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5 Reasons Why You Should Travel As A Backpacker At Least Once

5 Reasons Why You Should Travel As A Backpacker At Least Once

Most kids dream of toys and games and roller-coasters. I dreamed of travel. But It wasn’t until I finished college with some extra cash from Uncle Sam, that my dream came true.

Magically all the stars aligned: The movie Taken wasn’t yet out (thank the lord or my parents would have freaked), I scored a 400 dollar flight to Heathrow (CHEAP), a friend lent me his 70 liter travel pack (saved me a few hundred bucks), and my girlfriends were 100 percent in (fun factor).

We hit seven European countries in two months: saw more ruins, naked statues, and frescoes than we’d ever imagined. We made loads of friends and bonded over our fear of Italian drivers, pickpockets, and horribly mistranslated conversations.

We fell in love with Swiss guards, chocolate crepes, and Nessie; sang the Hills are Alive in Austria;  and sunbathed on the rocky beaches of Nice. It was the trip of a lifetime.

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Of course, it wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting without a visit to the U.S. Embassy–where else would one go to feel like Jason Bourne–and recover a friend’s lost passport.

Looking back, this trip changed my life–It forced me out of my comfort zone, away from everything I knew and everything I was. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. So here are 5 reasons why you should travel as a backpacker at least once in your lifetime.

1. You’ll have more fun

Sure. I may only be saying this because I can’t afford the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton, but here’s the thing–Backpackers live in spontaneity. When everything is on your back, and countries are mere train rides away, it’s easy to go with the flow. You’re not locked into reservations or others’ expectations.  Travel is at your whim. You go where you want, when you want. If it’s raining in Germany and Greek sunsets call–Go! If you want to stay an extra day somewhere–do it! Nothing holds you back.

When you’re staying at a hostel in a room for 20, you’re bound to make new friends–or the very least–have wildly entertaining stories. You may choose to hang with folks for a day, or for the duration of your trip–it’s up to you! But chugging German beer, dancing in the Scottish highlands, and getting lost on the Paris Métro feel far more exhilarating when shared with others who are just as psyched to be backpacking as you.

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2. You’ll mingle with locals

Believe it or not, you’re far more interesting bulked up with a killer-size pack than toting a “First class only” Prada bag. People will strike up conversations because they’re curious: They want to know where you’re from, where you’re headed, and why on earth you’re lugging around a giant pack that could knock you down. Can you blame them? It’s awesome.

If it weren’t for our packs, we wouldn’t have met the British football player who drove us around Bath in his fancy Bimmer (Jane Austen would have been proud), or the Scot on the train who invited us to dinner in Inverness, or the Italian hostel owner who took us out for pasta and live music in the square. These are experiences we had because of our backpacks, because we left our every day lives, and stuffy way of doing things in pursuit of adventure.

So live a little–let the pack take you where adventure calls.

3. You’ll feel free

There’s something to be said about having everything you need in one place. It’s simple. You don’t need to worry about all the stuff you left at home: your car, apartment, bills, will still be there when you return. You won’t need the mail key or your crock pot. Hungry? Stroll a Paris market for some bread, cheese, and wine. That bulky hair dryer you can’t live without–leave it, and let the Tuscan sun dry your hair. The sunglasses you left on the train–buy a knockoff pair in Rome. When we let the freedom of backpacking sink in, we appreciate each moment.

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Life is only as complicated as we make it. Backpacking frees us of the things that don’t really matter anyway.

4. You’ll learn about the world and yourself

When you’re immersed in a foreign country, everything is new: from the language to the currency, to the food and etiquette. It’s no wonder you learn so much about others and yourself. I learned I was capable, fearless, and determined.

Capable: I  carried my fully loaded pack over 4,000 miles without losing my money or my passport.  I got lost a few times, but always managed to find my way (pre-smartphone).  I thought I’d get homesick, but the only thing I missed was Mexican food. Note: I tried a place in Salzburg and that was a mistake (don’t buy guacamole in Austria).

Fearless: I struck up conversations with strangers, tried new foods (haggis-yuck), and spent hours exploring Venice alleyways by myself.

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Determined: I saw everything I dreamed of seeing– from the flying buttresses of Notre Dame to the ornate ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

When backpacking, you learn what’s important to you and what’s not. It’s amazing the clarity one finds when abroad. Sometimes it takes leaving what’s familiar to find oneself.

