Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Costa Rica

Loving life (and having my hair chewed by SOTW pup Mellow)

I'm back! OK, I've been back in the country a while - but hey, I'm back to Limbo! As you'll know if you read my last post, I recently went to Costa Rica for two weeks to do a photography and yoga course and... it. Was. Awesome. Every now and then I just get a hankering for an adventure, and this was certainly that.

When I arrived after my very long journey (13 hours, plane change in Madrid, yawn) the first thing I noticed was the smell. The country smelled.... lush. I don't know how else to describe it. It smelt luscious, green and basically how mother earth should smell. It was also very humid, which I welcomed wth open (/sweaty) arms after the cold drizzly weather at home.

I arrived at the school at about 6pm. I was greeted with a coconut to drink, had a quick tour of the school and was shown to my room. I felt so jet-lagged that I was dizzy and genuinely thought my room was swaying, so decided it was probably best to head to bed. Of course then there was the loudest, most intense thunder storm in the world, but I still managed to sleep for a good 12 hours. 

My days at the School of The World went like this: Wake up, shower, eat cereal/breakfast bar, go to photography class, wander around town, find lunch/iced coffee/fruit smoothie, go to photography field trip, take a shitload of photos of incredible things, come back to the room/hang out by the pool, go to yoga, get bitten by all the mozzies, shower again, go out for dinner, drink rum at Swell surf bar, get bitten by some more mozzies, sleep.

It was a routine I quickly adapted to. I also got one free weekend while there and am pleased to say I took full advantage. On Saturday I tagged along with some students to do a canopy zipline tour, so basically was zooming around the rainforest at a great height thinking 'I might die but this is AWESOME'. On Sunday a few of us woke up after 2.5 hours sleep (...that was a fun night!) to visit Manuel Antonio national park. We explored, made friends with naughty monkeys and racoons and swam in the sea - perfection.

Highlights: Listening to Carlos talk about art / The sunset at Playa Blanca / Stepping well and truly out of my comfort zone on the canopy zipline tour / Dinners at the Greenroom / Iced caramel macchiatos / Lunches at the Soda / Seeing parts of Costa Rica you wouldn't normally see on photography trips / Doing my first headstand in yoga (for 10 seconds) / Dancing after too many mojitos / Almost being robbed by a racoon / Thanksgiving with new friends.

I won't lie and say it was all perfect - felt a little like an outsider at the school during the first week. I'm a self-confessed introvert, so chatting to strangers (especially in the big groups we were often in) was difficult. And yeah, during the first couple of days I did wonder whether or not I made the right decision to do this - but as is almost always the case with things like that, it got better. I got to know people gradually in more one-to-one style interactions and by the second week I felt truly at home. 

I would definitely recommend going to School of the World - the staff, the accommodation, atmosphere - all of it was perfect. And the country is just stunning. I can only hope to return one day and see more :) Until then, I'll just look at these pictures...











Friday, 13 November 2015

mindful


Before I went away to Thailand a few years ago my sister gave me some sage advice for when I was out there:

"Every now and then just stop. Take a breath. Look at where you are. Take in the moment and enjoy it."

And I did. When I look back a few moments come to mind that are firmly locked in my memory. One of those moments wasn't even particularly special - we were in the back of a bus on our way to the Tiger Temple, and I stopped, looked around at the scenery and thought to myself 'holy shit, I'm in frickin Thailand!!' and I just felt a huge wave of happiness.

This Sunday I fly out to Costa Rica for a couple of weeks to do yoga, learn how to take better pictures and explore a new country. While I'm out there I'm going to make sure I do this, take in every moment and be mindful as often as possible.

I'm a big believer in the concept of mindfulness in general. Allow me to put on my 'work' hat for a minute... many studies have found mindfulness to be an effective tool for stress, anxiety and depression. 

I've downloaded several apps to try and get in the habit of mindfulness meditation, and while I have never managed to build a habit, I get the gist and use it when I'm feeling anxious or apprehensive.

And the thing is, I will feel apprehensive before I travel. I hate the process of travelling. I know I will be fine when I get to where I'm going, but flying alone, changing planes at Madrid and rocking up to an unfamiliar country where I know no one is a little scary to me. 

