Having just finished school, I am planning on taking a gap year before enrolling in university. Recently, I have discovered that I am completely not satisfied with my life and my personality. Therefore I am looking for some activity that would provide me with opportunity for above mentioned change.
To explain it in detail:
I am looking for example for something like a Kung-Fu training camp or a stay in a buddhist monastery, things that are challenging and will force me to the edge of my capabilities, physically and mentally speaking.
However, I fear that especially the Kung-Fu camps in China are way too much for someone unexperienced in Kung-Fu, so I would like to know if anyone here has any other activites that would last from 3-12 months, which will let me get out of my comfort zone.
I am aware that this sounds like the cliche naive Westerner who has watched too many movies and is primarily looking for something cool to tell his friends. This is no coincidence because I am a naive westerner, however I feel the need to change. So again any response will be greatly appreicated.
First things first, the obvious. Change needs to come from within rather than thinking you can depend on an external situation forcing change.
I find it interesting with your screen name of "darkmind" and seeking extremes such as either martial arts of buddhist monastery.
You can easily find martial arts camps all throughout the United States, you don't have to go through the expense of traveling 1/2 way across the world to find qualified instructors.
Additionally, being able to spend so much time in a country such as China, due to it's Visa policies is / may not be possible.
If what you are looking for is a "reality check" and a different perspective on life, you may look into volunteer work throughout SE Asia.
I mention SE Asia as it is very affordable by Western standards and your money will go further.
There you can learn about religion, learn about the different cultures and gain appreciation and new found respect for that which you have.
While there, commit yourself by living by their rules, eating their food, traveling, sleeping, immersing yourself with the locals rather than living it up like a tourist. The operative word here is COMMIT.
Your personal comfort level as to what you can tolerate before calling it quit will dictate just how ready you truly are for change.
Go with the intention of learning rather than forcing change. Change will come in due time with age and experience.
Kyokoshin karate might be an option in Japan but I only know one who have done this 1000 days school and he had special recommendations from our Sensei in Copenhagen and was very talented.
Thank you for your suggestion Homer,
I have to disagree with you on your first point. I think that under different circumstances a person reacts and lives differently. I am looking for martial arts because I hope to achieve a real high level of self discipline and inner piece (buddhist monastery), which I am lacking a bit today.
I know it sounds stupid, but I am afraid that a volunteer program is not cutting it for me. Although it certainly brings along some form of change of perspective,
I feel that it is not drastic enough for me, as I am looking for going to the edge. The other reason is that I am quite sceptical about volunteer programs, since despite good intentions from people participating the volunteers are unskilled workforce of which there is really enough in underdeveloped countries. Of course that is no definitive judgement about this.
A course in the United States is also not really an option beacause a)
again I feel that I need a more drastic change than the relative comfort of the States
b) I live in Germany so the USA would actually also be 1/2 of the world ;)
Ah, ok, didn't realize that you lived in Germany. I assumed (my mistake) that you were here in the USofA.
Sorry about that.
Yes, I agree that martial arts does indeed teach discipline and have several friends that swear by it.
I know dealing with High School kids that many are in your situation.
Skepticism is also part of it, easily disguised as cynicism.
I of course respect your wish for martial arts training and now that you're making it clear that that is indeed what you have your mind set on I think you should indeed go for it.
One thing about volunteering and being skeptical about it....everything in life is about what you put into it.
It's easy to be skeptical based on others motives or actions.
I learned a good lesson long ago - I try to give money, even if small change such as a quarter, on a daily basis. I will sometimes complete someone's change in the grocery line, pre-pay a toll anonymously for someone behind me in line (no longer able to do since we changed to the automated toll system) or give to a homeless or beggar on the street corner who walks up to my car begging for change.
I've been criticized being told that I may have contributed to that person's drug or alcohol habit.
I say that I don't care, it's not the intention with which I gave it. Ditto for volunteering.
It's a GREAT way to learn about different cultures, different religions and our fellow man. Don't discount it for future.
Spent a year and a half in Calcutta, India, working with the destitude and dying. Came back a different person indeed - so yes - change can come from external situation. Or perhaps it is the reflection within as you try and live through the experience. Just my two cents.
I think some sort of volunteer program in a 3rd world country may help. Not a couple of weeks or a month where you would just come back and tell your friend how dodgy the toilets were, probably 6-12 months. If you spend enough time with people who have almost nothing 1) you will get a profound sense of self worth from really helping others that many westerners just dont have, 2) it will change your perspective working with people who have to work so hard for every thing even though their goals and dreams are small compared to yours. When you lack the motivation to get out of bed in time to make it to class and they get up a 4am to walk 2 hours to a manual labour job to make enough money so that their child learn to read.
