Sunday, November 16, 2014

five ways to make the most of traveling

No matter what part of the world you’re in; whether you’re breathing in the fresh scent of honeysuckle as the world blooms around you, or crunching your way through piles of leaves with a pumpkin spice latte in hand; no doubt you are starting to feel the travel bug come upon you once more.

With the New Year approaching, a sense of anticipation is in the air. We are filled with a yearning to take more chances, learn new things, surround ourselves with like-minded people and explore every inch of this beautiful globe of ours. The time is ripe for exploration – both of the external world around us, and of our own complex and intricate internal world as well. And what better way to do that than to pack a suitcase and go on an adventure?

Whether you’re planning to head to a different country, or simply go on a weekend road trip down to the beach, I have complied a little list of travel tips to take with you into the glorious new year that we’re all going to have.

Go without expectations

Often when we plan getaways, we go with a little map in our minds of how we want everything to play out. Unfortunately, the more detailed our map is, the more likely we are to be disappointed. If there’s anything that I have learned from my times abroad (and life in general), it’s that things never go according to plan. So rather than bemoan the fact that it’s raining, or the place that you wanted to go to is closed for renovation, or your friends/partner are not as keen on hour-long hikes up steep mountains as you are, embrace the moments that you do have.  Throw away your checklist and plans, and learn to live day-by-day, taking and enjoying the opportunities that come about naturally. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amazing experiences that can come out of spontaneity.

Get creative

It cannot be denied that all of us have a creative side. It’s just that a lot of us are unable to find the time to express it as often or as loudly as we wish. Well, now is your chance to let it shine. The beauty of travel is that you have the time and the freedom to get to know who you truly are. So rather than spending all of the travel time that you do have on the things that everyone tells you that you should be doing, such as ticking tourist sites off of your checklist, make the effort to get in touch with your creative side. Spend a morning writing, try a new dance class, paint the beautiful scenery around you, or make up a fun new game to play with your travel companions. Life is too short not to be completely, unashamedly ourselves – and to withhold our innate, unique creativity is to sacrifice who we truly are.

Explore the unfamiliar

Too often when we go on holiday, particularly to somewhere popular with a very rich history, it can so easy to spend all of our time at the tourist hotspots. I found it was hard to avoid doing that in Europe, particularly as we were catching trains everywhere, and getting to places off of the beaten track was a bit of a nightmare. While that was an incredible trip, some of my best experiences have been through hiring a car (which is getting so much more affordable than my first trip abroad, due to things like the RelayRides airport rentals initiative) and getting well away from the tourist destinations: exploring the ruins of castles in Frances, finding 1950s style diners in the desert in America, chilling out in a field with some buffalo, driving through wheat fields listening to Billy Joel with my family, and finding teensy tiny little Christmas markets in the storybook villages dotted around rural Germany. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t make an effort to see the historical monuments and natural sights that are so popular, because usually they’re popular for a reason. But at the same time, make an effort to branch out in the real heart of the place you’re visiting, because you may just find that your trip is the richer for it.

Meet new people

While I love traveling with my friends, partner and family, traveling solo for a few weeks was one of the best things that I have ever done. Everywhere I went I met the most incredible people and heard so many awe-inspiring stories. It’s not that there aren’t incredible people around you right now, nor that they don’t also have fascinating stories to share, but there is something about travel that opens us up. We feel a strong sense of wanting to share and listen that is often absent from our day-to-day lives.  Whether you’re traveling alone or in a group, make an effort to get to know those around you, and really connect with your fellow human beings. You’ll be a much wiser and more empathetic person for it, I promise.

Use your travel time to evaluate where you are in life: clarity most often comes when you have space to reflect

As I said earlier, so many of us are time-poor and it can stop us from getting in touch with who we really are. So many of my epiphanies have been abroad, and everyone I know who has been travelling has said the same. It’s not just because a change of scenery can give a new perspective, but also because it may very well be one of the only times that you have to really get to know yourself. It all sounds a bit touchy-feely, but it’s also true. How many of you devote some space in your day to just sit in silence and breathe? How many of you have the time to lie on your back in the grass, pondering the universe, life and death? If you’re anything like me, your answer will be rarely to not at all. Traveling gives us that much needed freedom and space to reconnect with our thoughts and ourselves. So rather than busting out your mobile phone or music as you trek through the unknown, immerse yourself fully in the moment and let yourself be fully alive, something that we don’t often allow ourselves to do.