So I want to be mindful at this point too. Instead of getting lost in 'what if' thoughts about the future ('what if I get lost and miss my connecting flight?' 'what if no one arrives to pick me up at the airport?') I will take everything one step at a time and focus on the present. I will enjoy having time to read/listen to podcasts on the plane. I will focus on my feelings of excitement. I will breathe and I will be OK.

Then I'll get there, see the sunshine and be mindful again because, holy shit - I'm in frickin Costa Rica!!!!

I won't be blogging while I'm out there, but I will definitely post a picture-heavy blog when I get back... until then, here's to living in the moment :) 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

intuition


When it comes to making decisions, do you listen to your heart or your head? I propose you ignore both and check in with your gut instead. This is where (I think) your intuition lives. 

It's that niggling feeling tugging at you saying, 'something isn't right.' And after you ignore it, it becomes that sinking feeling in the depths of your stomach, shouting at you, exasperated, saying 'seriously dude - WTF?'. 

I've experienced both and even though I've become far better at recognising these sensations as my intuition, I still find myself ignoring them... especially when it comes to relationships and dating. It's only natural. There are a million arguments racing around in your head, ready and waiting to talk you out of listening to your gut. You rationalise (head) or you get caught up in the emotional power of it all (heart). 

For me, I tend to do both. I rationalise a lot. I make excuses and say, 'maybe if I do this differently, it'll work' or 'maybe if we just give it time, things will be better'. I also get blinded by the intimacy, because, let's face it - it's really nice to have that intimacy with someone when you're dating them. You share a part of yourself and make yourself vulnerable. It can be hard to throw that away just because your intuition is poking at you from within.

But the more I've grown (and dated) the more importance I place on these feelings. They haven't steered me wrong yet, in love or my work life. So if you're unsure about something, a relationship, a friendship, a job - whatever - I implore you to take a step back and check in with your gut feeling. Don't think about it with words and questions - just feel.

 A quick Google of 'how to listen to your intuition' came up with the following tips:

Do something creative
Meditate
Journal about it
Ask yourself the question and answer with the first thing that pops into your head

The thing is... it's one thing listening to these feelings and giving yourself a pat on the back saying 'Ahh yeah, nice one intuition - I hear ya', it's an entirely different thing actually acting on it. That takes courage. Hell, it takes 'guts'. And that's the thing I still need to do a little work on.  

Friday, 18 September 2015

30 things to (not) do before 30



In just under six months I will be turning 30, an age which has become quite the milestone for many. There seems (in my opinion) to be a common thought that rattles around the heads of those about to turn 30...

Shouldn't I have my shit together by now?

Apologies to any readers who do, in fact, have their shit together - this post isn't for you (oh and congrats). I suspect it is this thought that's responsible for those '30 things to do before turning 30' lists people make. Like a bucket list of things you want to do/achieve before turning 30 (even though, hopefully, you won't be dying at 30).

In my younger days I would have been SO up for doing this. I loved a checklist. As I've gotten older however, I've come to kind of hate them. I still love lists and setting the odd goal, but the idea of having to complete a checklist before a certain age makes me cringe a little. 

I see self-improvement as an ongoing thing and something I want to take my time with. I also don't like the fact that a lot of the things on those '30 before 30' lists are to do with society's expectations - 'have a baby', 'buy a house' etc.

I just think they put a bit too much pressure on you to reach a 'criteria'. So instead, I thought I'd write up a list of things I won't be doing before I turn 30 (take that society!). Some I've come up with myself, some have come from other people's lists and websites. Here goes nothing (ha, literally):

30 things to not do before 30

1. Buy a house - I've covered this in a recent post, but yeah I can't buy a house now. I do however love my rented flat! It's pretty and feels like home to me :)

2. Get married - I think it may be considered a bit forward if I propose to the guy I've been seeing for a month. Even more forward to demand a wedding in five months... Nah, better leave that one. 

3. Have a baby - Even if I got pregnant like, now, that isn't physically possible. Besides, there's no room for a baby in the flat.

4. Run a marathon - I will happily support my friends who are planning to run marathons (go Mike and Em!) but I will be doing so on the sidelines, probably with a slice of cake. 

