Lifestyle

In contrast to many bloggers that make a living out of their travels, I travel internationally because I have job, live frugally and save money for my adventures. I might have been able to live this lifestyle from my home island, but I chose against it. After all, despite not being a full-time traveler, I do consider myself a traveler of sorts. An expatriate traveler, maybe.

Rainbow after the Rain, LondonThe view from my previous office.

I enjoy taking time to explore a place and experience the local culture, but also like having a routine and pursuing my career, which is one of the many reasons for which I chose to become an expat. Many believe that moving abroad is risky and reckless:

You should be grateful: There are thousands of candidates that would kill for your job

Don’t be foolish: It’s already hard enough to get a job at home – you are doomed to fail if you try abroad

It will kill your career: You will go backwards in your career as you will have to accept a lower position and lower pay

Sure, moving abroad is challenging. There were times that I’ve felt frustrated, misunderstood and lonely. There were times I’ve even hated my adopting countries, and could only think of packing my bags and go home. After over 5 years of living abroad, though, I’m still an expat – and can’t imagine wanting life any other way.

I’m a firm believer of working and living abroad as a way to not only growing personally, but also professionally. I will write about the personal level some other day, but for now, here are the 5 reasons why moving abroad will help you professionally:

It proves flexibility.

Having the courage to up your sticks and move to not only a different company but a different country all in proves the ability to adapt to diverse work places. Having worked in 3 countries (Spain, Switzerland and the UK) I can assure you that each of them has different conditions and a contrasting approach to work.

I admit that, when I moved to London, one of the hardest things to get used to was commuting. I felt as if 1.5hrs to 2hrs of each work day were completely wasted. You see, a 45 minute commute to work in Switzerland was a sin – hardly anyone lived further than a 15 min drive away from the office. In London though, a 45 minute commute is completely normal (and almost a privilege!). I had to learn how to make commuting work best for me. The same goes for lunch breaks!

It increases your cultural awareness.

At first, I found the UK an odd place to work. People didn’t arrive on time – they arrived before time. The offices were mostly quiet spaces, interrupted by the fast tipping of its employees. In the kitchen, there was always someone looking outside the window and grumbling something about the weather.

It’s a cultural thing. The english value their time. If their work hours are from 8am to 6pm, they will do everything to avoid spending any minute after 6pm in the office. I can now perfectly understand this culture and am not shocked anymore – if I still have a long commute home after work, I will also want to get out of there, pronto.

You will learn how to communicate better.

I’m sure you’ve seen this: a communication misunderstanding that took a complete different route than it should have taken. E-Mails, specially, can be dreadful – is he/she ok with it or just being sarcastic? what exactly does he/she refer to with this request?

Add a group of co-workers that have english as their second (or third!) language and you’ll quickly learn how important it is to express yourself politely but clearly. You’ll become more patient and understanding, and will develop an important 6th sense: you’ll learn to perfectly grasp puzzled sentences from non-native english speakers.

You will build an international network.

Having friends spread around the World is damn cool, but having an international network of professional contacts is equally important. Previous professors, managers, co-workers, suppliers and clients; as well as people they have met in conferences, dinners and drinks – all of these are potential employers, business partners, mentors and friends.

A globalized agenda of contacts will open more doors than you could ever imagine.

You might even learn a new language.

There are plenty of non-english countries in which english is widely spoken for business, such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Geneva. This would allow you to pursue and practice your french or chinese, without the initial language barrier affecting your career. Then there is Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany, where the normal level of spoken english on is almost fluent, too. Even in countries that are known for a lesser level of english (ehem, Spain for example), you can find companies that work in english – it only takes some research!

Have you ever worked abroad? What skills do you think you’ve improved from this experience?

Happy New Year to Everyone!

Shanghai, China

I realize I’m slightly late with my 2013 resolutions; I took the past few weeks off to celebrate the holidays at home in Tenerife and in Chamonix. But, oh well, better later than never.

My last post from 2012 summed up my the moments I am most proud of in 2012, and to kick off the start of a brand new year, I want to share my goals and resolutions.

Sailing in the Canary Islands

 

  • Be capable of skipping a small yacht for a day. In 2012, I became a competent crew through a one week experience that taught me a lot – not only about sailing, but about history, weather forecasts and the Canary Islands. This year, I aim to take the next step and become a day skipper to skip a small yacht during day time and navigate along the coast side or between islands.

 

 

  • Erase “I can’t” from my vocabulary. Henry Ford is right: Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right. Sometimes, I catch myself repeating those words when something isn’t going the way I had planned. In 2013, I won’t let those words sabotage my chances!

 

The 1001 Uses of a Map, in Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

  • Travel solo. I have traveled solo before, but these travels have always fulfilled a purpose (education or work). When it comes to leisure travel, however, I’ve always traveled with family or friends. This year, I want to step out of my comfort one and take at least 5 days off to explore a destination by myself. I’m very much looking forward to the new opportunities this will enable!

 

 

  • 15 minutes of French every day. Not investing more time and efforts in improving my french was one of the things I most regret from my two years in Switzerland – but it’s not too late. I’ve got Rosetta Stone on my laptop and french movies on my shelf, and having a french flatmate won’t hurt the process!

 

Torres del Paine, Chile

 

  • Be fit for a half marathon. I’ve never had big plans of running a marathon – but this level of fitness allows for many other physical activities that I do want to do, such as the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. Small weekly steps will hopefully lead to big results this year!

