Lifestyle

“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?

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April was quite a month. I sprinted from one point to another, rushed through crowds, always thinking of to-dos and deadlines. I multi-tasked through most of my day and usually ate in front of my screen while typing yet another e-mail. I spent 8 hours a week studying the GMAT (which in my case meant 8 hours doing maths!) and brainstormed the future of my blog. I pushed myself to study or read something useful in the evenings, before falling asleep a few hours before picking up the entire race again.

Hiking from Afur to Taganana, Tenerife (Spain)

I knew this wasn’t going to last – eventually, something had to change. And I knew the time to reevaluate my priorities had come when, at the end of the month, my body collapsed of weakness.

It’s not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?
Henry David Thoreau

I had been so busy with my career and ambitions that I forgot to take care of myself. I had forgotten about things as simple as eating well, drinking water and getting a good night sleep. Instead, I was constantly being hard on myself for not getting up earlier, for not making more hours to study, for not being more active and for not feeling inspired to write.

After my roadshow finished, I flew home for a long weekend. Soon after, I was hospitalised with severe anaemia – and what was meant to be a short break became a week-long recovery.

Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife (Spain)

This was my wake up call, so I hit snooze and reevaluated my priorities. When did I allow to get too busy to listen to what my own body is trying to tell me?

At some point in the last few months, I became someone who glorified busy. I thought of busy as a status symbol – one that represents productivity and ambition. But the truth is, there was no end to it. There were always more tasks to tick off the to-do lists, and most of those tasks were self-imposed.

That was my first realisation: I was in this by choice.

It was clear to me that the way I made my choices had to change.

Tulip Festival in Morges

Learn to say no (specially to the things I want to do)

It seems obvious that there comes a period in your life where you have to learn how to say no to things that you don’t want to do, but I think the biggest, trickiest lesson in holding onto the stalwart commitment to your creativity is learning how to say no to things you do want to do.”

Elizabeth Gilbert – The Intelligent Channel interview

I’m curious and enjoy acquired new knowledge and skills. Maybe my only hope to beat overwhelm is to limit what I am willing to get overwhelmed by. This will mean saying no to plenty of things I want to do, like a photography course, blogging 3 times a week or drinking that 3rd glass of wine on a Thursday evening.

Be more intentional about my choices and focus

Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed with choices, but by aligning my choices with my core values, the array of alternatives are narrowed to those that are in line with who I want to be.

My goal is to learn to pick more wisely. Instead of constantly adding new projects to my to-do list, I want to choose what I really want to do and focus on doing that one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is evil, seriously. You might think you are being productive, but you’re actually doing things half-heartedly without being really present and involved in any of them.

I’m starting to realise that I’d rather have a few meaningful projects than a stressful over-scheduled calendar that doesn’t allow time to recharge my batteries.

Unplugging more often

Today’s technology has allowed us to be available 24/7 – which means that we never really rest from work on any day of the week.

I am conscious about my dependency on electronic devices (specially smartphones) and feel uneasy and sort of naked when I don’t carry my phones with me – it’s like leaving the house without wearing shoes.

And while I’m already on the path of creating a habit of limiting my plugged in time, I’m still battling against the unconcious reflex of checking for new e-mails every few minutes.


Everyone I know is busy. So, tell me something – What do you do to stay healthy and focussed?

If you’re feeling inspired, why not hop over and read a bit more about the glorification of busy and intentional choices? Below are my favourites:


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Last September, I promised myself to return to Terrazas del Sauzal when I was back in Tenerife. Several flights back to the island and I finally got around returning to one of my favourite terraces on the island.

Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife (Spain)

I never get enough of this view. 

As we sat down and scanned through the menu, I noticed that, since last year, the menu had taken a twist, offering some new and refreshing choices. As much as I enjoy their tuna tartare (ah, one of my favourite picks from last time!), I was on the mission of trying out their latest creations.

The first thing that caught my attention was the tuna goldbrick. I pictured a brick of tuna – carefully decorated, resting on a delicious avocado puree and was immediately sold. After each of us chose a starter and main, we waited, expectantly, for the food to come.

It didn’t take long for our appetiser to arrive.

Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife (Spain)

I’m a big fan of small portions, and this cherry tomato and mozzarella brochette dipped in home-made pesto sauce was no exception.

Shortly after, our colourful starters were placed on the table. We ordered a vegetable tempura salad with iberian ham and prawns, decorated with mango sauce and caviar, and a foie strudel with goat cheese, topped with caramelised apple and combined with duck ham and papaya. The foie brick (which to be honest looked like a crema catalana) was an incredible combination of flavours that I hadn’t expected at all!

Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife (Spain)

Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife (Spain)

By this time, I had eaten so much of their delicious bread and starters that I was a bit worried about being able to eat the tuna brick. Note to self: put a limit on the amount of bread you want to eat that evening and actually stick to it!

Anyway, when our mains arrived, I was pleasantly surprised with my choice.

Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife (Spain)

My tuna goldbrick was actually, well, gold!

I had read before about the trend of using edible gold in restaurants and always thought: “Well it can’t be actual gold. Who would eat gold?”. The truth is, using gold in cuisine has become more and more popular – and there are different types of edible gold. If you’re living in NYC (or like me, are just curious about the crazy things some people do for marketing) – you might have heard of the Douche Burger (a burger sold for 666 USD – which, among many other luxuries, includes gold leafs).

My tuna was not covered in gold leafs (I doubt I’d be able to afford a meal at a restaurant that did!). Instead, it was sprayed gold – a much more affordable version of decorating your meal. While there was no difference in taste (it didn’t taste metallic, by the way), it was a creative touch that made me smile. 


There’s a lot of debate about the trend of adding gold to food and drinks – although these debates do refer to the much more expensive gold leafs (which are, in fact, thin pieces of the metal). For some, eating gold is an act of inexcusable opulence. For others, the ultimate in gourmet luxury. 

Would you try edible gold?

PS: I’m linking up on Treat Yo’ self Thursday with Treasure Tromp and The Happy Type!


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Most of the time, I’m hopelessly addicted to technology. I have the habit of answering e-mails while I walk, placing my phone next to my plate while having a meal and dropping anything I’m doing whenever the red light blinks on my Blackberry. My news feed is filled with inspiring article on behavioural psychology, entrepreneurship and travel waiting to be read. Throughout the day, I take a picture of everything worthwhile. Then I crop it, enhance it, and instagram and tweet it.

London Eye, London (UK)

While technology has in many ways contributed positively to my life, I am constantly battling electronic temptations that threaten to take over more of my time available than I would like to commit. The promise of half an hour surfing the web rarely ends after 30 minutes. A quick Facebook fix can easily become a 20 minutes distraction. One interesting article links to another one, and without realising it another 40 minutes have passed. After an hour and a half of meaningless browsing, I wonder: where did my time go?

On a regular morning commute, I stopped immersing in my Kindle and looked around me: most of my fellow commuters were too engaged in their phones, their music or e-books to acknowledge anything around them. If George Clooney walked into that wagon, nobody would have noticed.

It was then that I realised we are missing out on the real moments. We are missing out on the opportunities to be moved by something real instead of a photo or a Youtube video. We are missing out on the chance to experience something unique instead of reading about it on someone’s Facebook wall.

Sunset in Thailand

As part of my 2014 goal to simplify, I’ve started to be more mindful of my use of technology – not only because I want to be more present and available to real experiences and connections, but also because the overuse of technology causes unnecesary stress and busyness. Does our technology addiction make us think that we are more essential than we actually are?

I have started turning off my iPhone at night and only checking my e-mails after breakfast. I regularly take my 45 minute commute without electronic distractions, taking this time to think and observe. And whenever I get the urge to check my phone, I first asses whether I really need to or it’s just a reflex. And I’ve come to a great realisation: the world did not end while my phone was turned off or without reception.

I want to be conscious of how I spend my time and figure out ways to reduce the importance of it in my daily routine. Being addicted to technology is simply a bad habit that needs to be broken.

For the rest of 2014, I’m going to explore more of the art of unplugging: picking a phone-free day and putting my iPhone and Blackberry away from the table when I’m not on a live project. Limiting my texting and e-mailing to times when I’m not in a social environment.

Do you unplug regularly? What are your best tips?


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Hello and welcome.

My name is Katharina, but you can call me Kate. This blog is where I share my thoughts and impressions of the places I go and the adventures in life and work I experience abroad.

Katharina

I created my first blog in 2010. I started a travel blog using Blogger and was overwhelmed with new concepts and the technicalities – I had no idea about what RSS, CSS and SEO stood for, let alone understand what I could do with it!

I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy blogging. After all, I wasn’t the type of kid that kept a Diary – I was the kind that would return home and do maths. For fun. This probably explains why my first posts were unstructured and disorganised. It became clear to me that if I wanted to take seriously improve my English writing skills, I would needed some serious practice.

Little did I know that writing would soon become a passion.

A year later, in 2011, I gave my hobby an upgrade – moving it from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress platform. However, after 3 years and plenty of back-office coding work, I was feeling burnt out. At times, I felt as if blogging was more of a chore than something I do for fun.

But instead of letting my blog die, I want it to evolve, change and find new paths. I want it to be simpler to allow me to focus on what I enjoy the most: writing and photography. And this takes me the to here and now.

Today marks the day I say goodbye to 100 Miles Highway and hello to Kate goes Global – a blog focused on traveling and living and working in an intercultural environment.

So, where do we go from here?