5. Run anything - Yeah, I don't like running.

6. Become fluent in another language - Habla un poco Espanol, is that not good enough? (that spanish is probably wrong)

7. Climb a mountain - Those guys on the trailer for 'Everest' look like they had a bad time.

8. Go blonde - My hair is bronde (blonde-y brown) and I get all pale and ghost-like whenever I try to go too dark or light. How very boring.  

9. Lose 10lbs - If I did this I would probably lose my butt and boobs. And I quite like my butt and boobs.

10. Write a book - I know, I know, I'm a "writer" shouldn't I want to write a book? Maybe one day. A very short one. Online. Like a blog! Oh wait... 

11. Travel the world - There's a whole lot of world out there bruh, why the rush?

12. Skydive - I don't really like being on planes, let alone jumping out of them.

13. Do a bungee jump - If I need an adrenaline rush I'll look at how much student debt I have left to pay, thanks. 

14. Pull an all-nighter - I can barley make it through a Saturday without a nap, let alone drink/dance till dawn.

15. Get a new job - No, shan't. I like my job thanks *smugface*.

16. Learn to paint - I have a colouring book for adults and a pack of colouring pencils... I'm set.

17. Get a(nother) tattoo - I have enough ink for the time being thanks, I'm sure I'll get more after 30 though *cough* sleeve *cough*.

18. Learn how to knit/crochet - Umm, I have nothing clever to say about this one. I'm just lazy.

19. Get a piercing - Been there, done that and I have the scarring to prove it. Don't need any more scar tissue thanks. 

20. Start a business - It just sounds like a LOT of effort.

21. Invent something - Again.... effort.

22. Fire a gun - This was actually on someone's list. I hope I don't need to write an explanation as to why I won't be doing that.

23. Troll a celebrity - Again, legitimately on a list I found online, Internet you suck. 

24. Live abroad - I would never rule this out for the future, but alas I don't think it will happen this side of 30.   

25. Be a fashion victim - Another odd one I found on someone's list. Their justification was that after 30 you are basically too old to wear clothes that are deemed 'fashionable'. I say wear whatever the hell you like. 

26. Make a million - I would have to do some very questionable/illegal things to make that much money that quickly.

27. 'Find yourself' - Thankfully I have this wonderful contraption called a 'mirror' which I can use whenever I lose myself - hey, there I am! *waves*

28. Get Botox - I don't judge anyone who goes down this route, it's just not for me. I like moving my face.

29. Break a world record - Unless it's for 'most sarcastic 30 before 30 list in the world'.

30. Make a list of 40 things to do before 40 - I won't need to. I'll definitely have my shit together by then, right?  

What will you not be doing before 30?

Sunday, 16 August 2015

new chapter



This weekend I packed my life up into boxes and moved out of my family home. The move has been a long time coming (to say the least) and I am so excited for this new chapter. It's strange, I think the universe got the memo about my move as other areas of my life are changing too. It's as if everything's shifting up a gear.

So, although I am surrounded by boxes and feeling a little stressed - I am also deliriously happy. So far this new chapter is looking pretty damn sweet. 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

a note on love



There's a girl sitting in a coffee shop, drinking a latte and reading a book. She does this every Saturday at 11am, hoping he'll come back. He (let's call him Josh, she likes that name) is her soul mate... he just doesn't know it yet.

She met him three weeks ago. OK, met might be the wrong word. She was waiting for her sister to finish work and pretending she was at ease sitting alone in the coffee shop. She played on her phone and fidgeted in her seat like an impatient child - why couldn't she just relax? Then Josh walked in. He was her type and he smiled at her. She smiled back. As he walked away with his grande Americano, he looked her way again and said, "have a good day." she blushed and said "thanks, you too".

Since then she had written their love story in her head. He would come back to the coffee shop, see her sitting there reading his (probably) favourite book and feel compelled to say something. He wouldn't know why, but he would have the feeling he had met her somewhere before. They would talk, she would charm him with her quick wit and self-deprecation and he would say "we should do this again sometime". She would say "Il'd like that" and they would exchange numbers.

They would then start dating. Every date would cement their future as they felt more alive than they ever had before. They would go back to the coffee shop every year on their anniversary, smiling at the serendipity of their meeting.

She could see it so clearly. 

Looking down at her watch she realised it was 2pm. Josh was nowhere to be seen and she had to go meet her sister. Another week would have to pass by without her soul mate. She sighed heavily and left the coffee shop.