So, now that I have shared a couple of my travel recommendations, it’s over to you guys:  What is your number one travel tip? Please share in the comments field below J

(Image credit: 1.)

Monday, November 10, 2014

intrinsic vs. extrinsic goals

If there’s one thing that anybody knows about me, it’s that I love to set goals. Love with a great big capital L. While I’m not entirely sure where I would be without them, having never actually given it a shot, chances are I would spend my days lying in the sun with a good book (by good book I mean re-reading the Harry Potter series for the 10000000000 time) and drinking my body weight in earl grey tea. Now on the surface that doesn’t sad bad at all (actually it sounds amazing), but as I get older I am starting to learn more and more about how vital it to nourish your mind, body and soul in a variety of different ways.
While I usually reach the goals that I set in regards to my mind and soul, I have never quite gotten the hang of the body part of equation. It wasn’t until midway through this year that I realised why those goals weren’t as achievable at the others, even though they weren’t any more difficult: the intention behind them was not the same.
Most of my goals are for myself and myself alone: I set them because working towards them and meeting them is fun, and it fills me with a sense of accomplishment. These aren’t goals that I make with the expectation of impressing anyone other than myself; they are simply a tool I use to move forward (and not read every single day away) and satisfy my creative side.
However, my exercise goals have always been different. Though being a coeliac vegetarian means that I don’t have to worry about my weight, my body certainly isn’t the kind that would grace magazine covers or wind up on someone’s instagram as fitspo (don’t get me started on fitspo. Worst. Thing. Ever.). I’m equal parts bony and soft in alllll of the wrong places, and despite being a staunch feminist often have to swallow my pride and ask my husband to open jars for me because I’m just too darn weak to do it myself (I must stress that I’m not weak because I’m female, I’m weak because I have been too lazy to build up my upper-body strength).
Due to having a touch of low self-esteem when it comes to my figure, when I have set exercise goals it has been with the intention of changing my body. And while I’m a little ashamed to type this, always being the first to loudly say that looks don’t matter, the only reason I attempted to change my body shape was to impress other people. I certainly wouldn’t feel any differently about myself were I to suddenly wake up with abs and buns of steel, because that sort of thing doesn’t matter half as much to me as say, good grades and kindness. But a small part of me couldn’t help but think it might be nice to look appealing in order to gain the approval of others.
Needless to say that, as is the case with most people, my desire to impress others was simply not a strong enough motivator to combat my deep set loathing of exercising. So any fitness goals that I have had have lasted maaaybe a month or so before I have crawled back to the couch in defeat.
However, something has happened over the last year that has turned my ‘move’ goals from extrinsic into intrinsic. This past year I have been a bit unwell, and it was when I went in for surgery that I realised my body wasn’t working quite as well as I have been used to. While there isn’t much I can do about that side of things, it was a great big wake up call to just how awesome being healthy actually is. I realised how much I appreciated my body: not in terms of how my body looks, but in regards to all of the things that it does for me: I can walk, dance, run, sing, smell, taste, hear, breathe, see. And hell if I don’t want to look after it as well as I possibly can.
I have since started running and joined a lunchtime boot camp – two things I have previously avoided like the plague – and am already feeling far healthier and stronger. Where once I would have said things to myself while attempting to run like ‘no pain, no gain’, now when I feel like giving up I remind myself that I love and care for my body, and it is this intention that keeps me going forward.

So many people, such as myself, attempt to ‘get healthy’ for all of the wrong reasons. We do it out of a place of hate; out of the idea that we’re not good enough as we are. Getting outdoors and moving shouldn’t be about trying to force your body into changing. Rather, it should be about nourishing ourselves because we want the very best for the skin, bone, fat and muscle that we call home.

We need to stop trying to mould our bodies to fit to match the unrealistic representations of men and women thrown at us constantly by the media, and start appreciating and caring for the bodies that we do have, no matter what shape or size, simply because we recognise how completely awesome they already are.

(Image credit: 1.)