Monthly Archives: June 2014

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 the road

Lisbon, Portugal
Early June I worked on a Roadshow that took me through London, Copenhagen, Paris and Lisbon. Unfortunately in this business we hardly ever get to see much of any of the cities we go to – after all, we’re working around the clock and cramming in as many investor meetings as physically possible.

However, I always find some small travel joys along my way – like this fabulous view from my room in Lisbon!


Weekend scenes

Wedding in Spain

One of the difficult things about being an expat is to accept that you won’t be able to be home for every birthday, promotion, wedding or baby shower. It’s heartbreaking.

Mid-June, a friend from University was getting married in his hometown. For months I knew that it was going to be the biggest (and most legendary) get together since graduation in 2008 but my business agenda wasn’t looking great for that weekend at all… until things suddenly freed up that same week. I didn’t hesitate – I booked a flight, bought a dress, shoes and a beautiful necklace and flew to Spain for a long weekend of delicious food, hilarious toasts, incredibly successful congas, a few broken plates and non-stop dancing.

The weekend reminded me that true friendship isn’t about being inseparable, it’s being separated and nothing changes. 


Reads

Over the past months, I’ve become increasingly interested in the psychology of businesses and management. I recently stumbled across Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and even though I am an extravert I can see many characteristics of introversion in my character (in fact, Cain’s  Quiet test shows I’m actually ambivert – falling smack in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum).

And now to my favourite online reads this month.

  • On extraversion and introversion. A few years ago, I took the Myers-Briggs test and learned that I’m an ENFP (as in Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Perception). I’m still an ENFP today, but, just as Jessica, I have some of the characteristics  that describe an Introvert, too.
  • On treating your body like a temple. I can completely relate to Sarah, as she tries to re-educate herself on eating, drinking and using those products that she really likes – not just because otherwise they would go to waste.
  • On traveling. I loved Christine’s travel article questions whether we were really all born to travel and what our experience would be like without the locals.

Mantra

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

– Jim Rohn


June Goals – Review

Morning run in Wandsworth Park, London

  • Stay Active. My specific goal was to create a habit of running twice a week. I’ve kept my word and have reached my first 5 km mark!
  • Unplug. Except for the time I was on the road for work, I’ve been able to keep a fairly good technology break every evening. My sleep is much deeper – and there’s no temptation to rush to a flashing red light in the middle of the night.
  • Plan. During June, I also had a mission set to plan my summer holidays. Well, this hasn’t happened. I have been dreaming and planning it up in my head, but haven’t gotten an approval for my leave request. I’m afraid I’ve given up on planning and will just go with the flow…

July Goals

  • Stay active.  In July, I want to concentrate on my speed and run 2/3 morning runs per week, hoping to reach 5 km in 30 minutes by the end of the month.
  • GMAT. It’s getting serious, guys – I’ve signed up for a complete online course which includes 16 books with hundreds of drill sets and access to millions of online test questions. The course recommend 15 hours of individual work per week – so I better get started!
  • Health. With my full-time work schedule, the GMAT and a mini side project I’m working on at the moment, I’m risking overload, so during July I aim to take special care of myself with regular green smoothies, easy home cooked meals and 7-8 hours of sleep. I’m currently a bit low on energy, so my mission is to be fully back on track by the end of the month.

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Next month, it’ll be 5 years since I landed my first real job and moved abroad without a clear idea of when I would return.

Lavaux, Switzerland

Lavaux’s vineyards became my weekend escape

I remember the blend of contradicting feelings I had when I formally accepted that first job offer in Lausanne, Switzerland. On one side, I was happy to have a job in the field I wanted and excited about all the new experiences ahead of me. On the other, though, I was worried I wasn’t good enough for the job and wouldn’t fit into the new culture.

I was moving long-term to a new city, in a new country. I didn’t know anyone nor did I speak the language. And yet, I had to hit the ground running.

Skiing in Chamonix, France

Even better than hitting the ground running, was hitting it skiing

As I settled into my life in Switzerland, I learned a lot about self-sufficiency. Sometimes, I learned it the hard way – like that time I had to kick someone out of my flat using all the French words I had learned over those 2 years. But most of the time, all those new challenges – like flat hunting, moving or going to a doctor – were easier than I had thought.

Moving abroad has taught me a lot about what I can accomplish by myself once I break outside my comfort zone and step into the new and unknown. With every step I take outside, my comfort zone expands – and the more it expands, the bigger and more powerful the experiences I live.