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

How often have you done this? Dreamt up a romantic scenario about someone you don't know? Or perhaps you do know them, but not very well. Do you fantasise that they have all the same tastes as you, that you love the same films, the same music and have the same outlook on life? I used to do it a lot at university. I fell in love on a weekly basis. 

There was this one guy who looked a little like Alex Zane and while we never said a single word to each other, we caught each others eye a lot. Then there was the friend from my course who I didn't know I liked until it was too late - I would imagine us meeting years later and me telling him I was sorry for being a pretentious bitch. Hell, I still think about the date I 'rain checked' on now when I see pictures of him looking happy with his girlfriend.  

I think at university I struggled with being alone. Probably more than I realised at the time. I think that's why I would lose myself in these scenarios, it was my way of coping with being lonely. After uni I wasn't single for long. And after that relationship I only had three months of being alone before I got into my next relationship. So I think now is the longest time I've been single since I was at university.

And I'm realising that while I am certainly more comfortable being alone now, I still have a pretty active imagination when it comes to love. A quote that always comes to mind when I catch myself in these daydreams is:

"Why do I fall in love with every woman I see who shows me the slightest bit of attention?" - Joel, Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind.

It resonates.... which, I'll admit, is slightly depressing. But I'm working on it. I'm trying not to let my mind become overrun with 'what if's' about the past. I'm trying not to think about an alternate timeline where I made a different decision, and we lived happily ever after. I'm trying not to dream up scenarios about the people throwing me compliments like scraps of food to a dog. I'm trying not to over-think situations and create drama in my head, because - quite frankly, it's exhausting. 

I'm sitting with myself and trying to let that be enough. Because it should be.

I'll end on another quote on love,

"We accept the love we think we deserve." Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Now this quote is supposed to be about how people fall into bad relationships because they don't believe they deserve real love. What's ironic is that I didn't think I deserved my last love. I didn't think I was worthy of it for a long time. And even though it didn't work out between us in the end, it taught me that there is hope and that I do deserve it. There are good people out there, and I don't have to dream them up in my head.

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?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

29


Last year I wrote a post after my birthday (28) so I thought I would do the same this year. Reading back at last year's post it's crazy to see how much has changed in a year. My birthday this year was a million miles away from last year. OK, not a million miles - 3396.08 to be exact. I was in Dubai.

My friend Paul moved out there a couple of years ago and I was dying to visit, so I figured what better time to go? I had such a great time and felt revitalised when I got home.

My actual birthday was different to any birthday I've had before. For one thing, I spent a lot of the day alone. For the past six years I've been in relationships on my birthday, so always had a significant other to spend it with. So being alone in a foreign country was certainly a first.  

And you know what? I actually kinda loved it. As soon as I woke up I opened my cards I brought along from home and then had a very lazy morning reading blogs. Eventually I got myself ready, slicked on some pink lippy and went for a wander. I headed to Baker and Spice, asked for a table for one and ate some tasty pasta salad. Then I went to the Dubai mall and found my way to Sephora and Cos (AKA Mecca). I grabbed a coffee on my way out and sat in front of the Burj Kalifa to take pictures and watch the world go by. 

When Paul got home from work we both got spruced up and headed out for dinner. Paul took me to a restaurant called Pai Thai which was in a beautiful setting and sold the best Thai food I have ever eaten. We finished the evening off with a couple of cocktails - perfection. All in all, a pretty wonderful day.

Something else that made this birthday different was what I saw for myself in the future. Last year I thought I knew exactly what the future held. I could see it clear as day and was so excited for it. This year is different. For the first time in a long time I have no clue what the future looks like. 

While this is slightly scary, there is a sense of freedom about not knowing. 

For example, being in a different country reminded me how much I love to travel. This combined with a newfound obsession with creating wish lists on the Airbnb app has given me seriously itchy feet. So I think 29 will be a year for exploring. Exploring different cities, exploring other cultures and yeah, exploring myself. 

I don't know where I'll be when I turn 30, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it'll be somewhere new. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Harlequins



As many of you know by now, music makes my soul happy. My tastes are varied, but I have a soft spot for anything with folk-y, blues-y, rock-y tones. I also have a soft spot for male vocalists who show grit, determination and passion when they sing. 

Enter Russell Joslin.

