Sunday, 28 June 2015

adventures


I met someone recently who was re-training to be a 'wealth advisor'. I mentioned to him that I was planning to rent somewhere with my friend and that I was currently living with my parents. He told me I should stay put, save more money and then buy a house. Inside I sighed and thought 'oh please FUCK OFF', but I smiled politely and explained why I didn't want to do that. 

The closer you get to 30, the more and more people/society put expectations on you, especially when it comes to money. You should be investing in property. You should be earning X amount per year by now. You should be driving this kind of car..... etc.

I think I'm actually very fortunate in the way I was brought up. Money was never part of the conversation. I was never taught that I needed money to be happy or successful even. And I thank my parents for that. Money has never been a motivator for me. Sure it's nice, and life is a lot easier when you have some - but I value happiness over money every time. And that's why, when I do spend it, I spend it on experiences.

At the beginning of the year I said I wanted this year to be one of discovery - and to me, a big part of that means travel. So I was so thrilled when my friend invited me along with her, her fiance and nine of their friends on a weekend trip to Budapest.

We went last weekend, and I think it's safe to say it was the most I have laughed all year. The city is beautiful, the food is delicious (if not a lil' calorie-laden) and the bars are INSANE. There were six different nationalities in our group and it was fascinating to hear everyone's stories.

 It reminded me what a big, beautiful planet we have here, and you can't put a price on that.


So, to summarise - no, I won't be buying a house anytime soon. I will one day (when I can afford it) but until then, I'm going to get excited about my new rented flat, I'm going to spend my money on adventures and I'm going to have zero regrets.

How do you spend your money?

Sunday, 24 May 2015

how to be alone



OK, so I'm fully aware that the title 'how to be alone' is going to make me sound like a complete hermit who hates socialising - so let me preface this post by saying this isn't true. I love meeting new people, socialising, spending time with my friends etc. It just so happens that right now, I'm not doing this as much as I used to. This is partly because I'm single... and that's kinda what I want to talk about.

When you're in a relationship, a lot of your time is spent with others. With your partner, with their friends, with their family - and of course with your own friends and family. So when a relationship comes to an end, that time is cut in half. And you may find yourself alone more than you use to be. At first, this only emphasises the pain and loneliness that inevitably comes with a break-up. You might think to yourself 'who am I without him/her?' 'what am I supposed to do now?' and, as scary as it may seem, this is exactly what alone time is for. To answer those questions.

Of course, before you get to this point there are usually a few potholes to navigate. Going out drinking and kissing strangers may seem like the perfect antidote to this fresh loneliness, but the hollow feeling you get the morning after will quickly make you realise this isn't true. And wanting to get close to others is a perfectly natural reaction, but it won't really help. Instead you've got to get close to you. Remind yourself of who you are as an individual. What makes you tick? What are your passions? What do you really want for the future?

And so begins the fun. Because that's what it should be. Through trial and error, you can use this time (before you get into a new relationship) to understand yourself better. What have you learnt from your last relationship? What won't you compromise on next time? What will you do differently? And once you understand yourself, you're in a far better position to share yourself.

So, what should you do during this alone time? And, unless you're a social butterfly with a million projects on the go, there will be time to fill (coming from the girl with zero plans this bank holiday *waves*). Of course, everyone is different and I am certainly no expert, but here's what I've been doing and what I would recommend:

Address your health

Healthy body = healthy mind. One great thing about having extra time is finally having the time to get fit. Eating better, yoga and spinning are making me feel far more confident and happy.

Read more

When the glare of the computer/TV screen gets too much, I stick some music on and read. On holiday I read 'Quiet - the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking' and it was somewhat of a revelation. I understood why I did the things that I did and even why certain things fell apart in my last relationship. Try reading something that speaks to you.

Challenge yourself

It's easy to not bother with this one and keep on living the easy life, but what are you learning? I challenged myself to cook more and be braver with my driving this year, and while I am not ready for an appearance on Masterchef just yet, and I definitely still have some issues to overcome with my driving - the small achievements (like cooking dinner for my family and driving certain routes without my satnav) keep me motivated.

Say yes more

When it comes to social invitations, saying no is easy. You can feign an illness, blame work or pretend you never got the email. Saying yes can feel harder, but it is almost always more rewarding. 

Go on an adventure

Go on a day trip by yourself. Go see something you've always wanted to see, but didn't have the time before. Go on holiday. Go travelling. I've booked myself a two-week yoga/photography course in Costa Rica in November to develop some skills, meet new people and experience a totally different world for a bit. And I can't friggin' wait. 

