In a Nov. 2 workshop at the University of Saskatchewan, Ashlyn George, an award-winning Canadian outdoor adventure travel writer, described the role of travel in her approach to integrative health.
After completing her BA in English and B.Ed. in secondary education at the U of S in 2010, George said she was called to travel around the world as a way of pursuing her true passions.
“After five years learning in university, I wanted to spend five years learning in the world,” George said.
George successfully tackled a continent per year from 2010 to 2015. In 2013, she launched her blog,The Lost Girls Guide to Finding the World, as a way to share her experiences on the road.
In 2015, she was hired as the Saskatchewanderer, a position funded by the Government of Saskatchewan that focuses on touring the province of Saskatchewan for a year and documenting the journey on social media and the Saskatchewanderer blog.
Currently, George has many pillars to her career on social media including hosting workshops, blogging, speaking, film projects and tourism content.
George’s experiences with travel have led her to view health as a holistic combination of physical fitness, mental health, nature, travel and fulfilling experiences. This integrative view of health recognizes that although diet and exercise are essential components of health, there is more to life.
Previous research has shown that the benefits of nature-based recreation not only include physical wellness but also include improvements in mood and cognition, while decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
These health benefits were illustrated as George described the feeling of being completely in the moment at the top of Mt. Cotopaxi in Ecuador as she looked over the horizon. I find that a simultaneous sensation of peace, wonder and excitement is difficult to achieve, but pushing the limits of outdoor adventures is one of the best ways to do so.
Travelling has given George other keys to her personal growth, including overcoming adversity and fear. Having the capacity to grow through these struggles was important to her because being on the road and in new, unfamiliar situations can be drastically different from the pleasant experiences posted to social media pages.
Physical and mental resilience are also skills that George had to develop and utilize on a regular basis while traveling. She then applied these skills in order to grow her business network and build the confidence to step into a new profession which one cannot study for in the traditional sense.
During the workshop, George mentioned three specific goals that can help one take on a well-rounded approach to health — be curious, push your comfort zone and always be learning.
These goals may be hard to quantify, so they require you to reflect on your experiences and evaluate what passions truly make you excited about life.
A great opportunity to combine these skills is coming up in the next few weeks — winter. Elements of George’s advice to be curious and integrate outdoor adventure into everyday life can help one gain a new perspective on winter in Saskatchewan.
Though Saskatchewan winters are long with little opportunity for typical outdoor activities, they still present chances to focus on health and travel in innovative ways. Push your comfort zone, bundle up and explore a new park here in Saskatoon. Your “outdoor adventure” doesn’t need to wait for a plane ticket or warmer weather. One of the simplest ways I do this is by trying to catch an earlier winter sunset and slowing down for a few minutes.
This winter, follow George’s prescription and let your curiosity drive you towards new experiences, — you never know what activity may motivate you and improve your quality of life.