The first time I heard Russell Joslin was when a friend of mine recommended his album 'Dream Token'. I listened, I loved - I swooned. I reviewed his second offering, 'Jet Black and White' when I volunteered at For Folks Sake and, again, was happy to witness Joslin as he transformed acoustic folk into a genre all his own.

In the years since, I'll admit, he slipped out of my regular music rotation, becoming like a rare treasure I would rediscover every six months or so. So when I got the opportunity to review to his latest offering, Harlequins, I jumped at the chance to rediscover him all over again and see what he's been up to. 

And I was not disappointed. 

The opening track, 'Up with the birds' immediately grabs your attention with strings adding a new layer and jarring you in the best way possible. When the electric guitar kicks in, it turns what could have been a steady ditty to nod your head to into what feels like a beautiful, French tragedy.  

'Our Queen' lulls you back to safety with a more upbeat tempo, laced with rock-inspired riffs before the first single from the album, 'What a waste', changes it up again with a slicker, yet more sombre feel. The saxaphone weaves itself around lines like "you threw your love around in the wrong place", quickly elevating it to stand-out-track status. 

The simplicity of 'Doves may fly' stole my heart (and if I had to pick favourites, this would be it), telling a love story the only way Joslin could, with poetic metaphor and honesty. 

The rest of the album holds steady, 'The chosen few' is a crowd pleaser I envision doing well at festivals, and 'Victory parade' tells a veteran's story and makes me want to learn all the words so I can sing along. The closing track, 'Pale Mary', featured on Joslin's previous album, but I welcomed the re-recording back into my life like an old friend who I always had a crush on.

Listening to Harlequins, what stands out most for me is that Joslin's story telling abilities are well and truly intact. His music has evolved for sure, he's added new dimensions and new moods, but the way he writes lyrics, stories and music is as beautiful as ever. 

Harlequins will be released on 23rd Feb (my birthday!) and you can pick it up here

Who have you been listening to recently?

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

Edit: I just read through some old entries on here and came across a stream of consciousness I wrote back in 2008 that mentioned Mr. Joslin - clearly I was inspired (and a little sad)...

Thursday 12th June 2008, 01:33 AM

How can music do that? Reach into the bottom of your soul and reveal to you long forgotten emotions. God she loves it. These early hours are the best, when all are asleep but her and her new best friend - Mr Joslin. Oh how you move her, recreate tears that fell years ago. She thought they had died, gone forever - but you found them. You have decorated her sketched face with the artful little shapes. You are reminding her what her calling is, showing her it needn’t all be electrical nonsense - just passion. And her loves, (oh her loves), losses and continuing loneliness, you’ve found them too. Her mind is shooting scenes every second - various men take their turn in the role of leading man. He’s in bed with her and holds onto her naked skin for dear life. And you, good sir, are their soundtrack, and you are infuriating their imaginary passion and her real hurt. She thanks you for it, truly, nothing has moved her this far for years indeed. I think it was the push she needed to finally approach the belly of the beast... and secretly enjoy it.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

why you should throw away your scales...


Between the ages of 14 and 17, one thing and one thing only determined my happiness - my weight. If I had lost some, I was happy. If I hadn't, I was distraught. Those menacing numbers on the scales were my obsession. In my head I "knew" that if I just reached my target weight, I would be OK. Everything in my life would be better.

Of course, thanks to therapy and a good support system, I overcame this obsession and stopped standing on the scales. In the years since I have gone back to them from time to time - like a distant relative I hated but felt obliged to visit. And yes, I would still feel a tinge of unhappiness whenever the number creeped up, but I was much better able to handle those feelings. 

My most recent encounter with the scales was last week when my curiosity got the better of me, and this was my thought process...

"Hmmm, I weigh more than I thought."
"That's weird, I've been eating healthily, exercising and I feel more toned than I have in ages."
"I suppose muscle weighs more than fat."
"Wait a sec.... who the hell cares?!?!?"

Do you know what I know? I know that the clothes I squeezed myself into towards the end of last year now fit me better. I know that my tummy jiggles less than it did. I know that I can now cycle on level three for 30 minutes on an exercise bike without thinking I might die (previously level two for 25 minutes was my limit). I know that I feel fitter, leaner, more confident and more energetic than I have in ages.