 

 

  • Put more effort into nurturing friendships. My final goal is to focus on nurturing the relationships that make my life better, despite the distance between us. I want to spend more time with them, remember their birthdays and prepare small gestures that will make them smile.

 

I have never been fond of New Year Resolutions. I used to believe I had a short attention span and so, something that I might have considered a goal at the beginning of the year, ceased to be interesting by summer. The truth is, I wasn’t focusing my energy on things I really wanted – but on those that I thought I should want.

A recipe for disaster.

This year, however, things have changed. I have changed. I still don’t know all I want from life (does anyone, anyway?), but I do know how to listen to my gut to establish what I really want (and is realistic to achieve) at the moment.

But before thinking about my goal’s for 2013, I will share those moments of 2012 that make me feel excited and proud of myself – my badass moments of 2012.

Hiking the Great Wall of China

  • I said yes – or “hell yeah!” more often.
  • I learned how to ski. Sort of. Ok, on green and light blue pistes. But that is about to improve in the next few days I’m spending in Chamonix!
  • I learned how to cook a badass lamb tajine with a fruity Moroccan couscous.
  • I got my Competent Crew Certificate and have sailed from Tenerife to La Gomera, in the Canary Islands.
  • I attended my first bachelorette party and had my first friend getting married!
  • I visited Stockholm – a city I had on my bucket list for a very long time.
  • I realized what was making me less happy, and took the courage to changed it.
  • I quit my job as a finance manager without having another job (or source of income) in the horizon.
  • I went somewhere completely different: China.
  • I listened to my gut and decided on a career change into Event Management.
  • I learned to speak out and make my opinion clear.
  • I was part of the planning and managing of incredible events – ranging from the Notting Hill Carnival in London, to TEDx in Brighton and even a very high-end bar mitzvah.
  • I rediscovered Berlin, 10 years later.
  • As part of a fantastic team, I helped to raise over 3,000 GBP for the charity Chain of Hope.
  • I reconnected with old friends and family I hadn’t seen in 15 years.

Which have been some of your badass moments in 2012?

Phew, Five years – that’s easily said.

Lavaux, Switzerland

I first moved abroad when I was at University. Deciding to study European Business Management meant that half of my time would be spent abroad. For me, abroad was Germany. During this time, I also took the chance to do a 6 months internship in Zürich, Switzerland. I loved the city, the landscapes and the people I worked with and always promised myself I would return some day…

After graduating from my Master degree in Madrid, that opportunity came back to me: I had an offer to move back to Switzerland – this time, Lausanne. Even though it was hard to adapt to at the beginning, I fell head over heels with this lakeside city, its views over the french Alps and nearby vineyards. After two years, time had come to move on. And here I am, just celebrating the end of my 5th year abroad, from London.

So for this 5 year anniversary, I’ve prepared a list of 15 life lessons I’ve learned (some of them, the hard way).

  1. Ask questions. I used to be the sort of person at school that hoped for someone else to raise my question, or otherwise, ask after class to avoid possible embarrassment. The thing is: there is no reason to be embarrassed – There is really no such thing as a stupid question.
  2. Follow your gut. Whenever confronted with a decision that has to be made: follow your instinct. Something that doesn’t feel right is certainly wrong.
  3. If others think your ideas are crazy, then you must be on the right track. Not everyone will understand your choices and support your ideas. Don’t ever let this pull you down. The only reason to quit is because you feel it’s the right choice – not because others don’t believe in your dream.
  4. Do it, even if you don’t get paid for it. Getting paid to doing what you want is great, but very often you’ll have to start doing it, as I would say, por amor al arte (literally meaning for the love of art, or fun the fun of it).
  5. It’s OK to fail. You don’t have to be right the first time. You can be right the second. The third. Failures provide us with great learning experiences and prepare us for our big success. Never stop doing something because you’re afraid to fail – remember: the secret of winning is playing often.
  6. The most interesting experiences usually happen when you get off the beaten path. In your career and while traveling, it’s good and comfortable to have a plan – but always be ready to get off that plan whenever it feels right, as the best is waiting for you somewhere completely unexpected.
  7. Your reputation is the most valuable asset. After quitting your job or graduating from Uni, you might feel like throwing a nasty email to your boss or that competitive class mate, but this will never pay off enough to cover the huge hole you’re creating in your reputation. They say never burn the bridges. You never know when or where you’ll meet them again.
  8. You choose the way you view the World around you. A swiss village can be dead boring or incredibly charming. London can be too crowded or full of buzz. It is all in the eyes of the viewer.
  9. Laugh. Often. Laughter is the best medicine. Surround yourself with people who will make you laugh out loud and cry of happiness. I’m pretty sure you’ll have less wrinkles and live longer.
  10. Languages are a virtue. Languages take you to places. Today, it’s quite common to see job offers asking the candidate to be able to write and speak a second language – sometimes even a third. Even when english is widely spoken, languages are very much appreciated and will open many doors!
  11. Stereotypes are only that: stereotypes. We’ve all heard about them. Spaniards always sleep siestas. The swiss clockwork punctuality. German’s don’t joke and all Latin-Americans dance. Well let me tell you something: I know Spaniards that don’t take naps, swiss that were late and germans that made me pee in my pants. Oh, and I’ve also met an awful lot of Latin-Americans that can’t dance! Always keep an open mind.
  12. You’re not as different as you think from everyone else. As soon as I started to tell people who I was quitting finance to move into events, I started to realize that so many others are on their second life or have a dream career they’d love to approach. Finding something in common with someone is much easier than you think.
  13. Learn to enjoy your own company. Do activities by yourself. Immerse in a book, go for a walk/run, visit an exhibition. Travel! Don’t wait for others to join your plan, otherwise, you’ll never do it.
  14. Stop checking your phone when you’re with other people. Seriously, I can’t think of anything more disturbing and disrespectful than sitting with friends or colleagues and realizing everyone is more engaged in their online life than in what is happening right here right now.
  15. You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want. Time is precious, so think about you really want to do, prioritize and do it.

