Archive | August, 2012

Why I’m Not Going to TBU This Year (Again)

I’m not usually someone who plans her weekends and holidays months in advance. But when I do, chances are, I will change it last-minute.

For the past few months, I’ve been trying to become a planner because, let’s admit it, knowing exactly what you’re going to be doing for the next few months is comfortable. I’d check my calendar every evening to prepare for what I’ll be doing the next day. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays was exercise day. Thursday’s was after-work drinks day and Sundays was laundry, cleaning and reading day.

I was building a routine.

Breakfast in Stockholm with Roomorama

This is my breakfast – every single day.

Or that’s what I used to tell myself. But at the end, I was basically building bricks around by comfort zone. Planning a lot in advance cut my wings of spontaneity. Whenever a spontaneous idea came to my mind, I looked the date up in my calendar and got back to reality – I had already written down something for that day, probably more than a month in advance.

At the time I moved to the complete opposite side of London and handed in my resignation letter, I snapped – I should be celebrating this. A new neighborhood. A new career. A new life. A new beginning. 28 is going to be my year – I feel it. I should be giving myself the break I deserve!

At that time, a close friend of mine was going through a similar situation. Among several e-mail exchanges she confessed that she had just impulsively bought a ticket to Shanghai.

Shanghai. That’s the way I want to celebrate change. An unexplored city, 4 good friends and dumplings. Lot’s of them.

I felt the urge to open my calendar and check whether I could do it or, instead, I had already pre-planned another commitment. I found TBU Porto written in capital letters all over the dates. It couldn’t have been another way, could it?

I didn’t think about it twice and bought my ticket to China.

View over Hong Kong

Hong Kong was the closest I had been to China so far

I felt this was my chance. There will be more travel blogging conferences in the future, but probably no other chance to explore China with 3 close friends. I not only celebrate my career shift from Finance to Event Management, but also the return of my spontaneity. Two weeks ago, I didn’t even know I was going on holidays – let alone that I would travel somewhere afar. Somewhere I’d need a visa for! This, mind you, might be normal elsewhere, but rather exotic for someone holding a Schengen passport.

TBU will have to wait – Adventure is now a priority.

Finding The Place I Belong

A few days ago, I came across a very simple test that claimed to point you towards the city where you belong. I only pick up on these sort of tests when I’m sleepy, or blocked. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. Then I hit the button and there it was:

London.

Tower Bridge, London

Funny, I thought. London and me didn’t kick off very well at the beginning. Then winter came, and I hibernated for almost 4 months. I wasn’t happy at my job, and I wasn’t happy in my apartment either. Actually, I wasn’t even happy in my neighborhood. I took it on London – I blamed the city for my bad mood. The weather, the crammed tubes to work, the traffic and people’s unhappy faces. No natural light and lots of stress was bringing me down.

Spring opened my eyes – I needed a change. I took time to think about what made me feel miserable and what was in my hands to change it. Early summer saw me finally rise again: I had an aha-moment, some sort of enlightening. The only thing in my way to be happy was myself, and, with this realization, everything was suddenly in my hands. So what did I do?

I handed in my resignation letter…
…applied for a short course in Event Management…
…and have started to volunteer at all sorts of events in and around London.

I moved to a new apartment…
…In a completely new neighborhood…
…With a stranger (no so much of a stranger anymore).

And all of a sudden, London has become so much friendlier, warmer and overall better city to live in.

It’s funny how other parts of our lives have such a strong effect on us, that they can completely change the way we see a place. And sometimes, something as simple as moving to another neighborhood can change our whole perception.

Old Street, London

When I first moved here, I wanted to be part of the big city: I pictured myself as a young professional working in finance and living in the trendy east. The place where all tech startups rise. An area known for trendy vintage shops and bohemian bars and cafes, underground music and graffiti art. I thought I would become part of this urban trend – but I didn’t.

I value space over distance, green areas over shopping alternatives and comfort over trendiness. East London is cool and it definitely had it’s advantages, but it simply isn’t the place I belong.