That's what I know. And I do not need an inanimate object to tell me otherwise. 

If you're trying to lose weight, instead of having a target weight, why don't you think up a different target? Aim to run a 5K race. Aim to fit in those skinny jeans hidden in the back of your wardrobe. Aim to feel confident in a tank top. And for the sake of your sanity, stop being a slave to your scales. 

Now, of course in some cases scales can be handy to keep track of your progress (especially if your doctor has advised you to lose weight) but try to reign in the habit and don't let your mood be dictated by a number. Muscle does weigh more than fat and yes, your weight will fluctuate a lot depending on all sorts of things. 

I won't be weighing myself any time soon - I'm living a healthy lifestyle now and while I'm happy I seem to be toning up - I'm not doing this to lose weight. I'm doing it to feel better inside. And I do.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

project life





Ever since I was 12 I have been a big believer in documenting life. It was at this age that I started writing my first diary, a habit I have continued (on and off) throughout my life. Nowadays, I tend to only turn to my diary when I'm feeling low and need to 'write it out' to gain clarity. For the happier moments, I turn to my camera (phone) instead. 

I love the power photos have - bringing back a memory with a single glance, I mean what else has that power? If you follow me on Instagram, you'll probably notice that I am a bit of a photograph-a-holic, and while some of the pictures I take are mundane, they are a moment captured that I'll never experience again. And I think that's pretty freakin' awesome.

And indeed, thanks to social networks like Instagram and Facebook, I can look back at those moments whenever I want - as long as I have a decent Wifi connection. While this is admittedly kinda cool in it's own right, I've always loved tangible photos. When I studied photography in college my favourite part of the lesson was always cutting and pasting my pictures in the project book, making it look as pretty as possible. And now that I'm older, with a full time job and boring responsibilities? I wanna rekindle that creativity.

But also - I'm lazy. I don't have time to learn calligraphy, and I have no desire to get covered in glue. As I mentioned in my previous post, I read about Project Life scrapbooks on Lily Pebbles' blog, and I was drawn to it's simplicity. They provide the book and some funky cards - you provide the photos. All you have to do is arrange and slot in the cards/photos. EASY.

Today I started my project life scrapbook and am really happy with the results - my favourite pages are up there ^^^. It feels nice to be documenting life again, and I can't wait to look back over it again and again.

Do you print your photos? What do you do with them? 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

this week








Getting back into a routine after the festivities of Christmas is hard, but it's also kinda nice. It's the time to dictate what your new routine will be; you figure out just how realistic those resolutions you made on January 1st really are and you can set the tone for the year ahead.

My first week 'back to reality' has been pretty low key, but also quite pleasant. Here's what I did.

Drank warm water with lemon every day

This has been an easy adjustment to make to my morning routine and I'm sure it's doing me good. I boil the kettle, roll a lemon around on the side (makes it easier to juice) chop it in half and hand squeeze the juice from one half into a cup. Fill the cup halfway with boiled water, top the rest up with cold water. Sip and enjoy. I find it surprisingly filling, so I've started to take my breakfast to work rather than trying to scoff it down straight after my lemon water.

Made overnight oats

I was inspired by my manager who enjoyed some yummy bircher muesli over Christmas and looked up some overnight oat recipes. I tweaked one and came up with this banana and blueberry concoction:

Mash up 1/2 banana and a handful of blueberries
Add 1/3 cup of rolled oats
Add 1/3 cup of soy milk
Add 1 tbsp 0% Greek yoghurt
Stir, cover with clingfilm and pop in the fridge overnight.

The next morning give it another stir and top with more blueberries. I make mine in a tupperware pot and take it to work - super quick and easy.

Did spinning once, yoga three times and walking once

Slowly but surely getting back into my exercise routine and feeling sooo much better for it. Less bloated, more energetic and overall a bit buzzy. Oh, and for those interested I do my yoga using this website (you do have to pay to subscribe, but not much and I think it's worth it).

Impulse bought scrapbook materials

Thanks to Lily Pebbles I got a bit overexcited and bought a ton of Project Life scrapbook bits from Hobbycraft. I love taking pictures and always want to do something more with them, so very excited to while away some rainy afternoons with glue, scissors and glitter pens.

