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Philosophy, the Internet, the World, and I

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Author: Patrick (page 1 of 41)

Conflicting Ideals

One of my goals in life is to avoid living conflicting philosophies.  This means thinking one way of living is best for me, yet contradicts other held beliefs without knowing it.  It is very easy to conflict yourself, and the more you learn, the stronger the realization.  It goes along with the lines of “the more you know, the more you can know” and you often “don’t know what you don’t know”. This is shown by the Dunning-Kruger Effect:

In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metacognitive inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude.

Without the self-awareness of metacognition, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence

Source

Mark Mason recently published a great short read on The Value of Money (stop here and read the article now).  His posts sums up my beliefs on money and wealth quite well, and how people wrongfully misinterpret their goals.  Money isn’t the goal, it is what the money gives you that you *think* you want.  But humans are also very bad at predicting what they want, what will make them happy, etc:

How great would it be to win a brand new car? How horrible would it be to get laid off from your job? Research by psychologist Dan Gilbert at Harvard University suggests, not that great and not that horrible (respectively). Among the many things Gilbert studies is how people make predictions about future events—specifically, how we make predictions about how we’ll feel about future events. One of the most important questions we ask when making any decision is “how will this make me feel?” But no matter how much time we spend thinking about the future, we don’t get any better at predicting it. That’s why, as Gilbert writes in his book Stumbling on Happiness, divorce lawyers and people who remove tattoos continue to have a steady stream of customers.

Source: Stumbling Upon Happiness book

One of the fundamental conflicting ideals plaguing modern society is simply put as this: in a capitalistic society where the incentive is money, it doesn’t align with the what humans really want – wellbeing. The vast majority of modern day humans have conflicting ideals here.

It’s easy to get caught in the stir of this mixing machine.  While people around the world are vastly different in culture, beliefs, ways of life, habits, and appearance, humans all universally want a good wellbeing, to be happy, and to not suffer.  This is universal, and this should therefore be our goal in collective society.  All good comes from wellbeing, so we should maximize this.  It becomes a philosophical discussion in itself, but some pieces of it have quite straightforward answers.  For example, there are 1 billion people suffering *unnecessarily* from extreme poverty (read The Life You Can Save).  This is a situation where suffering  is definitely occurring unnecessary, is solvable right now, and the barrier is simply human connection and communication.

Now with this said, in a capitalistic society the goal and incentive isn’t human wellbeing, it is money.  People can create companies that destroy villages, families, cities, countries, and lives.  Yet they make money, their goal and incentive.  Politicians can make agreements and work together to increase their GDP, not necessarily increase wellbeing or reduce suffering. Most peoples lives in modern society are taken up by work that is entirely incentivized by money.  In fact, 70-80% of Americans don’t like their jobs or otherwise hate what they do (Source). They’re caught in the machine where every bit of society tells you to make money, buy a house, buy stuff you don’t need, and then finally retire at the end of life when you hopefully have money.  In fact, we spend most of our time in effort to simply earn money – how crazy is that.  It is entirely backwards and contradicts what we really want.  People don’t want or necessarily need more money, they need a new perspective that changes how they live their lives.  They need freedom – freedom to choose, freedom of time, freedom to think.  Consumerism has plagued us to spend all our money on stuff we don’t need, or to spend all our time making money so we can buy time later (a vacation or early retirement), or so we can buy all the abundance of consumerism that we don’t need.

Our motivational systems are off.  While the vast majority of modern western society is motivated by money, what people really want is to be happy.  And money and happiness aren’t directly coordinated (Source). We should instead be motivated by helping others, learning more so we can better help others and ourselves, using our creativity to create things we think should exist, traveling to broaden our perspectives – all things which are proven to increase wellbeing – again something that universally humans want.  In short, society is living with conflicting ideals.

The bottom line here is that we should really be questioning our incentives and goals in society.  I don’t have a good alternative to capitalism, but money is certainly not our goal as humans.  And while it may increase the collective human wellbeing on some levels, it also causes a grand amount of unnecessary suffering.

Philosophy of boundaries

Intuitively, open borders sound good.  Living in Southeast Asia and seeing the massive restrictions on the peoples ability to travel outside their countries is sobering.  You can’t choose where you’re born, and simply being born from a country with an unfavorable passport sucks.  With that said, these barriers do serve a role.

Thais have a hard time getting a visa into South Korea, for example, because many Thais go there, overstay their visa, and never return to Thailand, therefore causing South Korea to block Thais in the future for obtaining a visa.  This reaction totally makes sense.

In the past, boundaries made a lot of sense.  As people settled throughout the world, people formed their own local communities, and coordinated together for the better of the group. We were naturally territorial due to threats from outsiders – it’s in our DNA.  One of the awkward feelings of traveling is overcoming that innate feeling of distrust of foreigners and trusting people of different beliefs, experiences, and outlooks on life.  Some people hate this feeling, other people love it. It is the feeling of walking into the unknown.

Today is a starkly different world where these “local communities” are now nations, and we no longer just work together, we interact almost as if our own tribe.  I live in Thailand, live a life nearly as a Thai person would, yet I’m not a Thai citizen, have a US passport, and view the world through the lens of my experience.  Our communities are merging, aka globalization.

So with this change, an important question to ask is: does managing the world through individual nation states make sense? One policy change America makes can influence all of Europe, does it make sense for only Americans to have this sort of influence?  It’s worth thinking about.

I’m not sure of a solution to the issue of nation states, but I do think politically and as communities we should be looking at the bigger picture.  When a president, mayor, or other politician gets elected, his goal shouldn’t be to just better the nation or community they’re from, but should be to better the world.  When we make decisions, we shouldn’t just think of ourselves and the our community, but instead our entire world, which is really our community.  We all share the world, and it is becoming ever smaller.

We can communicate in seconds via the internet, we can fly cheaper and cheaper and faster and faster.  By nearly all means, it does feel smaller.  We live in a time where these issues of boundaries and borders are most important.  How we cope with it will decide how our future world looks.  Will we fight and destroy ourselves? Will we be able to resolve the differing value systems between the west and the Middle East? Time will tell.

Because we’re all individuals, the best we can do is lead by example.  Are you living a life that you think is good for the whole? In other words, if everyone lived like you, would the world be what you want it to be? Are you living a sustainable life?  If not, it’s worth noting.  You can’t be another person, but you can do your part to make the world what you want it to be.

I just finished reading “A Strange Death of Europe” which shows how immigration into Europe will radically change Europe. It already has, however subtle it may seem. Is it for the better? The place the Europeans call home is now likely to become a majority-foreign land.  This means if you’re a British born Caucasian, you’ll soon be a minority in England.  This speaks somewhat of the true trends of other countries as well.  Mass immigration radically changes the makeup, culture, belief system, and economic structure of a country. Uncontrolled immigration leads to countless other issues.  Europe isn’t even sure how many immigrants has come in as the control system has been flooded.

On one end of the spectrum we have all open borders where humans can freely roam the earth.  On the other end we have completely closed borders where you are born dictates the space on earth where you can roam. The optimal solution is likely somewhere in between. With entirely open borders I’m not certain we can function effectively as economically everyone would exploit the wealthiest spots, therefore destroying their structure and contributions to the greater good of humanity.  Places like the US wouldn’t exist with entirely open borders, and the scientific contributions the US has made to the greater whole exist, in part, through collaboration of groups of people – such as a university being within a community, but enabling groups of people to work together in seclusion. However, if immigration wasn’t possible, the US would be severely missing out on many of the people that have contributed to make the US what it is.  The same is true for the UK and many other western and eastern societies that have contributed to the greater good of humanity.

I’m unsure of where on the spectrum we should be.  If Murray in right in his book, we need to make changes in how we integrate.  When a new immigrant goes to a new place and culture, how should he or she integrate? If we allow it to naturally happen without defined systems of integration, we end up like London where people don’t necessarily integrate, and form their own communities.  Is this really constructive to the greater good? Probably not.  We’d be better off integrating people into our culture and society, working *with* each other to accomplish the things in life we want to accomplish, not as a city or country, but as a world.  We should be discussing what these things are.  Is it the pursuit of scientific understanding of the world to cure disease, solve carbon pollution, build maps of the world for better navigation, or is it something else? It’s worth criticizing bad ideas, openly talk about problems and solutions, and be open minded in discovering simply better ways to live.