The blog uses a very simple design with only one Menu at the left, which contains:

  • Home – Which leads you to the main page. Home is a collection of circular images representing individual blog posts. If you hover over each image, the title is revealed.
  • Start Here – If you’re new to this site, I strongly recommend you to start there as it’ll point you to the best posts of each category.
  • About Kate – A bit more about myself (but don’t worry, it’s much shorter than this post!).
  • Contact Me – Please use this online form to get in touch with me.
  • Portfolio – The portfolio contains my favourite travel images.
  • Archives – The best place to dig into my past writings. 
  • Featured – Here you’ll find my footprint in other parts of the web: guest posts, awards, interviews and mentions.
  • Inspiration – A list of my daily inspiration from the web.

And lastly….

Thank you again for joining me on this journey and I really hope you’ll stay for a while! If you would like to receive all my blog updates straight to your RSS feed, please sign up for it here!


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You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear.

Stephen Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

After reading Sammy’s article on expatriate friendship, I took some time to look back at all the friends I’ve made during my years of expatriation. Some of us moved for career opportunities, others have been fuelled by pure wanderlust. But the truth is – it takes determination to leave a predictable life behind to jump into a pool of uncertainty and challenges.

They see challenges as opportunities

Mirador Las Torres, Torres del Paine (Chile)
My hike to Mirador Las Torres in Chile has been the most challenging hike so far.

Some of us see challenges as these maddening obstacles that keep us from where we really want to be. Some even feel so frustrated by them that they abandon their goal alltogether. Others, though, have learned to see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn, to strengthen ourselves. The difference between these two is a small shift in perception.

As an expat, each move will force you to learn almost everything from zero. Where can I buy a lightbulb? How do I say lightbulb in this new language? Where do I find an electrician that installs it? Is this price reasonable or am I being scammed?

There are times when these challenges might take the best of us and make us want to return to the comfort of home – but us expats, we hang in there and see these batches as opportunities to learn something new and test ourselves. In fact, there will come a point where challenges excite us.

They adapt to change

Huangzhou, China
I would probably find China not easy to adapt to – but wouldn’t say no to the challenge!

Flexibility and adaptability is the willingness to get out of one’s comfort zone and learn to adapt to the surrounding changes.

Expats keep an open mind and learn to adapt their behaviour to meet local policies and cultural norms. They make an effort to understand the habits of their adoptive home country, and understand the culture and lifestyle of its people.

Movine to another country will probably mess up with the routine you had in place in your home country – For instance, when I first moved to Switzerland, I had to learn to preplan my week’s food as most of the grocery stores closed before I left work. In London, I had to learn to become more of a morning person than ever before, considering that my commute went from a 10 minute walk in Switzerland to a 50 minute combined walk and tube ride in London.

They take (reasonable) risks

Los Gigantes, Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain)
Seeing the statistics of hikers hurt climbing down the Masca Ravine, I knew there was a risk – but it was one I was absolutely willing to take.

I once read that the main difference between entrepreneurs and project managers was that, while project managers are risk averse and try to control every bit of it, entrepreneurs are willing to take reasonable risks to explore options and test their ideas.

Expats are like entrepreneurs – we are willing to explore and test ourselves taking reasonable risks (and each one of us knows which risks are within reason – as these vary greatly for each one of us). Reasonable risks for one may be to try local food or to experience a tradition of their new home country. For someone else, it might be to drop a well-paying job at home to try their luck in a country they’ve always wanted to live in.

As in any risk (as small as it may be) – there’s a chance of failure. Expats learn from their mistakes and don’t let them lead their way. We get up, shrug it off and always maintain this sense of curiosity and wonder that keeps us continuing taking small risks.

They are not afraid to ask questions

Lavaux vineyards, Switzerland
I was the one always asking for tips on new places to visit around Lausanne, Switzerland – and that’s how I discovered Lavaux (one of my favourite hotspots so far!).

Expats are curious and interested in learning something new. We are also often stuck wondering how to navigate the daily tasks in a new country – Which is the best bank to open an account with? Where do I buy milk on a Sunday? Is this neighbourhood safe? Where can I find a taxi? Or, how do I spell my new street name to the cab driver?

We can’t (and won’t) figure it all out by ourselves, so we reach out to fellow expats, locals or pretty much anyone who’s willing to help.

They are patient

Sunset in Phuket, Thailand
It takes a lot of patience (and mosquito bites) to get to admire a sunset like this one in Thailand.

Starting a life from scratch in a new environment takes a lot of time and energy. Acclimmatisation will not happen from one day to another. Expats usually go through 4 phases of culture shock and, depending on individual experiences, reaching the feeling of truly belonging to this new country may take years of work.

It takes time (and effort!) to become fluent in a new language, to make a new group of friends and to feel at home in a new country. There are a lot of misunderstandings and miscommunications as well as terribly awkward moments, we learn from our mistakes and keep working hard. We know that persistence and determination will help us to reach our goal.

What other habits do you believe highly effective expats have?

Remember how, not so long ago, I was craving for some stability and predictability in my life? How I was so tired and drained of being unsettled? Sure, I still made the best of all that uncertainty that shadowed me throughout most of 2013, but the truth is I was pretty happy to suddenly have figured myself out.

