I’m travelling on a budget, I’ll never compromise on food. I wouldn’t starve myself or just survive on instant noodles or white bread and butter. I’d rather be in debt than living like that. I don’t really go out and eat so there’s no room for junk food really. I don’t buy food because I work at a Japanese café so I don’t spend on food but if I do, I go to the market two or three times a week to buy lots of vegetables and rice. I used to buy quinoa because I had the money and now I just buy rice because it’s cheaper. With vegetables and rice, you cook a meal like a curry that will last you two days. Then you do that every two or three days. I stopped buying meat because it was more expensive. I found myself just cooking with vegetables and I became a vegetarian. If I wanted some meat, I’d just buy fish.
At first, I was documenting everything I ate every single day. I’d document all of my meals and snacks, “Oh I had a cookie today, red star.” At the end of the week, if there was something I wasn’t happy about, I could cut it out and substitute it. That’s what I did to improve on my eating habits. You need to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, what the intentions are. If you’re going gluten-free because you read an article because gluten-free is good, what are you substituting for that gluten-free thing. This bread that’s gluten-free doesn’t have gluten but it has potato starch and it’s the same thing. As long as you know why you’re doing it and you’re going for a healthier alternative. Finding a balance between all of that is what’s important.
What’s your favourite healthy dish?
Peanut butter banana pancakes. It’s basically mashed banana, peanut butter, an egg, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix it all out and it makes mini pancakes, put raspberry or blueberry on top, cook it with dark chocolate. Flourless, sugar-free except for the sugar in the banana. It’s my favourite healthy dish, it’s so good! You can have it for breakfast, for lunch and for dessert as well!
What’s your favourite treat?
Definitely ice cream!
How do you de-stress?
By doing some form of exercise. Recently, I’ve been climbing. We have a free climbing wall here along the river, anyone can go. You can go by yourself because you don’t need anybody. You can climb and jump. I like to put some music on and do that. I used to go on runs. Workout will always get your mind off from what you’re thinking because you’re focusing on activating your body and just pushing it to your limit. You forget about whatever you’re stressing out about because you’re working on yourself. And when you work on yourself, you feel the energy and you feel good again. Physical activity to de-stress.
Describe your ideal weekend.
Going on a roadtrip somewhere, setting up camp and then hiking to the first rock climbing site. Climb for the day, coming back and cooking dinner at the camp site, sleeping in a tent. That would be an awesome weekend.
How do you manage a healthy lifestyle with a busy schedule while maintaining a work/life balance?
You need to understand how much time you need for yourself first and that would determine how many hours you can give towards work so you’re happy there. I used to work 75 hours a week, even 80, and I burned myself out from that experience. I value time for myself now. If your goal is to get lean and get a six-pack by the end of two months, you need four to five days a week to work out. If you do have a strict schedule, work around that goal. I’d go rock climbing after I finish work or before work. If I’m tired of climbing, I’ll go to the gym after work. In the mornings, I’m very productive and I’ll work on my blog.
In terms of eating philosophy, don’t let food control you. As long as you’re happy eating what you’re eating and it’s working towards your goal, then do it. You don’t have to punish yourself. If you have a goal to achieve, understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, why you’re doing that workout and ask yourself if it is really going to help you towards your goal. When you don’t have a lot of time you need to be effective with it and understand why you’re doing it so you’re doing it right.
When do you feel the most confident?
When you overcome something that you didn’t think was possible. That’s when I feel the most confident, it’s when I achieve something for myself. I remember this climb I really wanted to do, it was my goal before I left for Thailand. I pushed myself and I just thought of reaching the top.
What is the greatest challenge that you’ve had to overcome and what did you learn from it?
The Everest base camp two-week trek was a huge challenge. It was a whole revelation. I had trained a lot to prepare so I thought I was fine and that I’d do it easily. On the third day, I was hit with a headache and that lasted the whole trek.
I thought I was stronger but I accepted the fact that I was struggling. I still needed to push myself and I knew I had a long way to go. I just took it step by step literally. Then the next thing you know, you’re at the end of the day and you hike one more day. It was really hard because it is the highest altitude in the world, I was just focusing on moving forward while still having a headache.
You learn about yourself and how far you’re able to push yourself. It was a big challenge mentally and physically because I’ve never experience something like that. It makes you realize that you can be weak. I also learned from climbing that when something bad happens to you, you need to accept it and work around it.
I knew I had an headache but I wasn’t telling myself “I wish this headache was gone”, I said “Ok, I have a headache.” You just need to accept it and move past that. Keep moving and think of something else. If you think of every step you took rather than that headache pounding in your head, I think you can carry this along with anything in life.
If you just focus on being present in the moment then you forget about that problem. And that’s what’s going to keep you going for all the problems that you have. You’re always thinking about the bigger picture and what could be better, but just stop and take everything as it is now and then move forward from there and you’ll see everything will just solve itself. Being on the road, it’s really hard to control everything emotionally. You just have to be in the moment, every single moment of the day.
What would be your advice to a friend going through difficult times?
Stop thinking, take a long deep breath and exhale five times. You have to accept where you are right now. During your exam period, you’re overwhelmed with a lot of work and you don’t know where to start. Just breathe, accept where you are, everything is what it is and nothing is going to change. So whether you’re freaking out about it right now or tomorrow, the problem is still there. Once you accept your situation and reality then you can move forward.
If it’s something that you can change, work on it step by step, tackle one task at a time and finish each task and you’ll finally get to your goal. If it’s something emotional, like a relationship a break-up or a loss, do the same. If you feel like crying, cry and feel that emotion and go through it because that’s what you need to do. Then just focus on yourself, do what you love.
Working out sometimes allows me to clear my head. If you’re always working towards your passion or what you love or you’re working on yourself, then you’re empowering yourself and you’re gaining more confidence. Ultimately, that’s the most important thing. Once you’re able to gain self-confidence and know your worth, then you can tackle any other problem. If you know what you stand for, how hard or how far you can push yourself, then you can overcome anything in life.
Finish this sentence: I feel the happiest when…
You can follow Emma on Twitter @activetravlr, Instagram @activetravlr_ and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/activetravlr.