Hiking in Nepal: Dhaulagiri Circuit & Annapurna Base Camp

Nepal has been a place I’ve wanted to visit for years.  Landlocked between India and Tibet, Nepal’s northern border is rigid with the biggest mountains in the world, the Himalayas.  After watching several documentaries and reading a few books on them, I’ve been determined to explore them myself and hike into the majisticalness of it all.

On April 17th, I flew into Kathmandu from Bangkok to meetup with my friend Andrew and his dad.  At the airport I bought a 30 day visa on arrival for $40, paying via credit card (which I later noticed was charged as a cash advance).  The people working the visa counter were quite rude and didn’t communicate to virtually anyone effectively – not a great welcoming to a new country.

The following morning we walked the dusty, crowded streets to the Tourism Board Office to buy the various permits we needed to hike, namely the TIMS card (for trekking), and the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (for entering the Annaupurna region) – together they cost $40.  Shortly after, we packed our stuff and caught a “tourist” bus to Pokhara.  These buses are supposedly made for tourism and are slightly more expensive but have nicer seats, stop less, and have AC.  It hardly fit any of that criteria, not surprisingly. It was quite a bumpy ride, taking 6-7 hours, full of dust, crowded with people, and stopping every few miles.

We arrived into the fog of Pokhara at dusk, taking a taxi to the first hotel offered.  After dropping off our bags, we bought a few snacks for the hike, ate dinner, and called it a night.  The following morning we took a taxi to Beni, and once there to Darbang.  In total it took nearly 7 hour on an uneven road – I thought the car was going to fall apart by the end of it.  We ended up paying him 6,000 Rs. ($60), which was more than double our agreed on rate to Beni originally, but we all felt it was well worth the money considering the wear and tear his car had just gone through.  Once in Darbang, we begin our hike, starting the Dhaulagiri Circuit.

The Dhaulagiri Circuit

The Dhaulagiri Circuit is a 14-16 day trek that makes it way up and around Dhaulagiri mountain, the 7th highest mountain in the world, rising up 8,167m (26,795 feet).  The first few days go through various villages, which offer food and basic lodging, while the remaining 10 days require winter tents, food, and gear.  As a result, we were each carrying backpacks weighing around 40-50 lbs.

From our starting point in Darbang, we hiked to Dayatani (?).  It goes mostly on a dirt road along the river, and then up a steep climb of stairs.  Because we didn’t get to Darbang until mid afternoon, we didn’t arrive to Dayatani until dusk.  We had dinner and slept at a guesthouse there, which was pleasant, though be prepared for the food to take a couple hours to prepare.

The hike then follows the dirt road further, gaining elevation.  The river is still along the right, though at a much lower elevation.  The road eventually horeshoes back, and at the horseshoe you can shortcut directly down into the rice terraces below.  Our map showed this shortcut, and a local confirmed it.  However, the shortcut path wasn’t clear so we ended up hiking through some terraces until we found some cow trails which led to the main bridge crossing the river at the bottom and connected to the trail across the river.  Once there, we were told there is a more main shortcut path that comes 500 meters or so after the horseshoe.

We hiked eventually to Mudi, passing through Naura and Bogara for some tea and food.  The 2 most common foods served in teahouses are Dal Baht (lentil soup with rice (baht)) or chowmein.  The portion sizes are sizable, and with dal baht is free refills.  Note: the price of food goes up about 10% each day – the further into the trail you get, the further they have to carry the supplies so they charge more.  After passing through Mudi and resting there while it rained, we continued on and dropped down near the river to pitch our tent for the evening. In total, it was a 12 hour day of hiking, minus an hour rest for lunch and an hour rest for dinner. The morning view from the tent was spectacular, with a clear view of the snowy covered Himalayas in the distant.

From the river we hiked to the hot spring, a good 8 hour hike or so.  The hot spring requires crossing the river to the east side on a wooden bridge, and there is accomodation and a place to pitch a tent, which is what we did.  We had prior been told that there was no bridge or accomodation, but that information was incorrect. The hotspring itself is well developed, built with a roof, concrete walls, and next to a large waterfall.  It was an excellent place to spend the night and rest our legs, and also a great way to start the morning.  We were served food by the locals near where we pitched our tent.

The next day, day4, we hiked to Doban, which took around 7 hours, a common day hike so far.  It rained a solid 2 hours along this hike, which was the first real downpour we had yet.  When we arrived to Doban, the rain had let up and it was incredibly pleasant.  The “hotel” there was empty so we ended up staying there instead of pitching the tent out front.

Day 5 was to Italian Base Camp, the last place along the route that served food, and also the place where we’d spend 2 days to rest up and acclimate before heading towards the main base camp.  Along the way we stopped at an abandon rock structure to eat breakfast, dry our clothes, and charge devices with the solar charger while the sun was out.  We also stopped at the village of Sallagiri to eat lunch. There we chatted with a couple locals about everything from visas to the US to radical Islam.  It was surprising of how well informed most of the Nepalese were about world affairs.

italian-base-camp-dhaulagiri

Italian Base Camp

There are signs along the way with arrows showing directions and estimated hiking times.  We noticed that on many of the signs the estimated times are off, either overestimating or underestimating the hiking times.  Some villages also weren’t show on our map, but were shown on the signs.

We arrived into Italian Base Camp in the late afternoon and were greeted by several people on the Indian Expeditions to summit Dhaulagiri.  Also at the camp were several other groups, in total probably 60 people were at the base camp, inlcuding an older English group of 7 people plus several porters.  We chatted with others, and had dinner there before calling it a night.  Most of the others there had arrived earlier in the day and were also resting the following day.  Prior to arriving at Italian Base Camp, we hadn’t seen or met many others aside from a French couple in Mudi, so seeing so many people at Italian Base Camp was a bit of a surprise.

The following day we woke to see the surrounding mountains covered in fresh snow.  The views from Italian Base Camp are remarkable – you could literally sit there for an hour just staring at them.  Andrew, Drew (his dad), and I hiked up to some nearby hills to gain some elevation and stay active.  Drew and Andrew went up a bit higher while I rested and took in the views and headed back to camp afterwards.

This sherpa climbed K2 twice and Everest 3 times, among many others.

At the camp I met the Nepalese guide who was leading the Indian expedition of 14 people + porters to the summit (which in total takes 1-2 months).  He had climbed like 12 of the 14 highest mountains in the world, including Everest 3 times, K2 twice, and Dhaulagiri twice.  He said he hadn’t started climbing until 8 years ago when he was 22, but has since done 2 big expeditions a year.  Impressive feat to say the least.

We spent the night there eating dal baht (salty lentil soup with rice).  The portion sizes were massive, and included free refills.  There was a shirt we saw saying “dal baht power, 24 hour”.  It is a great meal for hiking, and literally everyone there was eating it as it was all that was offered.  Italian base camp was our last place along the route where food would be served, so we made sure to indulge.

The following morning we woke, ate breakfast, and packed up. The Indian expedition and various other groups left about an hour before us.  We hiked through the beautiful valley along the water toward Japanese base camp.  Like most days, it was quite sunny and hot in the morning, and by afternoon it was snowing.  During the morning as the ground began to heat up, we could see rocks falling from both sides of the valley – it was quite the sight and made quite a loud echo throughout the valley.  There were several areas along the route where rocks were falling down onto the trail, so we paid close attention to the right side to avoid getting hit by any coming down.  It’s definitely important to be very cautious here.

On the way to Japanese Base Camp

By the time we reached Japanese base camp it was snowing.  Within a couple hours there were several inches of snow on the ground and we had setup our tent and had a little snowball fight with the English group.  The Indian expedition and others had continued on several more hours to Dhalagiri base case, while us, the French couple, and the English crew had all stayed at Japanese base camp for the rest of the day and overnight.  In the late afternoon we saw 2 porters walking back from Dhauligiri Base camp in flip flops and limited warmth, appearing to be quite cold.  It was quite the sight, but apparently normal for these guys. There’s a big ethical debate around hiring porters and treating them properly (assuring they are well equipped and not over worked).

We woke at sunrise and after chatting with others we decided to continue on to Dhauligiri Base Camp.  The English crew decided to stay another day, as did the French couple due to the trail being covered with snow and avalanche danger.  We determined that we knew the route well enough to proceed and also decided that avalanche danger would be looming whether we waited another day or not.

