NYC Sunset from the Highline

Whenever I thought of NYC, my mind wandered to the images I had experienced on my business trips to the big Apple: extremely polluted, overly crowded and never-ending avenues filled with busy stressed-out people.

I used to be one of them.

My trips to NYC were never as amazing as they seemed (after all, I spent most of my waking time inside hotels and office buildings). To this, I must add that my trips, though frequent, were always ridiculously short (mostly 2-3 days, arriving on a Sunday evening) and hardly ever allowed for “a day off“.

This was one of the reasons I made New York one of my priorities this summer: I really wanted to live the city. I wanted to spend enough time around to appreciate what makes NYC, well, NYC. What is it that makes people fall in love with this place?

Well, I think I found the answer: Sunsets.

And these are my all-time NYC favourites.

Grand Ferry Park (Brooklyn)

NYC Sunset from Grand Ferry Park

NYC Sunset from Grand Ferry Park

NYC Sunset from Grand Ferry Park

On my second day in New York, I returned back to Brooklyn late in the afternoon – right on time for the sunset. I was hoping to capture it on camera, but had no idea where to go. I followed to Hudson River up towards North Williamsburg until I came across a tiny green waterfront space offering an open view of the Manhattan skyline. I wasn’t alone, of course: roughly 20 people were spread across the park having a drink or snack while watching the sun disappear behind the skyscrapers.

Location: between Grand Street, West River Street and the East River (map)

The Highline (Manhattan)

NYC Sunset from the Highline

NYC Sunset from the Highline

If you are planning to visit New York, I highly recommend adding The Highline to your itinerary. But even better than walking through this exceptional park built on an elevated section of the NY Central Railroad is doing so on time to watch the sun set peek in-between the buildings.

I’m in love.

Location: The Highline runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues (map).

Williamsburg (Brooklyn)

NYC Sunset on the streets of Williamsburg

NYC Sunset on the streets of Williamsburg

NYC Sunset on the streets of Williamsburg

On a Saturday evening, the sunset caught me roaming the streets of Williamsburg (Brooklyn). There was no time left to rush down to the river. And there was no need for it, either. The golden hour swept through the green leafs – reflecting on parked cars, brick walls, pavements. It shone intensely – so much, that for a brief moment, I was blinded by its light!

This is proof that you really don’t have to go far to find beauty: just go outside and appreciate the moment. 

Location: Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact street I took these photos on – what I do know is that it was between Bedford Ave Station and Williamsburg Bridge (map). 

Wythe Hotel Rooftop (Brooklyn)

NYC Sunset from Wythe Hotel

NYC Sunset from Wythe Hotel

NYC Sunset from Wythe Hotel

If I had to pick one place, just one place, to go and watch the sun set over New York – this place would be the rooftop of the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg (Brooklyn). Because nothing really beats watching the skies change their colours over an iconic skyline while sipping rosé with friends (old and new).

Location: Wythe Hotel – 80 Wythe Ave. at N. 11th Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11249 (map)

PS: An iPhone pic I took from the Wythe Hotel became my most liked Instagram shot so far! But, do you want to know what was actually happening behind the scenes…? 

Which is your favourite place to watch the sunset in NYC?


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Writing is a key way to refine my thoughts and keep a clean record of my experiences. I love composing thoughtful post ideas and choose and work on the photos that best go with the topic. However, sometimes I just want to share my thoughts, goals and the little things that make me smile on a day to day basis.

At the end of each month, I will put together a behind the scenes post in which I’ll give you a peek of my weekends, business travels, goals and favourite links.

Click here to read my previous Behind the Scenes.


Travels and Adventures

Ever since I left Spain in 2009, I longed for hot sunny summers spent lounging at the beach. So when I finally decided to take a career break earlier this year, I figured this was my chance to make up for the past 6 years!

May: Tenerife – Madrid – Basque Country 

Hiking in Tenerife, Spain

I spent my first month back home soaking up the sunshine, eating fresh fish and on occasional hikes. One of my favorite moments was watching an incredible sunset from a small mirador only a 30-minute walk away from my home.

Sunset in Tenerife, Spain

At the end of the month, I flew to Bilbao for a Mom – Daughter trip in the Basque Country to celebrate my 31st birthday! I spent my birthday surrounded by things I love: family, nature and wine. I couldn’t have asked for anything better than that!

Marqués de Riscal, Basque Country (Spain)

June: Tenerife – Madrid – Basque Country – Cantabria 

Playa del Ancón, Tenerife (Canary Islands)

When I returned to Tenerife from rather rainy Basque Country, I made it a mission to soak up as much sunshine at home and some of my favourite beaches (like the ones above) as possible. I didn’t miss a single day on my duty. I think I did a pretty decent job. 

After a very brief visit to Madrid to attend the Open Day of my preferred MBA Program late May, I returned a couple of weeks later for an interview (which, later on, became an offer that I happily accepted) – now, I’m officially a 2016 MBA Candidate!

San Sebastián, Basque Country (Spain)

On the following day, I took an early train to Irún – where I started my 3-week hike along the northern coast of Spain. I loved discovering tiny villages, lush mountains and beautiful  sandy beaches in the Basque Country and Cantabria – all while challenging myself more than I ever had before.

Cantabria (Spain)

July: – Cantabria – Asturias – Tenerife – Miami – New York

Oviedo, Asturias (Spain)

Early July I continued my Camino de Santiago along the Northern route from Cantabria into Asturias – which has now become my latest obsession – I mean, look at this place. And this one. Oh, and the one above (Oviedo)!

Arriving in Oviedo (my end point) felt equally wrong and right. I was sad to leave – but also excited for the adventures ahead. I returned back to Tenerife for a few days to rest (and go kayaking!) before flying out to Miami to meet my best friend for 6 days of sunshine, art and cocktails (not necessarily in that order). I absolutely loved exploring the Wynwood Art Walls – and am still talking about it to anyone who cares to listen!

Cocktails in Miami

Following Miami came New York. A lot of plans began to change at this point: my 1-week  photography course had been cancelled** and so had my following trip to Iceland. This reminded me that things don’t always go as planned and you have to learn to make the best out of it.

Sunset from New York City Highline

And so I did. I took my NY trip as an opportunity to explore an entire different aspect of the city. I spent most of my time in Brooklyn, for instance. Every day I woke up without a set plan. Instead, I just walked: along the Hudson river, across bridges, through parks and even along a beach. I saw many incredible sunsets and had some of the best coffees. I even met up with some of my ex-work colleagues – it was so nice to see them again after these months!

**I ended up taking a short weekend photography course which now allows me to feel a bit more comfortable out of auto-mode (just don’t ask me to take backlit photos or indoor portraits!). 

August: New York – Tenerife – Cologne – Madrid 

New York skyline

I left New York for Tenerife once again – but this time for only just enough time to slightly recover from jet lag, squeeze goodbye my little ball of fur and pack my life into one and a half suitcases (oh, and also go on a quick boat trip to some of my favourite corners of the island – Los Gigantes and Teno).

Boat trip in Tenerife, Canary Islands

After dropping off my bags in my little flat, I headed straight back to the airport to fly out to Cologne, Germany, to spend some time with close family. I hadn’t been to Cologne in 20 years – what a beautiful city! I really enjoyed the lifestyle there: the large parks, river walks, beautiful old town, many breweries… I’ve already made it a mission to return some time over the next 2 months!

