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

Rainbow after the Rain, London

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

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

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

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

Morning run in Wandsworth Park, London

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

Mini cupcakes at work

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

Which are the little things that brighten your regular day?

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

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

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

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

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

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

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

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

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

This time, I queued.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

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

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

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

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

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

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

Have you been to the Sagrada Familia?

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

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

Click here to read my previous Behind the Scenes.


On the road

Train ride from Boston to NYC

May has been quite a month.

I worked on a project that took me to Boston and New York City. It was my first roadshow outside Europe – image how nervous (and excited) I was! While I spent most of the time walking and driving from one meeting to another, I was glad I got to see some american landscape during my train ride from Boston to New York and spend the weekend in the heart of Manhattan’s concrete jungle!


Weekend scenes

Sendero Las Breñas, El Sauzal (Tenerife - Canary Islands)

Right after the end of the roadshow, I travelled back to Tenerife for what initially was going to be a long weekend, but ended up being an entire week. Until that moment, I hadn’t really realised how important it was for me to be home when I most needed to be taken care of.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

One of the many reasons I LOVE May is because, in the UK, the month starts and ends with a long weekend – And this year the latter one converged with my 30th birthday! I hopped on a flight with one of my closest friends and headed to Barcelona to shop for shoes and jewellery, eat tapas, pinchos and arroz caldoso and drink cava, patxarán and real gin tonics. Oh, and were stunned by the Sagrada Familia (but this deserves a post of its own).


Reads

If there is one thing that my recent trip to Tenerife (and multiple trips to the doctor) has taught me is that you should never be too busy to take care of yourself. Shortly after my time at the hospital, I came across Arianna Huffington’s fantastic new book Thrive. I could perfectly see myself in her words – never-ending to do lists, sleep deprivation, constantly checking for new e-mails. Honestly, this book has been eye-opening and life-changing for me, and I strongly recommend it to everyone (whether you walk around claiming you’re busy and stressed, or not!).

And now to my favourite online reads this month.

  • On travelling. I absolutely love Outmeal’s comics, and with all the travelling I’ve been doing lately, I couldn’t stop smiling when I read the crap we put up with getting on and off an airplane.
  • On adventure. I’m all for extraordinary adventures, and living in a yurt is one I still want to experience. Candace spent weeks sleeping beneath the starts. The way she writes about her time in Salt Spring and her incredible sketches have awaken some serious wanderlust!
  • On learning to say no. Saying no sounds fairly easy if it’s something you don’t want to do. But these words only truly become meaningful when you turn down opportunities you actually want.

Mantra

Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.

Mahatma Gandhi


June Goals

Morning run in Wandsworth Park, London

  • Stay Active. Continue to go out on at least 2 mornings runs per week. I never thought I could be an early morning person, but since I’ve started to integrate running into my morning schedule, I begin my days with much brighter energy and enthusiasm!
  • Unplug. Mid-May, I picked one Saturday as my technology detox day. Instead of obsessing over my e-mails and my blog stats, I went for a long run, bought myself a picnic and an iced-coffee and read a book in the park. I want to turn this into a monthly habit, to remind myself that the World doesn’t end if I’m not available 24-hrs.
  • Plan. Although June is probably going to be the busiest month at work so far, I’m determined this to be the month I set a date, destination and budget for my summer holidays. I know, I’m starting a bit late – I might as well improvise it!

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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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At the end of April, work took me to Boston and New York. The last time I had visited the Big Apple, newsmen advised not to stay outside longer than 15 minutes to avoid frostbite or hypothermia. While I still dream of the snowy sunsets from the Empire State, I’m actually glad that, this time, I escaped the big freeze and instead experienced bits of the cities in walkable temperatures.

After two days in Boston, I hopped on board of a regional train to New York. While most of my business travel experience so far has involved last minute flights, tight schedules and breathless check-ins, I was really looking forward to the opportunity to disconnect, sit back and enjoy the view. It was my first time in Boston and my first long distance ground travel experience in the US – and I had no idea of what to expect.

Always take the scenic route - from Boston to New York by train

I left Boston behind and soon reached the country side – a part of the States I had only seen in movies. As I watched the world pass from my seat, I spotted old school buses, corn fields, farm houses, lakes and solitary sailing boats.

Always take the scenic route - from Boston to New York by train

Always take the scenic route - from Boston to New York by train

As we approached New York, the clouds opened up to allow the sun shine through painting the city with bright greens, blues and reds.