Learn something

What subject did you love at school? What hobby did you love as a child but never do now? I loved Spanish at school, but when I studied it at A-level I was more interested in my first real boyfriend and skipping classes. I decided to rekindle my love for Spanish with an app (Duolingo) and a grammar book and I'm loving every minuto. 

Watch something of substance

Disappearing into a Netflix-shaped hole is pretty standard when you first get out of a relationship, but at least try to make some of the shows you watch informative. In-between episodes of Community and Daredevil, I'm watching Human Planet and TED talks for a little mental stimulation.

Do something to free your mind

Thinking too much has become a 21st century epidemic. If I had a penny for the number of times my mind has wandered back to the past since I've been single, I would be writing this from my yacht in the Caribbean. I'm trying a few things to overcome this, most recently I've been colouring in. I wrote a blog at work about the therapeutic benefits of couloring in and thought, that sounds nice. So this weekend I started colouring in this book and, yeah, it is nice. My mind is relaxed but focused, giving it some much-needed downtime.

I don't know when I'll next be in a relationship. I could meet the love of my life tomorrow, or it could be years down the line. Either way, right now, I'm enjoying this alone time. Sure, there are twinges of sadness/loneliness/regret that seep in from time to time, but that's life. That's being human. So don't beat yourself up if you're not ready to 'seize the day' every day. That's what chocolate, Grey's Anatomy and cat cuddles are for ;) As long as you treat yourself with love and understanding, you'll be on the right track.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

a perfectly sunny afternoon




After breakfast and a quick morning stretch, I take myself out to the garden. Armed with new music, a magazine and some slightly-too-big-for-me sunglasses, I'm ready for my afternoon.

The cat struts over, proudly waving his tail in the air and meows in that demanding tone that says "Where the hell am I supposed to sit then?". I obediently pick up the cushion on the unused chair next to me and put it on the iron table, so he has somewhere comfy to bask. He jumps up and lies down looking smug (he does have a nice life). 

But the sudden rushes of air are unsettling him, and he decides that underneath my chair is safer to sit. What unsettles him has the opposite effect on me. The breeze is just cool enough to take the edge off the hot sun and its ferocity almost rocks me in my chair, like a lullaby. 

I get lost in music I've never heard before. Instrumentals play over Austrian bar background-noise and something that could be either rainfall or the crackling of a fire. I read interviews with fog experts, jewellery makers and directors. I read stranger's descriptions of what the clouds in the sky look like to them. I think of three blog posts. I pick up my phone and note down a book, a film and a website I want to look into later.

I only go inside to make lunch, which I immediately take outside to eat. It's a chicken and avocado salad. The creamy mellow tastes of avocado and chicken get slapped in the face with salty feta cheese and vinegar-y sun-ripened tomatoes - delicious. I finish reading my magazine and start writing this blog in my head. I regret my decision of wearing yoga pants over shorts and get too hot.

When I do come back inside to cool off, my dad tells me I've caught the current bun (sun). I look in the mirror and he's right. My forehead is decidedly pink and my freckles have found the confidence to pop up and say "hello!".

It's been a lovely afternoon.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

why it's OK to not be OK

source
When I was at uni, we had one seminar where our teacher told us about this personality test that described you as a shape. She looked at me for several seconds and concluded, 

"You would be a circle. A typical people pleaser."

Bearing in mind I had probably accrued less than 10 minutes face time with this particular teacher, I was a little taken aback. But I also thought, yuh-huh - that's me.

I do try to please people and make them happy. I HATE the idea of someone hating me. I strive to be "well-liked" in pretty much all areas of my life and I'm (finally) realising that it isn't healthy.

Because, as well as striving to make everyone else happy and OK, I sometimes find myself lying to them to do this. Telling them that I am fine. Life is cushty. I am OK. Most of the time, this is true - I have a pretty healthy relationship with myself and with life - and all things considered I really do have it cushty. But I think maybe this week it wasn't true... and I hit my limit.

I realised this when on Friday night I was watching the last episode of The OC (I heart Seth, don't judge) and I cried. Like, a lot. And then I couldn't stop crying. To a point where I had to stop and think - this isn't all about Seth and Summer being the cutest couple ever now is it? Still, I decided to ignore it and drink a giant glass of red instead (smart).

The next day turned out to be sad for a variety of different reason which I won't go into here. Suffice to say, I hit my limit of trying to be all things to all people. I saw my choices - I could either smile and nod, say I was OK and things are great while slowly simmering with sadness under the surface, or I could just stop. So that's what I've done.