Cologne, Germany

I’ve been back in Madrid for the past 5 days, slowly easing myself into this new place, new neighbourhood and new life as an MBA student – can’t wait for the program to begin!


Summer Reads

Blue Sea in Tenerife, Spain

Early June I published my summer reading list. I have a problem with reading lists, though: I hardly ever stick to them. Once I find something I like, I tend to stick to it (as happens with terrifying psychological thrillers led by extremely twisted female characters – anti-heroes, as they call them).

So, yeah, I guess you won’t be surprised that two out of my three strongest recommendations are thrillers. Oops. 

Anyway, I have read some great (and some not so great) books this summer. If you’re looking for some inspiration for your next purchase, I definitely recommend adding these 3 to your reading list:

Luckiest girl alive – by Jessica Knoll ★★★★★

I have read mixed reviews about this book before even picking it up in June as my next read. Lets put it this way: I really wouldn’t sell it as a light beach read. But. BUT. I personally loved it. If you enjoy dynamic reads that switch between past and present, cold and calculating anti-heroes and don’t mind rather graphic descriptions and swear words – give it a go (and let me know what you think!).

Disclaimer – by Renée Knight ★★★★

I devoured Disclaimer in 1.5 days! Catherine begins to read a book she finds by her bedside until she realises it’s all about her. It threatens to expose her darkest secret, one she thought she was safe from. The book is written in past and present form from the perspective of two characters. It was dynamic, gripping, fast-paced and twisted – highly recommend it!

The wrong knickers: A decade of chaos – by Bryony Gordon ★★★★

I simply loved this book for 3 reasons: it’s honest, real and hilarious! I believe there’s a little bit of Bryony in every one of us – and it’s so refreshing to find someone who (graphically) depicts the ups and downs of this awkward, f*cked up decade. I’d say a must-read for any woman who has successfully survived (or is still surviving) her 20s!


Instagram

New York skyline

I wanted this photo to say…

Look at me, I’m sophisticated. I spend my summer evening sipping rosé from rooftops overlooking Manhattan.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes…

I queued to get to this rooftop (which is stunning, by the way). It was still broad daylight when I negotiated my way through the crowds to the ‘perfect place to take photos of the skyline‘. I forced my friends to follow me and feed me drinks so I didn’t have to leave my rather privileged spot.

I took a grand total of 27 photos of this sunset (12 with my iPhone and 15 with my Canon EOS). This wasn’t the best one of all – but I couldn’t really wait to get home and download my DSLR photos, so I picked my best iPhone shot instead. It’s grainy. But hey, it became my most liked shot so far!

Hate is heavy, so let it go

I wanted this photo to say…

I am a street art hunter with an exceptional eye for detail. Also, this quote is so inspiring!

Meanwhile, behind the scenes…

We only came across Wynwood because our Uber driver had mentioned it. I don’t really know any artists’ names and don’t recognise styles (though I wish I could).

All through the cool streets of Wynwood, I was dragging behind – we had actually come here on a mission to find good mexican food. It was getting dark – which wasn’t great in  neighbourhood filled with warehouses we didn’t know almost anything about. Most of my shots (well, those taken outside the Wynwood Art Walls) were taken with my iPhone because I was on a rush!

Asturias, Spain

I wanted this photo to say…

Asturias is beautiful and wild. It is full of contrasts and manages to be stunning even on gloomy days.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes…

I was a tiny step away from missing this bit. My feet were still aching from the 38km hike  the day before and the thought of even walking 5km today was killing me. Thankfully, the train wasn’t leaving until 2 hours later and I chose to give walking a chance instead.

At this point, I was completely on my own. While I usually didn’t mind this during my Camino, this day was different: I was desperate to share this landscape with friends and family. I sat down on a wooden bench and sent this photo to my girlfriends. This day, I really wished they were there.

PS: Are we friends on Instagram?


By the numbers

Brooklyn Bridge

Since May (which symbolized the start of my extended summer holidays), I…

  • Took 13 flights: Tenerife – Madrid – Bilbao – Tenerife // Tenerife – Madrid // Oviedo – Tenerife // Tenerife – Madrid – Miami – New York – Madrid – Tenerife // Tenerife – Madrid – Cologne – Madrid
  • Rode 1 long distance train: from Madrid to Irún – the starting point of my Camino del Norte!
  • Hiked +450 km from Irún to Oviedo in 21 days
  • Booked a ridiculous amount of Ubers (my new source of local gems)
  • Slept 1 night at a Twelve Tribes location
  • Shot over 1000 photos with my new Canon EOS 7D (although only about 700 have made it into Aperture)

Inspiration

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison


 

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Like most places we visited in Miami, Wynwood Art District was recommended to us by one of our Uber drivers.

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

I love the concept: warehouse buildings acting as giant blank canvases to showcase a major art statement. I honestly believe every larger city should have district that allows its artists to express themselves and give them an opportunity for appreciation and recognition.

Wynwood is one of those places I can’t stop reading, thinking and talking about. This level of fascination with a district doesn’t happen very often. I think I can safely say that Wynwood Miami is up there with Palermo Buenos Aires right now – and that, my friends, is quite a thing to say coming from someone who has been imagining a life in Palermo for the past 5 years.

And then, just to make things even cooler, there’s the Wynwood Walls art project.

Just picture this: Over the past 6 years, the Wynwood Walls have seen over 50 artists representing 16 countries and have covered over 7,400 m2 (or 80000 square feet) of walls.

Can you imagine the mix of styles, colours and techniques?

Even better jet, have a look at what the Wynwood Walls art project looks like. And then maybe book a trip to Miami and take me with you!

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Which is your favourite Wynwood Wall?


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In June 2015, I ventured on a 3-week solo hike along Northern Spain starting in Irún (Basque Country) and finishing in Oviedo (Asturias). This is the third post in my Camino series – click here if you missed the first and/or second post!


On my 16th day, I kicked-off in Serdio (Cantabria) at 7:45 AM (which, admittedly, wasn’t even that early) and arrived in Llanes (Asturias) more than 12 hours later. It was, without any doubt, my longest day on the Camino (which also made it one of the hardest ones). But looking back, it’s also the one I remember most fondly.

Maybe because I didn’t rush it. Maybe because I did it my own way – stopping to take a photo or going off the official route whenever I wanted. Or maybe because I had the perfect combination of solo and social time.

Although probably what really made my day was having a baby goat following us along the way.

Asturias (Spain)

I walked slow and took in as much from the landscape as I could. Eventually, my Camino family split for the day and I found myself in a not-so-well-marked coastal area on my own – doubting my own orientation skills. Soon enough, though, I saw Klaus (do you remember him?): at that point, I knew I was at least going in the right direction.

Asturias (Spain)

Asturias (Spain)

Shortly after, I was caught up by two Germans doctors and an English girl – with whom I explored hidden caves (how cool is that?) and had one too many sidras (cider) in Buelna. Later in the afternoon, outside a tiny market in Pendueles, I met a Spanish peregrino who soon became my companion for the rest of the afternoon to Llanes.

I walked about 38km on that day. I fell on my face when trying to climb a passage and got caught under drizzly rain. I never felt so much pain in my feet and honestly doubted I would ever get to Llanes in one piece. Ultimately, I almost cried when I was informed that the entire city of Llanes was booked out that night (and we were suggested to continue walking! another 5km! are they crazy?).

But somehow, it all worked out. I found a hotel room (the very last one) – and even got a pilgrim discount. I was on some kind of tiredness-fuelled energy high that even got me out of that lovely room to have more celebratory sidra that night. While I shared my pictures of caves, rugged coastlines, green hills and bird-eye view of Llanes I kept on thinking to myself: wow, I actually did it!