What valuable lessons have you learned, living abroad?

One of the many advantages of visiting a friend living abroad is that, after a short time, you can already get a grip of his or her daily life in this city. You’ll quickly understand which aspects they enjoy the most and which drive them mad.

After only 6 days in Shanghai, I already had built my thoughts over the city and the life I would live if I moved in for a few months time.

The Great

Shanghai's Skyline, from Bar Rouge

  • The Rooftops. I admit it – over the years, I’ve become a bar snob. Don’t get me wrong: I do enjoy drinks at the local pub. But give me leather sofas, a terrace, a breath-taking view, and an extensive cocktail menu… and I’m sold. I hardly ever step into these places in London (probably because the weather isn’t always good for outdoor lounges and because drinks are prohibitively expensive), but be assured that I would become a regular at Shanghai’s rooftops.
  • Beauty and Well-Being is affordable. During our 6 days in Shanghai, we managed to squeeze in a foot massage, a full body massage, a mani and a pedi. If I’d live there, I would probably make massages a weekly habit – who wouldn’t, for less than 20 USD?

The Good

  • Getting around. Shanghai, compared to Beijing, is fairly walkable. There are some beautiful parks and many leafy streets that allow pedestrians to walk in the shadow on those hot summer days. Being the largest city by population in China, with over 23m people, it cannot be compared to the walkability of Stockholm, of course. You can’t expect to go without public transport! However, public transport works well and is also very affordable.
  • Restaurant diversity. As a tourist, restaurant diversity isn’t something you particularly appreciate in a city – after all, tasting local food is part of the experience. And let me tell you – the Chinese have some really tasty dishes, but they also have quite exotic menus. So, when you’re expecting to stay for a longer period of time, having other cuisines at your disposal (maybe even your home food!) will make it easier to adapt.
  • The culture. China’s culture is very different from anything I had lived before, it’s fascinating. There are so many things to learn from it! If I lived in Shanghai, I know I would sign up for a dumplings master class, I would pick up Kung Fu and do Tai Chi in the park.

The Bad

Funny Chinese Signs

  • The Language barrier. Imagine you’re on your way to a stylish restaurant, and suddenly come across this sign. What do you expect? A toilet? A restaurant? A restaurant serving delicious food in a toilet? Chinese is hard to learn, and not all Chinese people will speak perfectly english. This makes daily life much more challenging!
  • Giving up your personal space. The first thing I noticed as soon as I stepped into Shanghai’s Airport was the amount of people – it was very crowded. I soon learned that this was not particular to the airports – but anywhere you’ll go. People grew up with little space and therefore, their concept of personal space is different from mine. They are more comfortable with up-close and personal interaction, so it’s common to notice people staring and pointing at you, pushing you in a line or looking over your shoulder to see what you’re doing. Having trouble not freaking out in Oxford Circus during lunch time… I doubt I could do this for too long in Shanghai.
  • The Goodbyes. This is something common to all big cities that have a wide expat community – expats often don’t stay more than a year (specially in developing countries), so even though it’s fun to constantly meet new faces… It is also tough and daunting to say goodbye to the friends you’ve made. I’ve been living away from home for 10 years now, and goodbyes haven’t become any easier…

The Ugly

Shanghai Skyline

  • Traffic, pollution and fearing for your life. Traffic is a big issue in Shanghai – there a re just far too many cars! Traffic jam is a common problem at any time of the day. As a pedestrian, you should never assume that green light actually gives you the right-of-way. I learned that, specially bus and taxi drivers, hardly ever obey traffic lights… which makes every road cross a scary adventure.
  • The ultimate culture shock. Before traveling to China, many people warned me about some of the customs that are different from the western World – the concept of private space just being one of them. The constant spitting is probably something I wouldn’t necessarily get used to over time, together with having children pee or poo in the streets or tube stations!

Have you been to China? What other things would you add to this list?

I’m lounging on my terrace, overlooking the park. Every now and then, an airplace traces the blue sky above me, leaving a trail of white clouds behind. I realize that these are the last days of summer – soon, my bikini will have to return to the back of my closet, being replaced by scarfs, leather jackets and boots.

It has been one year since I’ve moved to London and I’m already saying goodbye to my favorite english season for the second time. However, this time, I’m looking forward to welcome autumn. I’m looking forward to student discounts, brand new faces and an exciting big step in my new career. This year in London has been anything but what I had expected. I learned so much about myself, my values and my deepest dreams. I found courage to step out of my comfort and into the exciting unknown. I swiched from fearing not to know where I’d be in five years time, to embracing uncertainty in a 3 months span.