Or did I?

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Now that I’m on a slightly more stable position than a year ago (I guess anything is more stable than an unpaid work experience with no future employment opportunity), I find my mind wandering off into spontaneous decisions to bring in some adrenalin and excitement. This makes me realize that, as much as I want to fight it, I’m just not cut out for routine.

Torres del Paine, Chile

While I thought I was kind of settling down – Subconsciously, I’ve been taking decisions that would break my daily predictability:

  • I joined a profession in which I might be pulled into 2 weeks travel on a super short notice (like 3 days notice!).
  • I’ve moved to a flat on a rolling short-term let agreement, which allows much easier (and quicker) moves across the city.
  • My weekends are as spontaneous as my wallet allows them to be.

All those months I thought I just couldn’t deal with another day of insecurity and instability, and now I come to believe that this unpredictability, freedom and change are precisely what fuels my energy and motivation – and my gut already knew about it all this time!

Sailing in the Canary Islands, Spain

Maybe I do need some uncertainty after all.

I’m writing this posts from my large and bright bedroom overlooking a beautiful park south west of London. I’ve been living here for 1.5 years – which I’m quite sure is the longest I have stayed in the same flat (and neighborhood) for the past 7 years. Everything I bought and created to turn this place into my new home is now slowly being wrapped up again, ready to start a new beginning in yet another flat (and neighborhood) in London.

In the 2.5 years I’ve lived in the city, I’ve already lived in 3 (and soon 4) flats. I’ve gone from living in a studio close to Notting Hill (West London) during my first month in the city, to surrounding myself with top hipsters in Hoxton area (North East London) to finally settling for a bit longer in laid-back Clapham (South West). While always stressful and mostly frustrating, moving around in London has been a good thing – every move has taught me a valuable lesson:

Lesson 1: If you don’t like crowds, avoid famous neighbourhoods

Sunset from Chelsea Bridge, London

I’ve learned that Notting Hill, though beautiful, is too crowded for me – and thanks to this and working close to Oxford Circus, I realised that I actually have a problem with crowds, specially when they involve a majority of tourists (even after having developed the power of precognition).

Famous neighbourhoods such as Notting Hill also tend to have quite a heavy price markup on their flats. You’re paying for being close to Portobello Road – the heart and essence of Notting Hill (the neighbourhood and the movie).

Lesson 2: Don’t follow a trend – find your own style

Richmond Park, London

I moved to Hoxton because I was told so. All I knew at that time is that I didn’t want to live somewhere crowded. I was going to move in with one of my best friends, who continuously mentioned places like Old Street, Hoxton and Angel. I followed along – after all, I was the newbie.

Although the area was great for being next to the Regents Canal and some of the coolest underground bars in the city, I felt like an outsider among so much trendiness. I love to go for to the area for a dinner or drinks, but couldn’t imagine calling it home.

Lesson 3: If you find an area you like and can afford, stay

Stormy London (UK)

This sounds like common sense, but it wasn’t immediately what crossed my mind. One of the reasons I am moving once again is because, ever since my career change into something more creative than finance, my flat takes away more than 60% of my monthly income. Taking into account my monthly travel card and other living essentials, and I have been ending each month with an empty account. I had nothing left for savings. And even worse – there was nothing left for travel either.

I desperately looked for flatshares in the same postcode (postcodes are king in the UK), but all I could find was either flat shares with 5 or more people or rooms in the same price range I am currently paying. I started to lose hope and opened myself to other areas. I went to Putney Bridge, Parsons Green and even had a look around Richmond. I was devastated – not because I thought these places were wrong, but because I was sad to leave a neighbourhood I loved.

With so many changes and so much uncertainty in my life, I wanted to hold onto the one thing I could possibly keep constant.

I eventually found a room in a flat share closeby. A different postcode *sigh*, but a pretty, modern and more affordable flat nonetheless – only a 5 minute walk away from the park I currently overlook from my bedroom. I couldn’t be happier!

Practical Information

Finding a Neighbourhood (or Borough)

  • London’s Crime Map – This map shows in colour code which areas have had high / average / low crime (you can even see the trend of different types of crime in each area.
  • London Commuting Times Map – This one shows you the commuting time you can expect to central London. This obviously depends widely on where in central London you’re commuting to, but it’s a good start.
  • London’s Tube Map – An all times essential. To avoid long and tedious commutes, make sure to check the transportation links that best connect you to work / school. Some tube lines are more reliable and faster than others!
  • A Guide to London’s 33 Boroughs – This map shows all 33 boroughs. When clicking on one, a short descriprion appears, as well as links to its attractions, restaurants, shops, etc.

Whenever possible, I highly recommend to visit the neighbourhood you’re looking at during the day as well as night. Imagine yourself building a routine – do you have a supermarket? a gym? what are the people like?