My New Neighborhood in London

And so, I moved to the South West. Here, parks are abundant, people are young and laid back and coffee shops sell great lattes for affordable prices. I have a regular supermarket, I’ve already met some of my neighbors and spend my sundays alternating reading with people watching in the park. I’ve only been here 3 weeks, and already I feel settled and comfortable around the area. I’m even starting to think that I do belong here right now.

Where do you feel you belong at this moment?

Picture This: A Tourist in Brighton

Brighton, England

Sometimes, I envy tourists. It’s such a great feeling to walk through a new city or landscape with your camera hanging around your neck – ready to take memories and evidence of every moment. Sitting down at a beach bar to order exactly what everyone else is ordering, something that you were told is local cuisine. Strolling along small alleys, surrounded by colorful buildings and souvenir shops selling english kitsch that will make you laugh back home.

My day trip to Brighton was not only a chance to get my first english tan this summer, but also to rediscover the joys of being a tourist once again.

Do you enjoy being a tourist from time to time? What’s the part of it that you enjoy the most?

PS: You might find less or shorter posts during the next few weeks. I’m still working on entertaining my head with lots of new and exciting things to stop obsessing about the calendar days left until the official start of my new career. It’s for a good cause!

That Time I Hiked Semi-Barefooted

Every time I travel somewhere known for its mountain filled landscapes, I pack my pair of alpine trekking boots, taking up a third of my overall travel size and weight restrictions. I don’t mind these limitations, when I’m really going to be making use of its advantages (like the time I hiked to Mirador Las Torres, in Chile). However, most of the times I don’t need such high-tech boots – simple and comfortable walking shoes with a resistant sole would suffice.

I walked into an outdoor equipment shop looking for my next hiking boots. This time, I thought, I want light ones that don’t take up much space, water-resistant and easy to wash. Oh, and if possible, as compact as flip-flops.

I know what you’re thinking: Those shoes don’t exist.

True. But I think I found something fairly close to my requirements.

My Vibram Five Fingers

Go ahead, crack yourself up – who said they were going to be sexy? I’m a new convert to the Five Fingers cult! Not only is it a pleasant experience to have a feel of what’s actually happening underneath your sole, but also do I believe that walking barefoot (or in this case, semi-barefoot) has many benefits that we have been loosing over time – we’d live healthier, improve our posture and have a better understanding of our body.

As soon as I packed in my new purchase, I decided to put them on test.

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

We chose an easy walk for that afternoon – it was hot and humid. Skies were covered with low-hanging clouds that had been pushed against Tenerife’s northern hillside (a weather phenomenon commonly known as panza de burro or mar de nubes). The hike was about 9km return with not more than 200m meters of height difference – a relaxed walk along the island’s coastline.

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

Starting at the Hotel Maritim, in Los Realejos the path started on asphalt, but soon turned into gravel. At first, I must admit, I didn’t feel comfortable – instead, I took each step with insecurity. I noticed the small rocks and sand under my feet and consciously looked for smoother and flatter areas. During the first 15 minutes, I only stared down at the ground making sure I wasn’t going to step on anything pointy, and so missed out on part of the beautiful landscape.

With time (and practice!) I felt increasingly more confident. The sole, although thinner and softer, still protected me from the heat of the ground and uneven surfaces. I soon realized that these shoes would probably help me gain balance (something I’ve always been lacking of, and that would probably ease my irrational fear of falling down a cliff).

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

As we reached the end of our walk and considered to begin the return, our adventurous spirit kicked in – we literally went off the beaten track to try to reach a small and individual beach. A steep and narrow sandy path limited by a cliff leading directly into the ocean, where pointy rocks waited patiently in the uneasy water. Adventurous, yes. Safe, not completely – not for me. As soon as I took 2 steps down that hill, I knew it was too late to go back. A million thoughts and what ifs were rushing in my head and I stopped to think clearly. I lost confidence in my own feet and my balance. At that point, my mind must have been blocked – as I can’t remember most of it. Somehow, though, I made it up that hill and promised myself never to leave a path again (we all know that won’t last long, though).

My take on this is simple: exercising barefoot (or semi-barefooted) is an amazing experience, but one needs to know his own limitations (as well as the ones of the shoe itself) and work on them before jumping to the extreme. I’m sure I’ll learn to trust in my feet and improve my balance and, someday, it will allow me to overcome this stupid little fear.

