What sailing from New Zealand to Fiji taught me about health and wellbeing

How little-to-no sailing experience out on the open ocean helped me understand the true meaning of the health tips I tell my physiotherapy and wellness clients.

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Sailing to Fiji and lessons about wellness
What sailing to Fiji taught me about wellness

I love a good adventure, and when my boyfriend decided we should get a sailboat and sail from New Zealand to Fiji, I figured; Why not! At first, we guessed it may take around three months. I started researching the journey, and discovered it only takes 8-10 days!

I found it’s a very popular route and plenty of people do it each year. So! I did a few sailing lessons, and after four months preparing the boat, we left the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, and sailed to Savu Savu, Fiji. 

Moki, our boat, and the journey ahead

It may seem like an extreme adventure, but there were months of preparation behind it; the details of which aren’t very thrilling unless you love hearing about tying knots, drilling and cleaning things. What is interesting though, is what I’ve learned about health and wellbeing thanks to this exciting adventure.

1. Sometimes you just need to take a leap

Thanks to social media, the ‘comparison trend’ is everywhere, making too many of us feel like we’re not quite whole or able.

The feeling of needing to do more, or be more than we are stops so many of us from achieving exciting things.

This need to have ‘more’ of something is everywhere, people may want:

  • More patience before they have children
  • More money before they pursue their dream job
  • More activewear before they go to the gym

As a physiotherapist and wellness retreat host, I’ve heard every excuse to avoid rehab or activity, (including the one above about active wear!) We’re all guilty of making those little excuses without realizing they hold us back.

The feeling that we don’t have quite ENOUGH OF SOMETHING YET all comes down to confidence. It’s the little voice in our head saying ‘no, you can’t do it…not yet.’

Sure, sailing the Pacific Ocean can be dangerous, but there are plenty of tools to help mitigate the risks. After researching and purchasing every safety tool we needed, learning as much as I could and passing our safety inspection, I felt ready.

It was a huge leap to take for a crew of three (my boyfriend’s cousin joined) with only four sailing lessons between them, but I learned sometimes you’ve just got to give it a go. It was a great learning for me who loves every piece of information before I try something!

At the helm (left) And leaving remote Minerva reef in flat seas that changed drastically an hour after this pic.

2. Not sweating the small stuff is key to contentment

I found sailing from NZ to Fiji pretty tough and it wasn’t because we had never been to sea before, were in 4km deep seas, soaked by waves on night watch, or five days from the nearest shore. It was because myself and the two others on the boat were exceptionally tired. 

Our boat Moki under sail in Fiji!

Extreme fatigue is the ultimate test. Studies show after 19 hours without sleep, your mind functions at the same level as having a blood alcohol reading of 0.05, and after ten days at sea with broken, minimal sleep every night, our balance, coordination, strength and decision making were all diminished. 

So! In this somewhat extreme environment, I learned that not sweating the small stuff made everyday easier, for everyone. 

The little things don’t matter in the middle of the Pacific, but it showed me they also don’t matter at home.

Choosing to let small things slide helped us arrive safely and happily in Fiji, and I have learned it will also help me achieve other goals with family and friends at home.

I’ve learned we all need to ask ourselves more often: “Does that really matter?” before jumping to say our piece.

3. Eating fried, fatty foods is hard on your digestion

This is a no brainer, but I had never felt the truth of this statement until arriving in Fiji. During the passage from NZ, we ate rice, beans, cabbage, vegetables, pasta and freshly caught Skipjack and Yellowfin tuna. Essentially we ate whole, real foods which I thought I did already, but at sea it was for every meal.

When we arrived into Fiji, the boat was wet through and we were craving a warm burger and chips. We waited a few days, then hit the Waitui marina to satisfy our craving.

The next day, we both felt sluggish and lazy, almost worse than on the day we arrived after very little sleep at sea. I was blown away with the difference in our energy levels.

Our bodies had become so accustomed to eating clean foods, fried fatty food was almost too much to manage.

I’m not saying fried foods are the enemy, but they do have a HUGE impact on energy and wellbeing. The occasional dumpling night or burger and chips is absolutely fine, if you’re injecting fried and fatty foods into your diet elsewhere. It could be making you lethargic without you realizing.

Sailing from NZ was a tough and wonderful experience, and turned out to be just the first part of an 18 month sailing adventure around the Pacific. I’m so thrilled I was able to enjoy some wellness learnings along the way. I’m excited to share them during my stints as visiting practitioner at wellness retreats worldwide, as well as in my daily Physiotherapy practice.

What is the biggest thing about wellbeing that you’ve learned through experience?

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