Always take the scenic route - from Boston to New York by train

Always take the scenic route - from Boston to New York by train

Would you choose to travel by train instead of taking the plane?


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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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Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

As much as I like to cozy up next to a fire in a warm gastro pub in London, I was very much looking forward to be able to trade my layers for a bit of sunshine. Scratch that – if there was one thing I was determined to do in Lanzarote, this was sunbathing. Every. Single. Day. Yes, I would need a lot of sunshine for that.

Of course, as someone who grew up in the Canary Islands, I am well aware that even Europe’s year-round beach destination can’t guarantee impeccable weather – specially not in February. So every day until the day we flew south, I wished for uninterrupted sunshine at our arrival.

And as we arrived, we realised that for once, weather was on our side.

With an average of 23-25ºC during the day, we woke up early to stretch our time out in the sunshine. We lunched on sunny terraces overlooking the sea and spent lazy afternoons drinking cold gin tonics next to our pool.

And then there was the day we visited Playa Papagayo.

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Playa Papagayo, hidden away in Los Ajaches Natural Reserve, is a crescent of natural white sand protected by rocky cliffs. It is said to be one of Lanzarote’s most beautiful beaches – and I have no doubt about it.

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

The entire island boasts a lot of natural (and unconventional) beauty because of its volcanic nature. During the 18th and 19th centuries, a series of eruptions created over 300 new volcanic peaks which can be found spread around the small island. Its volcanic nature also accounts for the different colour layers in its earth – ranging from black to red to almost white.

While we did sunbathe (a lot) in Papagayo, I’m an antsy pants and can hardly ever hold still for more than half an hour, so I set off to explore the surroundings.

Playa Papagayo might be the best known beach in the Natural Reserve, but it’s got some tough competition out there. It’s neighbouring beaches Playa Mujeres, Pozo, Congrío and Muelas, all compete with its beauty. Their further distance from the main car park and lack of beach hut serving cold drinks guarantee a much quieter stay away from the tourists.

Perfect for beach hopping!

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Practical Information: There is a 3€ charge to access Los Ajaches Natural Reserve – but believe me, it’s well worth it.

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.

While others might study the beach possibilities, I researched the best hiking adventure in Lanzarote. And by the best, I mean one that includes lava fields and volcanoes without requiring advanced hiking skills, an excellent condition or two cars on two ends of a trail.

I chose Canldera Blanca because it was short, didn’t require alpine boots but still seemed to offer an authentic volcanic experience. And I don’t regret the choice – it was probably the easiest most rewarding hike on the island!

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

The starting point is a car park close to the tiny town of Mancha Blanca. Following the signs, we spent the first 45min or so walking through a lava field. While this part of the trail doesn’t offer any views, it’s still an interesting walk – we inspected the lava stones and glimpsed into the inside of a smaller crater (Montaña Caldereta) on our way.

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Once at the bottom of Caldera Blanca, we faced a gentle diagonal climb and soon reached the top of the crater.

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Caldera Blanca, Lanzarote (Canary Islands, Spain)

We turned to the left to walk up to the summit, from which point I believe is a descent back to the bottom of the crater and I also spotted some more adventurous hikers walking round the crater in the distance. Unfortunately it became very windy and decided to return via the same route we had come up (safety comes first!).

Practical Information

Route: Caldera Blanca (round trip)
Elevation gain uphill: 300m approx.
Elevation gain downhill: 300m approx.
Length: around 7km
Duration: 3 hrs (including break)
Difficulty: Easy (closed shoes necessary)
Wikiloc: Caldera Blanca – Lanzarote (This one is the trip around the crater).

Click here to go to all my hiking adventures.

London wears many personalities. It’s quirky, glamorous, grumpy, lazy, competitive and adventurous. And even though I understand when friends tell me that they could never live in this city, a part of me can’t avoid thinking that they simply haven’t discovered their London yet.

Moving to London was my ultimate challenge. Having grown up in Europe’s mildest climate, a mere 10 minute walk from the beach – it has been a constant push for me to adapt to the changing seasons in Madrid, the cold, snow and punctuality in Switzerland, and the anonymity, large distances and sudden never-ending choices of London. I am now close to celebrating 2.5 years in a city that has been nicknamed the old smoke. A city that, to me, is rough, grumpy and chaotic, but equally stimulating, exciting and strangely familiar.

It’s cozy but trendy; vibrant and ambitious. All to be expected by a cosmopolitan capital. But then, it’s also local, green and wild.