So to celebrate a year of unexpected London, I’m choosing my favorite photographs of London for my entry to Capture the Season promotion.

I realize it is fall when…

Fall in London, UK

…The city is bathed in a golden light. Despite a blue sky and shining sun, the air is crisp and humid. The parks are covered in yellow-tainted leaves. I rescue my boots and wool scarf from the back of my wardrobe. My weekends go by with long walks along the river, capturing every sight of the city, and conclude my day with a pint of ale and a game pie in a local gastropub.

I realize it is winter when…

Winter in London, UK

… I dread leaving the house every morning and wonder whether I should wear my Hunters, my UGGs or have the courage to leave in heels. I choose to go for one of the first two, and pack the others in my XXL handbag, together with a hat, an umbrella, gloves and an extra thick scarf. Winter in London is unpredictable, so I usually carry half my wardrobe with me to be prepared at any time. Bare branches greet me on my way to work. Winter is the best excuse to go shopping – every shop window is carefully and heartily decorated in Christmas-theme, street lights shine reflecting on the wet streets and it’s simply too cold to spend more than 5 minutes outside.

I realize it is spring when…

Spring in London, UK

… London is covered in green. All the rain and humidity is paying off – crisp green grass, colorful flower beds and even entire buildings covered in leafs! I’m excited to see a ray of sunlight force itself through the cloudy sky. Shop windows display english country flower dresses and some women brave to ditch their winter tights and substitute their coats with light jackets. On a rare sunny afternoon, I fight for a spot on one of London’s many terraces to enjoy a glass of rosé. Hopes are high for summer to come.

I realize it is summer when…

Plane Flying over London

… All I really want to do is grab a book and go to the park. I twist and turn in the sun, hoping to get a hint of a tan. I admire the blue sky, and the many planes flying above me. I hear a bell ringing in the background – cream van is approaching! I look around me, and realize every one else is expecting him, too. Friends are playing ultimate frisbee and rugby close by (I secretly hope to not be hit by them – as my previous experiences have already shown my innate skill to attract flying objects). These days, I feel I don’t need anything else but this: a park, a group of friends and a good book. Add a glass (or two) of white wine and I’m in London’s heaven.

This is my entry in Booked.net‘s “Capture the Season”. I nominate the following bloggers:

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

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

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

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

My Vibram Five Fingers

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

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

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

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

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

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

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

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

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

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

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

Practical Information

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

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

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

I switched cities when I turned 18. Sunny Tenerife for busy Valencia (and shortly after, even busier Madrid). At that time, I had to say goodbye to people I cared about – to friends I grew up with, to my closest family.

Hiking in Tenerife, Spain

I knew I was returning eventually – for summer holidays, Christmas, Easter and the occasional long weekend. But with time, these home visits became less frequent. Time had grown me apart from the island and so to most of my friends in it. We went separate ways and, although I do keep in touch with some of them, I must admit, I haven’t seen them in almost 3 years now.

Distance is the greatest test of friendship

It is easier to feel your heart close to someone who lives right around the corner (or, well, at least in the same city). In the moment the physical distance between you becomes larger, it won’t take long to realize whether they are one of your friends that you can count in one hand.

It’s true that proximity plays a very important role in friendships. Living close by, studying the same subjects or working together gives you something in common and, overall, makes it convenient. This said, proximity isn’t all – A friendship based on post codes doesn’t have enough base to go through thick and thin.

Having been living away from home for the past 10 years, my friendships have been continuously challenged. I’d like to say that I’ve become less apprehensive to goodbyes, but I haven’t. I still board on planes with a tear rolling down my cheek after every adieu. Some of the people I’ve said goodbye to, I will possibly never meet again – they were convenient, temporary friends with nothing left to share but occasional Facebook messages. In other cases, though, distance has grown the relationship stronger than ever.

Birthday Flowers, all the way from NYC to London

So far, yet still so close

On the day of my birthday, I was surprised with these beautiful orchids. An even bigger surprise was to realize that they came from New York! (Ok, not literally, but you know what I mean…).

What I have learned during the last 10 years is that, when it comes to maintaining a strong friendship, it’s not about distance but about connection. If it’s strong enough, it will definitely survive any distance. In fact, some of my closest friends haven’t shared the same country of residence with me in the last 3 years.

Formentera, Spain

It’s hard to get used to this physical distance – not meeting for an after-work (or after-class) drink, not having brunch together on a sunday going over all the weekend happenings, not improvising a weekend escape. But when it comes to real friendships – those with whom you follow through a regular connection – this drawback is quickly topped with greater advantages:

  • You’ll always have a couch to crash on when you travel. In the past 7 years, I’ve visited cities in England, Portugal, France, Spain, Australia, Germany and Switzerland (among others) without having to spend money on accommodation!
  • You’ll have the best city guides. Friends might not always be city experts, but they are experts on you, are excited about your visit and hungry for discovery.
  • You’ll expand your global network. Put it this way: if every friend you have that has lived or is living abroad has at some point met other expats or locals that you meet when you go for a visit, you might as well be increasing your network of friends around the World (and maybe one of these new friends gives you tips for your next trip to Stockholm or puts you in touch with people in South Africa!).
  • Plus, you’ll never run out of anecdotes and stories to tell!