Asturias (Spain)

So it’s no surprise that I decided to take the next day off walking. Or at least, off long-distance trekking – as, for some reason, I just couldn’t sit still. After wandering through the streets of beautiful Llanes (above), I headed off along the coastline to the next small town with an albergue (Po). And then, on to the next one (Celorio).

Playa de Po, Llanes (Asturias)

Concejo de Llanes, Asturias (Spain)

The entire Concejo de Llanes has an incredible amount of beautiful natural beaches surrounded by luscious green hills. I’m determined to return to Llanes next summer for a longer period just to spend more time exploring the coast!

Asturias (Spain)

The walk to Ribadesella on day 18 felt surprisingly easy! Granted, there was hardly any hight difference and the path was a rather balanced mix of road and trail – leading through small villages, grassy fields and great cultural sights (such as the above of the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores in Barro).

My favourite bit of this day was, without doubt, the entrance into Ribadesella through the colourful old fishers town of El Portiellu.

El Portiellu, Ribadesella (Asturias)

El Portiellu, Ribadesella (Asturias)

My Camino family split in Llanes – so at the time we reached Ribadesella, only 3 of us were left. You would think that having to say goodbye to people you’ve only met 2 weeks ago would be easy, but when you’ve been through hell and heaven on the Camino, your relationship to those around you is intensified.

As my deadline and destination goal was approaching as well, I felt a bit blue (for the lack of a better word).

On the 19th day, we walked roughly 20km to Colunga – a big part of it along the Camino Real, which covers the local beaches and surrounding hills. It was a beautiful day to walk – not too hot, not too cold (although the latter had never really been the issue, really!).

Signage Camino del Norte, Spain

Asturias (Spain)

While sitting in a beach café in La Isla with Sara, we overheard a group of women discussing the disappearance of a female pilgrim on the Camino Francés earlier this year. We were both aware of this event (in fact, Sara had packed a pepper spray can in her backpack), but it didn’t stop us from going solo. Nor did it stop many other female travellers we crossed paths with over the past 3 weeks. It made us realise that there hadn’t been a moment when we felt in danger.

Yes, terrible things happen sometimes. When walking on a less-frequented paths, I was always alert and intuitive and usually knew how far/close the next group of pilgrims were. And by doing this, I always felt safe.

Asturias (Spain)

On my last day as part of (what was left of) my Camino family, we walked 18km to Villaviciosa – the apple capital of Spain. Yes, there was certainly lots of cider!

Villaviciosa, Asturias (Spain)

We reminisced about the many stories we collected along our Camino and remembered all the people we had met. We promised to keep in touch (thanks, Facebook!) and to always remember this experience.

As my final Camino day arrived, I was equally excited and sort of heart-broken. I actually didn’t really want this adventure to end! Soon after leaving Villanueva, I reached the point at which the Camino divided in two parts: on the right, it would continue to Gijón along the Camino del Norte, and on the left, it would route towards Oviedo – the start of the Camino Primitivo.

Towards Oviedo, I came across de impressive pre-romanesque Monasterio de San Salvador de Valdediós (below).

Monasterio de San Salvador, Asturias (Spain)

After the Monastery, the path went uphill to Alto de la Campa (photo below) – constantly allowing me to peek over the Valley from different angles.

I had heard that, on the Camino Primitivo, signs were less frequent and sometimes a bit confusing. True – In fact, I even came across conflicting signs! But somehow, with a bit of intuition, I didn’t get lost on this rather solitary path. During the whole day I only came across 2 fellow pilgrims, so I guess most of them decide to continue along the Camino del Norte to Gijón instead!

At Vega del Siero I hopped on a bus with one of the wisest pilgrims I had come across with: a french retiree who who had already walked over 1000km starting in France. She reminded me of how personal the Camino is:

There’s really no right or wrong way of walking it. No age, belief or physical requirements. There’s no minimum distance and no real schedule (but the one you build up in your head). And there’s nobody to impress or feel judged by (but ourselves).

Alto de Campa, Asturias (Spain)

That afternoon, I arrived in Oviedo without much of a plan but to walk through the old town, explore every inch of the city and eat local bonito del norte a la plancha (below) before saying goodbye to the Camino (for now!).

Oviedo, Asturias (Spain)

Bonito del Norte, Oviedo, Asturias (Spain)

Catedral de Oviedo, Asturias (Spain)

Have you been to Asturias in Spain?


My Camino: notes and snapshots of Basque Country (Spain) is the third post of my Camino series:


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In June 2015, I ventured on a 3-week solo hike along Northern Spain starting in Irún (Basque Country) and finishing in Oviedo (Asturias). This is the second post in my Camino seriesclick here if you missed the first post!


I had been on the road for 8 days and was in serious need of a good night sleep and a long hot shower. I had survived the hardest bit (or that, at least, I kept on repeating to myself). As long as I had a good night sleep, I could be back climbing hills and mountains.

I allowed myself the luxury of sleeping in a design pension in the heart of Castro Urdiales. It was Friday night and the city was buzzing with live and laughter. Not that I saw any of it – I was soundly asleep.

Castro Urdiales, Cantabria (Spain)

After spending 12 hours in bed, I was ready to explore Castro – its beautiful cathedral, lively old town and port as well as its beaches and natural pools. I wasn’t ready to leave yet. This would be the place I would stay for two nights. It never felt wrong – in contrary, it was incredibly right in so many ways. This extra time allowed me to recover from my lack of sleep, heal some rough patches on my feet and just spend the rest of the day on the beach!

Then, on the tenth day, I was back on my foot.

Cantabria (Spain)

Some days felt longer than they seemed to be on paper. I never had a proper GPS tracking my position, but I am pretty sure that our walk from Castro Urdiales to Laredowas significantly longer than the 30km stated in the Guidebook.

This day, I learned about the many different things can that make a long hike more entertaining: singing (musicals, if possible), finding shapes and patterns, stopping to talk with other pilgrims and locals, creating photo themes, petting every animal that accepts your affection, and getting off the regular path every now and then to see what’s up that hill / down that road (and figuring out how to find your way back to the Camino after that!).

At the end of the day, I had a myriad of photos taken fom unlikely angles and suffered from a funny limp (I might or might not have occasionally skipped to the soundtracks of Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz – while carrying over 12kg on my back). But hey, it was a gorgeous walk!

On day 11, about half of the time we walked from Laredo to Güemes, we were barefoot digging out toes into the sand. It felt like heaven to my feet (and my eyes, too!). 

Laredo, Cantabria (Spain)

Cantabria (Spain)

The other half, however, was spent on asphalt – which (specially on hot days like these) felt like hell. At the end of the day, we were rewarded with one of the most inspiring stays on the Camino del Norte: a night at La Cabaña del Abuelo Peuto

Here, we learned about the life and work of Ernesto Bustio – who is well known throughout the Camino del Norte for his hospitality, generosity and sympathy.

Note: You can read more about here: Ernesto Bustio, peregrino de la vida (in Spanish).

Oh, and we also met his adorable dog!

Güemes, Cantabria (Spain)

On the next day, we walked from Güemes to Santander, which was a rather easy 15km hike – mostly along the coastline. This time could have been rather uneventful day – but, instead, it turned into one of my favourite ones for two reasons:

This beach…

Cantabria (Spain)

… And this coastline.