Finding a flat or flatshare in London

  • For flatshares: Spareroom and Gumtree. Spareroom also offers the possibility to buddy up (find other people looking for a room in a shared apartment).
  • For flats / apartment rentals: Rightmove or Zoopla.

Note that most of the flats listed are managed by a letting agent – so be aware that a number of fees will apply. Agency fees vary greatly among agents and could include (among others): inventory check fee, credit check fee, contract amendment fee and management fee.

Rental prices are usually shown as GBP per week (pw) while being paid per month (pcm). To calculate the monthly equivalent, you only have to multiply this amount by 52 (weeks) and divide it by 12 (months). Voilà!

Other bills to consider

  • Electricity
  • Heating – Victorian houses, although beautiful and romantic, are usually very badly isolated so your heating bills will probably be higher than in a new development.
  • Council Tax – This is a monthly tax based on the size of your flat and its borough. Wandsworth is the borough with the lowest council tax, while Richmond Upon Thames has one of the highest ones. You can check this borough comparison map from Natwest to get a general idea of the yearly costs.
  • Internet / Phone – Before choosing a broadband, I recommend to check Uswitch to compare all the current offers and check which broadband has the best reach in your postcode.
  • TV License – It is obligatory to pay for a TV license (don’t worry about finding out when and how – they usually send you a letter within days of your move to a new flat!). The license is not only needed for TV, but also required if you have a computer and an internet connection. Pretty much everyone is liable.
  • Water

I recently spoke with a good friend about New Year resolutions and how they never seem to last because, well, life gets in our ways. You see, after careful thought I’ve realised that the past few years have always held one huge life changing event that I would have never thought of in January of that year. Some examples:

  • 2013: I moved from London to Barcelona for 4 months on a 3 week notice.
  • 2012: I quit my well-paid and respected job in commodity finance to do something more creative.
  • 2011: I was offered to move from Switzerland to London on a 4 months notice.

Do you see what I mean? How am I supposed to set New Year resolutions if I don’t even know in which country I’ll be in or which sector I’ll be working in?

Playa Ancón, Tenerife (Canary Islands)

My life as it is doesn’t allow me to set very tactical goals on a long-term basis – I want my goals to be more strategic.

As I usually do, I looked for an answer in Google and came across a completely new approach to New Year resolutions that seems to adapt way better to my lifestyle – Choosing three Words that reflect my overall goals of the year (a method created by Chris Bogan).

Grow

30 St Mary Axe, London (UK)

Last year I lived in continuous uncertainty. Even though I learned to enjoy the excitement and curiosity about what’s next, the lack of groundness (is this actually a real word?) made it an impossible scenario to grow professionally. In 2013, I grew experiences – but 2014 is the time to become more intentional about my new career path. Obtaining an official certification in Project Management, learning Brazilian Portuguese and concentrating on developing new business contacts and opportunities are three specific goals I have set myself for this year.

Grow also resonates with my saving goals. I haven’t always been responsbile with my own money (which is rather strange for someone who has specialized in finance). In fact, 2013 beat my savings up hard. Whatever little income I had, I spent it in less than a month and from there on, tapped into my savings. This year, I’m moving into a more affordable flat, setting up a direct debit of 200 GBP a month to go into my savings account and am being more conscious about where I put my money in.

Simplify

Chamonix, France

I’ve learned a valuable lesson in 2013 – Being open to change is way easier when you don’t have other long-term commitments. You see, when I accepted moving to Barcelona, I didn’t really give enough thought to the fact that I was going to be paying for two flats at the same time (one of them being in one of the most expensive cities in the World). How easy would it have been if I didn’t have a long term contract, all my thoughtfully bought furniture and 10 boxes full of clothes!

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to turn all minimalistic (I do enjoy having more than one pair of jeans), but just simplifying things (both, emotionally and physically) whenever possible. I’m starting with decluttering my wardrobe and moving to a more flexible rental in London. I firmly believe that less complexities and clutter around you also brings clarity and reduces stress – an added bonus!

Radiant

Sunset from Las Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife

In 2014, I want to feel as radiant as the sun. One of the many definitions given to this beautiful word is having or showing an attractive quality of happiness, love and health. There couldn’t be any word more global than this one.

I want to feel energized, healthy and happy. I’ll continue to exercise regularly, go to bed before 11:30pm and get up in time to have a decent breakfast at home. But I’ll also be consciously reminding myself of the things I’m thankful for (specially on those days I feel like it’s me against the World). If there’s anything that 2013 has taught me is that in the end, everything will be ok.

What are your three words for 2014?

Sunset in London, UK

You see this? This is me giving up on holding this blog on maintenance mode to rework on the layout, design and format. Who am I kidding? I’m not a web designer. In fact, I’m not a tech person. I’m not even very savvy when it comes to social media – and I’m a Gen Y! (How did this happen?).

I’m impatient, unsettled and a bit unstructured at the moment – and that’s exactly how this corner of the internet is as well. Don’t judge – We are both work in progress.

