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Discovering Wellness and Wellbeing: Lessons from New York City and Beyond

New York - the Big Apple - the concrete jungle - its a city that goes by many names and is called home to many more. I, like many others who have never been to the city before, hear "New York" and immediately think NYC. I would come to learn that New York is quite a large state, and it can take up to 5+ hours to drive from one end to the other - a drive which we did complete.

New York City Skyline

New York City

1746.8 miles away from Austin is Manhattan, NY. A distance which helped shed light on the things we define as wellness and wellbeing. The irony being - what is required of humans to stay healthy and live well remains the same no matter where, or who, you are.

Our trip started in a handmade log cabin built by the family of a New York pastor. There we partied with Rwandans around a campfire we built. From there we spent 5 hours in a car as we traveled to the city where we experienced a true New Yorker's paradise - staying in a beautiful apartment in the upper west side of Manhattan, walking 30 thousands steps per day until our hamstrings and feet were sore and tired.

Yet, through all of these experiences we learned that life in Rwanda, although drastically different from life in NYC, is still rooted around the same fundamentals of spiritual wellness, physical wellness, and a need to feel achievement and success in what you do and create.

These are the parts of life we cherish and teach at Yudae. These are the reasons why we do what we do. These are the reasons we design wellness for a future worth living. But this article is more than a simple marketing boast on what we do, this article is written for all of the beautiful people we met and learned from during our time in NYC - and to each person we met we are deeply grateful to learn these 3 important lessons.

Cars parked outside of log cabin in NYC.

Discomfort is Living

Moments of discomfort are good. I'm sure everyone reading this has had an experience of discomfort prompted by a situation or "thing", of which, upon further reflection, allowed for important lessons to be learned.

Yet the statement "seeking discomfort" in many ways is inherently meaningless. It would be as if I said "drinking water is good". Of course it is. We all know it is. I don't think anyone disagrees with that. Yet, water isn't even the most important when it comes to hydration (read our hydration blog if this is new to you). The same goes for discomfort and living.

Discomfort comes in many forms - it can be physical, it can be emotional, it can be spiritual, it can even be in regard to location. For me, physical discomfort is easy - I love to test my body and find its limits - but seeking location-based discomfort is much harder. I tend to avoid places and events which take me too far from my comfort zone. Sound familiar?

In this way, the Yudae trip to New York took me out of my element and placed me in many uncomfortable situations - most of which I didn't perceive until after they happened. And you know what? I grew from every single one of these moments.

When we talk about engineering life to be one of health and wellness, it is finding these moments of discomfort and moving through them which allow for a deeper understanding of life. It is a lack of these moments which gives rise to stagnation and complacency - what works in one place may not work in another.

Take steps to find discomfort in the 6 dimensions of wellness, and use this discomfort to grow to be better. Know that you do not know, and that you must learn. Do not be defensive, but do defend your thoughts. Be accepting to new ideas, and learn from those who teach. Progress is forever a fundamental of life.

New York City Sabrett Hotdog Stand

Food is Fuel

In the city we saw bagels made to look like the rainbow, simply to entice a certain group of people to purchase. We saw the same foods priced differently within the span of two blocks, simply because it was possible to make a higher margin in that area than the other.

Compare that to the country of upstate NY where we ate hand-butchered meat grilled on a BBQ gifted as an anniversary gift by the same person who built the cabin. We experienced truly authentic candy made by a member of the hosting family and real Amish bread made just up the street with ingredients grown in the same ground we stood.

In Rwanda, food is indicative of survival. In America, food is commercialism. In Rwanda, nutrition is limited. In America, abundance is the name of the game. Every culture has their own food, culinary traditions, and meaning of each. Where you find it, purchase it, and eat it may vary greatly, but the common feature among all is that people need food to live. And that is it.

It can be easy to get wrapped up in the options of food, the ability to consume, and the pleasure found in both - but true freedom comes from the ability to have choice and the discipline to say "no, I don't need it." Never forget this.

Fitness is Function

New Yorkers are thin for one reason alone - they walk everywhere. The same goes for Rwandans and most other countries around the world. However, in Texas, cars mean everything and if you say otherwise, or advocated for other means of travel, you lose. I've learned this the hard way.

The reality is that fitness stems from a place of necessity. Aesthetics stems from a place of beauty. When I ask people who want to lose weight what their ideal body type is they often don't have an answer, or at least not one they are willing to share openly. Why is this?

When you meet someone from Rwanda, aesthetics are the least of their concern. For cultures where activity is day-to-day occurrence, exercise revolves around the ability to complete what they need to do to live. Somehow this gets lost in American culture where the ability to be fit takes more effort than simply living day-to-day.

Fitness should always revolve around a functional component that makes sense for the user. In this way, fitness must be designed to fit each life and the uniqueness that is so. We all come from somewhere different, we are all raised in different ways, and we all have different ideas about what it means to live and live well. But at the root of every person lives the same dream...

Be happy.

Be healthy.

Be free.

I leave you with this thought. Cherish those around you who help you grow and lift you up. Give to those who cannot give to themselves. And above all else, learn to put on the lens of wellness next time you travel - remove yourself from yourself and look to see the way people live and why. You may just learn a thing or two about yourself.

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