Physiotherapy: finding a path to recovery on the road

When I left Canada in October 2014 for my round-the-world trip, I was on a recovery path from a six month old injury that had caused sciatica. Although sciatica is the kind of issue that never really goes away, I was determined to put it behind me and not just because of my travel plans. Being active is a big part of who I am and I wasn’t about to give that up. I had been working with an excellent physiotherapist in Toronto and I left home with an arsenal of exercises that were intended to bring me back to full recovery. Unfortunately, the path to recovery is never smooth and my journey around the world led me to look beyond physiotherapy to find a complete solution. It’s been two years since my original injury and I’m still working on getting back to my best self but I’ve come a long way and it’s been an interesting ride.

A month into my travels I did the Everest base camp trek in Nepal. I’d cleared this idea with my GP and physiotherapist before leaving Canada and they assured me that it was definitely within my reach as long as I wasn’t carrying a heavy load on my back. The trek was harder than I expected and I struggled particularly with the altitude. My sciatica was pretty manageable on the way up but the knee on my injured side got very stressed on the way down. It was pretty badly swollen by the end but I didn’t feel like there was any serious damage so I self prescribed rest and TLC.

After another week in Nepal, I limped into Pakistan to visit with a good friend. My sciatica was acting up and my knee still hurt. Upon seeing my limp, my friend immediately asked me to join her in physiotherapy. The timing of this offer was perfect. The techniques that were applied were pretty different from my experience in Canada. In Toronto, I was mostly given stretches and strengthening exercises whereas in Pakistan, the focus was on electrotherapy, therapeutic ultrasound and spinal traction. Although I was initially skeptical about the different approaches, it really helped. After ten days in Pakistan, I was barely limping anymore!


Meditating through the pain in India.

My next stop was a yoga ashram in India. Embarking on three hours of daily yoga was great for improving my flexibility but it also really caused my sciatic nerve to flare up. I was pushing myself at an accelerated pace but I was still careful about my limits. I eventually had to reduce my yoga attendance by half and spend my down time curled up on my back to ease the nerve aggravation. I was also back to limping around- it didn’t help that the ashram was hilly! The net result of this was that once my nerve calmed down my knee and sciatica were markedly improved. I was so impressed with my progress that I continued to carry my yoga mat with me throughout the rest of my trip. This kept me inspired to stretch as daily as possible. After a few more months of stretching, my persistence paid off and I started to feel back to normal.


Morning yoga on the beach in Thailand

When I arrived in New Zealand in April 2015, I felt really good about day to day activities but still found that my knee and sciatica would flare up at times from things like stairs and salsa dancing. Luckily I found a great job in health insurance that enabled me to afford extra care and I was happy to invest in my health. I tried a number of things: physiotherapy, osteopathy, massage therapy and personal training. Although all of these helped in some way, I was happiest with my decision to hire a personal trainer. I found a trainer who was very knowledgeable about building core strength and helping me with my form. This was exactly what I needed and he got me doing squats and deadlifts again which I was so grateful for. I really missed that!


Yoga on a chilly morning in New Zealand

My Kiwi trainer gave me two workout routines that I could use on the road and I did my best to fit them in around beach time in the South Pacific. I eventually got a little too confident and added in some skipping which gave me a seriously tight calf muscle in my problem leg. When I arrived in Rarotonga, my calf was so tight that I was limping around and stretching was not helping. I looked into sports massage on the island and found myself a gem. He talked a big game of curing people who flew in from around the world to see him, of being chased by the All Blacks to join their support team full time and of being able to solve problems that no other physiotherapist, doctor, osteopath or massage therapist could solve. He also claimed to only have divine training! Although I can’t say that I believed all his claims, I decided to give him a try and he came through. He gave me an excellent massage that got to the source of my problem at the time and did wonders for my tight calf muscle.


Finding a quiet place to workout in Fiji

Now that I’m back in Toronto, I’ve been delighted to see my old physiotherapist and massage therapist again. I’m not at 100% yet and I’m going to keep looking for the right solution to get me there. Next on my to-do list is picking a new gym and new yoga studio in Toronto. I’m really looking forward to getting back to doing all the things I love.

Confessions of a nomad: memories worth keeping (part II)

My list of good and bad experiences for the books will only get longer with time and that’s a really exciting thought. I’m only sad that one day I’ll probably have trouble remembering all this. For now, here is part two of my confessions (read part one here):

The most overrated: the pyramids in Egypt. I still think a visit to these is worth the bucket list check but I didn’t find them nearly as impressive or mysterious as I’d expected. Maybe if I’d read up on the construction theories/history before going, it would have been more exciting to be in their presence.


They still make for a great picture!

The most underrated: Ghana, as a country, is beautiful, and safe, and largely English speaking (there are so many local languages that English is used to bring communities together). Its a great place to visit if you want a real taste of Africa and are looking for a cultural experience. This was my first time in a third world country and I had a great time! Also, the culture shock experience prepared me for every second/third world country that I’ve been to since.


The majority of my time in Ghana was spent with these adorable kids.

The worst accident: falling off my bicycle into a ditch in Myanmar. I tried to stop to let a large truck pass and missed the curb with my foot falling straight down into a deep ditch. Luckily a tree caught my fall, the bicycle was fine and other than being shaken up, my biggest problem was looking like I’d rolled in the dirt. I’ve seen worse things happen to others on the road so I’m thankful this is my worst story.

The best sunrise: cycling out before dawn to climb a pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar for the most magical sunrise. You can see pagodas glistening in the morning sun as far as the eye can see as hot air balloons drift by on the horizon. I woke up early again and again to see this for good reason.


So peaceful.

The best sunset: Otres beach in Cambodia treated me to the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen and I sadly didn’t get a picture. Since I don’t have a picture to compare, it will probably always remain the best in my memories. Read more about my experience here.


Not bad, but definitely not Cambodia's best showing.

The most breathtaking: the views while driving along New Zealand’s coastline on the South Island. When New Zealand offers you a scenic route, they are not kidding! It took a lot of restraint on my part to not stop every five minutes for a picture. I’m so glad I decided to drive instead of taking a tour bus.


Only $5 for a campsite with a view!

The stupidest: buying a bucket (bucket of alcohol) from the wrong stand at the full moon party on Koh Phangan island in Thailand. The warnings about spiked buckets are no joke and even though I knew to buy a bucket in a real store instead of on the street, I was just tipsy enough to forget and make that mistake. I’m lucky I was with friends and no harm came from it.

The silliest: partying all night on a club on Hvar island (where i was staying with friends) in Croatia and barely making our ferry to the mainland the next morning. It was an amazing night and I totally forgot that parties in Europe can go all night. It was only after the music stopped and the sun started to lighten the sky that we realized how little time we had to make the ferry.

The smartest: being brave enough to travel alone. The thing about traveling alone is that you quickly realize you are never truly alone. It’s beautiful and amazing and I think everyone should try it once.


You're never alone in a hostel!