Our tent the morning after at Japanese Base Camp

The hike was excellent and we found the path without much issue.  It was sunny pretty much the entire way, and we saw a couple avalanches in the distance as well as more rock falls.  During the previous days, I kept getting the sound of thunder mixed up with a rock slide mixed up with an avalanche.  They all sounded somewhat similar and spooky when they echoed along the valley.

dhaulagiri-base

Saw some big rock falls along the valley on the way to Dhaulagiri Base Camp

When we arrived into Dhaulagiri Base Camp we saw about 100 tents with 10+ expeditions based there in effort to summit Dhaulagiri, including the Indian Expedition we met at Italian Base Camp.  When we first arrived we met a couple Japanese guys and chatted about Japanese politics, mountains, and advice on where to put our tent.  One guy was 67 years old, and the other was 62.  Both had retired in the last few years and since had been climbing the highest mountains in the world, including Manaslu and Denali.

After setting up the tent, we chatted with one of the Indian guys, and he invited us to dinner later in the evening.  Andrew and Drew had been offered dinner prior by the porters for the Indian expeditions, while I went for a tea into the Indian expedition tent.  The eldest Indian had climbed most of the 8,000 meter peaks in the world, and also had climbed the highest mountain on 6 out of 7 of the continents.  He said he would be heading to Antartica to climb Mt. Winston in December.  After chatting with the expedition at dinner, I learned that they were all part of the Indian Air Force which sponsored these sorts of adventures every couple years.  The eldest Indian was a skydiver for most of his career, and was incredibly friendly and generous.

dhaulagiri-base-camp

Arriving into Dhaulagiri Base Camp with Mt. Dhaulagiri in the background

He offered tea and biscuits, and later a 4 course meal with fish.  It was an unexpected invite and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the stories and having dinner with the expedition, one I won’t forget.  As they had just arrived at base camp the day before, they had plans to spend around the next month acclimizing and were planning to summit on May 10th if the weather permitted, the night of a full moon.

I got to chat with about 5 of the 14 Indians on the expedition, and one asked if we saw the avalanche by Japanese Base Camp.  He pulled out his phone and showed me a video he took of a massive avalanche coming off the top of one side of the valley – it was incredible.  They were 3-4 hours ahead of us, so we passed the area a few hours later, not suspecting a thing.  It really put into perspective the dangers of hiking that aren’t really noticeable.

Early the next morning we proceeded on the Dhauligiri Circuit up and over French pass, which was around 5,300 meters.  It was another nice hike up.  Along the way we got a nice view of Dhauligiri and could see an expedition of 20 or so people heading up to Camp 1.  About 30 minutes after we saw them, we watched an avalanche break right where we saw them before.  It just reinforced the risks involved with hiking in this area at any given time.

fench-pass-dhaulagiri

Heading up to French Pass looking back at Dhaulagiri.

After reaching French Pass and dropping into Hidden Valley, it was quite windy and snowy.  The drop down into hidden valley was along territory with avalanche danger, which made the tranverse a bit more stressful. We weren’t sure exactly where the Hidden Valley camp was, but when we got to the approximate area we found a low spot on the back side of a hill and setup camp, around 4/5pm.  It was an excellent spot to spend the night and have dinner.

The next morning we hiked up towards the base of Dhampus Peak, a peak we planned to climb the following day.  The hike to the base was across a flat area of Hidden Valley and then up a steep snowy slope.  Upon reaching Dampus Pass, we decided where to set the tent.  Drew and Andrew thought it was best to pitch the tent near the pass, though I thought a lower point out of the wind would be better.  At the time, it was sunny and calm.  We ended up setting up camp in the spot near the pass.

The evening I had quite a headache, and didn’t sleep much that night.  We were sleeping around 5,300m (17,300 feet), so the headache wasn’t all unexpected.  We woke the following morning at the crack of dawn and began hiking with the idea to summit Dhampus Peak.  Drew and Andrew has microspikes and I had a rubber boot grip with springs that Drew had let me borrow, and we all had ice axes.  The hike was steep, but the slow and steady pace gave us great progress in the morning, as it was a crystal clear view and the snowy surrounding mountains were stunningly beautiful. It felt like we were walking through the sky.

View from hiking up Dhampus Peak, shot at around 19,000 ft.

Around 10am we got to a point where we had to traverse a steep slope to the right of a rock formation.  The risk if you slipped would have been a couple thousand foot slide down the icy slope, though not a fatal fall.  The biggest risk there would have been the day or two hike out from where you end up, which wouldn’t have been easy, as well as the avalanche danger all around.  After the 3 of us got past that part, I looked further and noticed there was a sketchier part ahead, and at least another 2 hour hike to the summit.  Additonally, I noticed clouds starting to come in from below. The lack of oxygen at that altitude was very noticable, and I decided I would turn back to the tent.

At Italian Base Camp a few days prior we met a Nepalese guide who climbed Dampus Peak before.  He said he summited by 11am and was down before the weather changed.  With that in my mind, I knew the turnaround time was sometime around 11am-noon.  Andrew and Drew pressed on, and I hiked down to the tent.  A gorgeous hike down, with a fair bit of glissading which was a perfect condition for it.  I arrived back down to the tent around an hour later, and the weather was sunny and dry still.  I dried some clothes and blankets, and rested in the tent.  About 30 minutes later it started to snow a bit.

Heading down Dhampus Peak

Within an hour it was nearly whiteout.  I listened to podcasts and read a book for the next several hours. I was concerned for Drew and Andrew, but unsure how to potentially help them.   It wasn’t until 3 or 4pm that Drew and Andrew arrived at the tent.  They got somewhat lost in the whiteout, and luckily ran into a cairn, which there was 1 or 2 within 500 meters of the tent. Apparently they had made a couple snow caves to stay warm while they searched for the tent, and had they not found the cairn things could have turned out much worse.

When they arrived we cooked some food and then rested, with the plan to leave the following morning and traverse to the far ridge to drop down.

The next morning we woke to still whiteout conditions, and probably 3 feet of fresh snow.  We hiked for maybe 200 feet before deciding to setup the tent again and wait for better conditions.  It could remain whiteout for days, we weren’t sure.  It was bad luck to have a whiteout the last morning of our hike out as literally everyday prior in the hike the mornings were clear.  We sat in the tent for several hours listening to the audiobook “Alone on the Wall” with the plan to resume hiking as soon as the weather cleared up.  During this time, Drew noticed the tips of his toes were beginning to turn black from frostbite, likely from the day before.

For much of the last couple days, our boots would freeze solid at night, which made it difficult to put on in the morning and also cooled down our feet quite a lot.  As soon as he noticed the frostbite, it became a bit concerning because we weren’t sure how long we’d be stuck in the tent before being able to resume – could be a couple hours or several days.

Traversing past Dhampus Peak after several feet of fresh snow.

Around 2pm the snow let up and we could see blue sky and the clouds clearing, but it was incredibly windy.  We prepared our gear and got ready to go so as soon as the weather improved we’d break down the tent and move east.  Luckily, the wind slowed and the weather became more calm.  Our strategy to take down the tent was to leave the bags inside until we took out the poles, and as we pulled out bags I’d lay on top to prevent the tent from blowing away – the wind could stop and start up again with little warning.

Over the next 5-6 hours we dropped down and hiked up as we traversed through several feet of fresh snow, often sinking up to our chest.  Along with the stress of avalanche danger, the lack of water and food, and the shear difficulty of carrying bags through that much snow at elevation, it was a test to our mental and physical power to make it as far east as possible and begin dropping down.  We had enough food for a few more days, but our gas was getting low (which was needed to melt snow).

We made solid progress that afternoon, and ended up camping on a more level area toward the end of the ridge, or at least it seemed.  The evening was calm and clear, and as it got dark the stars shined clearly.  It was relieving and relaxing to see.  That night we cooked near the tent and melted snow.  At this elevation, around 17,500 ft, the lack of oxygen makes it quite difficult to cook as the flame doesn’t light easily and when it finally does, it takes a long time to cook.  The slight breeze also kept blowing out our flame even with a barrier.  To melt 2 cups of water seemed to be taking around 20 minutes, so we certainly weren’t drinking as much water as we normally would.

The next morning we woke with the sun and could see the steep ridge in the distance that we were aiming for.  We let our boots melt for a few minutes in the sun so we could get them on, which helped tremendously. We packed up gear and decided to snack along the way rather than spend time cooking breakfast. After a couple hours of hiking we realized it was further than it first seemed, but we pressed on.

