Quarterly Insights of the Hitman, Part One

Quarterly Insights of the Hitman, Part One

When Nathan first sent me this, I was taken aback. I’ve known Nathan for five years now, but I’ve seen him grow more as a person in the last 6 months as I have in the whole time previously combined. It’s incredible to see, and watching him becoming more introspective, self aware, and truly learn what matters to him is a testament to this growth.

Having read Akash’s Quarterly Insights series over the years and seen the impact it’s had for his own reflection and potential to help others, I wanted to give it a go myself…

I was away in Barcelona with my mum at the tail end of 2018, and was finishing up answering some client emails on the balcony of our hotel overlooking the beach. I always enjoy taking my mum away as finances and/or my dad’s ill health has meant travel has rarely been an option for her. My mum asked me how everything was going, to which I answered that many of our clients were finishing fat loss phases before Christmas, and that receiving their pictures was one of my favourite moments. As I showed her the various transformations unfolding, I made a comment along the lines of, ‘I could get used to working from my laptop after a day at the beach’. Knowing my mum who’s always pushed me to explore opportunity when it arrived, she responded, ‘well, why don’t you then?’

We then went for dinner at a market in La Rambla, spoke about what she suggested, and by the time the food had arrived, I’d made my mind up. The rest is history. I went home, handed my notice in at the gym I was still personal training at, and five months later, I’ve never looked back. Living as a full time digital NOMAD has taught me many lessons already, which I’d love to share in these insights.

Before we dive in deep, here’s a few light observations:

–       Long layovers are never worth the money saved

–       Plane food isn’t that bad

–       I really miss salad and vegetables more than anything

–       People still do dumb stuff in the gym across the world

Here we go…

1. Getting comfortable within your own thoughts and being with yourself

Something I’ve previously struggled with a lot, and especially at the start of this new lifestyle (Vienna, Oslo, Bergen), I was still averaging 5-6 hours of screen time per day (outside of my normal work). I was trying to fill the void of being alone, and so I looked at social media through my meals and whilst I was out walking the streets. I was trying to avoid the uncomfortable thoughts I was feeling about being in these cities alone, and it certainly didn’t help seeing ‘lovey dovey’ couples having dinner showing PDA all over the place, when all I had was a table for one and my date was the bottle of red wine!

Ever since, I’ve cut my screen time down to a few hours, and the time I do spend is often with friends now is done face to face over Facetime to get that extra level of connection which I talk about later.

Further through my travels, I discovered journaling, learning a new language and really picked up on my reading (3 x 30’s we spoke about in episode 61), and this enabled me to practice being still, present and being alone. The journaling allowed me to download my thoughts and really question why I felt the way I did, and it gave me some strong breakthroughs inside.

During this time, I also went through a break up at the end of February (my decision), as the NOMAD lifestyle I’d chosen had changed me already, and changed the way I was feeling about the way I wanted to live my life. Unfortunately for the relationship, but fortunately for myself, this allowed me to further dial in to that feeling of being alone, which has now gone from something I feared to something I deeply enjoy. I’m now completely comfortable in myself, and it’s a very liberating feeling.

A funny side note to this journey of being comfortable with myself, was the self-discovery of the actual food I like. I’m now not just eating everything in sight and being a chronic binge eater (when out of my normal environment). Instead, it turns out I’m savoury person over sweet any day, bread just wins in any situation, and that one plate of food no matter the city is enough to fill my needs.

2. There’s so much more to life than money, rank, status or comfort

Having now seen the rich, the richer and the significantly poor, I’ve grown to learn that there’s so much more to life than the amount of money, status or material things you have.

I’d travelled to Jordan to see Petra (to make it 6/7 wonders of the world – but who’s counting!) and having made the 4 hour rural drive to the town of Wadi Rum, I was hit with a certain level of what I know as ‘rural’ but others know as ‘not having very much’.

I was with a friend of mine, and we’d just spent the day walking around Petra being amazed by the wonderfulness of the place. We walked off the normal tourist route and found ourselves alone in the rocky dessert with some amazing views. From a distance, we saw two people sitting by a fire with a donkey and two bags. As we walked by, we were greeted with open arms and with an offer to enjoy the Chai tea they were making.  We declined in order to explore a little further, however upon our return we decided to sit down with the two, who we came to know were mother and son.

We were intrigued with what they were doing here and why they were making tea, and came to learn that these two and 27 other families (each having 8+ brother and sisters) live in the caves of Petra, and use the donkey as a way to take tourists over the hills to spend a night in the stars with dinner. Unfortunately, being the NOMAD I am, having no WiFi for 24-48 hours isn’t a thing I can do right now, but would love to have an experience like that in the near future one day!

While with the mother and son, we spoke about their family and how they live their life. They shared their tea, and even their stone baked bread which to this day was the thickest and densest bread I’ve ever consumed – definitely now on my top five bread encounters!