Watched The Theory of Everything & Walking the Nile

The Theory of Everything (Steven Hawking biopic) was fantastic and I think I fell a little bit more in love with Eddie Redmayne. If he doesn't get an oscar for that performance I will be miffed. Walking the Nile is a documentary on channel 4 following Levison Wood as he walks the length of the Nile. The first episode was incredible and tragic at the same time (watch it here). The next episode in on tonight (Sunday) at 9:00PM - watch it!

Cooked tuna linguini

My first family meal endeavour was super duper easy and ended up being really rather tasty (from this recipe book). But then again, you can't go wrong with pasta, fish, garlic and tomatoes can you? I served it with garlic bread and some faux wine (sparkling pomegranate and elderflower). 

Found a quote I liked from Rachel Brathen

Also known as @yoga_girl on Instagram, I love this quote (this is just a section of the quote) about balance. PS. I made the image above on PicMonkey.

Spent time with the family

Visited my sister on Saturday and played with her cats (the one in the pic is Daphne - what a doll) and walked around Windsor with my parents and brother on Sunday. Nothing particularly new or exciting there, but after the shock to the system of going back to work, it was just what I needed.

Listened to the soundtrack from Inside Llewyn Davis

Ahhhh the songs from this movie make me so happy. If you like folk music, I implore you to watch the film and then download the album pronto. On Saturday I spent three hours solid listening to music. The last hour I wasn't reading, scrolling through my phone - nothing. Just lay down on my bed, eyes to the ceiling and got lost in the lyrics. Here's my favourite song from the soundtrack:



Are you back in the swing of things yet?

Friday, 2 January 2015

2015

NYE with friends / out for a walk / healthy breakfast

I love new years, the slate is wiped clean and we can delight in making plans for the future. It's all about looking ahead, and that I can totally get on board with. This year I'm keen to steer clear of huge unattainable 'resolutions' and instead try to make small changes that will (hopefully) result in a seismic shift. So let's see what I'll be attempting in 2015...

1) Start the day with hot water and lemon

There are lots of health benefits associated with this small action so setting my alarm a few minutes early and adding this to my morning routine feels like a no brainer.

2) Cut down on sugar

Overindulging on sugar makes me feel and look rubbish (hello spotty skin) so I'm keen to reign in my sweet tooth, starting by replacing the sugar I normally have in my coffee with cinnamon. As explained here, this is a simple but effective swap. I'll also be giving up chocolate from Mon-Fri and upping my veg intake. 

3) Quit drinking (temporarily)

I don't like how I feel when I drink at the moment. Instead of feeling social, chatty and enthused about the night, lately it's just made me seek validation from other people and/or get upset - not great. So for the next month and a bit I'm giving up alcohol to give my physical and mental health a little boost. I'll celebrate this with a couple of cocktails on my birthday in Dubai.

4) Get back into an exercise routine

Last year I did manage to get myself into quite a good exercise routine, switching between spinning, yoga and arm workouts - but then I got a cold. Then I went to Berlin and ate all the pastries. Then I got tonsillitis. And then, well - Christmas happened. So, time to get back into my routine and maybe even join the gym. Maybe.

5) Cook dinner for the family once a week

Cooking more is always on my list - I hate cooking. But I need to get over it. So I've decided I will cook for my family once a week to ease myself into it. Then of course when I move out I will be a culinary Goddess ;)

6) Drive somewhere new once a week

I am perfectly comfortable driving routes I know (especially if I know where I can park easily) but I am still nervous when it comes to new routes. And again, I need to get the hell over it. So every weekend I will take myself out for a drive with my satnav and some tunes, and I'll be just fine.

7) Instill some house rules before the move

I was planning to move to a flat by myself after my birthday, but now I have an opportunity to live with one of my closest friends later on in the year (yay!) - so I will be staying put until then. I have been living at home with my family for a long time and the need for independence is at times, suffocating. So I've asked that when my bedroom door is closed, to please not disturb. That may sound a tad harsh, but there are times when I just need to decompress and be alone. I also plan to go out for walks alone with some music when I feel overwhelmed or simply need to get out of the house - it is so good for clearing your head.

That's about it for now. I'm sure some of these will fall by the wayside as the months roll by - but I'll pick them back up. And I may even add some new ones. Either way, I think 2015 is going to be a defining year.

What do you have planned for 2015? Will you make big changes or small tweaks?

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