5. You’ll make memories to last a lifetime

Studies show that life experiences bring us more happiness than money. Why? Because experiences can never be stripped away. The memories I made while backpacking Europe will remain with me for the rest of my life. They’ve made me into the person I am today.

Rather than tearing through your wallet to buy the latest tech–consider this. When tech falls apart, when it’s no longer the latest and the greatest, will you still feel fulfilled? I guarantee you traveling the world, either by backpack or otherwise, is the best decision you’ll ever make.

Who knows, maybe this time next year, you’ll be off gallivanting the Scottish highlands.

Featured photo credit: Backpacking Europe/Lori De La Cruz via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

Your brain is the most intricate and powerful organ in your entire body. It’s essentially a super-computer with brain power like a Ferrari.

If you have a Ferrari, would you put cheap gasoline in it? Of course not. You want to put in high-octane performance fuel to get the most out of your investment.

When it comes to the brain, many people are looking for the top foods that will supercharge the brainpower to help focus better, think more clearly and have better brain health.

In this article, we’ll look at the top 9 brain foods that will help create supercharge your brain with energy and health:

1. Salmon

Salmon has long been held as a healthy brain food, but what makes this fish so valuable for your brain health?

It’s important to understand that your brain is primarily made up of fat. Roughly 60% of your brain is fat. One of the most important fats that the brain uses as a building block for healthy brain cells is omega-3’s.

Omega-3’s are essential for building a healthy brain but one of the most important omega-3’s for your brain is DHA. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) forms nearly two-thirds of the omega-3’s found in your brain.[1]

Omega-3’s and DHA in particular help form the protective coating around our neurons. The better quality this coating is, the more efficient and effective our brain cells can work, allowing our brain power to work at full capacity.

Studies have shown that being deficient in DHA can affect normal brain development in children, which is why so many infant formulas and children’s supplements are beginning to include DHA.

Being deficient in DHA as an adult can cause focus and attention problems, mood swings, irritability, fatigue and poor sleep.

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2. Blueberries

Blueberries top the list as one of the most beneficial fruits to maximize your brain health and performance.

Blueberries have some of the highest content of antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, than any other fruit, which helps protect the brain from stress and promote healthy brain aging.

Blueberries antioxidant content also help reduce inflammation, which allows the brain to maintain healthy energy levels.

Blueberries have begun to receive attention for their connection to brain performance.[2] Studies have demonstrated that eating blueberries on a regular basis can not only improve brain health but also brain performance as well including working memory.[3]

Blueberries not only taste great but are low in calories, high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a very impressive spice that has well-researched and proven to have tremendous benefits for your brain. Turmeric’s main compound that benefits the brain is called curcumin, which is responsible for turmerics bright yellow appearance.

Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-cancer properties.[4]

Curcumin increases the production and availability of two important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters involved with happiness, motivation, pleasure, and reward.

Curcumin has been well documented to have powerful anti-depressive effects. In one study, it was found to be as effective for depression as popular medications such as SSRI’s like Prozac.[5]

Curcumin has also been shown to:

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  • Increase blood flow to the brain.[6]
  • Increase BDNF production, a powerful stimulator of neuroplasticity.[7]
  • Increase DHA availability and synthesis in the brain.[8]
  • Increase antioxidant levels in the brain to prevent brain aging and inflammation.[9]

4. Coffee

Coffee is the wonderful elixir of energy that many people cherish every single morning. The biggest reason people drink coffee is to get a dose of caffeine.

Caffeine is a natural neurological stimulant that not only gives you energy but also prevents adenosine, a neurotransmitter involved with feeling tired, from binding in the brain.

Many people are surprised to find that coffee actually contains a large quantity of antioxidants called polyphenols, which are important for reducing inflammation in the brain and keep your brain energized. The antioxidants in coffee also provide a neuroprotective effect, protecting the brain from stress and damage. [R]

Coffee can also:

  • Improve alertness and concentration.[10]
  • Help with neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease.[11]
  • Reduce your risk of depression.[12]
  • Improve your memory.
  • Provide short-term boost in athletic performance.[13]

5. Broccoli

What was your least favorite food as a kid growing up?

Most likely, broccoli was your answer.

Broccoli may not have been your top choice, but it might be the top choice for your brain.