Today there has been no smile plastered on my face to make others feel better. I've spent time on my yoga mat, drank tea while watching films and listened to Damien Rice. I've also made a vow to put myself first. A statement that may sound selfish to some, but is actually just something I need to do right now. I'm going to stop tip-toing around people, saying what I think they want to hear so they continue to perceive me as the 'nice one', I'm going to stop pretending I'm OK in the rare moments when I'm not and I'm going to be happier for it.

So the overall message of this post? It really is OK to admit that, sometimes, you're not OK. Stop worrying about what other people think of you and stay true to yourself and what you need. Even if that means a day of solitude, or hell even a week of solitude. Figure out what you need to be OK again, and do it - without worrying about other people or their perceptions of you. If they love you they'll understand and let you get on with it. 

On that note, I'm going to hide in my room for the rest of the evening - laterz. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

itchy feet

Top L-R: Amsterdam, Thailand, Spain / Bottom L-R: Switzerland, Berlin, Dubai

Travel is something I've been brought up with, thanks to a long line of BA employees in the family. Our family holidays took us around the world, from Barbados, America and Spain to Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi and Dubai (before anyone had ever heard of it).

After family holidays became a thing of the past I didn't think about travelling too much. It wasn't until I saw my parents' holiday snaps from Thailand and thought 'I need to go there' that I realised I wanted to see more of the world. So, I did just that. I booked myself a month-long trip to Thailand and had a fantastic experience.

Since then, being in full-time employment has meant travel has taken a back seat. But I've still managed to get around a bit. I've hung out in cafes in Amsterdam, hiked mountains in Switzerland and, most recently, went back and enjoyed the city life in Dubai. 

I kinda decided on my birthday that this year was going to be one of exploration, and to me that means more travelling. I've already booked flights to Budapest (totally crashing my friend's weekend away) and already have a couple of other things in the pipeline. 

What I thought would be fun however is to write up a list of things/places I want to 'do' travel wise. A travel bucket-list for me to look up when I'm planning adventures - not just this year but in the future too. 

So here goes....

A yoga retreat - somewhere sunny

I've been totally inspired by my friend who spent a month in Brazil getting her yoga teacher training and am desperate to go on a yoga holiday. I think a week-long retreat would be a good start and then perhaps I could work up to a month in Brazil...

A solo adventure - somewhere sunny

I want to do this because it would scare me a little and empower me a lot. I figure once I get the first solo experience under my belt there'll be no stopping me. To ease myself into it I want to find somewhere where I can just chill on a beach for a week and just 'be'.

A foodie holiday - Italy

Italians know their shizz when it comes to cooking, we all know that, and I want to fully appreciate that by eating all the food. Maybe I could take a cooking class too and whizz around town on a Vespa... 

A city break - Barcelona/Paris

I've been to both these cities when I was very young - but I want to go back and experience them as an adult. I've also just downloaded the 'Duolingo' app and am throwing myself back into learning Spanish, so Barcelona may be just the place to practise my skills.

A taste of paradise - Bali/Fiji/Hawaii

I want to go somewhere and live the life of a beach-loving-new-age-hippy for a while. I'll meditate every morning, take surfing lessons, do yoga on the sand and start making jewellery from driftwood.

An American dream - San Fran/New York

  I don't know why but I feel like San Francisco is a city I could live in one day. I like its vibe. I went there with my parents when I was younger for a couple of days and remember thinking - yeah I dig it here (probably after inhaling a huge portion of cheesy chips in a dank alleyway). So I would like to explore that idea. And I've never been to New York, and that makes me sad, so I need to rectify this. 

I could probably go on forever, but I wont - 600 words will suffice. I'll finish with a few uplifting quotes to give you itchy feet too.... 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

ghost


In that moment she felt like a ghost. Like the dearly departed spirit of someone who once had a fantastic life. Now she was transparent. Forgotten by all except her pet who somehow still felt her presence.  

Sat behind a glowing screen she became a sightseer of other people's lives. She watched as they explored new worlds and laughed with old friends. In her head she was right there with them. Floating in the dead sea, kissing their boyfriends and living their lives. 

Except she wasn't. She was glued to the spot. Overlooked and slightly bewildered. Messages she sent to the living got lost. The words she thought she was screaming came out as a whisper. The work she did all day vanished in front of her very eyes. She was a computer that crashed and lost all of its data.

Perhaps, she thought tentatively, it is time to reboot.

**********************************************************

I don't know why, but I always seem to get inspired by slightly odd movies. Last time I wrote a little creative piece on here was after I watched Lost in Translation. This time it was after I watched The Double. 