Eventually we made it to a cairn with a view of Mustang to the left and a drop down to the right, with a steeper ridge in front of us.  It was relieving to know we were on track, as this was the first cairn we’d seen in nearly 24 hours and weren’t certain of the path. Drew knew that we had to keep pressing east until we couldn’t any further, and as we did so we saw other cairns.  Eventually after a steep climb along the furthest ridge, we decided to drop straight down toward the blue roofs that we could see at the bottom, some 8,000 feet lower, which we assumed was Marpha.

Andrew and I at the furthest east ridge the steep before descent

It was a steep decent with lots of loose rock, snow, and grassy patches.  We tried to strategize our best way down to avoid being cliffed out.  The left side looked good, but so did the right.  Eventually we found a trail and some puddles so get some fresh water, which we certainly all needed.  We kept heading down and at one rest Drew took off his shoes as his frostbite toes were hurting.  Many had blisters, some had popped, and it looked incredibly painful though Drew handled it like a champ.  We took some of the weight from his gear and kept heading down.

Eventually we came across a farm with about 50 yaks.  We weren’t sure of the trail to Marpha and there wasn’t any clear path – perhaps we should have stayed to the right instead of the left.  We decided to cross the creek near the yak farm, stop for lunch, and then take the trail from there.  Our map showed the trail going along the creek, but the main trail seemed to head up and into the mountains and potentially around the ridge.  By this point it was around 4pm.

We decided to take the main trail that went around the mountain in hopes that it would head down into Marpha and not just be a yak trail into the darkness.  We spotted some human boot prints at some point which was reassuring that it led to somewhere with civilization. Luckily, we saw a sign with an arrow pointing to Marpha and followed that.  Around 2 hours of a steep decent down a well traveled path, we arrived at Marpha, which was actually not visible from the earlier view above and the blue roofs we saw were actually a town across the valley from Marpha.

mustang

Looking north into the Mustang region towards Tibet

Upon arriving in Marpha we checked into the first hotel that looked decent, ordered dinner, and called a doctor to look at Drew’s toes.  The doctor arrived with his friend and looked at his feet, suggesting in broken english to not pop the blisters.  Several blisters on both toes has popped from the hike down, but others hadn’t.  The doctor cleaned and bandaged his feet, charging around $10 for the work, including some extra antibacterial cream.  While eating dinner shortly after, a group nearby in the room of a Nepalese and French guide came over to ask us a few questions. They suggested getting a helicopter to Pokhara or Kathmandu immediately to avoid further issues.  They advised checking with the insurance company to ensure it would cover it.

By this point it was around 11pm and we were all quite tired, and I headed to sleep. Our original plan was to get to Marpha, bus to Jomsom nearby, and get onto the Annapurna circuit.  However, after this ordeal, we decided to get back to Pokhara as soon as possible to make sure nothing worse came of Drew’s injuries.  We woke the next morning and decided to take the public transport to Jomsom.  Surprisingly, we couldn’t find any taxis, jeeps, or buses heading there.  Our plan was to head to Jomsom, get a flight to Pokhara, and go to the hospital in Pokhara.  After being unable to book a flight or get a quick transport to Jomsom, we were offered a bus to Pokhara which would arrive in 8 hours, which we decided to do.

Arriving into Marpha after our Dhaulagiri Circuit descent

We arrived into Pokhara that night and checked into a hotel offered by a guy waiting at the bus stop.  Drew decided to wait until the next morning to visit the hospital as it was quite late by this time, probably around 10pm.  The following day we walked to the hospital which was only 5 minutes away, and got everything taken care of.

We spent the next few days relaxing and recovering from the 2 week hike.  Drew ended up changing plans and booking a flight back to the US, so he caught a bus to Kathmandu and headed home.  Andrew and I stayed in Pokhara and paraglided and bungee jumped, which were absolutely amazing.  We then decided to do another hike for 6-7 days – the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) hike.  The Dhaulagiri Circuit hike was definitely a test of our mental and physical strength.  While somewhat stressful, it’s hard to not find the incredible beauty that the wilderness has to offer.  We had some bad luck with our weather, but were also incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to hike and lucky that things didn’t go much worse.

Annapurna Base Camp

This hike was well advertised throughout Pokhara and was a major tourist trek.  We took a cab from Pokhara to the trailhead in Phedi, which took around 45 minutes and cost 1000 Rs.  We began the steep hike there up a well-built stone path.  In the evening, after 8 hours of hiking, we arrived to Landruk, where we found a hotel for $3/night with beds, and to our surprise, wifi.  This trek was quite different than the Dhaulagiri Circuit. This ABC trek was considered a teahouse trek, meaning there were houses along the way with places to sleep, eat, shower, etc.  This means there isn’t a need to carry in much gear or food, so it makes hiking a lot easier.  The path was also well traveled and maintained, so there was certainly no need for a guide (though we found that 90%+ of the people we met on the hike had guides).

The first day we hiked to Landruk.  Once there, we got offered a hotel that surprisingly had wifi, hot showers, and served dinner.  By our room I saw the biggest spider I’d ever seen – a wolf spider that was as big as a turantula.

Local kids wanting to play with us on the hike to Landruk

The following day we hiked to the next village, Bamboo.  We decided to pass Chomrong (where most people stay) to make a bit more progress such that we could ensure we finished the trek in time.  We arrived into Bamboo around 7pm, hiking the last 2 hours in a misty rain, though quite a pleasant hike.  In total, we hiked for around 11 hours this day.  After arriving in Bamboo, we got a room in a local teahouse and had some dinner.  It was common that the further you get into the hike, the further prices go up.  All teahouses had the same menu and items, organized by the Annapurna Conservation Area.  However, the further they had to carry in the goods/supplies, the more expensive the rooms and food were.  Horses didn’t travel past Chomrong, so after Chomrong prices were double or more, and by Annapurna Base Camp triple or more.

Porters carrying gear on the ABC trek

From Bamboo we woke in the morning, had breakfast and went on our way.  It was quite a beautiful hike, though the second half was cloudy and the last 30 minutes it was raining quite hard. We passed through Dovan and Duerali, the common stops for people hiking from Chomrong.  We arrived into Machhapuchhre Base Camp (MBC) around 3pm to the first guesthouse high above the creek as you arrive at the MBC sign.  Mt Machhapchhre is a holy mountain which you can famously see from Pokhara, and while this is called Machhapuchhre Base Camp, Machhapuchhre can’t be climbed, though from this base camp the views are spectacular.

After having some tea and reading a bit in the common area, we met a couple others who had arrived earlier in the day from Dovan and chatted with them.  We also met a guy from Siberia who was leading a Russian guy up the mountain.  About 90% of the people we saw on the hike were being guided, which was somewhat surprising considering how well established the route was.

View from our tea house at MBC.

Our plan for the night was to rest, wake at 4am to do a morning hike to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC).  We woke for the hike and after an hour or so arrived into ABC.  It was a beautiful and easy hike, perched near the south face of Annapurna, the 10th highest mountain in the world and also one of the deadliest.  Several peaks nearby weren’t much lower than it.  There we had breakfast and took in the views.  We also visited Anatoli Boukreev’s memorial stone, which is near where he died in 1997 in an avalanche. Several other memorials were nearby, with the most recent being a couple Koreans who tried to summit the south face of Annapurna in 2011 and died.  Ueli Steck, who had died near Everest just a couple weeks before, had been the only person to solo the south Annapurna face and one of the only people ever to summit from the south side ever. Standing at the base camp really gave perspective on the difficult and risk of summiting these large peaks, especially up the less traveled routes.

After a couple hours there we hiked back to MBC where we packed our bags and began our descent back down around 9am.  The weather was great.  We made it back to Chumrong by around 5pm, and to our surprise, found a cheap place with wifi and a hot shower, as well as excellent food and drinks.  Even after 5 days of hiking the Annapurna Base Camp trail, it was still somewhat surprising to find such modern, well developed guesthouses along the way.  The Annapurna Conservation Committee really worked together to tailor this trek to really anyone in the general public interested in a short and comfortable multi-day hike.

Reflection of Annapurna I mountain, the 10th highest in the world at 26,545 ft (8091m).

