challenges

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

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

St Paul's Cathedral, London

  1. The difference between a cappuccino, a latte and a flat white
  2. How to start a conversation by chatting about the weather
  3. Or London property prices
  4. Where to stand on the platform to face the carriage doors – increasing my chances of getting a seat
  5. Never to change at Waterloo
  6. Nor at Bank Station
  7. Bus beats tube (always)
  8. Food festivals are fun but also a rip off
  9. When I see a queue, I feel an urge to join it
  10. However, no matter what critics say – no food is worth queuing 2 hours for
  11. Walking – while drinking a green juice, sending an e-mail, under the rain on Oxford Street without bumping into people!
  12. There is no such thing as a quick drink after work
  13. Wednesday night has become the new Saturday night
  14. £6 for a glass of wine is normal… 
  15. …and so is paying £900 for a tiny room in zone 3…
  16. ….in a shared flat – with strangers
  17. Your postcode is a status symbol
  18. North East London is further away from Clapham than Brighton
  19. People go bonkers when the sun comes out
  20. …and in such rare occasions, it’s perfectly acceptable to cancel any appointments to spend the afternoon in the park
  21. However, cancelling plans with a friend means not seeing them for another 3 weeks
  22. Umbrellas are for out-of-towners – us Londoners throw on a hood!
  23. You burn almost as many calories going to the supermarket as you do going to the gym
  24. Nobody lives in Mayfair – it’s a myth
  25. It’s not sunday until you’ve had a roast and a Bloody Mary
  26. Gordon’s wine bar is always a winner for a first date…
  27. …except if your date doesn’t like wine…
  28. …In which case, it’s probably better to dump them before it’s too late
  29. You know there won’t be a day you’ll be completely happy…
  30. …but hey, at least you’re in London!
  31. (Bonus: you’ll just need to accept that you’ll never be able to buy a house, ha!)
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Following my travel-heavy 2014 review, I was ready to start writing about my three words for 2015 but felt there was something missing. You see, 2014 definitely took me to places (even if I didn’t get to immerse in almost ay of them) – but I also did lots of other pretty cool stuff last year that I didn’t want to leave out. So, without further ado – my kickass moments of 2014!

Kickass moment #1: watching the sun rise from the highest peak in Spain

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

Probably my proudest moment of 2014 – this challenging hike up a dormant volcano including a 500 meter elevation completed at night / dusk to reach the peak on time for a spectacular sun rise.

Kickass moment #2: turning 30 without experiencing a mental breakdown 

I never thought that turning 30 would be a big deal, so I was surprised to hear the stories from friends and colleagues that met the textbook-kind of anxiety. Why should 30 be such a turning point? Sure, I don’t own a house, I don’t have a mortgage, I’m not married nor do I have kids. But hey, assuming that this is where my life should be at 30 is so passé anyway!

Kickass moment #3: winning a team award for a tremendously successful roadshow

St Paul's Cathedral, London

On my last day in the office before my winter holidays, the company awards were granted to those teams that delivered the most impressive projects. This year, we won a company award for making history: we delivered the largest financial roadshow in history – I’m damn proud of our team!

Kickass moment #4: forming a new habit 

Creating a habit takes a lot of time and perseverance.  I haven’t yet managed to create a habit of exercising in the morning (I am not sure I’ll ever be able to make a habit out of it), but I’ve formed a new habit, and it’s here to stay: I wake up early enough to prepare and have a nutritious breakfast at home before my commute from hell (granted – it feels a bit less hell when I’ve had a good breakfast and some strong coffee).

Kickass moment #5: saving more money than I had intended to without giving up fun

The Power of Summer - Outdoor Cinema, London

Do you know what’s the most difficult thing to do in London? It’s not finding a nice flat. It’s not commuting in rush hour. It’s not even trying to find a Christmas gift in Covent Garden the weekend before Christmas day. It’s saving money. The city is a money sucking machine – everything screams come in here and spend your cash! (Or does it only scream this at me?). Anyway, I’m proud of having been able to save money for the first time since 2011 – while still eating healthy and having fun!