What we came to realise was just how truly happy they were. They live well, and they have their family close at all times, which is very important to them. Additionally, they love their environment, worship Petra’s beauty everyday, and can’t get enough of the mountain landscape in front of them.

Compared to our modern day standards, these people have nothing. Only shelter, food and family. Yet still smile more and are at peace with their situation more so than 99% of all people in the UK. Although they know nothing else, we are also in a similar situation (especially Londoners and big city livers), except we know nothing else outside of the rat race, the ‘grind’ and the chase for things that we don’t want to impress people we don’t like in order to move up the social ladder.

After this trip, it really changed my viewing of what I needed and what I valued. After that day, I called my mum and dad, and really tried to connect to them the way I saw the mother and son bond on that mountain. When you take away the small talk about what you’ve been doing, how’s your day and move towards questions such as ‘How are you within yourself?’, ‘How are you feeling about X?’ or ‘What’s concerning you at the moment, and would you like to talk?’, things start to really unravel.

From that day, money and materialistic have taken a backseat to happiness, enjoyment and family connection, and every time I think about what it would be like to sleep in a cave it really resets my thinking to what truly matters.

3. Smiling and eye contact goes a long way

As I’ve travelled around the world, the London city boy in me has realised how rarely we smile at one another, and if we do, it’d be considered ‘creepy’. In London, we’re so engrained to avoid speaking to new people, let alone smile or look at one another in the eye. In my home town of Runcorn up North, it was a common courtesy and just a nice gesture of friendliness to speak and smile at people, but in many big Cities, and in general to modern times, the only real new conversation with a stranger would be over Instagram / Facebook.

Taking this attitude as habitual was a rude awakening when I came to Bali. My ‘resting bitch face’ and level of distrust I’d developed from being in London for so long was the barrier that I soon realised was limiting me from making new friends and sparking conversations with the locals. I learnt that it only takes one smile, eye contact and a ‘hello, where are you from’ to start a great conversation. This is completely lost within the modern day, and I think it’s a terrible shame, and it’s now something that I bring to where ever I am, while trying to avoid the same mistakes of my habitual state. 

4. Change of environment helps to break patterns and cues 

Environment plays a significant role in the actions that we take, and the path we ultimately end up following.  Whilst I’ve had the luxury of completely changing my environments, this has created the new challenge of re-establishing environmental control each week in a different place with different circumstances and availabilities. I’ve used journaling and planning as a way to ensure that I get what I want from the week, and used that as a method to reflect on what was an environmental stressor or reaction rather than a self-conscious one. Some observations that I gained insight into include:

– I’m never hungry in the morning, and previously I was stress eating upon waking

– Times seems to have slowed down and I have more time out of nowhere (perceived stress has reduced and less screen time overall)

– I can leverage more of the unwanted decision by having ‘systems’ that run on autopilot

– I realised I’m not always on the go like I think. The environment of London, and being surrounded by people ‘climbing the ladder’ and social media always made me feel inadequate, like I’m not doing enough for myself, not doing enough self-development, not doing enough for my clients, and it always left me thinking I had to always be ‘give give give’.

I have no actual doubt in my mind that the above insights have been signals for a long time, and not just happened over night. In the past my old habits at the homes I’ve lived in, the places I’ve worked, the people I’ve been around, and even the routes I took home often dictated my hunger, my bed time, my digestion and my happiness. Now that’s changed, I’m the master of how I feel and what I choose to do in order to effect my being.

5. Staying in shape is possible but it goes in waves and flows

My 2019 goals were set at the beginning of the year not knowing how the year would pan out. I’d planned to be flexible with my goals however the overriding point was I’d stay in shape to never feel uncomfortable about taking my top off, and I’d continue with my regular strength  training no matter where I am.

I found that although each city and country has its own challenges, there was always something I could do that geared me towards this goal.

Over the course of the first 3 months I trained in every country 3-4 times a week apart from Bali, Jordan, Montenegro and Sorrento, with some stand out gyms in Seville, Bilbao and the Gili Islands. The key takeaway from this period is that each gym will have different kit, so keeping a log of the most important lifts like dumbbell and body weight movements will be the best factor when it comes to measuring progress. The rest of the work in the gym will be based on enjoyment and just working hard with different kit.

After lacking routine at the tail end of 2018, my flat dumbbell press has come back up from 32 x 8 up to 38 x 8. I thought this was great progress in 7 weeks, but since then, I haven’t had a gym with anything more than 30kg DB’s!

Overall, after much trial and error, I feel I’ve found the holy grail for eating and training with travelling to stay in shape while still enjoying yourself: 15-20,000 steps or above, 3 weight sessions over a 5/6 day period, and using the rule of protein and veggies for 2 meals, and 1 meal of local cuisine with carbs in.