I’m just about to move flats for the 14th time in 11 years (my 4th move in my 2 years in London). I’ve misplaced my photos from my time in Switzerland (but on the flip side just found 6 years worth of Uni pictures – which I’m pretty sure my friends will agree are priceless). I’ve also misplaced a few things on the blog: Some posts are lacking a featured image and some may even contain links that won’t be taking you anywhere. I’m still not happy with the colour of the navigation menu and am on the mission of figuring it out using a highly complex fundamental problem solving method called trial and error.

Under the warmth of winter sunshine in the Canary Islands, I occasionally sit down and stare blankly at the CSS sheets and let my mind wanders to everything else but code. I realized that I was too impatient to get it perfect – what I really wanted to do is write.

I used to think that 2013 was a rather boring year. No treks in Patagonia. No glacier hiking in New Zealand. No climbing the Grest Wall of China. I didn’t leave Europe in 2013. In fact, my longest flight this year has been 4.5 hrs to return home. But looking back I realize that I was wrong – 2013 was eventful and exciting! I travelled, hiked, learned how to ski. I moved to Barcelona and back to London. I worked for a private jet company, experienced the FINA World Swimming Championships and am now continuously surrounded by inspiring people leading a global creative agency. I couldn’t be happier!

If I had to pick one word to define 2013 this would be
UNCERTAINTY.

Before 2013, I linked uncertainty to the lack of security; risk, and the possibility of loss. I was looking at it all wrong. Uncertainty this year has meant freedom of choice, absolute flexibility and dreams as big as they can get. I was anything but settled and at some point in Barcelona it stopped being scary and became exciting.

I always had a choice. I chose to change my career risking my steady paycheck. I decided to temporarily move to Barcelona. I chose to cut on travel to focus on building a new career. I chose to take on a new role and move back to London. I don’t regret any of these choices – they have brought me to where I am now: ready to take on 2014!

I might not have travelled as much as I had in the previous years, but I’ve still had my fair amount of adventures:

January

Chamonix, France

In January, I took off on a week long trip to Chamonix with one clear mission – to learn how to ski. I’ve given up on my hopes of becoming a slope legend, but at least I can glide down blue slopes without major hiccups – it’s a start! During our time in the Mont Blanc region, we also took the highest vertical ascent cable car in the World which took us to Aiguille du Midi (from where I took the above picture). It was amazing to watch people climb the Mont Blanc and ski down off piste some of the steepest parts I’ve ever seen.

February & March

Hiking from Seaford to Eastbourne, UK

While February went unnoticeable, March was quite eventful. Despite the still wintery weather, I took my visit to explore the Seven Sisters from Seaford to Eastbourne. It may not have been the best time of the year to do so (I would erase the hour walking in mud from our already wet itinerary) – but it was still a beautiful sight.

April

Los Gigantes, Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain)

Right before my temporary move to Barcelona, I travelled back home to Tenerife to rest in between jobs. Exploring a new hiking path has become a ritual and this visit was no exception. In April, I was introduced to one of (now) my favourite hiking spots in the island – Masca’s ravine. I’ve set myself a challenge to hike the ravine down to sea level and up again next year.

May

Montserrat, Catalonia (Spain)

May saw me moving into a tiny apartment in Barrio de Gracia, Barcelona, sharing with far more people than I was used to. Having a tiny room and no living room meant spending a lot of time exploring Barcelona. I immediately fell in love with my neighborhood and was fascinated by the martian rock formations in Montserrat.

I managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Madrid to visit old friends and celebrate my birthday with some of my favoruite people in the World.

June

Sitges, Barcelona (Spain)

Whenever I had some time in my hands, I spent it under the sunshine – at roof tops, balconies, beaches – You name it, I did it! This month I also visited Sitges – a beautiful small fisher town south of Barcelona known for its annual film festival and many nudist beaches just next to the waterfront paths.

July & August

FINA 15th World Swimming Championships BCN2013, Barcelona

During July and August I worked. A lot. The FINA World Swimming Championships took place between the 19th of July and the 4th of August, with the weeks leading up to the 19th spent closing contracts, making orders, finishing designs and supervising construction. I met amazing people that became great friends I still keep in touch with.

September

Costa Brava, Catalonia

The end of August marked the time I surrendered to uncertainty. I gave in. I had officially left sunny Barcelona and had no answer to what next. I road tripped around Catalonia – from Barcelona, along Costa Brava, all the way to Cap de Creus and back down through Garrotxa. I took in all its beauty and variety, going from visiting the medieval town of Peratallada to kayaking around Cadaqués. I also took the chance to return home for a few days and celebrate my grandfather’s 80th Anniversary. At the end of September, everything started to fall again place as I accepted my current job and moved back to London.