For me, the key to long distance friendships is closeness – via E-mail, Skype, Facebook or any other media possible – and finding a way to keep the excitement to know about each other, alive. Unexpected text messages starting with a “Remember when….?”. A very short visit (even when having less than 5 hours between 2 flights). Planning an exotic holiday (or, uhm, hen party) together. Sending a postcard from a place you’ve recently visited or a flower bouquet for a special occasion. With every detail, I feel closer to my friends – even when having oceans, mountains and uncountable times zones in between.

How do you keep your long distance friendships alive?

Back at IE Business School, I learned about how psychology could explain the effects and anomalies of the stock market, which, in extreme cases, can lead to bubbles and market crashes.

Sunset from the Empire State, New York

Some of these investor biases show up on my daily life. If something goes well, I’ll feel overconfident and float on a puffy cloud. Usually, I start paying less attention to small details and, as soon as there’s a turn of events, I crash. After a few falls, I’ll feel more averse to taking up new challenges and risks – After all, nobody likes to fail and get hurt, right?

Right. But wrong.

Studies show that positive and negative information of the same importance do not have the same weight in our minds. They don’t balance each other out – instead, we’ll feel worse than neutral. Naturally, our mind tends to give more weight to the negative experience than to the positive one (this is called Negativity bias). For example: if someone has given us a bad first impression, this one is more resistant to disconfirmation than a first good impression.

Those who know me, know I have occasionally been an emotional roller-coaster. I may have started the day bright and with a smile, but if something goes wrong, everything just feels like it has crumbled into pieces. Every evening, I used to evaluate the day on my way home:

  • The bus came on time: + 5 points
  • It started to rain: -5 points
  • I forgot my umbrella at home: -10 points
  • I got positive feedback at work: + 10 points
  • I lost my Oyster card with 50 GBP on it: – 50 points

At the end of the day, I felt mediocre and deflated – even though the day, as an overall, hadn’t been that bad! Was I aiming for perfection all the time? Maybe. Maybe I was being too harsh with myself and maybe I was just being ridiculous monitoring each day’s performance.

The truth is: putting more weight on negative experiences than on positive ones is exhausting. I continuously tried to improve the day, and when the overall outcome was below zero (or neutral), I felt like it had been a bad day overall. Instead of trying to change every day’s score, I have decided to change the way I evaluate the day. I will be grateful for the good things that happen throughout the day and hold on longer to these positive experiences than to the negative ones.

Do you tend to cling to negative thoughts too long?

London City, UK

During the Middle Age, Southbank developed as London’s outlaw neighborhood – a place where taverns, theaters, bear-baiting, cock-fighting and prostitution entertained the crowds. The borough was conveniently located outside the City’s walls, on the other side of the river. For decades, locals from the north side rarely crossed the river to the south, nor did the tourists visiting the City.

However, in the past few years, a series of projects have focused on improving this area – turning it into an must-see artistic hub with numerous museums and art galleries, as well as a real foodie heaven with the boom of old Borough Market.

Southbank is one of my favorite areas of London. Its tiny streets and alleys boast with history and diversity. Local pubs are authentic – small, dark and crowded. Its architecture is a perfect blend of the 18th Century industrial era and modern developments. But what really makes Southbank so special is its views over the City’s skyline during dusk or dawn.

Can you imagine having this view from your balcony?

Remember that time, I was dreaming of setting sails into the sunset on Lake Léman in Switzerland?

This year, I’ve been throwing myself into all kind of new opportunities: skiing, cooking classes and now sailing. Unlike skiing and cooking, I knew from the beginning that I would really enjoy sailing. After all, it combines the sea, nature and socializing – three things I love.

So what does a usual day look like in a one week full time sailing course?

Sailing in the Canary Islands

8:00am You wake up, squeeze under the shower and have breakfast in the cockpit – usually checking weather and deciding wether or not to put on/take off one of your thousand layers.

10:00am The instructor arrives. Since waking up, you’ve already put on and taken off several layers 2 or 3 times. You feel warm now, simply from the exercise of getting dressed and undressed in your tiny cabin. You’ve decided to go as it is – shorts, t-short and a jumper. After all, you’ve spotted some suspiciously grey clouds to the east.

10:30am You leave the marina behind, excited about taking out your sails… when you realize there’s actually no wind. You wait for another 15min, hoping for a miracle, but soon you give up and turn on the motor. One of your mates returns from inside with some biscuits and apples – it’s time for a second breakfast.

1:00pm Wait, are you feeling a gentle breeze coming from your right? You check the instruments – 10 knots… 10.5 knots… 11 knots… was this apparent or true wind? huh? where’s that theory book again… anyway, you decide to give it a try and raise both sails.

1:35pm Yes! You’re sailing!

Sailing in the Canary Islands

2:30pm You’re in the middle of the passage between two islands. There’s enough wind to blow the yacht away. You’re getting hungry – and impatient. You free your harness from the boat and tumble towards the companionway. You crawl downstairs, grab a bag full of sandwiches and drag it upstairs – this turns you into the yacht’s star.

3:30pm Water is rough – One of your colleagues is already sticking his head over board. You’re at the steering wheel and feel the urge to have a wee.

3:40pm You really can’t hold yourself any longer and decide to go downstairs (again). You crash against the table, sofas and doors but somehow make it into the bathroom. You feel relived – everything turned out pretty well after all. However, right before exiting the bathroom, you loose balance and accidentally turn on the shower right above you.