I’m fairly confident I tried every single cuisine and particularly thought the Tortillas (Spanish omelettes) in Seville/ Madrid / Bilbao are a great choice, especially with the portion sizes being rather small for someone on a diet. When in Indonesia, the Chicken Noodle Soups give you protein, veggies and some nice heartily soup for very minimal calories.

Of course, each meal has a menu the size of the bible, and each place has its own customary bread / free starters or the restaurant’s ‘free’ special – Akash trying (and hating) the free limoncello was a personal favourite of mine! However on most occasions, I opted to remove this from the situation to ensure that I focused on my real goal of having the local cuisine rather than the little short term gratification items on the table.

The plan for the next quarter is to really get lean and be ready for an all-out top’s off affair in Mykonos and Santorini, and later in the year, Barbados. The plan after is to then hold that level of leanness and consolidate over 6 months. Typically what I like to do is move down in weight, hold a position for a period, move down again, consolidate, and repeat. Let’s see what the food in India, New York and South America has to say about that!

Traveling for extended periods and getting into/staying in shape is something that can 100% be done wherever you are in the world. It requires you taking a few extra steps for the normal things, sourcing gyms, taking the lead on restaurant choices, and living and acting on your own terms.

The living and acting on your own terms is something a lot of people struggle with (myself included in the past). Instead, the social pressure of eating things someone else has made, eating till the plate is empty in fear of judgement, and not wanting to make an ‘issue’ out of potentially changing the plan for dinner or the serving based on your requirements. At some point you’ll have to take charge of those situations if you want to get into shape, and if there’s one correlation between every single person on the RNT transformation case study list or website, it’s that they have chosen their goals and actions over the thoughts or scrutiny of others.

6. Gratitude

As I write this overlooking the Pyramids, it wouldn’t be right to finish this absolute essay without showing gratitude to the team I have around me.

For me, the relationship between everyone in the team has gone to another level since this whole NOMAD lifestyle began, and I’m slowly realising that even though I spend less time with people, it’s always about the quality of time and meaningful conversation over time.

I never consider Akash a boss other than when he pays me (haha!). On a few occasions recently, we’ve bonded further than we had previously, especially on our romantic trip to Sorrento, that’s made our working relationship and friendship a lot stronger; this is something I’m extremely grateful for.

The family atmosphere that we have is a different matrix to anything I’ve experienced before. I’ve worked in close-knit teams in the past and with a lot of my best friends before, but the level of understanding and brotherly bonds we all share is something that has really made this change for me possible.

I live for the podcasts we record, the little date nights we have when I’m back in town, the progression of all our clients (not just my own), and the banter on the team calls which can never be recorded.

I live for the progression I see within the team, and I’ll never forget the moment KMAK shared his first transformation with the team. The passion and effort that he put forward with pride to show us was unbelievable.

We grow individually but we grow as a team, and truthfully I look up to every single person in the team. Ben for his freakishly good lucks, moral compass, and I’m not sure I’ve ever told him, but someone I’ve always wanted to be like since I met him two years ago. KMAK for his willingness to learn ,and the ability to listen, understand and absorb. Tej for her capacity to be confident within herself and hold her own within a team full of ‘lads’, which I know if I came into this environment, I wouldn’t be the same way! Indi for his soulful nature – a gentle giant as such, and Elliot, who has that ability to show empathy, be a great sounding board for emotions and someone who generally gives 110% about his clients, their mental state and their progress. A big shout out also to Ivan for being himself, absolutely owning every single part of his day, and pursing his life on his terms, which I finally feel I understand. And last but not least Akash, for being wise beyond his years, and having a relentless ability to push harder, expect the best while soaking up and learning through the valleys of running a growing business.

I have to show gratitude and appreciation to them all, as most aren’t that lucky to work in an environment that challenges you, helps you and loves you. A true representation of what it’s like being a part of the RNT family.

AV: A couple of weeks ago I was in Sorrento with RNT coach & digital NOMAD Nathan, and in an effort to slow down, we decided to go to a local traditional Italian restaurant for some homemade pasta and meatballs, and a bottle of local Sorrento wine.

When we got back to our hotel, we decided to pour another glass and hit record on an episode, and see where it takes us. We both ended up discussing some of our Quarterly Insights, while reflecting upon some of our recent struggles and areas we’re working on in our lives.

The podcast can be found by searching ‘RNT Fitness Radio’ on your preferred podcast platform, or directly below:


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Akash Vaghela is the Founder of RNT Fitness, where his mission is to see a world where everyone experiences the power of a physical body transformation to act as a vehicle for the greater good in their lives. Akash has produced 200+ blogs, 100+ videos and hosts the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, which has amassed over 110,000 downloads in 90+ countries across 100+ episodes. Alongside this, he's been seen in Men's Health, BBC, T-Nation, Elite FTS and the PTDC, while also regularly speaking nationally and internationally on all things transformation.