Kickass moment #6: navigating through Gatwick and Heathrow airports in record times

At this time, I’m fairly certain that I can navigate through both airports as well as I do through my own neighbourhood. I’m close to becoming the female version of George Clooney in Up in the Air (I do avoid queues with kids or obvious holidayers!).

Kickass moment #7: still having what it takes to party like a Spaniard

sunsets in Formentera, Spain

England and Spain couldn’t be any more different when it comes to the social scene. In London, I pop down to the pub in the afternoon and will most likely be at home asleep by midnight. In Madrid (or anywhere else in Spain, really)? Not so much. In fact, the night is just getting started at midnight. Last summer I may have turned 30, but I was (and still am!) still fit to party all night like a Spaniard!

Which have been some of your kickass moments of 2014?


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Early this year I confessed why I’m not fond of New Year resolutions and, instead, created a more strategic (or maybe I should say flexible) approach to goal setting – I picked 3 words that would reflect my year:

Grow. Simplify. Radiant. 

I reminded myself of these 3 words throughout 2014 – when I had to take difficult decisions at work, when I decided (or not) to spend money on something, when I was tempted to hit the alarm snooze one more time or when I found myself browsing past 10:30 PM.

Did it work well? Sometimes (hitting snooze once again is way too tempting when it’s cold, rainy and dark outside!).

Anyway, below is a recap of my ups and downs this year together with my favourite Instagram shot of the month. Brace yourself, this is a long one!


 January

London rooftops

I started off 2014 with a lot of logistics – I was just about to move flats (and neighbourhoods) for the 4th time in London. I sold some stuff, donated a lot more and sent some of my most valuable furniture back to Spain. I took simplifying rather seriously!

It was a grey and gloomy month in London – so I was extremely thankful to have had the chance to meet 3 girlfriends in Frankfurt for a weekend of music, wine and laughs!

About the Instagram shot: During my move, I spent 2 nights in Marylebone looking over these rooftops. Walking around these streets is still one of my favourite things to do on an afternoon, and one of my top recommendations for any London visitor!

February

Las Salinas, Lanzarote (Canary Islands)

My February highlight was, with no doubt, my escape to Lanzarote (Canary Islands). With 2 of my closest friends, we spent our days eating fresh caught fish, sunbathing next to our pool, exploring volcanic caves and craters and drinking local wine. Total bliss.

About the Instagram shot: The Salinas del Janubio (Lanzarote) is the largest sea salt production in the Canary Islands. We drove there to watch the sunset over these salt flats and the black sand beach attached to them – pretty special!

March

Sunset in Los Abrigos, Tenerife (Canary Islands)

March was pretty uneventful most of the time. I did manage somehow to pick a weekend to fly home to Tenerife for a quick fix of fish and sunshine. I’m grateful to live somewhere  with a manageable distance from home – because, I mean, taking a 4.5 hr flight for a weekend trip is totally normal, right? I’ve definitely seen worse.

About the Instagram shot: I took this shot from one of my favourite restaurants in Los Abrigos in Tenerife. It summarises my weekend escapes to the island quite well – great weather, fresh caught fish and a warm sea breeze. Take me back!

April

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

Work picked up really quickly in April and I was suddenly facing weeks filled with new big challenges and late nights in the office. At the end of the month, I traveled to New York and Boston – Boston for the first time! Even though I could hardly think of anything else other than work, I loved the architecture and vibe both cities and started to count my days until my return.

About the Instagram shot: When I left Boston on that Saturday morning, it was grey and rainy. After 4 hours, as I slowly approached New York, the skies cleared up allowing me to see the city’s skyscrapers from afar. I love the contrasts in this picture – the suburban and urban New York all in one. 

May

Barcelona, Spain

May was quite a month.

To start with – I turned 30! Surprisingly, this milestone didn’t come in hand with an existential crisis. Or, hm, wait – I did book a last minute trip to Barcelona, partly to regain my youth on the dance floor (and partly to completely lose it again while curing my hangover).

But flashback a few weeks before and you’d find me in a comatose state at home, after having my first (and hopefully last ever) blood transfusion. How did I get to this point? I’m still not sure, but let me share this valuable lesson: you should never be too busy to take care of yourself.