I don’t need to go far to land in a park or even a forest – Richmond Park being one of my favourites.

Richmond Park, London (UK)

Richmond Park is a Natural Reserve and English Heritage located south west London. Back in 1634, Charles I created the space to become a deer park to satisfy his hunting. Today it has become the second largest urban walled park in Britain with over 600 deers that call this park home.

Richmond Park, London (UK)

Richmond Park, London (UK)

What I absolurely love about this open space is how far it transports you from all the hustle and nuzzle of the big city. Even though I occasionally spotted other visitors (Richmond is a popular destination for runners), I hardly crossed paths with anyone else. Well, except for these cuties!

Richmond Park, London (UK)

The park stretches over 2.300 acres with a perimeter of over 20 km and has an ancient forest with nearly 1.000 oak trees. I ventured into the woods, fascinated by the warm leaf colours. I could only hear the sound of a light breeze through the trees, rustling the leaves.

Richmond Park, London (UK)

I didn’t stay long in the forest because, well, I had read too many thrillers. To compensate, I left to search for the red deer herds that can be found in the park. It’s great to be able to get up so close to them, although this requires a certain degree of patience and ingenuity – and a lot of memory space on your camera!

Richmond Park, London (UK)

So, while for many London is busy, chaotic and expensive – I like to think of London as open, wild and diverse. That’s my London. It’s what I go back to whenever I feel the city is fighting against me. It’s what kind of makes it feel like home.

Have you been to Richmond Park? Which would be the 3 words that define London to you?

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

On a sunny day like this one, the circular route of La Caldera and El Topo in the north side of Tenerife offers some of the most impressive views of the valley and the volcano.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Starting at the Parking of La Caldera (or at the nearby bus stop) at already 1200m altitude, the path is well signalised through a yellow and white mark. There are common sections with a GR route (which you’ll recognise by the white and red mark). PR stands for pequeño recorrido (distances between 10 and 50 km) while GR stands for gran recorrido (distances over 50 km). You might want to leave the latter for a day you’ve packed to stay in a mountain hut somewhere!

Following the wide path at the beginning, you already get a chance to see one of Tenerife’s landmarks – Los Organos (meaning, literally, the organ pipes). As of landmarks, it’s probably one of the most hidden ones – only best to be seen when doing this loop trail. They are massive pillars of rock stretching about 100m – 150m high, resembling a Church’s organ pipes.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

After only about 2km, the forested trail starts to climb evenly, sometimes allowing for a gaze at the impressive volcano: El Teide, which at 3718m height is the highest mountain in Spain.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

The path climbs into a forest of laurisilva and pines. Forests of laurisilva are one of my favourites worldwide – they smell great and look magical, as if taken after a fairytale. This section is a continuous climb of about 550m height difference over around 3km.

At the top of the climb, the trail becomes narrower, with rock formations on your left and a barranco (or gorge) on your right. While most of the trail transcurs through forested paths, it occasionally brings you to these exposed cliffs. But don’t worry – usually fencing, handrails and cables are provided for safety.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Here, you can feel (and touch!) the humidity in the ground. Everything around you is a strong green.

But green landscapes are there for a reason: it rains quite often. In fact, this part of the island is often set in clouds, fog and sometimes, heavy rain (something you’ll need to take into account before starting your day hike!). We were aware of the weather predictions (95% chance of rain), but still ventured into it for two reasons: a) weather forecasts in Tenerife aren’t always right and b) we had rain capes anyway.

This was where the trail became misty.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

I can hardly see the team leader anymore…

Although the clouds took away some of those great views over the valley, I liked their mysterious effect. I’m also convinced that clouds bring cold colours such as greens and blues alive!

And just as the weather forecast had predicted, after the foggy clouds, there came the rain. I didn’t mind though – most of the time, it was just a refreshing drizzle (although those that started a bit later that day were caught pretty badly by a proper rain storm). Most of the time, the weather in this area is better early in the morning and gets worse around 2pm – 3pm. At that time, we were already having a massive lunch next to the fire. Talk about good timing!

Practical Information

Route: La Caldera – Ruta del Agua – El Topo (circular / loop trail)
Elevation gain uphill: 777m
Elevation gain downhill: 777m
Length: 14 km
Duration: 4.5 hrs approx.
Difficulty: Moderate (steep climb and occasional narrow paths)
Wikiloc: La Caldera – Ruta del Agua – El Topo Hike

Click here to go to all my hiking adventures.