Cantabria (Spain)

We made many stops along the way – and even went swimming! (I’m blocking out the fact that the water was probably on the same temperature level than, say, England *shudder*).

On the next day, we made our way out of Santander to Santillana del Mar. Now, you may remember that, in the Basque Country, I made a few executive decisions to skip small bits that weren’t particularly beautiful. Well, I kind of wish I had done it here, too – but when I realised I was in the heart of the industrial outskirts of Santander, it was too late.

Thankfully, our arrival at Santillana del Mar made up for the otherwise a bit dull walk. The medieval village is filled with half-timbered houses and stone-built mansions that meet on the centric cobblestone streets. Yes, it’s touristy – But hey, it’s pretty, too. It reminded me a bit of Peratallada (Catalonia)!

Santillana del Mar, Cantabria (Spain)

This night, on day 13, we stayed at what soon was referred to as our Castle – a renovated 16th century palace set in the heart of the village, converted into a private Albergue called Solar de Hidalgos. You guys, totally worth it!

Anyway, by now I realised that I’ve never given much detail about my Camino family. Admittedly, to any outsiders, we were a rather unlikely tribe. Nomads, teachers, students, hippies, believers – you would say we would easily run out of common topics, but it never happened.

One of the best things about being part of a little Camino tribe is that we all put our different skills together to benefit the entire group. As luck would have it, one of the guys used to be a tourist Guide and has an insatiable interest in history and volunteered to tour us around Comillas after we had settled in.

Comillas, Cantabria (Spain)

Comillas, Cantabria (Spain)

My 15th day was scheduled to be another long one: 29km from Comillas (Cantabria) to Colombres (Asturias) – However,things don’t always go as planned.

That’s part of the beauty of the Camino de Santiago: even though it’s good to have a plan, it’s good to ditch it, too.

Cantabria (Spain)

Cantabria (Spain)

As we arrived at the charming and friendly town of Serdio and met other peregrinos we had been bumping into every other day, we took the unanimous executive decision to change plans and stay in Serdio instead. It was well worth it – even if this meant walking an extra 9km the next day!

This was, of course, before checking out next day’s itinerary!

Note: Even though my 16th day started off in Cantabria, the majority of the time hiking was spent in Asturias. If you don’t want to miss the next part, just pop you email below and each new post will magically appear in your inbox – and voilá!

Have you been to Cantabria in Spain?


My Camino: notes and snapshots of Cantabria (Spain) is the second post of my Camino series :


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I never thought I would be the kind of woman that would venture into a 3-week hike across unknown territory on her own. I don’t have a particularly good sense of direction, have never carried a large backpack more than from a train station to a hotel and didn’t know one thing about first aid.

Irún, Basque Country (Spain)

In fact, I wasn’t entirely aware of the situation I had gotten myself into until I landed in Irún (my starting point) and began to look for the Camino way marks. Camino Guide in hand, I walked up and down the main roads looking for Camino sign posts. It took me a while to realise that the directions are sometimes marked with a shell on the pavement. Other times, they’re yellow arrows (on walls, trees, pavement, buildings, etc). And only a few times they’re actual sign posts that read Camino de Santiago.

Ha! Nice one. At least this got me to be extremely alert during this trip!

Pasaia, Basque Country (Spain)

On my first day on the trek, though, I got lost. In heavy rain. And wind. And fog. 

I wonder how many times I had told myself to quit that same day. I would arrive at Pasaia (pictured above), take a bus back to Irún, a train to Madrid and a flight to Tenerife. I would spend the next 3 weeks reading thrillers in a hammock – I assured myselfBut, after sitting down in Pasaia for lunch, I picked myself (and my drenched boots and clothes) up and continued walking.

That night, I stayed at a Twelve Tribes community which was, hands down, one of the most curious experiences I had on the Camino.

San Sebastián, Basque Country (Spain)

San Sebastián, Basque Country (Spain)

Walking on your own might sound daunting (maybe even scary), but I felt it was empowering. It has definitely given me more independency and self-sufficiency, and it has allowed me to follow my own rhythm: stopping to take photos, drink coffee or just take off my boots and put my feet in the air. When I walked on my own, I didn’t have to give anyone any explanations.

The first pilgrim I met was Rahel (Switzerland), in a popular café in San Sebastián overlooking one of the city’s beaches. Meeting her was a turning point: I had set off convinced that I wanted to walk the whole way alone and here, on day 2, I realised that maybe I actually wanted some company. Sometimes. 

And then I decided that the Camino was going to be a great excuse to be my extroverted self (whenever I wanted!).

Locals always greeted me back with a smile and a “Buen Camino”. Day trippers stopped by to ask where I started and where I was planning to go and often even added some local insight (like, which GR route offers better views!). And many pilgrims I met on the way became an integer part of my experience. There’s no doubt about it: the Camino creates a special bond and camaredie among those who walk it.

One of the nicest gestures anyone can do for a pilgrim? Give him some free water refill and maybe even some shade. I found this one on my second day, on Mount Igueldo just passed San Sebastián. It was 28ºC and I’m eternally thankful.

Pilgrim love in Basque Country (Spain)

Some days, I decided to follow people. I didn’t do this because I felt unsafe or have a stalker side (promise). No. Instead, I figured that following someone would make me speed up my walking. You see, at the beginning, I had a tendency to stop way too often – which in turn led me to be the very last pilgrim arriving to the end of a stage.

There’s definitely a plus to following the right kind of pilgrim (the kind that has done this or other Caminos before): less chances of getting lost and higher chances of going an alternative more scenic route. On my third day, I followed Klaus (Germany), and got to see this amazing view over Zarautz (he definitely knew what he was doing!).

Zarautz, Basque Country (Spain)

More than one pilgrim I have met on the trek has told me that you don’t lose weight on the Camino del Norte. Now I know the reason for this: pintxos, txacolí and patxarán. Now, I know from a lot of other pilgrims who left the Basque Country without even trying a txacolí (regional write wine) – but how? How did they fight the urge to drop their backpack and go hopping from winery to winery?

I made it a mission to have a txacolí the night after walking through Getaria wine region (below).

Getaria, Basque Country (Spain)

Not all days were along the coast  though – Some paths allowed me to explore the basque countryside.

My fifth and sixth hiking days (Deba – Markina Xemein – Guernica) were definitely the most physically challenging – but the landscapes were well worth it! At first, I couldn’t believe that I was still in Spain. I had never seen such clean, organised roads and farms outside of Switzerland. Even buildings that seemed abandoned were picturesque and well cared of.

Basque Country (Spain)
Basque Country (Spain)

Monasterio de Zenarruza, Basque Country (Spain)

On the fifth day, somewhere between Deba and Markina Xemein, I met what would become my Camino family. While I was having a great time meeting people individually, it was nice to be able to form a small group and challenge each other to push through the hardest times on the way. I’m honestly not sure I would have made it from Deba to Guernica in 2 days if it wasn’t for them!

Guernica, Basque Country (Spain)

The hike from Guernica into Bilbao was a long one. It didn’t help that we actually only found our way out of Guernica at 9:50 AM (who knew arrows become oak tree leafs in this city?).

It was also one of the hottest days on the Camino (I’m pretty sure temperatures reached +33ºC!), which isn’t fun unless you’re lying in the shade at the beach with an ice-filled cocktail in your hands. In the afternoon, I took the executive decision to take a bus for the last bit of the walk and reward myself with a glass of cold txacolí in Bilbao

I only felt a tiny bit guilty.