The film was dark, funny and struck a chord. It's about a mild-mannered man called Simon who meets his double - a man who looks exactly like him but has the confidence to do everything he doesn't. His double proceeds to take over his life while Simon disappears into the background. Simon even describes himself as a ghost at one point, saying he 'doesn't exist'... and I think on some level we can all feel like that. Like we aren't really here.

I think social media can make this feeling even more irksome. Looking at all the exciting things others are doing on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest - all while you're sat at home watching weird films with your cat. Of course, we all know that everyone has evenings/weekends when they do nothing of note, and that most people only post the 'fun' or 'exciting' moments in life on social media. Even so, it can be easy to fall into the FOMO trap - why aren't I doing things like that? What's wrong with me? 

And just like that, you forget all the fun and exciting moments you've had (and shared). You also forget about all the fun and exciting moments you have planned (even if those plans reside in your head for the time being).

Life should be lived to the fullest, obviously, but what's more important is that we don't compare our 'full' with someone elses. Just because your life doesn't look like theirs, it doesn't make yours any less substantial. We all look to different things to make us feel alive. 

Ironically however, despite those differences, if we looked beneath the glossy filters of Instagram and the carefully curated photo albums on Facebook, we would see striking similarities. We all feel lonely sometimes. We all fake smiles for the camera. We all have moments when we feel forgotten. I think it's important to remember that when you start comparing your life to theirs.

Anyways... apologies for the deep post... it's been a weird couple of weeks. On that note - I think I might have a little social media break and 'reboot'. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

the art of doing nothing



When you realise you have no plans for the upcoming weekend, how do you feel? I know for some people, the thought of spending a day with no plans is like torture. For me (unsurprisingly) it's an excuse to recharge... and I revel in it. Now, of course, there is a time and a place for socialising, getting out there, seeing some sights, being productive and getting shit done.... but there is also a time and a place for doing nothing.

And by nothing, I don't mean literally nothing (obvs) I mean a day of no plans. A day when you have no obligations and have nothing on your to-do list. These days can be a blessing, if you use them right. Over the past couple of months I've probably had more 'nothing' days than 'doing' days at the weekend, so I feel I have honed in on the perfect routine. 

So, for those who dread a day of no plans - give this a whirl and see how you feel. You might be surprised.

1. First of all, don't set an alarm. Let your body clock wake you up and when you do wake up - stay up. Don't fall back to sleep. Your body knows better than you how much sleep you need.

2. Once you are awake, get up - go get a hot drink (I usually grab a hot water and lemon, but coffee is a nice treat) and get back into bed. Now, instead of falling back to sleep, spend some time in bed doing something you love. Maybe it's watching cookery shows or writing in a journal. For me it's either catching up on reading blogs or playing on Pinterest.

3. Next, it's time to get up. Get in the shower, use a zingy smelling shower gel to wake up the senses and linger for longer than normal. Wash your face and brush your teeth - but girls, don't put on any make-up. Let your skin breathe today.

4. Get dressed into something comfy. I like my printed yoga pants and a long-sleeved top with bare feet. I don't know why I avoid socks, it just feels right.

5. Go make yourself a tasty breakfast. During the week I scoff down pre-made overnight oats at my desk, so at the weekends I like to spend time making eggs, toast and fruit for breakfast.

6. Do something you always say you never have time to do. For me this inevitably involves listening to music and reading... or cleaning. For you it might be painting, fixing something around the house or clearing out your wardrobe.

7. MOVE (just a little). I know 'exercising' doesn't seem like doing nothing, but if I don't get moving at some point on my nothing days I end up achy, grumpy and unable to sleep that night. Now, I'm not suggesting you do anything too high in intensity (unless of course you want to), but getting yourself moving will make you feel better, promise. If the weather's nice, I go for a walk in the woods - if it's not, I do some yoga.

8. Have a nutritious lunch. After getting my body moving I crave healthy stuff, so usually make myself a chicken and avocado salad - nom. 

9. Be a bit creative. Go take some photographs, write a story or draw something. It feels nice to think creatively for a bit, even if you don't consider yourself a creative person. I usually end up blogging (hello!).

10. Have a cup of tea and do something that makes you happy. What little thing could you do that makes your heart sing? Watch your favourite movie? Listen to your favourite band? Binge watch the OC? (*hand up*). Whatever it is - do it.

11. Treat yourself. In the evening I like to pamper myself a little. I pop on a facemask, paint my nails and have a couple of chocolates after dinner. 

By the time the day is over I feel like a new person, like I've spent the day just soaking in energy. And I know that wouldn't be the case for everyone, but on the off chance that it would feel like that for you, I thought I would share.

What do you do on 'nothing' days?

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