October

Sushisamba Restaurant, London

Apart from taking a weekend architectural sketching course in London, I visited friends in Frankfurt and had friends hopping over to London. I hardly shared any of this on the blog for one main reason – lack of time. All I was able to write about (because I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I left it out of common knowledge) is Sushisamba!

November & December

Playa Acón, Tenerife (Canary Islands)

…Which brings me to here and now. I was allocated my first project at the agency mid-November and lost track of place and time until it was over, some time early December. This project took me to Milan and Frankfurt (although I hardly saw anything else than the hotel and the streets in fast motion). I fell quiet around here partly to recover my energy and partly to redesign the blog (something I had been hoping to do for ages!). I’m spending Christmas and New Year’s back in Tenerife – taking the chance to spend time with family, go for walks and hikes and just read in the morning sun. There’s no place I’d rather be right now than here.

I will remember 2013 for being the year I discovered Barcelona (a first timer – which is embarrassing to admit for someone who lived in Spain for 22 years). It’s also the year I fully invested in my new career. The year I surrendered to uncertainty and gave in to the risk of failure. The year I took adventure trips in my backyard (so to say) and learned to appreciate what’s closeby.

Happy Holidays – I wish you all a wonderful start to 2014!

It’s been a while – but there’s a perfectly acceptable excuse to my absence. Birthday parties, afterwork drinks, a girls trip to Frankfurt and a surprising visit from Spain. What a great way to slowly settle back into London!

So, even though I have plenty of things to share on travel and getting closer to 30, I decided to make my return with one foodie discovery in London that I’ve fallen head over heels for – Sushisamba. Those of you from the States might already have heard of the concept – a creative blend of Japan, Brazil and Peru all under one roof.

However, there’s something that makes Sushisamba in London special:

View from Sushisamba, London

The restaurant is set in the 38th floor of Heron Tower (finished in 2011), which at 230m is currently the tallest skyscraper in the City and the 3rd tallest in Greater London (after the Shard and One Canada Square). The see-through elevator takes only a few seconds until the 38th floor (nothing for the faint-hearted!). Being in the heart of the financial district gives this height an entire different meaning – from here, you can see how the city stretches over the surface and it´s easier to appreciate the heights of other skyscrapers around the area. For instance, on the other side of Heron Tower is 30th St Mary Axe (the first shot of this building was actually taken from the restaurant back in April – when I had only come in for a coffee, ignorant to the food heaven next-door).

So, what’s a Japanese – Peruvian – Brazilian fusion like, anyway?

Lunch at Sushisamba, London

Lunch at Sushisamba, London

Lunch at Sushisamba, London

Lunch at Sushisamba, London

The fusion doesn’t come as a surprise – after all, Brazil is home to the largest Japanese population outside Japan, ever since early XIX century. Actually, I recently read that sushi is one of the most popular dishes in Brazil – it’s so popular, that it’s often even served at Churrascarias (with a Brazilian twist). Nobu offers a famous blend of peruvian japanese dishes, while others like Sushinho focus on the brazilian – japanese connection. Either way, the result is light, refreshing and delicate – and incredibly beautiful.

Last week, my grandpa turned 80.Despite the physical distance, we are very close – and whenever I get to go back home, I like to spend as much time as possible with him. He is a wealth of jokes and stories, and one of the most adventurous people I know. He is a doer (less of a thinker) – and I’ve always admired him profoundly for that.

Grandfather's 80s Birthday

His stories captivate people from around the Globe. Wherever we go, he will always has a memory to share that will make you think, laugh or simply love him even more than before. Occasionally, his stories are followed by one of his life lessons.

Immerse in the culture

The greatest way to build a relationship with someone else is to understand their culture and traditions. My grandpa made numerous friends and colleagues while traveling to Japan by simply not hesitating to eat what’s on his plate. Back then, Sushi hadn’t become as popular in Europe as it is today (and even less were other exotic meals such as fish heads or raw sea urchins). Not only did he try it all – but he embraced it and soon became one of them.

There’s no such thing as a language barrier

Opa speaks a few languages – but only one of them well. Still, he almost always has manages to convey his message and understand what others try to say. I have caught him speaking broken spanish with a tip of portuguese and a top of italian. I learned that it’s not necessary to be fluent to communicate – flexibility and openness to understand will already help you go a long way. Sometimes, he sits next to someone who doesn’t speak a word of German (nor spanish nor english, as a matter of fact) and 5 minutes later, they’re already having a blast. He’s a real charmer.

Everybody likes music

Even when talking to someone in another language isn’t quite easy, he always finds something in common – and usually, this is music. He surrounds himself with artists and musicians and is always up for joining a jam session anywhere he goes. Madonna knows it best: Music makes the people come together!

Don’t work too much

Whenever our conversations turn towards a more professional topic, he always tell me not to work too much. I know what he means – balance and have fun. Don’t allow work to define you and rule your life. As an entrepreneur in the fifties, he worked very hard to create and expand his business. But he always made sure to have fun, too.