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

Practical Information

Route: From Hotel Maritim (Los Realejos) to Rambla de Castro (Los Realejos)
Elevation gain uphill: 445m
Elevation gain downhill: 445m
Length: 3 km
Duration: 1.5 hrs
Difficulty: Super Easy
Wikiloc: Rambla de Castro. This Wikiloc is not exactly the same route described above but a bit longer one that leads to Playa del Socorro (a beautiful black sand beach).

Have you ever walked in Five Fingers or barefoot? Would you consider it?

Disclaimer: This post is NOT a sponsored post. I bought the shoes myself and continue to use them regularly (for instance, to run in the park). All opinions, thoughts (and fears) are of my own.

August Challenge: Make Time Fly

Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.
- Albert Einstein

Plane Flying over London

One of the many things I’ve done to make time pass quickly: watching planes fly over me in the park.

The mind plays funny tricks to our experience with time. Sometimes a day seems to stretch enormously and others, you feel it’s end before it had even started.

It’s a matter of how we perceive things.

Common thoughts on time are that time flies when you’re having fun or time drags when you’re bored. Sure, that’s true – but there’s much more behind these statements. When we are having a good time, we are keeping our mind distracted and don’t pay attention to time. When we’re performing an unpleasant task, however, the clock seems to stop. Boredom basically draws our attention to the passage of time and every single minute feels like eternity.

Sometimes, when listening to a particular music piece I love, time slows down to my perception. This, I read, is because of the greater attention I give to it. This also happens when snoozing my morning alarm – I even get nervous thinking that I’ve cancelled it instead. But most of all, time slows down when you’re expecting something big to happen.

Mountains in Torres del Paine, Chile

I’m too impatient to hike to the top. Is tele-transportation an option yet?

When ramping up to a long expected trip, I start packing days in advance – not because I’m an organized person, but because I just can’t wait. When hiking uphill to reach a viewpoint over a valley, every minute is multiplied by 30 in my perception – I’d rather run up and watch (I should start training for that). Before moving into my new apartment, I used to count the time left, every single day. And now that my career change is real – I’ve got my mind fixed in the 25th of September (the day I start my postgrad course), which feels a year away.

My relationship with my watch and my calendar starts to be slightly unhealthy, which is why I’m planning to change the speed of time passage.

August dare: Make time fly (at least until the 25th of September!).

Sailing in Tenerife, Spain

A week sailing that felt like a day trip – This happens when you’re enjoying yourself!

So how do I plan on changing the speed at which time passes?

Not an easy task – but I have a plan.

For a start, I’m ditching any type of watch this month. The only time I’m allowing myself to use it, is for my morning wake up call (otherwise, the day would fly far too quickly because of my 12-hour naps). Otherwise, all sort of appointments will be set up as e-mail and calendar reminders – which will hopefully surprise me with how quick they’ve approach in time. This should make it easier to concentrate on the tasks I’m performing, instead of focusing on the passing of time.

Even more importantly, I’ll keep myself busy – super busy in fact – all of the time. It’s a good thing that the Olympics are on, that I’ve got a whole new neighborhood to explore and a new industry to learn of (in addition to my full time job, my goal to become a day skipper before the end of september, and have lots of fun with it all). To keep track of my productivity, I’ve even joined the Todoist cult (ok, it´s not exactly a cult – but I’m not the only one in the blogosphere finding it incredibly useful).

Now, let the countdown begin…

How do you make sure time goes quickly when you’re impatiently waiting for something?

Picture This: Windsurfing in El Médano (Tenerife)

Windsurfing in Tenerife, Canary Islands

Well, yes – To master windsurfing and/or kitesurfing is another project of mine. Mastering the sport is probably a bit too ambitious – unless, of course, I’m a born natural and I’ve wasted 28 years of life. So, for what’s left of 2012, let’s just keep it at learning how to fall properly, how to get up sort of graciously and maybe even not crashing into the water for at least 5 minutes.

Does that seem reasonable?

I took this shot at one of my favorite beaches in Tenerife (Spain) – El Médano. Every summer it becomes a surfing hotspot!