4:15pm You look around and soak in the view – You can see 3 islands (Tenerife, La Gomera and La Palma) from where you are. By this chance, you eat an apple.

5:20pm What’s that! A dolphin! And there’s another one! And another one! You run (ehem, crawl) to the bow to watch them shoot in front of the yacht. The water is so clear – you can even see their white bellies!

6:00pm The wind has ceased a bit. Now this, you tell yourself, is really leisure sailing. You look around you – you can’t find any other yacht from the Sailing School – does this mean you got the wrong direction? Just in case, you revise the route and your waypoints 3 to 4 times.

6:30pm You’re starting to see a wall that could possibly match your harbor. We’re almost there!

7:10pm While nearing the marina, you start pulling out fenders, warps and all sort of straps. You pull down the sails and get ready to enter.

7:45pm You help the skipper to tie the boat properly (which, believe me, is more complicated than you might think). Lucky enough – you’re the first school yacht to arrive (we did have the racing boat after all), you made it right before sunset!

Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera

8:00pm It’s Beer O’Clock – you enjoy a Dorada (the local beer) with the rest of the crew exchanging stories at sea (well, in my case, I listened to other people’s stories at sea – this was my second time after all).

Sunset in Las Galletas, Tenerife

9:00pm You get off the boat but still feel the side effects – why is everything still moving around you? You walk to one of the fish restaurants around the harbor and order the freshest catch of the day accompanied by a glass of local white wine.

Shrimps, Las Piratas Bistro Bar in Las Galletas, Tenerife

10:30pm You’re exhausted, and still take your theory book to bed – time to learn the rules of the road.

11:00pm The gentle moves swing and relaxing sound of water splashing against your yacht makes you sleepy. You give in and promise yourself to wake up earlier tomorrow.

After my first 6 months living in London, I’ve realized that, in this city, anything is possible.

London Eye, London, UK

London has more than just fog, pollution and this occasional drizzling rain in the air – there is something magical that has provided me some new skills to make my way around the city.

  • Precognition. Try being on a rush in Oxford Circus at 5:30pm on a Friday, and you’ll be sucked in avalanches of people running in and out of shops, packed with bags and with (apparently) no direction. In some cases, I even became part of a human mass – you know, the rock concert sort of mass, the one that makes you move to the right even though you’re fighting to go left. I used to be that person, but now I’ve been me with the power of foreseeing the (very) short term future – which I mainly use to predict other people’s moves. I might be on a hurry, but you will hardly ever see me bumping into someone anymore!
  • Camouflage. I’m a chameleon. I’ve always had this ability of blending in my immediate environment (this might be a reason why I’ve never been actually mugged as a tourist!). But the boroughs of London expect so much more from you – each of them offer such diversity that, at the beginning, it was hard not to feel a stranger even in your own neighborhood. I like living in East London with artists and hipsters that (purposely) mess up hair and have this characteristic vintage flair. But also enjoy working in stylish Mayfair that boosts boutiques and pretty tea houses. I now manage to blend in both opposed worlds.
  • Frost Proof. Ever since I moved out of the Canary Islands 10 years ago, I’ve been moving up north of the globe – the Spanish Peninsula, Germany, Switzerland and now England. Although Switzerland was probably the coldest place I’ve lived in, it was something I learned to live with because after all, you’d either dress up in a ski suit or sit next to a warm fire. Here in London, however, life continues despite the cold wind, snow or freeze. And by life, I mean, every aspect of it. People will still go to the pubs and drink outside to keep the smokers company. They’ll continue to run to work and/or back home. And will, under no circumstance, ditch an afternoon of shopping. So do I!
  • Teleportation. Well, ok. I can’t literally disappear from the crowded morning tube and appear on a sunny beach in French Polynesia and then shortly reappear at work with a golden sun tan (wouldn’t that be just incredibly nice?). What I can do is to evade my mind from being in a sticky hot tube with far too many layers on me, to Mexico, Brazil or even the English Country side – all thanks to my iPod!

Have you developed any superpowers while living abroad?

There’s no doubt that Argentineans are known for their fine wine and rich food – many of them are italian descendants, so a passion for cuisine is in their blood. But you probably already know about their rump steaks and rib-eye steaks. You might have even had an argentinean tenderloin some time (my personal favorite, by the way).

So, instead of walking you through the numerous eatable parts of a cow, I’ll focus on Patagonia in general, covering both, the Argentinean and Chilean sides. Chilean food, although with a more limited international representation, deserves a special mention here. After all, Chile’s long coastline adds a wide range of ocean products to their main ingredients (and hey, sea food is one of my weak points!).

Spider Crab

Spider Crab Ceviche, Ushuaia (Argentina)

Spider crab is a certainly a regional delicacy that you shouldn’t miss out. Restaurants offer them prepared in so many different ways: natural, as a soup, in a salad or even prepared as ceviche (pictured above) where the spider crab is basically cooked by using acidic juice from limes and/or lemons (a must try!).

Although spider crab was on menus all over Patagonia, I believe that one of the top places to go for it was Ushuaia, where it’s freshly brought right from the Beagle Channel. I spotted the above spider crab ceviche above at Restaurante Tante Nina, where they did not only offer a huge variety of fresh sea food, but also a perfect view over the southernmost harbour of the World.