Written on a page - it is easy for you to say yes I understand all those things, but to spend 12 moths living it and to come back with real appreciation for what you have and a willingness to work toward what you want in life is real internal change that you are looking for.
Perhaps you want to try Muaythai (thai boxing)in Thailand.
Please refer :
I have no knowledge about martial arts training camps in China, so I can't help you there. However, I did want to address your statement that "despite good intentions from people participating the volunteers are unskilled workforce of which there is really enough in underdeveloped countries."
That's not necessarily true. Habitat for Humanity has international programs where volunteers use their skills in marketing, grant writing, advocacy, water purification,and project management. You can read some of their stories at habitat.org/ivp/spotlight/de...
As a 5'2" volunteer who shoveled foul-smelling muck from flooded houses in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, I can tell you it was an intense experience that took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to the edge of my physical and mental capabilities. It was not clean or beautiful or disciplined, but it was life-changing. You can see some photos on my travelogue: "Digging Out After Hurricane Katrina" - New Orleans Travelogue by Rixie
I'll disagree that the U.S. is out because of "relative safety." As Rixie stated, cleaning up after Katrina was no walk in the park, and that disaster was in the United States. And whatever you do, you'll probably go back to living in "relative safety" unless you choose differently so location is a moot point.
You might look at this VT member and what he did to push his boundaries
"To Catch A Rainbow" - travelinxs's Profile
Read about his entire trip from start to finish. It's not an odyssey for the novice but you get the idea.
I might also recommend Outward Bound Wilderness Programs as I have a friend who was a group leader in one of these:
No, they're not cheap so as a backup, I'd really look at volunteer programs in a challenging country if you REALLY want to get out of your comfort zone.
Have you ever considered walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain? This is a long walk right across the top of Spain which most popularly begins in St Jean Pied de Port at the foot of the Pyrenees on the French side. From there it is a walk of approx 780 - 800 kms through all sorts of terrain and all weathers. Most people take about 30-35 days to do it, but there are no records to be broken, you can take as long or as little time as you like. Accommodation is in very economical refuges each night. Those who have walked the Camino will often say that it was the most life changing experience they have ever known. There are many many websites which will fill you in on the details so just Google Camino de Santiago de Compostela and take it from there.
In centuries gone by pilgrims would walk out of their front doors all over Europe and walk to Santiago de Compostela. I have seen monuments to the pilgrims in many places in Germany. Speyer and Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber spring to mind. So if you have a year to spare maybe you could walk out of your front door in Germany and walk to Santiago. What an adventure that would be! Just my thoughts, I have no idea if this is the kind of thing that would suit you, but good luck for whatever you decide to do.
A gap year can be very appealing. You have been studying for years and anticipate soon enrolling in a university to continue studies, so you want to do something different at least for awhile. You say that you are not satisfied with your life or your personality, but you have not specified what it is that dissatisfies you. This is really where you have to start. And, in fact, unless you share this understanding, no one can judge whether or not a Kung-Fu camp or a stay in a Buddhist monastery makes any sense. Nor can we confidently recommend alternatives.
If allowed to speculate, I would suggest that any course of study whether physical or mental, religious or philosophical would be too much like the schooling you have just finished or will be resuming in a year, to change your life or personality. Your life has been as a student. Perhaps, it is time for you to try very hard to do something real and of value to more than just yourself, that will force you to the edge of your capabilities. As long as you make a concerted full effort, whether you succeed or fail, you will be changed.
Frstly, your question is not niaive at all and you have obvioisly identified that you need some form of stimulus / change in your life.
I know a minimal amount about either martial arts or religious retreats so I would hesitate to offer suggestions about those. I would, however, come back to your statement, "things that are challenging and will force me to the edge of my capabilities, physically and mentally speaking."
Do you actually need a religious or martial arts input to do this? I would offer this as a suggestion first of all. Go to the page of VT member travelinxs (aka Chris) and read his external blog which is wonderful. The guy cycled from the UK to New Zealand and reading his stuff, he was indeed pushed right to his limits many many times and even beyond now and again.
Why not pick a place you would really like to visit, possibly starting at home or maybe in a completely foreign place, then set yourself a challenge? I am just picking ideas out of the air here but say you will cycle from Mexico City to Buenos Aries, say you will walk the entire length of some of the many long-distance trails in Europe, say you will circumnavigate the globe without using an aeroplane. Then set to and do it. Believe me, you will be out of your comfort zone. I don't think that you specifically need to be in one "institution" to do that.
Solo long-distance independent travel may be just what you are looking for. That way you are primarily relying on yourself and the kindness of strangers reather than the more regimented existence of the two options you have mentioned where things are decided for you.