The following morning we had pancakes for breakfast and hiked back down, arriving to Siwai in the afternoon, where several locals and cabs were waiting.  We paid $30 for a cab back to Pokhara, which was slightly more than a bus ride for 2 yet half the time.

Because we got back to Pokhara in just 5 days instead of the standard 7-8 days, we had a bit of extra time.  We planned to rest in Pokhara for a day and then head to another town to make our way towards Kathmandu, and spend a day or two camping and rafting.  However, the following day after our rest day ended up being a big election, apparently the first one in 20 years, so everything was shut down – buses, cabs, and flights.  Because of this, we spent that day riding our bikes around to nearby villages.

We got to one village about 2 hours away and some kids wanted to play on our bikes.  A family offered us in and gave us hot tea, while we chatted with one of the guys who lived there.  He said he used to work in Malaysia, but was from there, and we chatted about politics and whatnot for an hour.  He got married at the age of 19 to a 14 year old and was now in his early 20’s.  It was interesting hearing his perspective on life, relationships, and love.

Cows are more sacred than humans in Nepal, and therefore freely roamed Pokhara.

In the evening we ate some excellent Nepalese food, which was spectacular in Pokhara and incredibly cheap.  The following day we left at 7am via bus to Kathmandu.  My friend Austin (who I knew from Bangkok) was in Kathmandu so after getting dropped off we found a cafe so we could contact him.  His place ended up being far away, so after a tea and waiting for the rain to stop, we took a cab over to Chandra’s house, a Nepalese friend of a friend of Andrews.  After meeting him at his office, we had dinner, and then Chandra walked us back to his place where he kindly let us stay.

The following day we went for some white water action.  Andrew had a friend from Colorado who knew Chandra, and Andrew is into kayaking so wanted to checkout the spots in Nepal near Kathmandu.  Chandra apparently originated white water tourism in Nepal and has an extensive background in kayaking all over the world.  Chandra and his son, along with a friend, took us to a river for rafting.  It took 5 hours to get there, and once we arrived we unloaded the kayaks and raft and started to get ready.

A local guy came up and chatted with Chandra, and then Chandra went over to Andrew and Chandra’s son who were already waiting in their kayaks and told them to go look for a dead body as an older man disappeared a couple days ago up the river and they suspect he drowned.  They found nothing. An interesting way to start the white water trip.

Preparing to raft and kayak

Me, Chandra, and his friend hopped in the raft and Andrew and Chandra’s son kayaked in front of us.  It was a fun experience on a hot sunny day.  The water level seemed somewhat low as the raft barely fit through some of the rocks, but overall it was a great day.  We ended up kayaking for about 6 hours.

After a long ride back to Kathmandu and unpacking all the gear at the office, we headed back to Chandra’s for a cold beer.  Once there 2 other girls from Salida, Colorado (Andrew’s hometown and where Chandra used to live) showed up at his house asking to stay there.  What a small world. Andrew and I were about to head out and grab a cab for 20 minutes to meet Austin at his hostel.  We ended up going and the two girls joined us.  Hanging out with Austin was great, as it had been nearly a year since I’d last seen him.

The next day (May 18th) the 2 girls, Andrew, and I went for breakfast.  Shortly after I grabbed a cab to the airport to fly back to Bangkok, while Andrew and the 2 others went rock climbing.  Andrew caught his flight back to the US later that night.

Overall, this was an incredible trip.  60+ days later I still have feelings and flashbacks to the incredible views, and often read stories about the Himalayas.  I’d love to go back someday.  A big thanks to Chandra for hosting us, Andrew for always being a great travel companion, and his dad for being an incredible sport at the young age of 58.  I thoroughly enjoyed our conversions and the trip.

Descent from MBC on the Annapurna Base Camp trek, May, 2017

Discovery in a New World

If you look back throughout human history, humans ability to discover new things was slow.  The world didn’t have the internet, nor the ability to easily travel country to country, place to place.  It wasn’t possible to market to the entire world at once, or receive worldwide news instantly.  Explorers would spend lifetimes discovering new land, meeting new people.  News spread slow as messengers spent months carrying information across the land.  Everyone within a tribe knew more or the less the same stuff.

Compare that to today, where news virtually anywhere in the world can be discovered within minutes, Google Maps gives us real time traffic data in virtually any city in the world, Skype allows me to video call my mom in real time from the other side of the planet, and Facebook allows me to befriend 400 people on a daily basis.  It’s incredibly unique.

So how do we find things that interest us in todays world? How do we find things to buy, places to go, places to live, or what to read? The answer…..marketing.

Marketing

Marketing influences what we buy, where we go, and who we go with. Things that interest us are based on our experiences, as well as things we’ve discovered. Marketing has become very good – so good in fact that marketers often know what we’ll be interested in before we even know it exists.  Consumerism has us buying products that 5 minutes before we didn’t know existed.

When we want to travel somewhere, for example, we talk with others, or do research online.  Others we’ve talked to were very likely marketed to, and virtually all of our research online is angled in a way to market or appeal to the consumer.  The internet has near unlimited information, but also near unlimited marketing.  Why? Because information is available for free, and the incentive to provide the information is often driven by the revenue that can be generated from advertising.

Take Google for example.  It’s search engine allows anyone with internet the ability to search the web for almost anything and get the answer within seconds.  It allows to us to discover things, learn things, lookup things. It’s an incredibly powerful piece of technology.  But how is it possible for such a technology to exist? Advertising.  The search engine is free, but the advertising pays for the technology to continually be improved.  Without advertising, Google as we know it wouldn’t exist.

I recently read that Facebook and Google make up 50% of internet traffic – meaning that 50% of all of the people browsing the internet are on Facebook or Google.

Facebook, another incredibly powerful piece of technology, is also free.  No one pays money to use Facebook.  But how are they able to grow, improve their service, make Facebook more useful and better at connecting the world? Advertising, which last quarter they generated $8.8 billion, which is roughly $100 million a day they are making in revenue.  This will enable Facebook to continue to do amazing things – without advertising, Facebook wouldn’t exist.

The point here is that discovery in the modern world is wrapped up entirely in marketing.  The perfect advertisement is an advertisement that you don’t know is an advertisement because it is shown at the right place, at the right time, to the right person.  Facebook and Google are both getting incredibly good at this.  Again, it influences what we buy, when we buy, where we go, and who we go with.  This is drastically a different way of discovery than has ever existed in human history.

A large store like Target, for example, can recognize with great accuracy where someone is at in life simply on their buying behavior and spending habits. In “The Power of Habit”, Charles Duhigg tells a story about how Target was sending coupons to a shopper for baby food, pregnant mother clothes, etc.  The dad of the shopper went to the manager of local Target telling them to stop, only to find out a few weeks later that his daughter was pregnant.  Target recognized that the woman was pregnant before her father knew, simply by recognizing patterns in her buying habits.  This sort of pattern recognition is being used by countless companies to market to you more effectively, and it is changing what you discover.

Capturing Attention and Pricing

The internet is a worldwide market. Businesses compete in a similar manner as they did 30 years ago, but with a big difference.  Your competition, and also your market, is now the entire world.  What this has done is remove the locality benefits that many businesses have – if you’re the only book store in town, everyday has to shop at your store if they want to buy a book.  On the internet, this isn’t the case.  People will buy when they’ve discovered what they want – whether that be through advertising, a friends recommendation, or just browsing the internet and searching for products (which was likely influenced by advertising without even knowing it).  Because we now live in the age of attention, we’re being marketed to far more than we know, and it influences a great deal of our lives.

In Seth Godin’s book “The Purple Cow”, Godin argues that the only way for businesses and products to thrive in todays world of abundance is to create something remarkable, something unique, something that stands out amongst the rest.  He calls this the Purple Cow.  Businesses that succeed can’t blend into the rest or compete with the rest as the same business, they have to be remarkable, because remarkable businesses spread. Things used to be scare, now things are abundant, including businesses.

Imagine a street and at the beginning of the street is a gourmet burger shop selling high quality cheeseburgers – we’ll call this burger shop A.  Down the street a few hundred meters is also a gourmet burger shop selling high quality chesseburgers, call this shop B.  Shop B sells the same burgers for half the price.

However, shop A sells 10 times more burgers than shop B everyday, even though they are double the price.  Why? Because shop A is at the beginning of the street and shop B is not.  Shop A captures more attention, and therefore sells more, even though they are twice as a expensive for the same item!