Merluza Negra

The patagonian toothfish is regionally known as merluza negra, which translates literally into black hake. The first time I read it on a menu it caught my attention – I had only known the silver toned hake, how would a black hake look like and most importantly, how does it taste?

The merluza negra can only be found in very cold waters in the southern hemisphere, and can get to become a pretty big lady – up to 2 meters long! I’m no fish expert, but I do recognize a good fish when I try it, and this patagonian treat, in my opinion, is much more savory than other sea products (maybe it’s because of its fat layer between skin and flesh?).

Cordero Fueguino and Cordero Patagónico

Cordero Fueguino, Patagonia

Asadores are everywhere in Patagonia, but instead of highlighting their beef products, they focus on their regional lamb – the cordero fueguino and cordero patagónico. The cordero patagónico has a unique flavor because of the sheeps’ diet of regional mixed herbs and grasses (particularly a type of grass called coirones). This, together with a delicious chimichurri sauce made of hot peppers, garlic, vinegar, oil and mixed herbs makes the perfect meal after a rough day of hiking.

Dulce de Leche

Brownie with Dulce de Leche

Alfajor with Dulce de Leche

Flan with Dulce de Leche

Ok, so before you attack me on this one – yes, Dulce de Leche is not originally from Patagonia. It might not even be Argentinean! But although the origin of Dulce de Leche is uncertain, there’s no doubt about Argentina being the world leader of its production and consumption, and Patagonia was no exception. This sweet paste was a key ingredient to any dessert – it filled home-made alfajores, it topped a chocolate brownie and accompanied a simple flan.

Calafate

Calafate Berry in Patagonia

This was a failed attempt of adjusting my camera’s focus to the calafate berry, manually. Mental Note: Learn how to use DSLR camera before the next big trip.

It’s very easy to come across it when hiking anywhere in Patagonia. When the fruit is mature, it adopts a dark color blue-violet color, similar to the one of blueberries, and can be eaten right away from the bush! In my opinion, they tastes like a mix of blueberries and raspberries and are used to make multiple products: from jams and cakes to beer – yes! there’s a chilean ale called Cerveza Austral that is made with these berries. A must try!

A legend tells that anyone who eats the Calafate berry, will certainly return to Patagonia – I really hope this is true.

Have you ever tried any of these dishes? Which is your favorite?

While I work my way through the over a thousand pictures I took during my trip to Argentina and Chile, I thought it to be a good time to take a look at what 2011 brought me.

2011 was the year I learned to appreciate winter, got promoted, moved to London and traveled solo for the first time.

January

Sunset from the Empire State, New York

I kicked off last year in a steampunk themed underground party. After years of resentment, I revisited Paris and remembered what made me fall in love with the city in the first place. At the end of the month, I travelled to New York with my best friend and experienced one of the most beautiful urban sunsets from the top of the Empire State (at -17ºC, but it was totally worth it).

February

February was a busy month at work – I traveled to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and attended a week of cocktails in London. Aside from gaining at least 2 kilos from dunking anything possible into a massive chocolate fountain, I drank champagne at London’s Natural History Museum and had dinner at the city’s oldest restaurant!

March

Edinburgh, Scotland

In March, I went on my first solo trip – a long weekend in Edinburgh. I learned that travelling solo doesn’t mean being solo all the time, as I met lots of interesting people throughout my stay (among them, Kash from Budget Traveller and Keith from Traveling Savage. Great whiskeys. Great company!

April

Tulip Festival in Morges

We had beautiful weather in April, so I spent a lot of time outdoors. I visited Morges during its yearly Tulip Festival and, over Easter, drove around Switzerland discovering the Mont Fort – a peak from which I could appreciate 3 countries (Italy, France and Switzerland).

May

Switzerland

I celebrated my 27th Birthday throwing a massive expat BBQ party at Lac Leman that went into the late hours that night. May was a perfect month in so many ways – filled with sunshine, wine and beautiful walks along the riverside.

June

Royal Ascot Horse Race

In June, I had my first taste of English culture at the Royal Ascot horse race – celebrating 300 years of this royal tradition. I quite quickly lost all the money I was ready to gamble and focussed on spotting the craziest hat and outfit!

July

Lavaux, SwitzerlandHoping to find the most appropriate way to say goodbye to Switzerland, I spent most of July revisiting my favourite corners of Lausanne and hiking through the Lavaux vineyards overlooking the lake and the Alps. I also hiked the Aletsch Glacier – which is my favourite day-hike so far!

August

Es Ram, Formentera, Balearic Islands (Spain)

In August, I had a fantastic time with 3 girlfriends in Formentera – a tiny island off Mallorca, frequented by Shakira and Giorgio Armani. We visited every beach, hired a zodiac to dive into remote coves and swim in crystalline water and celebrated every sunset with a perfect made mojito at our favourite beach water. Ah, heaven!

September & October

St Paul's Cathedral and Millennium Bridge, London

In September, I left my swiss life behind me and moved to London. Life in the city hit me hard and I was an emotional wreck – the crowds, the fog, the rain, the wind, the commute, the anonymity… I was missing Lausanne like crazy.

November

Whale Watching in Tenerife

I managed to escape London for a bit of home-therapy in November. Aside from soaking up some sunshine, I took a boat ride to watch whales along the island’s coastline.