Hope this assists,
1. Congratulations on re-discovering yourself and wanting to do something for yourself. This realisation itself is half the battle.
2. Any activity that is outdoors and 'back to the basics' is for the good of the mind, body and soul. Activities like camping, rock climbing, trekking, back packing, are all excellent choices as they make you self-reliant, confident and resilent.
3. Any form of martial arts normally take years to master. You may enroll and continue learning throughout your life. As an example, a novice in karate wears a white belt. S(he) progresses to brown and other colours till s(he) reaches black belt 1 Dan, thence to 10 Dan. At the very end, when s(he) is a true master of karate, sometimes after 25/30 years, s(he) wears a white belt!
4. Something similar may be said for training in a monastery. It takes a long time.
5. If you have not heard of Pelmanism, google it. Take up one, just one activity and become a master of it. Peace, prosperity, success will follow.
6. All the very best!
Fergy, you and I were on the same wavelength - it was the link to Chris' page I had provided in my earlier response. :)
Sory Kate, I didn't check the link and I should have done. I still find that a most inspirational piece of writing.
No problem - just thought it was interesting that our minds moved in the same direction. :O) Yep, I'm with you on the solo journey option for pushing limits and/or finding one's self - assuming , of course, you've misplaced that self to begin with. :)
I'm a big fan of getting out of comfort zones, but as mentioned earlier, a change in external circumstances doesn't necessarily lead to internal change - that part is up to you.
I agree with Fergy about setting yourself a challenge. Another way to approach the same idea might be to choose some activities that excite you, or that you've always wanted to try, or that scare you. Then find the absolute best places to try those activites, and figure out the points between.
It is not about the technical skills of the martial art itself, it is about the benefits for body and mind (especially). So it would be no biggie if I end up not a master of kung fu.
I have googled pelmanism, however I only found advertisements and a very small wikipedia article, but no experiences or reviews, not even someone explaining what makes pelmanism different than other self help stuff Did you learn this?
Muay Thai was indeed an opportunity. However it seems to me that a) it would not be that hard as kung fu b) there is no spiritual aspect to it and perhaps more importantly c) it is more expensive than Kung Fu.
Thanks marymelda, this is certainly an interesting suggestion.
I understand that it is a Christian pilgrims' passage, and I ain't sure if this is exactly my cup of tea. However, I will certainly look into and consider it.
Well, this is something extraordinarily interesting, since I think that many Westerners are not really comfortable with the concept of death and secretely hope that they somehow will be able to live forever. This would probably entail that I would be fully aware of the frgility and limitedness of the human life, which would be probably liberating. Also I would do some good along the way.
Can you tell me where I can read about such an opportunity, that would be great.
I want to note that I don't consider a stay in a Buddhist monastery a religious input, I rather consider Buddhism to be a philosophy, excluding karma and such things which I don't adopt for myself. I just hope that through concentrated meditation and lack of comfort I can achieve a lasting piece of mind, untroubled by things which disturb me now.
It looks like I don't have any other choice than to read this bycycle guy's blog, hehe, but, and this is a very subjective and not much pondered view, I am afraid that "just" travelling will not cut it for me since it is often very interesting, changes the perspective and will be surely enlightening experience, but I do not feel that it challenges me every day to the limit. Travelling around the world will be an usually nice experience where you get to talk to lots of interesting people and learn lots of interesting stuff, but I am afraid nice is not what I am looking after, even if this sounds a bit masochist.
Above is a good starting point.
Darkmind, you have obviously not read Chris' account of his massive, 2-year journey. You are, I'm afraid, making judgement calls here without being fully informed.
This guy is a personal hero to many of us for an enormous undertaking of determination and love - which I won't explain as you must do the reading to discover the end of the story. I would also suggest doing some reading about the challenging journeys of others who set off to discover their deeper selves/higher purposes. Rory Stewart's "The places In Between" comes to mind: nothing at all nice or comfortable about his trek.
Keep in mind that you are talking to a community of passionate travelers here who, many of us, have discovered our better, larger selves through our backpacks, stout shoes and/or passports.
Have a busy work day, but instead have been reading Chris' journal. I'll have to work late into the night to catch up with the paying job, but what a treat!
Just wanted to say thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Happy that you enjoyed it, Rick. :O) What a trek, eh?
Does anyone get the idea that darkmind is not going to be happy with anything anyone on this forum suggests? I am starting to suspect that he might be having some fun with this. I certainly hope I am wrong and if so, I do apologise.
I just made the mistake of looking at the "worlds worst toilets" album in tavelINXSs page. I have just eaten lunch - the everest base camp takes the cake.
I guess it is possible to find enlightenment AND also come back with dodgy toilet stories for your friends.
Here's the link:
Something different: why not be a volunteer in Guédelon?