Bilbao, Basque Country (Spain)

The Basque Country was certainly the region with the hardest terrain – But those ups and downs paid off well when offering some of the best views on the trek. It also made me appreciate the flatter days way more than I did before. The hike towards Castro Urdiales, for instance, was an easy and beautiful transition from Pais Vasco into Cantabria!

Also: I’ve still not learned to walk between cows without feeling observed. Can you?

Cows on the Camino del Norte (Spain)

Have you been to the Basque Country in Spain?


My Camino: notes and snapshots of Basque Country (Spain) is the first post of my Camino series:


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A few months ago one of my favourite bloggers, Jess, introduced me to the concept of virtual coffee dates who, in turn, learned about this from Amber (don’t you love how far word spreads through the internet sometimes?). Anyway, these virtual coffee dates are meant to be a way to have a personal life catch-up. I love this concept! 

So grab your beverage of choice and lets meet for coffee like old friends (would you like some milk and stevia?). 

If we were having coffee right now

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you that I have just returned from my three week hike on the Camino del Norte. I’d show you the state of my feet after walking over 430km and we’d laugh about my ridiculously impossible tan lines. I would tell you about the wonderful people I met on the way (my “Camino Family”), show you my favourite photos of the trip and try to convince you to get on board next summer!

Asturias, Spain

If we were having coffee right now… I would ask you what I should pack for my upcoming 3-leg trip to Miami Beach, New York City and Iceland – Aaaahh, how am I going to fit my boho chic, cityscape and outdoorsy styles in one bag? Despite all my years of travel and of being a professional planner, I’m still not a good packer. I might or might not have forgotten to pack my pijamas on more than one trip, oops…

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you that I’m now officially an International MBA Candidate at IE Business School in Madrid, and will be starting this September! I’m beyond excited to have been admitted to my perfect fit school and can’t wait to meet my super diverse and fun classmates and crack our brains working on some kick ass cases.

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you that I had never felt as fit and healthy as I do now. I’d probably call it the Miracle of the Camino, but… it’s really more than just exercising. Since early May, I have made a conscious effort to significantly reduce my carb intake – and I just feel way lighter and less bloated! I’d tell you about my addiction to home-made Zoodles (yes, it’s a thing), celeriac fries and matcha tea. Dear god, does this make me a hipster?

Ensalada de pulpo, Tenerife, Spain

If we were having coffee right now… I would confess that I’m equally excited and scared about my doing the Langavegur trail in Iceland this summer. I mean, it kind of sounds like my wildest dream: lava fields, glaciers, hot springs, volcanoes and mountains – all in just 55km (34 miles). But… crossing (sometimes deep and violent) glacial streams, spending days under rain and possibly snow, and sleeping in a tiny tent trying to heat up pre-made food sounds, well, challenging. I keep on repeating this to myself:

“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”

– Seth Godin

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you that I finally registered for a Digital Photography course in New York this month! You would remind me of all those times I had told you how much I’d been yearning to improve my photography, but life and work seemed to always step in my way. I know, I know – I can’t believe it’s finally happening either!

New York, USA

If we were having coffee right now… I’d show you my new about me page and ask you what you’d think about it. I always get nervous when I change one of the big pages on my blog. I worry about technical issues, about my photos and my writing – does it work? does it look good? is it light and fun? I would also tell you that I’m considering a few more changes around here – like possibly integrating a Frequent Q&A section and writing some articles in Spanish (my mind just needs a rest sometimes). There’s so much to ponder right now… Help! What would you do?

So, anyway, what’s new in your life?

“When in doubt, just take the next small step.”

– Paulo Coehlo, The Pilgrimage

Hiking in Tenerife

Me, contemplating what next

Putting one foot in front of the other and taking the next small step is something I’ve been doing a long time. It’s no secret that hiking is one of my favourite things to do when I travel. It’s also one of my favourite things to do on weekends. There’s something about it that just feels so liberating!

I love the way walking the trail frees me from all those mundane distractions. This clarity and the incredible and unexpected landscapes that I discover are the main reasons why I love trekking. 

So, after months of wishing, planning and asking a million questions on the Camino de Santiago, I’ve finally made plans to begin my own pilgrimage.

What is the Camino de Santiago?

Symbol of the Camino de Santiago

Source: Flexitreks

The Camino is a pilgrimage route that has existed in Spain since the IX Century, when the remains of Saint James Apostle were discovered to be buried in Santiago de Compostela. peregrinos (pilgrims) travelled to Galicia from all over Europe to see it.

Nowadays, there’s an entire network of routes coming from all over Europe to converge at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The most popular way, the Camino Francés (or French Way), was declared the first European Cutural Route by the Council of Europe in 1987 and inscribed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1993.

Camino de Santiago routes in Spain

Source: Mundicamino

While The Camino has been the subject of many books and films, its popularity probably  increased dramatically after the release of Emilio Estevez’s film, The Way, in 2012. Last year, almost 250.000 pilgrims walked reached Santiago – roughly 65% choosing the Camino Francés.

Not me though. 

I’m doing the Camino del Norte, or Northern Way – see red route in the map above.

Out of all the routes – why the Camino del Norte?

While significantly less-travelled and more challenging than others, everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that the landscapes are worth the challenge. Starting in Irún (a small town in Gipuzkoa, Basque Country), the trail follows the rugged northern coast of Spain, combining coastal walks and mountain hikes.

Camino del Norte

Source: Flickr 

The entire route from Irún to Santiago de Compostela (Galicia) is a +800 km (roughly 500 miles) trek, which most people complete in between 30 and 40 days. The thing is: I don’t have so much time available on one go (in fact – not many people do!), so I’m planning to complete my pilgrimage in smaller episodes.

This time, I’m planning to trek from Irún to Oviedo (roughly 490 km – or 300 miles). This might seem irrational at first: Why not start somewhere halfway to Santiago in order to reach the final destination? First and foremost, Because I’m stubborn – and really really want to, eventually, do the whole thing. But also because it’s summer, and I am excited about seeing more of the Northern coastline – maybe even dip my battered feet into the cold Cantabrian Sea.

After all, the Camino is not so much about the destination, but about the journey!

Camino del Norte

Source: Flickr

One of the many things that I love about the Camino is that there is no right and wrong way of doing it. Some people walk the entire +800 km in one go, while others complete theirs by going back year after year. Some stay at albergues and camping sites, others book hostels and hotels on the way. Some go solo, others go in groups – heck, there are even organised tours in case you can’t convince your friends about the fun in walking +20 km per day but don’t really want to do it on your own, either.

Why I’m walking the Camino

People walk the Camino for many reasons – and they’re certainly not always religious. I’ve got many little reasons to walk it. I do it for the challenge and the adventure; to get out of my comfort zone. I walk for the solitude; for the opportunity to unplug, appreciate the present moment and gain some perspective. But then, I also walk for companionship; to meet new people on the road.

I am really looking forward to spending the next 3 weeks thinking of nothing else than taking the next small step!

During the trek, I will be sharing live updates on Twitter and Instagram (PS: are we friends yet?), so follow along!

“Reading is a means of thinking with another person’s mind; it forces you to stretch your own.”
– Charles Scribner, Jr.

The Sky in La Rioja (Spain)

While I don’t read as much as I would like to, I love reading and sometimes come across books that I obsess about the same way others do about Games of Thrones. With all the extra time I have this summer, I want to bring regular reading back into my life – specially when it means I can shamelessly lie on a sun bed for hours and still justify to myself that I’m doing something.