The example demonstrates effectively all business on the internet.  Countless businesses in every industry compete for attention.  It’s not about being the cheapest, having the best service, or having the best website – it’s about getting people to find you and capture their attention.  Yes, having the best service, website, and prices help in that those get attention, but without capturing attention in the first place and getting people to visit your online business, none of it matters.

In modern day, countless horrible products/services can thrive because they market well and great products/services can fail because they can’t market.  The pendulum swings based off the marketing – how well can you capture attention.  In an economy driven by money, capturing attention is now the incentive for virtually any business online – how can we capture more peoples attention and get them to spend more time on our site, our product, and our service.

It’s not about the cheapest, highest quality product, necessarily.  It’s about capturing attention!


The reason this is all important to think about is that this plays out in everyday life.  The average Americans sees between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day (Source).  The average Facebook user you ask says they never click on ads, yet Facebook generated $8.8 billion in revenue last quarter so there is actually a good chance you have.  In fact, the best ads are ones you don’t even know are advertisements.

Think about an ideal world: advertisements would be perfectly relevant at exactly the right time, meaning what you see would be exactly what you want.  This is the way online advertising is trending.  In the past you’d see advertisements completed unrelated to you, but now, with Facebook leading the way, advertisers have sophisticated ways displaying products and services directly to the audience that is most interested, without wasting money showing them to people who aren’t.  The result? Consumers are happier because they find more things that they want, advertisers are happy because their budgets return a positive ROI, and businesses are happy because they get targeted consumers.  It’s really a win-win situation.  To some it’s scary – “how does Facebook know I want that?”, or “I was just visiting ebay.com looking for a necklace, and now I’m on pets.com see ads about necklaces, what?!”.  Welcome to the new age of advertising, big data, and the internet.  It’s truly changing how we discover, and what we discover.  It’s a new age of discovery.

Guide to a 10 Day Water Fast & My Fast Experience

You can read about my previous 5 day water fast experience here.

Only drinking water with no food at all for 10 days sounds crazy at first thought.  I thought the same.  However, upon further research and experimentation, I found that it is incredibly beneficial both physically and mentally.  Let’s get a few common questions out of the way to start.

What is a water fast?
A water fast is where you don’t eat and only drink water for a set period of time.  Most humans can survive 40+ days without food, and virtually everyone can go two weeks without food with no problems.

Why do a waster fast?
Water fasting has many great health benefits (see ‘Benefits’ below).  In short, it improves the respiration of your cells which makes them function more effectively, it greatly strengthens your immune system, removes toxins from you body (detox), starves potential cancerous cells, shown to increase longevity and helps repair chronic injuries as well as gut issues. There are few downsides other than the discomfort you have at first and the short time spent not enjoying food.  An extended fast can greatly improve the quality of your life and improve how your body functions, as well as change your outlook on food in general.

Will I lose muscle?
A little bit, depending on how you fast.  Most muscle loss happens within the first 3-4 days of the water fast.  Once in ketosis (where your body produces ketones for energy rather than glucose (blood sugar)), your body goes into protein sparing mode and you lose very minimal muscle.

How much weight will I lose?
While I wouldn’t recommend fasting to lose weight, you will lose a fair bit.  During my 5 day fast, I lost 5kg (11 lbs) in 5 days.  During my 10 day fast, I lost nearly 6kg (13.2 lbs), most in the first 5 days.  The vast majority is water weight which will be gained back within 1-4 weeks after the fast, assuming you eat the same diet as you did before the fast.  Fasting is a great way to reset your diet if you plan to make bigger changes in your life, and the weight can stay off.

Why not juice fast instead?
Juice fasting has benefits as well, though I’m not experienced with it.  The goal of water fasting for me is to reach ketosis as quickly as possible and stay there (where you get the benefits mentioned below).  Because juice is more often than not just sugar water (all the fiber from the fruit/veggie is removed), you likely don’t hit ketosis, and if you do, it wouldn’t be as deep.  Juice fasting and water fasting are entirely different.  This post is entirely about water-only fasting.

What is ketosis?
When you normally eat, what you eat is converted into glucose which goes into your blood and provides energy to your body (brain, muscles, etc.).  When you don’t eat, you utilize most of the remaining glucose in your body, and then your body begins to metabolize fatty acids in the liver to produce ketones.  Ketones are an alternative form of energy you use when fasting which the body uses very efficiently – the brain loves them, the cells love them, and the heart loves them – they actual prefer them (fatty acids are the hearts main resource for energy).  When your body is primarily using ketones for energy, you’re in a state of ketosis.

Will I be productive when I fast?
During a 10 day fast, at least the first 5 days you won’t feel like doing much, so it’s best to keep that time to rest/relax.  After day 5 you’ll still feel physically weak and have low blood pressure (can’t stand up too fast), but you’ll likely be quite motivated to work, read, learn, or otherwise do things (when in ketosis, you’ll mentally feel really good and clear-headed).  You’ll have the energy to walk around and socialize.  If you can’t get 5+ days off to rest, start with a 3 day water fast over a weekend, or a 5 day fast starting on a Thursday and ending on a Monday.

Benefits of Water Fasting

There are many benefits.  So far studies and experiments are showing very positive signs, demonstrating that water fasting is an incredibly healthy thing to do.  I’ve listed a few of the benefits below:

  • Greatly strengthens your immune system by regenerating new, healthy white blood cells (Source).
  • Reduces risk for heart disease by reducing triglycerides and increasing HDL levels.
  • Improves cardiovascular health – lowers blood pressure, improves heart function.
  • Cellular repair – when we’re sick, why do we lose appetite? Because our body wants to spend energy repairing itself, not digesting food.  When in ketosis, the respiration of our cells (how they utilize oxygen) improve, allowing them to function properly. (Source)
  • Reduces cancer risk (Source)
  • Increases longevity – caloric restriction likely increases your life expectancy (Source, SourceSource)
  • Reduces inflammation (high inflammation can cause heart disease, cancer, arthritis ) (Source)
  • Increases cognitive clarity – the brain loves ketones and you think clearly while in ketosis. (Source)
  • Helps heal insulin resistance (80+ million Americans have it) – See lecture here.

Tips When Water Fasting

Educate yourself about the benefits and side-effects of fasting beforehand so you know what to expect and are convinced that what you’re doing is a good thing.  The fast will likely be mentally challenging.

  • Drink lots of water, the highest quality you can.  Water with natural minerals in it is a bonus.
  • Pinch a bit of salt into your water to replenish sodium that is rinsed out when fasting.
  • Get an hour of sun exposure each day during your fast.  It speeds up your metabolism and relaxes your mind, getting you out of the house.
  • Eat the ketogenic diet for at least 5 days prior to fasting to help ease the transition to ketosis (the body transition from glucose to ketones for energy can feel like the flu).
  • Have black coffee (no sugar or calories) on day 1 if you want to help curb your appetite, though keep it limited.
  • If you can, do it with a friend – hold each other accountable and chat about your experience.
  • Measure your ketone levels – it gives you motivation to keep going.
  • Expect it to be hard, but know it’s a mental game!

Common Kinds of Fasting:

  • Intermittent fasting – restrict your daily eating window to an 8 hour period (ie. from noon-8pm).
  • 24 hour fast – don’t eat for 24 hours (ie. eat dinner, and don’t eat again until dinner the next day).  You can do this anywhere from once a month to twice a week.
  • Alternate-Day Fast – Don’t eat (or severely restrict your calories) every second day. On eating days, eat as much as you want.
  • 3 day water fast – Don’t eat for 72 hours.
  • 5 day water fast – Challenging both mentally and physically.  Because it takes roughly 72 hours to reach ketosis, you’ll be in ketosis for approximately 48 hours.
  • 7 – 10 day+ water fast – The longer the fast, typically the more benefits.  However, there is a tradeoff as it isn’t a very enjoyable experience.  During my 10 day fast, I reached ketosis during day 1 because I did the ketogenic diet prior.

My Experience

I’ve done intermittent fasting for years now as a way to restrict my feeding window, and it has many benefits itself.  I’ve also done many 24 hour fasts throughout the last several years, which are quite easy for me now (the more you fast, the easier it becomes).