About the Instagram shot: I took this picture while strolling along the tiny streets of EL Borne in Barcelona (one of my favourite neighbourhoods!) on a Saturday afternoon.

June

Lisbon, Portugal

June was work-intensive – with a successful European roadshow that travelled through London, Copenhagen, Paris and Lisbon in just about a week time. It was my first time in Copenhagen! Though grey and far colder than the rest of my visits, it sparked my curiosity – I can’t wait to return for fun next time.

I was also incredibly grateful to get the time to go to a good Uni friend’s wedding in Valladolid (Spain). It was so much fun to get together with so many people I hadn’t seen in such a long time – there was lots to catch up on over tapas and gin & tonics and lots to celebrate with great champagne, of course!

About the Instagram shot: My room with a view in Lisbon (Portugal). As is usual during business travel, I didn’t get to see much of the city (aside for a few streets around our hotel) – but this amazing view partly made up for that loss. 

July

Tarifa, Spain

In July, I travelled to Tarifa – a small but trendy town on the south coast of Spain. Together with 3 close friends, I explored its beaches and sand dunes and worked on my tan during the day and fully enjoyed its vibrant restaurant scene and nightlife during the night.

About the Instagram shot: Here’s the thing about Tarifa – its beaches are absolutely beautiful, but can also be incredibly windy (it’s a hotspot for kite- and windsurfers). On the day I took this shot, the wind was almost unbearable in the sand and the only *safe* place was close to the water!

August

Tenerife from above, Spain

At the end of July, I realised that I still had plenty of holidays that I had to take before the end of August, so I packed all those days together and, after looking for two-week retreats in Costa Rica and group treks in Iceland, I finally decided to go home. Not the most exciting alternative, at first sight – but I did manage to combine all I wanted in one place (wellness and hiking) while also saving money (self high five!)

My favourite moment of those two weeks was, without doubt, watching the sun rise from the highest peak in Spain (Mount Teide) – an experience I can’t recommend enough for anyone hoping to see the island from an entire different perspective.

About the Instagram shot: Approaching Tenerife brings up the butterflies in my stomach. This has been my favourite plane picture so far. It shows its vast geological diversity and oh, hello, that’s Mount Teide over there!

September

St Paul's Cathedral, London

… And then September came. The month could be easily summarised as work, work and more work. I previously described September as exhausting, chaotic and extremely challenging – but this would still be an understatement. I got through the month with rather few personal highlights but a lot of rewarding professional accomplishments!

About the Instagram shot: St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of my favourite city landmarks. I can’t stop myself from taking a picture each time I’m outside the London Stock Exchange. 

October

New York (USA)

It’s strange to think about October as a work-filled month (compared to September, it was a breeze!), but the truth is, it was pretty hectic too. I travelled to Paris, Zürich, New York, Boston and Frankfurt – and also held several events in London.

At the end of it all, I was pretty exhausted and went home to Tenerife to sleep under the sun. I actually didn’t even blog in October… I had a proper technology detox and it felt great!

About the shot: The above picture was taken from the roof top bar at The Peninsula in New York on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I’ve got a thing for skyscrapers – and I am constantly wishing London had more of them. 

November

Weekend in Paris

This year the World commemorated the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. Remembrance Day in London saw a completed work of art made of over 800,000 ceramic poppies – one for each British or colonial life lost during the war. 

In November, I also travelled to Paris on my first fam trip!

About the shot: Ah, this is one of my favourite photographs of the year – and also your most liked one (thank you!). While in Paris, I stayed at Le Maurice. I got up early on Sunday to watch the sun rise over Paris *sigh*

December

Lech, Austria

December came, and so did lots of social events (work and personal), yearly reviews and exciting travels. After spending a few days for Christmas at home in Tenerife, I am now writing these final words from a snowy ski town in Arlberg, Austria. It’s been 2 years since I last took the slopes and my first time in Austria.

About the shot: I just arrived in Austria less than 2 days ago and this is the view from the hotel’s reception. It has been snowing almost non-stop since we’ve arrived – perfect timing!


The next time you hear from me it will be 2015! I hope you have a great holiday and start of the new year. Thank you so much for your support in 2014 – I’m really looking forward to what 2015 brings!


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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?

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.