Here’s what’s on my summer reading list:

It’s not me, it’s you – by Mhairi McFarlane 

Mhairi McFarlane’s books re funny, witty and relatable – and this one is no exception. The main character, Delia Moss, finds herself in a horrible situation and fights to deal with it the best she can, all the while discovering who she really is and what she truthfully wants in life.

Luckiest girl alive – by Jessica Knoll 

As a fan of Gone Girl, I’ve been dying to read this book. The book “explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to have it all, and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cut-throat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears”. I probably won’t be able to put it down!

Also: Pacific Standard (see: Gone Girl and Wild), together with Lionsgate, have already grabbed its movie rights!

Red Queen – by Victoria Aveyard

According to one enthusiastic reviewer on Goodreads: “Red Queen is Game of Thrones with Katniss as the Mockingjay with X-Men in a tantalising YA twist of magical perfection”. Yeap. You got me completely hooked already!

The Empathy Era – by Belinda Parmar

Belinda is the founder of social enterprise Little Miss Geek and the CEO of Lady Geek – a consultancy dedicated to transforming the way companies engage and sell to women. I love all things related to empowering women and innovation (even more when they combined), so this this books is a clear must-read!

New York, USA

Are you there, vodka? It’s me, Chelsea – by Chelsea Handler

Am I super late to the party? Ok, Probably. So, I’ve got to admit: I have no idea who Chelsea is (I mean, I do – I googled her and learned that she played a role on This is War), but everyone raves about her books, so I’m going to join the masses. It sounds like a fresh fun beach read!

What Alice forgot – by Liane Moriarty

I loved the agility and characters in The Husband’s Secret and can’t wait to dive into another of Liane’s books. I’m attracted to stories in which the character tries to reconstruct past events (just as in Elizabeth is Missing, for example), so I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to let it down!

Unbecoming – by Rebecca Scherm

So, the first Goodreads review I read said that this book is “a little cocktail mix of Gone Girl and The Goldfinch with a little garnish of The Talented Mr. Ripley“. This, of course, sounds almost too good to be true! But if there’s only a tiny little resemblance to any of these, I’m happy. Also, the story itself, revolving around a runaway living in Paris under an assumed identity sounds like a great start!

The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference – by Malcom Gladwell

I love to read about complex phenomenons explained with in simpler terms. The Tipping Point is the name given by epidemiologists for the moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once. Malcom takes this concept and applies it to sales, marketing and social change.

Have you read any of these books yet? What’s on your summer reading list?

I have a funny way of remembering things. I could spend hours feeling grumpy about a head-to-armpit incident in my morning commute and days rummaging over how annoying it is to get yet another bank holiday soaked in rain. And then – the second I’m over it (the moment I finally leave London for greener pastures), I think to myself: it wasn’t that bad, really, was it?

I admit that I started this post quite a long time ago (back when I was still living in London)  but I could not bring myself to finish it. Now that I’m in Spain, I’m slowly coming to peace with the city that, at times, was so ruthless. In fact, I find myself missing the simplest things (like, public transport, parks and cute and crowded pubs!). Good and bad, this city has taught me a few things I would have probably not learned otherwise:

St Paul's Cathedral, London

  1. The difference between a cappuccino, a latte and a flat white
  2. How to start a conversation by chatting about the weather
  3. Or London property prices
  4. Where to stand on the platform to face the carriage doors – increasing my chances of getting a seat
  5. Never to change at Waterloo
  6. Nor at Bank Station
  7. Bus beats tube (always)
  8. Food festivals are fun but also a rip off
  9. When I see a queue, I feel an urge to join it
  10. However, no matter what critics say – no food is worth queuing 2 hours for
  11. Walking – while drinking a green juice, sending an e-mail, under the rain on Oxford Street without bumping into people!
  12. There is no such thing as a quick drink after work
  13. Wednesday night has become the new Saturday night
  14. £6 for a glass of wine is normal… 
  15. …and so is paying £900 for a tiny room in zone 3…
  16. ….in a shared flat – with strangers
  17. Your postcode is a status symbol
  18. North East London is further away from Clapham than Brighton
  19. People go bonkers when the sun comes out
  20. …and in such rare occasions, it’s perfectly acceptable to cancel any appointments to spend the afternoon in the park
  21. However, cancelling plans with a friend means not seeing them for another 3 weeks
  22. Umbrellas are for out-of-towners – us Londoners throw on a hood!
  23. You burn almost as many calories going to the supermarket as you do going to the gym
  24. Nobody lives in Mayfair – it’s a myth
  25. It’s not sunday until you’ve had a roast and a Bloody Mary
  26. Gordon’s wine bar is always a winner for a first date…
  27. …except if your date doesn’t like wine…
  28. …In which case, it’s probably better to dump them before it’s too late
  29. You know there won’t be a day you’ll be completely happy…
  30. …but hey, at least you’re in London!
  31. (Bonus: you’ll just need to accept that you’ll never be able to buy a house, ha!)
Usually, I would publish an end-of-month Behind the Scenes recap but given the circumstances (not having published one, like, since February) I figured – maybe this is the perfect time to post a big picture update! While it’s fun to come up with random stats (like minutes spent on a plane in a given month), this info becomes kind of meaningless when there have been so many other weird and wonderful things happening over the past 3 months.

I quit my job

Blue Sea in Tenerife, Spain

This was a tough one. I had a great team of extremely talented and fun people. We did some amazing things that clients and banks thought were almost impossible. Worked in a beautiful office in one of my favourite parts of London (Fitzrovia). Got invited to extravagant drinks and dinners. Flew across the Globe, ramping up frequent flyer miles like there’s no tomorrow and staying at hotels I could otherwise only dream of.

So, I had a project-based job that combined the creative and financial industries, paid the bills and allowed me to travel around the World – which I thought was all I wanted. But it turns out – it wasn’t. What happened?

To be honest, my decision wasn’t as much about enjoying my job but, instead, about a shift in my definition of ambition.

Over the past few years, I had grown to the idea that ambition was putting your career in front of everything else. But now I believe that my definition of ambition and success have evolved: they no longer means pulling all-nighters and constantly sacrificing personal stuff to deliver flawless projects or win over new accounts.

Don’t get me wrong: I still believe I’m ambitious – Maybe even more than I had ever been before. Now, I’m not willing to settle down for a life that doesn’t make me happy in more than just one aspect of my life!

I moved back to Spain

Hiking in Tenerife, Spain

Have you ever felt the need to simply reset

I had been pushing away this feeling for a while – after all, to me, London was for a long time the land of advancement and opportunities. But it was also a land of expensive flats, long commutes and cold rainy days. So, following my resignation, I gave myself a fresh start altogether.

Now I’m back in the Canary Islands as a resident (first time in over 12 years!). I wake up early, eat healthy and spend a lot of time with my family. I signed up for my local gym, go for regular walks / hikes and explore new beaches. After only 6 weeks, I’m already feeling more rested and energised. It’s like being in a retreat – but instead of being in India, I’m on a tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast.

I read all the books

Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife (Canary Islands)

If there’s one thing I’ve done consistently every single day it has been this: reading. From crime to comedy and from business to psychology research (though mainly psychological thrillers!) – Here’s a list of some of my latest reads:

The girl on the train by Paula Hawkins – ♦♦♦♦♦

I’m a sucker for psychological thrillers but must admit that this one is among the best I’ve read over the past year – I literally couldn’t put it down!