Es Ram, Formentera, Balearic Islands (Spain)

Like that time I escaped the crowds in Formentera, Spain

At times, returning to Spain seems like an incredibly appealing idea – Spain is, after all, the heart of my comfort zone and London is, in many ways, the exact opposite of what I feel comfortable with – It’s noisy, big and crowded. But this kind of daily challenge keeps me on my toes. It pushes me to continue learning, developing and adapting every day.

London Eye, London (UK)

Of course, not all learning paths are a straight line. I have struggled, failed repeatedly and made a fool of myself – but most of the time I have come out on the other side knowing that this struggle has helped me grow and develop my strengths.

I don’t know how long I will continue in London or where I would go next if an opportunity rose. But I do know that I’m not done with being an expat – and I’m not sure I ever will.

In which ways has living abroad expanded your comfort zone?


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“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah

Rainbow after the Rain, London

Sometimes finding the positive side in a difficult situation can by pretty challenging. Far too often, we focus on the things we don’t have rather than those we do have, which blurs our vision of those small things that could turn our day around.

Of course it’s not ideal to wake up after a bad night sleep and realise that you just ran out of coffee. It’s also pretty annoying to spend a fortune at the hairdresser, only to step outside under the pouring rain. But the truth is, we can either choose anger or joy, to look back or forward. It’s our choice.

While London has definitely set me a challenge from the start, it has also given me plenty of joy and happiness. Here are a few things that brighten my days.

  • Waking up with the sun shining in my face.
  • A pre-breakfast run in one of the many parks around me. I feel lucky to be able to choose between Tooting Bec Common, Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common every day – who gets bored with so much choice?

Morning run in Wandsworth Park, London

  • Having avocado on toast for breakfast. Not a daily routine, unfortunately, but my favourite source of morning energy nonetheless.
  • Grabbing a coffee-to-go from one of London’s top independent coffee shops. I’m a regular at Black Lab Coffee and Lantana Cafe.
  • Getting on the Northern Line tube via Charing Cross (instead of Bank). This means that I’ll be able to fully immerse in my current book without risking to skip my stop!
  • The excitement of winning a pitch and anticipation of working full-on on a new project.
  • Surprise afternoon snacks in the office. Mini cupcakes, anyone?

Mini cupcakes at work

  • Meeting a friend for dinner somewhere we’ve never been before.
  • Food shopping at Planet OrganicWhole Foods and my most recent discovery – As Nature Intended. Seriously, this is way better than shoe shopping!
  • Watching the sun set over the neighborhood’s rooftops while preparing dinner.

Which are the little things that brighten your regular day?

I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a terrible tourist.

I rarely read about a place before I go. I hardly ever travel with a map or a guide. And most of the time, I’m too impatient to queue for an hour to visit a local attraction.

During my 4 months in Barcelona, I genuinely skipped most of the city’s must see attractions, and instead chose to explore the city’s streets and neighbourhoods, its traditions and gastronomy as well as its gorgeous natural surroundings.

But a tiny part of me felt like my stay was incomplete. You see, it’s hardly impossible to talk about Barcelona without giving mention to its architectural masterpieces.

As an architecture enthusiast myself, my short time in Barcelona was heaven. Every day, I walked for at least an hour and absorbed the magnificent details of the façades.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Every now and then, I came across one of Gaudi’s many creations. For those of you who may not have heard of him, Antoní Gaudí is one of the city’s most celebrated architects. His work was strongly influenced by his 3 passions: architecture, nature and religion. I loved examining his art from the outside, looking for evidence of his influence in its details.

I have always been most intrigued by Gaudí’s masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, not only because it’s Spain’s most visited monument (despite of it still being work in progress), but because he devoted more than 40 years of his life to this project. Just imagine the amount of thought and detail he put into it! But each time I attempted to join the queue at the temple, I grew impatient and eventually left to pursue something else (like, sipping fresh orange juice on my favourite roof top). After all, I wasn’t a tourist – I was an expat.

Returning to Barcelona as a tourist one year later has given me the chance to see the city differently. This time I had no commitments, no errands to run, no sunshine to catch up with.

This time, I queued.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Standing in the main chamber looking up to the ceiling transports you to a majestic forest, with its shades and occasional light pouring in through small holes. Gaudí created this forest by developing his columns into tree branches as they reach the ceiling.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Throughout the Church, you will also find turtles supporting the bases of these tree columns and spiral staircases recreating the shape of a snail’s shell.

But my favourite detail was the colourful reflections of the sun shining through the stained glass – absolutely gorgeous.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Visiting the Sagrada Familia was one of my favourite activities during our long weekend in Barcelona. Queuing, it turns out, was totally worth it!

Have you been to the Sagrada Familia?