Broccoli contains a compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been shown to promote the proliferation and survival of brain cells by reducing inflammation and boosting production of BDNF. It has also been shown to boost neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells.[14]

Broccoli is also loaded with important nutrients Vitamin K and Folate. Vitamin K plays a vital role in protecting brain cells.[15] Folate plays a crucial role in detoxification and reducing inflammation in the brain.

6. Bone broth

Bone broth wasn’t just created to combine with soups, you can actually drink bone broth by itself.

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Drinking bone broth has become one of the biggest trends in the health and wellness industry and for good reason. Bone broth isn’t actually a new thing. Bone broth has been used for centuries as a healing tonic to promote health and longevity.

Much of the nutritional benefits and value of bone broth comes from its substantial vitamin and mineral content. Primarily calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.

Your gut is called your second brain for a reason. Research continually shows that there is a direct and indirect connection between your gut and your brain. Your gut also houses and stores many important brain compounds involved with optimal brain performance. Therefore the health of your gut is vitally important for your brain health and performance.

Bone broth has become a go-to tool for helping heal the gut and provide the gut with the vital nutrient and resources it needs to heal and perform optimally.

With the vast amounts of nutrients that bone broth contains, it makes the list as a go-to food for your brain health.

Look for high quality, organic bone broth for the best results.

7. Walnuts

Walnuts are one of the top choices of nuts for brain health. Walnuts also look similar to a brain.

Amongst the wide variety of nuts available, walnuts contain the highest amounts of the important omega-3 DHA. DHA, as seen above, is a critical building block for a healthy brain.

Walnuts also contain high amounts of antioxidants, folate, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, which help to lower inflammation.

Melatonin in walnuts is an important nutrient for regulating your sleep. Having low amounts of melatonin can make it challenging to get good quality sleep and getting poor quality sleep can dramatically impair brain health and performance.

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8. Eggs

For years, eggs were put on the nutritional naughty list; but now, eggs are finally getting the credit they deserve. Eggs can provide a tremendous boost to your brain health and longevity.

Eggs, particularly the yolks, contain a compound called choline. Choline is essential for building the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine plays an important role in mood, memory, and intelligence.

Egg yolks contain some of the highest quantities of choline. This is very important because low levels of choline can lead to low levels of acetylcholine, which in turn can cause increased inflammation, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.

9. Dark chocolate

You’re about to love chocolate even more because chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is great for your brain.

Chocolate boosts levels of endorphins, your brains “feel good” chemicals. This is why you feel so good eating chocolate.[16]

Chocolate also increases blood flow to the brain which can help improve memory, attention, focus, and reaction time.[17]

Dark chocolate contains high levels of magnesium, which has been coined “natures valium” for its ability to calm and relax the brain.

Lastly, dark chocolate has one of the highest antioxidant profiles out of any other food, including popular superfoods like acai berries, blueberries, or pomegranates.[18]

Conclusion

Your brain is a high performing organ and it uses quite a lot of energy, roughly 20% of the bodies energy demands.

In order to maintain a healthy brain, you need the right fuel to ensure that your brain has all the nutrients it needs to perform as well as adapt to the stress of life.

If you want to keep your brain performing well for a lifetime, then you want to make sure you are including as many of these brain health foods as possible.

More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function
[2] Canadian Science Publishing: Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation
[3] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children.
[4] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin: the Indian solid gold.
[5] Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.: Turmeric, the Golden Spice
[6] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effect of combined treatment with curcumin and candesartan on ischemic brain damage in mice.
[7] Science Direct: Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB
[8] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: Implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders.
[9] PLOS: A Chemical Analog of Curcumin as an Improved Inhibitor of Amyloid Abeta Oligomerization
[10] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Alertness in Sleep-Deprived Humans
[11] American Academy of Neurology: A Cup of Joe May Help Some Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
[12] American Academy of Neurology: AAN 65th Annual Meeting Abstract
[13] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of caffeine on the metabolic and catecholamine responses to exercise in 5 and 28 degrees C.
[14] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Hyperammonemia induces glial activation, neuroinflammation and alters neurotransmitter receptors in hippocampus, impairing spatial learning: reversal by sulforaphane
[15] Oxford Academic: Vitamin K and the Nervous System: An Overview of its Actions
[16] Diana L. Walcutt, Ph.D: Chocolate and Mood Disorders
[17] Health Magazine: Chocolate can do good things for your heart, skin and brain
[18] Chemistry Central Journal: Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products

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