Elizabeth is missing by Emma Healey – ♦♦♦♦♦

What first attracted me to this thriller was the unconventional narrator: an 82-year old woman with dementia. I was immediately hooked with this brilliant mix of mystery and dark comedy – highly recommended.

Snow white must die by Nele Neuhaus – ♦♦♦♦

I admit that, at first, I was put off by the title. However, this book (the #4 in a mystery series) quickly caught my attention due to its suspenseful setting in a small German town that deals with gossip, power and appearances.

The good girl by Mary Kubica – ♦♦♦

Another psychological triller – this one, however, centres around the abduction of a young school teacher. Although it’s not as twisted as others mentioned above, it does contain some brilliant surprises.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – ♦♦♦

I’m not sure what just got into me. I must have bought this book after binge-reading thrillers until I could no longer sleep at night. Granted, I’m not strong on romantic chick-lit – although I admit that this one had its charm.

I’m currently reading Boo by Neil Smith and am loving how the characters and storyline so far (very imaginative!). After Boo, I’m short on books – any good recommendations?

I applied to Business School

Sunset in Tenerife, Spain

If money was no problem, I would be a student for life – not because of the parties and student discounts (ehem), but because there’s so much out there to dive into, that the thought of sticking to only one topic/career path to specialise in and work on for the rest of my life is a wee bit overwhelming.

I had been toying with the idea of business school for about a year now – and after months of thinking, researching, deciding (then not-deciding) and finally committing to apply: I’m done. Unlike many other MBA Applicants out in the blog world, I have only applied to one school: one I believe is a perfect fit. 

There are a million +1 reasons that led me to decide for business school, but probably the main one (together with the whole learning something new part) was the realisation that an MBA would open the door to plenty of amazing opportunities and provide me with a strong network of like-minded innovative and ambitious people from all over the Globe.

Maybe it was a risky move – there’s no guarantee that this will actually materialise, but I’m staying positive. *fingers crossed*

I celebrated my birthday (with lots of wine)

Wine in La Rioja, Spain

Two weeks ago, I flew off to Bilbao to spend my birthday weekend exploring the Basque Country – a place that, despite being so close, was completely foreign to me. It made me realise how much of my own country I still need to explore (and also wonder: why is it that we always tend to favour international travel when we’ve got so much beauty right here?).

Needless to say, the Basque Country was absolutely stunning. We went on wine tastings, visited some of the region’s most notorious vineyards, took a leisure hike to a waterfall, bought lots of wine and cheese (and by now, already ate about half of it!), explored industrial and historical Bilbao and took a day trip to Portugalete and Playa la Arena. The 3.5 days felt far too short and now I’m already planning my next  trip to Northern Spain later this summer!

PS: a post about my long weekend is soon to come, but if you’re curious about this place on Earth I highly recommend you visit Christine in Spain, who avidly blogs about her life in el País Vasco. 

So, what have you been up to the last few months?

Ah, jeez. So, I guess it has been a while since I last published a post around here. I didn’t really plan for this to happen and yet I don’t feel guilty. I’ve been sorting out some new and exciting stuff coming up, but I’m not ready yet to put it all out there – so lets just pretend that I never really stepped away from here, yes? 

I promise to share a post about what I’ve been up to while I was away as soon as things have slightly settled! 


I recently came across a brilliant quote from Chris Guillebeau about living abroad:

“Beware of moving overseas! It’s tough, confusing, disorienting… and ultimately, extremely rewarding. When you move back home, if you ever do, you’ll be a different person than you were when you first left.”

Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity

This quote made me look back at all the worries and insecurities I felt before becoming an expat for the first time in 2009, and made me realise that, out of all my decisions, moving abroad has been one of the best ones in my life.

Expat life in Switzerland and the UK has been an adventure in itself and, while I might not call myself an expert, I love giving advice to new London expats and friends moving abroad. Below you’ll find tips I wish I had known before I first left my home country (admittedly, I really didn’t know much back then!).

Invest in experiences over possessions

Lavaux, Switzerland

While it may seem tempting to invest your hard earned expat salary in furnishing your new apartment and making it feel homely, you should look at your time as an expat as an opportunity to not only explore a new country and region, but also a new you. Take this time to accumulate experiences rather than things. Because, well, even a bad experience eventually becomes a good story!

Try anything and everything that sounds interesting to you. Take a road trip to the next town. Start that french cooking class. Learn about the regional wine. Sign up for ice skating, architectural sketching, climbing. Join an improv group or a band. Become a volunteer or a mentor. Whatever it is that you fancy – give it a try.

But don’t just take my word on this: Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. His studies confirm that our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our things!

Learning the language is not easy

Cadaqués, Costa Brava (Spain)

Simply being in a new country will not make you fluent. You won’t just soak up the local language – even if you already knew a few phrases before landing (though – wouldn’t that be nice?).

Learning a new language takes time and dedication so the earlier you start learning and speaking the better! 

“Whether you learn it or not depends on your commitment, not on changing your latitude and longitude.”

– Benny Lewis, Fluent in 3 Months

One of my biggest regrets from my 2 years in Switzerland was not learning enough french to call myself fluent. I moulded myself into a thriving expat community, surrounding myself with others that either spoke English, Spanish or German (or a combination of any of those three).

I kept on postponing my lessons. Whenever I spoke french, I was conscious of my mistakes and cave man style and tried to limit its use to extreme cases only. When I finally began to open up and take the language journey more seriously, it was time for me to move to London.

So here’s my advice: start now – learn before arriving, speak at any opportunity, make mistakes and don’t give up.

Learn to laugh about yourself

Skiing in Lech, Austria

Never did a simple trip to the supermarket become as embarrassing as my very first attempt to ask for a bin bag in Lausanne. After walking around the shop for about 20 minutes, I lost my patience and decided to ask for help. I crafter a story about an item in the kitchen that stores things you no longer want that is later on picked up by a “big car”. At first, I received blank stares. Later on, laughs! Joining the laughs was what kept me going. 

As an expat (or, well, a foreigner), you are an easy target. You’re new, you don’t understand how things work, you have a funny accent, eat strange stuff (morcilla, anyone?) and have weird customs. Heck, even after years of living in the same country, you may still suddenly realise that you’ve actually been pronouncing something wrong for the past 25 years (that’s right – I actually spent 25 years asking for biscuits instead of biskits!).

You’re going to have many embarrassing moments (and usually want to run back home right after). Don’t act defensively – just laugh about it and move on!

PS: I also spent 25 years saying Greenwitch instead of Grehnitch and Edinburg instead of Edinburrá (which got me into a heated argument because – why?) and I still can’t get myself to say kei-oss instead of kaos (chaos). Oh well.

Surround yourself with positive people

Torres del Paine, Chile

You’ll find negative people anywhere – at home and abroad. You’ll have people back home telling you that you’re wasting your talent and potential abroad. That you’ll never be able to have the same career progression in a foreign country. In your new adopted home, you might encounter locals and expats that are tired of life and insist in telling you about all the things that are wrong.

You can’t avoid running into them, but trust me, when you’re still adapting to a new country, you don’t need all this negativity in your life. Instead, surround yourself with positive people who are flexible, open and up for any adventure.

These people will be your strongest pillars and the main reason you’ll make it through the toughest expat days – the homesick days (see more on this below).