Today marks the one week count-down to my departure from Barcelona. Aside from a week exploring Costa Brava and another week back home in Tenerife, I have no further travel plans. Nor life plans, as a matter of fact. I am moving out of Barcelona and into some kind of expat limbo.

It feels wrong, but also right – for the first time, I don’t have a plan (a major accomplishment for someone who tends to pre-plan everything up to her free time).

Swing dancers in Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Barcelona has been an unforgettable and highly rewarding experience. I fell in love with the City the first day I arrived and have never felt any other way. I know I could live here for the rest of my life.

So then, why leave?

There are still many places I want to explore and many experiences I want to live before returning to Spain. I want to spend time indulging in outdoor sports and nature, learn a new language and be inspired by other cultures. I want to continue to evolve and be challenged by the World – adopting new skills, interacting with new people and adjusting to new cultures.

Certainly one of the traits (or possibly drawbacks) of being a Gen Y – seeking for constant newness.

What next?” is a question that has been popping up for the past month at least once a day. The truth is: I have no idea what I’m doing next. My Excel Planner – a financial manager’s alternative to an old-fashioned notebook – is overflowing with tabs, color codes, lists and calculations. My calendar shows a wedding in India late November that I can’t yet RSVP to due to not knowing which country or even continent I’ll be flying from. This is what Barry Schwartz must have meant with The Paradox of Choice.

September 25th, the deadline I’ve set to make a decision, is quickly approaching. In the meantime… any suggestions?

How do you choose a neighborhood in a city you’ve never visited before? How do you know whether you could fit in or will always be a stranger?

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Choosing a neighborhood in Barcelona was definitely no easy decision for me. While looking for rooms on a budget and having to rely on pictures and descriptions on the internet, I admit I was worried about ending up in a rough area. Or somewhere far from all the happenings. Or what’s even worse: in the heart of all the happenings. It’s not easy to decide where to live if you haven’t visited the city before.

Of course, some research beforehand narrowed the alternatives. But at the end – What really makes me feel at home is a place that fits me. And that, I could only find out once I was in Barcelona.

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Maybe I had great advisors in London, or maybe it was just damn good luck – but somehow I’ve got the feeling that, for the first time, I’ve found my place at the very first try.

Vila de Gràcia used to be the central area of an independent village called Gràcia. Barcelona slowly grew in dimensions by absorbing many of these independents villages that surrounded the city back in the XIX century. Gràcia, I was told, was one of the last villages to become part of the city – which is one of the reasons why it still has a village atmosphere. Neighbors recognize each other at the bakery and milk shops (well yes, there are milk shops!) and kids play football on their local square while their parents drink a cold caña and catch up.

In fact, you can still overhear older residents talking about baixar a Barcelona (which means going down to Barcelona in Catalan), as if they were outside the city.

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Vila de Gràcia belongs to the District of Gràcia which, while being one of the smallest districts in Barcelona, is also one of the most complete ones. As a friend recently told me: there’s no reason to leave Gràcia unless you are consciously looking for it. Everything you need is at arm’s length. Fashion, sport, nature, architecture, food and culture all melt together in an area of little more than 4km².

This closeness and village feel was exactly what I loved about living in Lausanne and later on made me move from East London to the South West.

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

I know for certain that this place fits me and I equally fit it.

What do you like about your neighborhood? What makes you feel like it fits?

Life rarely goes as planned

Swing dancers in Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

The day I quit my job in the finance to pursue a career in corporate communications and events, I knew it was going to be tough to adjust to my new lifestyle lifestyle. I knew I would have to climb down a few steps of the corporate ladder and adjust my expenses to a lower salary.

But what I did fail to think of back then was how hard it would be to get a job in a new industry in the first place.

Although I secured a 3 month internship to gain industry experience, I know that this is only temporary and soon, I’d be facing uncertainty again.

Do this, move there, give up or go home.

BCN2013

My worries had been blurring my vision. I wrote lists of options, pros and cons and juggled with my future. The easy choice was to quit London and move somewhere else. The more painful alternative was to stay in London and continue to send out numerous job applications hoping to get a response.

None of them felt quite right.

And then I realised there was a third alternative. I reached out to my network – friends, alumni, family. If I could get one more experience in the industry, I would, hopefully, be fit for London’s competitive job market. Soon after I started, things began to fall into place – I got in touch with someone I knew from Uni who had also changed career paths and had landed a job in a small events agency in Barcelona. A few calls later, I got a temporary contract to work at the 15th FINA World Swimming Championships!

So, what’s next?

Cadaqués, Costa Brava (Spain)

For the next four months, I’ll be living and working in Barcelona. Sure, at the moments it’s something temporary – but it’s also the invaluable industry experience I am currently short of. It’s 4 months in a city I had never visited before, so I’m surely covering my need of travel and adventure as well. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that this city happens to be in the Mediterranean coast side and offer some of my favourite dishes in every corner bar (pincho de tortilla, anyone?).