About 1.5 years ago I did a 5 day water fast – you can see my report here which has some useful information on fasting.  During my 10 day water fast, I decided to do a few things differently.  Because of the difficulty in transitioning from glucose to ketones for energy during the previous fast, I decided this time around I would eat the ketogenic diet prior.  The ketogenic diet is basically where you get your energy from mostly fats, with some protein and little or no carbohydrates.  This is because fat doesn’t break down into glucose, it is metabolized in the liver into ketones.  This diet has shown to have lots of useful benefits, but my reason for doing it was to get into or close to ketosis prior to starting my water fast.

For 7 days, I ate almost entirely fat and protein. I started the water fast the following day, already 3.9mmol/L into ketosis, and 36 hours in was already at 8mmol/L, a deep level of ketosis where you’re body is producing a lot of ketones which are in the blood for energy, and is the therapeutic range of ketosis (listen to this podcast episode).  Comparing this to my 5 day water fast, I probably didn’t reach this level of ketosis until day 4, which means I spent roughly 48 hours in this range, while on the 10 day I spent roughly 9 days in it.  In fact, during my 10 day fast I was often at the 10mmol/L range, which is even better (more ketones in the blood).

In short, ketones are incredibly energy efficient, and improve the respiration of the cells.  This means your cells work more effectively in how they use energy.  The longer you’re in ketosis, the longer your body has to improve and detox itself.  If you want to read more on the in depth science of it, please watch this lecture.

The other difference in my 10 day fast was that I took BCAAs (branch-chain amino acids) during the first 24 hours to reduce muscle loss, as well as did some pushups to keep the muscles active (and had 1 coffee with a tablespoon of coconut oil).  Each day during the 10 days I did a small amount of stretching and reaching my hands in the air which fatigued my arms, chest, and back a bit, telling the body that I’m using these muscles.  It seemed to help, though it’s hard to measure with water weight loss.

The last differences where that I got ketone strips to actually measure ketone levels in the blood throughout the fast, and spent roughly 1 hour in the midday sun during 8 of the 10 days of the fast.  Sun exposure helps speed up your metabolism, and when in ketosis, this helps increase the number of ketones in the blood, which was my goal in that it is where the real health benefits happen.

Note: After my last 5 day water fast I didn’t get a cold or any sickness for over a year (I used to get sick every month or two before I fasted).  I suspect the 10 day fast will greatly strengthen my immune system as well.

Sleep: During my 10 day water fast, I had trouble getting to sleep often but once asleep I slept well.  I don’t recall dreaming once.  I also seemed to need less sleep – woke up with energy on 6-7 hours of sleep most nights.  This makes sense as my mind and body are telling me to search for food.

I kept a short diary of my fast, which you can find below.

0-24 hours (Day 1)
Weight start: 77kg (started 7:20pm on Sun, Jan, 29th, 2017).
I started at 7:20pm after my last dinner, which was grilled chicken and grilled pork (ketogenic diet).  I slept around 10pm, and woke around 7:30am as usual (9.5 hours).  This day was easy.  Since I do a 24 hour fast quite often, this was normal.  I did a 20 minute run and lifted some weights, then spent an hour in the sun.  Normal day. Had BCAAs and a bit of coconut oil to help with the transition to ketosis.  Also had coffee in the afternoon.

First night slept fine, as expected, considering that I had my last meal just a few hours before.

24-48 hours (Day 2)
About 20 hours in I was 3.9 mmol/L as measured via the ketone strips. 36 hours in, first thing when I woke up, was 8mmol/L.  I didn’t sleep super well the second night.  I had coffee around 4pm and I’m not sure if that contributed, or maybe it was just due to the fast. I napped this day by the pool and felt a bit better.  I felt a bit weak, but otherwise fine.

Started adding salt to water to help replenish sodium. When fasting, your body stops producing insulin (because your blood sugar stays low) and causes body to release sodium.  Hence why water weight loss is dropped rapidly at the beginning of a fast.  During my 5 day fast I didn’t supplement with salt and I suspect this caused muscle pains and headaches which were uncomfortable (I didn’t experience these at all really during my 10 day fast). Adequate sodium is really important – low sodium causes headaches, dizziness, muscle aches, etc.
Weight: 76kg (-1kg)

48-72 hours (Day 3)

Sat around watching Youtube lectures.  Feeling physically weak, but mentally okay.  Can’t stop thinking about food even though I’m not hungry – a bit annoying as it distracts me from doing all the mental tasks I want to work on – writing, practicing memory, watching lectures, taking notes, etc.
Weight: 74kg (-3kg)

Day 4
Had a hard time sleeping.  Took 1-2 hours to actually get to sleep, then woke up in the middle of the night to pee.  Have to get up slowly as my blood pressure is low. Napped mid day. Felt a bit hungry, and physically quite weak though mentally fine.
73kg (-4kg)

Day 5
Slept in until 11am, slept a good 12 hours.  Took me about 30 minutes to fall asleep but slept well. First time the entire fast I slept more than average (normal is 9 hrs). Yesterday and today have have had slight hunger pains but otherwise feel well. The last 5 days seemed very long and not looking forward to the next 5, though confident I will make it.  Urine is often yellow, drinking 3-4 liters of water per day with a pinch or two of salt into each 1.5L bottle.
Weight: 72kg (-5kg)

Day 6
My girlfriend was home so it was much easier to pass time rather than being alone. We drove around as she wanted to eat at a seafood place. Watching her eat and smelling the food was quite enjoyable. At 10mmol/L ketosis, where I’ve been for 2 days now. Had some hunger pains for a few minutes at a time throughout the day. Mentally fine, but physically weak still – have to walk slow. If I stand up too fast I’ll feel like passing out, otherwise I feel normal, especially if I’m sitting or staying still.
Weight: 72kg (-5kg)

Day 7
Slept bad this night. Took 2+ hrs to fall asleep as all I could think about was good food, especially the perogies from Poland – spinach filled with blue cheese sauce. Literally got up, went out to the couch and looked at food pictures.  Sounds like torture but it was on my mind.  Woke after 8 hours of sleep or so, still around 72kg. 10 days seems like forever. Time passes slow when you’re in it, in part because you’re always reminded of being in it, and counting the days.  I’m almost done with day 7, but I really have 3 full days left since 8, 9, and 10 are left.

Day 8
Slept decently well, took about an hour to get to sleep and slept around 7.5 hrs. Felt basically the same as yesterday, weight roughly the same (hard to say exactly with water consumption and urination), but right around 72kg. Got 1 hr of sun.

Day 9
Again took an hour or 2 to fall asleep, up at 8am. Urine dark. Have lots of motivation and feel generally better.
Weight: 71kg (-6kg)

Day 10
Slept early for the first time – around 9:30pm, and woke early, at 6am, about 1.5 hrs earlier than normal.  Overall felt like while fasting you need less sleep.
Weight: 71kg (-6kg)

I broke the fast at 7:20pm on February 8th with some fresh fruit – papaya, pear, and melon.  Also had 2 glasses of diluted juice.

Post-Fast Summary

Breaking the fast correctly is incredibly important both for your mental and physical health, but also for the process of detoxing.  The days while you begin re-feeding is when your body again begins to produce bacteria in your gut, enzymes in your stomach, regenerates white blood cells, etc.  Because your metabolism will be slowed, it is important to eat specific foods for the first several days to a week.  This should include easy to digest, high nutrient dishes like fresh fruit (watermelon is excellent), steamed/blended vegetables, yoghurt without sugar, avocado, etc.  Avoid processed food and refined sugar, and ensure you eat very healthy – it will pay off in the long run, even if you’re craving a strawberry donut.

Expect diarrhea within the first 12 hours of re-feeding.  I didn’t shit for 11 days while water fasting.  When you began to re-feed, your body is still in the process of cleansing itself.  Whatever you eat (fruit is mostly water), it goes right through your body.  Within 24-36 hours your bowels should return back to normal, meaning you should have a bowel movement at least once a day.

It has been about 3 weeks since I finished the fast as I write this.  I’ve gained back all of the lost weight, have eased my way back into running and lifting weights, and I feel great.  The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve been sleeping 1.5-2 hours less each night, and waking up feeling refreshed.  I’ve slept 8-9+ hours per night average since I’ve graduated from university, and this is the first time in my life I’ve been comfortable with less than 8 hours.  I’m curious to see how long this will last, but it has been a pleasant surprise.  Mentally I’ve felt motivated, physically I feel great, and all food tastes amazing.  You look at food in an entirely different way and have a lot more appreciation for all the amazing food in the world.