Feeling homesick is normal

Masca, Tenerife (Spain)

 Maybe it’s the morning fog, the crowds, the commute and the constant stress. Maybe it’s because I can’t seem to get out of eating al desko (because that’s really a word). Maybe I miss the warmth, humidity and weekend siestas. Maybe it’s because I miss my small family. Or maybe it’s because of Facebook. Because I realise I have missed friends’ weddings, birthdays and baby showers and wonder: did they miss me? I don’t know what causes it – it could really be anything. All I know is that, even after nearly 13 years away from home, I still get homesick.

Homesickness is, indeed, quite widely spread among expats. From my personal expat experience I would suggest that, in order to get through homesickness, you understand the emotion, accept it as part of the expat experience and don’t let it sink you. After all, feeling homesick simply means you miss something or someone that you love!

What advice would you give a new expat? Or, otherwise, what are your worries as a new / future expat? 

Masca, Tenerife (Spain)

Where is home?

Have you ever hesitated in answering this question? I certainly have. Home might be where my belongings are, but this place differs from where my family and many friends are, too. Is it really home, if your family is over 5000 km away? Can I call it home, if I don’t always feel that I belong in my adopted country?

While living abroad is at times an exciting and enriching experience, it’s also challenging. There are times I feel dislocated. Misplaced. I’m neither here nor there. I’m in some kind of expat limbo. I’ve watched friends getting married, having children and buying flats (things that technically help to define home), while I’m slowly approaching 31 without anything tangible to settle with.

This makes me wonder – what makes home, home?

Lavaux, Switzerland

As a third-culture kid, I’m used to living in this grey zone in-between cultures, never entirely feeling part of any of them. And expatriate living only accentuates this further. I’ve learned to adapt quickly to other cultures but nowhere feels completely like home. I am different people, split between different places, and the longer my expat journey goes on, the less I recognise myself in one particular place. 

I have met fellow expats that have felt the call to settle down in their adopting countries. I haven’t yet felt that call. I love studying new languages, the thrill of getting around a new city, a new culture, making friends around the globe and collecting all these life changing stories. The thought of choosing one place among all unsettles me.

London, UK

My roots are divided. Home, to me, is both here and there. Some days I feel Spanish, some days I feel German. Some days I miss Switzerland terribly, some I fall in love with London all over again. And then there are days like today – days during which I long for a place I haven’t yet been. If home is where your heart is, then my home is in every place I leave a piece of my heart in. 

And truthfully, my heart belongs to the World. 

What defines home to you?


 

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Writing is a key way to refine my thoughts and keep a clean record of my experiences. I love composing thoughtful post ideas and choose and work on the photos that best go with the topic. However, sometimes I just want to share my thoughts, goals and the little things that make me smile on a day to day basis.

At the end of each month, I will put together a behind the scenes post in which I’ll give you a peek of my weekends, business travels, goals and favourite links.

Click here to read my previous Behind the Scenes.


On Traveling

Chicago, USA

WOW. February was one crazy, busy and cold month (see above the ice covering the Chicago River!). On Wednesday 11th, I was asked to cover a colleague on a US Roadshow. That evening, I went home and packed my carry on – I was leaving to New York the next day! I spent over 15 days on and off the city that never sleeps – hopping to Boston and Chicago in between. I only returned to London yesterday evening (over 3 weeks on a carry on!).

As much as I loved my work in the States, I’m actually quite relieved to be back home now. Would you be surprised if I confessed that I forgot the access code to my building? Sigh.


Weekend Scenes

New York, USA

While I spent most of February working (yes, that also included weekends), I did get one beautiful weekend off in New York. On that Saturday morning, I bought myself a Canada Goose (best investment ever) and spent the rest of the time wandering around West Village, shopping in SoHo and TriBeCa and stopping for fancy lattes each time my feet felt cold.


February by the Numbers

New York, USA

  • 4 flights taken (2 of those on a private jet, eek!)
  • 17 days working in the US (and counting)
  • 3 cities visited in the States: New York, Boston and Chicago
  • -18 degrees Celsius is the coldest I’ve been (yes, New York, I’m looking at you). Did I mention that this was the coldest February in NY in 81 years?
  • over 14600 km travelled (that’s over 9000 miles!)
  • 15 Instagram photos (the above view from my room at The New York Palace was your favourite one)

Words

New York, USA

“Learn the rules like a Pro so you can break them like an Artist”

Pablo Picasso

One has to learn the rules to understand the boundaries that have been set before pushing past them into the innovative and creative. This, in my opinion, applies to everything in life – from blogging and entrepreneurship, to business strategy and law.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Writing is a key way to refine my thoughts and keep a clean record of my experiences. I love composing thoughtful post ideas and choose and work on the photos that best go with the topic. However, sometimes I just want to share my thoughts, goals and the little things that make me smile on a day to day basis.

At the end of each month, I will put together a behind the scenes post in which I’ll give you a peek of my weekends, business travels, goals and favourite links.

Click here to read my previous Behind the Scenes.


On Traveling

Skiing in Lech, Austria

Visiting snowy Austria has been, without any doubt, one of my favourite holidays from the past few years. I can’t believe it was only a month ago when I gearing up my adrenaline on the slopes. Where did January go?


Weekend Scenes

Milan, Italy

Well, I know where 3 days in January went – to Milan, Italy! I took a long weekend with my girlfriends to explore the architectural and artistic beauty this exuberant city has to offer.

I’m going to be very honest with you: I never thought I’d say this – but I truly loved Milan. It was my 3rd visit (I had visited once for business and once for fun before) and it was only now that I learned to appreciate the city beyond its tourist attractions and business centers. With our base in the lovely district of Navigli – one of the most romantic neighbourhoods named after the canals in the area – we went shopping for quality leather, explored the italian art and design scene and took full advantage of every aperitivo.

It really makes a difference to visit Milan with someone local!


December / January by the Numbers

Street Art in Milan, Italy

I missed last months’s Behind the Scenes – for a good reason though (I was skiing!). To make it up for you, below a summary of December & January.

  • 6 flights (5 of which were international)
  • 3 countries visited – Spain (Tenerife & overnight in Madrid), Austria (Lech & trip to Zug) and Milan (Italy)
  • over 9030 km travelled (8650 km of which were by plane) – that’s over 5600 miles!
  • 22 Instagram photos posted over the two months – the above being the one you’ve liked most! (are we friends?)
  • 1 Get Gutsy winning essay written – read it here!

Reads

Flying over the Swiss Alps

I finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed before the movie came out, and oh was I glad I did. The story is both, an incredible adventure and a deep meditation on the nature of grief and recovery. Her writing is so compelling that it was extremely hard to put the book down at night (highly recommended!).

And now on to my favourite online reads this month:

  • Bivvy Bags: Tickets To Certain Death? – I first came to the concept of divvy bags in my frequented outdoor shop in Tenerife. The store manager spoke enthusiastically about watching the stars before falling asleep in the outdoors, and all I could think of was: isn’t this really dangerous?  I’m certainly not the only one with this initial thought, but Mike is up for proving wrong this and many other misconceptions. I’m really curious about it!
  • Why are some croissants straight, and others curved? – Well yes, there’s an entirely rational explanation to this (and it includes funny doodles).
  • El Camino de Santiago: I’m walking “The Way” across Spain – You know I love hiking, right? So, how come I’ve never walked the Camino de Santiago? I’m not entirely sure. I guess I’ve always waited for someone else to join me on this adventure, but I’ve read so many stories about fellow bloggers walking the way by themselves that I feel really excited about it now.

Words

Lech, Austria

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost


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