December

Penguin in Isla Magdalena, Chile

December passed very quickly as I counted the days to go on a trip I had been dreaming of for so long – Southern Patagonia. I went hiking in Torres del Paine, visited an island inhabited by penguins, hopped on Cape Horn and watched glaciers tearing apart. There was no better way of closing this year!

What are your proudest moments of 2011?

Port, Lac Leman, Switzerland

I’ve read many blogs about people warning about Switzerland’s high prices. I can’t deny it – Switzerland is expensive. Food, in particular, can be 45% higher than the western European average. If you look at The Economist’s Big Mac Index, the price of a Big Mac in Switzerland is more than double of what you would pay for today in the US. Sounds crazy, huh?

But don’t let prices scare you off – Switzerland is a beautiful country, and you won’t have seen it properly until you’ve made food a part of your travel experience. Quality food remains an important part of swiss culture; and I’m not only talking about their cheese – he country has, after all, the highest number of Michelin stars per capita.

During my two years living in Lausanne, I’ve had the chance to eat my way through a big part of its cafes and restaurants (perks of living in a small city!). I was impressed by the variety in cuisine and price ranges that were available – a diversity that other larger european cities are missing.

Choosing only 5 Lausanne eateries for this post has been a very hard job. So, to make things a bit easier for me, I’ve left out those restaurants that have already received my special mention in previous occasions (you will find a list with the links to these articles at the end of the post). Also, I’ve limited my recommendations to a certain budget – it’s too easy to recommend restaurants with Michelin Stars, right?

Without further ado, here are Lausanne’s stars.

Le Citadin

Passion Fruit and Chocolate, Le Citadin, Lausanne

If you’ve always wanted to taste a plate elaborated by one of Europe’s master chefs but don’t really have the cash (or time) to go through a 10 course menu – Le Citadin is the best alternative. As high quality and sophisticated fast food corner in the center of Lausanne, it’s perfect to grab a quick but healthy snack. If you’re weak, like me, you’ll surrender to what Philippe Guignard does best – pastries. I can hear you people salivating while staring at that passion fruit and chocolate pastry up here. That’s exactly what I mean.

Holy Cow

The swiss are very proud of the quality of their meat. At first, I thought it was just national pride for internal supply (in terms of “anything swiss is better”); but in fact, swiss meat does taste really good. Then again, this shouldn’t be of any surprise – cows that eat fresh green grass and are free to walk up and down the hills will taste different to those who eat grains in a commercial farm.

Holy Cow is exactly that – a praise to high quality meat sourced in Canton Vaud. Not only the meat, but all of the ingredients of their delicious gourmet burgers are fresh, have been locally produced and are prepared right in front of you. The crew is young and lots of fun! They’re often singing in the kitchen to the sound of good rock music!

I regret not taking a picture of one of their fantastic burgers (oh Smokey…) – I could never resist to take a big bite of them as soon as they were mine!

Crêperie d’Ouchy

Crêpe Bresaola, Crêperie d'Ouchy, Lausanne (Switzerland)

You might have read previously about my love for crêpes. It’s definitely no secret. However, it was only in Lausanne where I found my love for a good crêpe bretonne. These crêpes, originally from Brittany, are many of plain buckwheat flour, instead of white wheat flour; which makes them darker and crispy.

Crêperie d’Ouchy is charming because of its proximity to the lake. On a nice afternoon, one can sit on the terrace drinking sider while engaging into one of my favorite activities – people watching. If, instead, you’re more of a mountain person, you better go to Crêperie La Chandeleur, not far from Lausanne’s Cathedral. It’s more familiar and cozy, all decorated in wood – just like a mountain hut! It also has my very favorite crêpe over all, made of fresh cheese and spinach!

Cafe Romand

In the land of fondues and raclettes, it’s difficult to choose one restaurant based on this plate. Actually, for the real and complete winter and cheese experience, I’d rather suggest to take a train ride up to a mountain, walk in the snow and then get inside a wooden hut with a fire place and order a big fondue moitié-moitié.

But ok, let’s assume that you can’t just get on a train for an hour and a half to have lunch on top of a mountain – then, Cafe Romand is the nearest to sitting in one of those swiss cottages. It’s one of the city’s oldest restaurants and it is characteristic for having a very swiss flair. When entering the cafe, one is taken into a different era!

If you’re one of the tough ones – follow up with a meringue smothered in crème double de la Gruyère (double thick Gruyère cream). I could do it (you should too!).

Cafe de la Poste

Filets de Perche, Cafe de la Poste, Lutry

And to finish, my best recommendation for this regional speciality: filets de perches! I’ve mentioned this plate before – after all, it has been a regular meal during my time in Switzerland, specially during summer. Back then, I highlighted a delicious lunch I had in Chateau d’Ouchy early may and the importance of running through the menu (and its footnotes) searching for a hint on the origin of these filets. You should always look for filets de perches frais du Lac Léman (the rest, although cheaper, will only make you regret for having ordered that plate instead of, say, spaghetti bolognese).

Well, if you’re willing to pay the extra cash it takes to eat fresh fish, then I highly recommend you Cafe de la Poste. Although not literally in Lausanne, it’s only a 10-15 bus ride from the center of the city, in a beautiful little village called Lutry. This family owned business has been up and going for over 20 years and is well-known among the locals, so reservation is recommended for most of the times (even for lunch on weekdays).

Now tell me: Would you give Switzerland’s food offer a go, despite the prices?