A few notes and things learned…

Below are a few notes from various podcasts, lectures, and blogs I’ve read over the last few weeks:

  • The heart and brain prefer beta hydroxybutyrate (ketones) over glucose.
  • Women have a harder time fasting – emotional response? How they metabolize fatty acids? Not sure. They hit ketosis quicker than men when fasting (less muscle to store glucose).
  • Sun exposure helps metabolism, helps raise ketone levels as a result. Yet another benefit to getting in the sun.
  • Even a 1 mmol/L increase in ketones results in 10% increase in energy to the brain.
  • It takes time for the body to get used to using ketones – permeability of ketones to cell membrane. Hence staying in ketosis longer leads to high effectiveness.
  • When we fast, the brain gets clear to help us find food. Evolutionary, this makes sense – preserve energy (feel weak), but mind is clear – enables us to stop and think about best way to find food.
  • Highly recommended to supplement at least 4-5g of sodium a day when fasting, as insulin drop causes body to release sodium. I didn’t do this on previous fasts, doing it now by pinching salt into my water (also makes it taste smoother).
  • Magnesium supplementation during a fast is also recommended. Taking magnesium right before bed is good – calms you down before sleep and leads to better sleep.
  • Nicotine gum helps hide acetone in breath, and also helps focus if writing/working on stuff.
  • If testing ketones, test mid-afternoon for ketones (3/4pm), and test same time everyday for consistency (mornings can be different as body regulates itself).
  • Fascinating to think of this whole other energy system that exists that most people never tap into.
  • Can fasting help improve vision? Helps heal myopia? Something to think about.
  • Mitochondria (powerhouse of the cell) – uses fuel like glucose and fats to use oxygen to convert to cellular energy to ATP.
  • The transition period from glucose to ketones is the hardest part. When you’re transitioning to fasting, it’s normal to feel lethargic or find yourself becoming angry more easily. Fight through it at the beginning, and you’ll find your body has adjusted and your energy levels and emotions will rebound.

That pretty much sums up water fasting as of 2017.  In the coming years I expect a lot more studies and data to backup the benefits of water fasting, and hopefully more people will do it regularly. There are a lot of links throughout the post above that are worth spending time looking into.  A few of the lectures and podcasts are 1-2 hours, but well worth your time.  If you want to learn more, I’ve included a few resources below.

Thanks for reading, and all the best on your fasting endeavors!

Other Useful Links:

The Health Benefits of Water Fasting

Each Organ Has a Unique Metabolic Profile

Dom D’Agostino on Ketosis, Fasting, and the End of Cancer

10 Day Water Fast

Ketogenic Diet Resource

Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Quantified Body 10 Day Water Fast Results

Your Brain on Ketones

The Fat-Fueled Brain

Ketosis and Your Brain Podcast

Why Fast? Brain Health

Ketosis: Advantage or Misunderstood State?

Ketosis: Metabolic Flexibility in Action

 

Beyond Our Default State

Our default state is the state which we default to subconsciously.  It’s what we do with our instinct, if we aren’t aware of what’s actually going on.  It influences the majority of the actions, decisions, movements, and thoughts in our lives.

Our default state is explained by how we’ve evolved, what we’ve evolved to, and the reasons we evolved to those states.  For example, we’ve evolved to be social creatures, utilizing family and social connections to build relationships, which help us grow and raise a family together.  Studies show that relationships play a key role in how we live our lives, and how satisfied we are with them. As a result, relationships hold a lot of emotions within them (love, lust, trust, etc.).

Default states can often be found by looking at societies or populations of people and seeing how they behave.  As a whole, different actions and decisions will describe default states.  Psychology is such a study.  When we’re making moment to moment decisions and actions, the vast majority happen subconsciously, resorting to our default state to make such decisions.  This is why building good habits and removing bad ones is so important.

The only way to influence our default state is to be aware of it.  For example, if our default state is the path of least resistance, consciously knowing that we will default to that state will enable us to then go beyond the path of least resistance and perhaps take a path that is more difficult, but more beneficial to our lives.  Without being aware of our default state, we don’t change it, and will stay in the default.  This is why it is called the default state.

Beyond Our Default State

Going beyond our default state happens whenever we consciously think about why or how we’re doing something, and then change our behavior.  For example, if we decide to pass up a chocolate bar even when our minds crave it, we’re overriding our instinct with our conscious thoughts, which then changes our actions – instead of eating the chocolate, we don’t eat it or eat something else.

Because our actions always go to the default state unless overridden by our conscious mind, going beyond our default state to understand more about our actions can help us prevent harm and help us produce things in life that make us happier, more satisfied, healthier, more useful people.

Our instinctual default state isn’t meant to make us happy, it simply tells us how we’ve evolved.  But since we’re now in a world which is significantly different than our evolved brain and body, it’s important to question more about our default state, our instinct, and our subconscious – and go beyond our default state.  By doing so, we can become conscious of many of the actions which are potentially not helping us, but otherwise may be hurting us and those around us.

Why is it important to be aware of our default states?

For one, it makes us more aware and mindful of what we’re doing.  Because actions in our lives are made up mostly of things we do without thinking about it , being aware of it makes us more mindful of what we’re doing.  Secondly, the default state isn’t necessarily a good state for us to be in – in fact more often then not it may not be.  For example, our instincts tell us to binge on sugar and watch TV.  As we’ve evolved, sugar was often limited to when we came across a fruit tree, and because of its scarcity whenever we came across a fruit tree, we’d binge.  Our default state is to binge on sugar – it create a craving/reward mechanism in our brain which is by definition addictive.

Fast forward to modern day, and our instincts are still the same, but our environment is completely different – sugar is abundant everywhere.  If we simply follow our default state, we’ll die a young death from over-consuming sugar, which is actually what most of the world is trending towards (obesity rates are increasing across the world mostly due to overconsumption – following our default state).  By questioning whether we should eat too much sugar, we’re going beyond our default state and becoming conscious of what we’re doing, which allows us to become healthier.  Our instincts don’t tell us what’s good for us, our instinct simply tells us our default state. This is why it is so incredibly important to go beyond our default state as often as possible – to better understand ourselves, our actions, and our decisions. Without doing so, we’re at the mercy of our instincts.

Whenever we follow our curiosity, we are going beyond our default state and attempting to understand more about a subject, using the resources available to us to enlighten us on a subject.

Whenever we decide to consciously exercise, we are going beyond our default state to become healthier, recognizing that our default state will lead us to sit on the couch or in an office.

Whenever we read a book, we’re going beyond our default state to learn, be entertained, become more creative.

The default state of humans can be summarized by how we’ve evolved, here are a few examples:
Health – We’ve evolved to be physically active, using our bodies for the purpose of survival – hunting, building, moving, etc. Our diets were restricted to what we could find in nature due to scarcity.  Most people were physically active by default, and therefore were mentally so. Today, with abundance of everything (including food), this is not the case.  We must go beyond on our default state to overcome it.
Happiness – While difficult to measure, modern day is full of “what makes us happy?” questions, and in part this is due to the unique world we’re living in – potentially causing more unhappiness than people had in the past. Asking these questions goes beyond our default state where we may not be satisfied, fulfilled, and happy with our lives.  By studying happiness, we can begin to understand the science of what makes people happy and satisfied with their lives, which we can then use to apply to our own.  After all, we’re all human.
Wealth –  Because money is an object which dictates our freedom and how we can spend our time, people can go beyond the default state to strategize how to best manage time to create wealth.  This, in my mind, is what entrepreneurship is – consciously recognizing that wealth is a barrier in life and figuring out how to best overcome it without sacrificing your life doing so.
Spirituality – The vast majority of people who believe in an organized religion learn it from their family, primarily their parents. Our default state is to believe what our parents say, because that is how we’ve evolved.  By overcoming our default state of belief, we can follow our curiosity and discover the other potential belief systems that influence how we view the world and therefore how we live our lives.

Going beyond the default state is about becoming aware of the actions we take and decisions we make, and correcting them to better fit the life we want to live, not solely relying on instinct to do such.

Inspiration for writing this came from the realization that I’m always trying to question my actions, which is really me questioning my default state.  Being curious about why things happen and how they happen led me to realize that this “default state” is often the wrong the state to be in.  We live in a world that evolution hasn’t caught up, so it’s ever more important to become conscious of our actions such that our instinct don’t lead us down the the wrong path.