dare

Usually, I would publish an end-of-month Behind the Scenes recap but given the circumstances (not having published one, like, since February) I figured – maybe this is the perfect time to post a big picture update! While it’s fun to come up with random stats (like minutes spent on a plane in a given month), this info becomes kind of meaningless when there have been so many other weird and wonderful things happening over the past 3 months.

I quit my job

Blue Sea in Tenerife, Spain

This was a tough one. I had a great team of extremely talented and fun people. We did some amazing things that clients and banks thought were almost impossible. Worked in a beautiful office in one of my favourite parts of London (Fitzrovia). Got invited to extravagant drinks and dinners. Flew across the Globe, ramping up frequent flyer miles like there’s no tomorrow and staying at hotels I could otherwise only dream of.

So, I had a project-based job that combined the creative and financial industries, paid the bills and allowed me to travel around the World – which I thought was all I wanted. But it turns out – it wasn’t. What happened?

To be honest, my decision wasn’t as much about enjoying my job but, instead, about a shift in my definition of ambition.

Over the past few years, I had grown to the idea that ambition was putting your career in front of everything else. But now I believe that my definition of ambition and success have evolved: they no longer means pulling all-nighters and constantly sacrificing personal stuff to deliver flawless projects or win over new accounts.

Don’t get me wrong: I still believe I’m ambitious – Maybe even more than I had ever been before. Now, I’m not willing to settle down for a life that doesn’t make me happy in more than just one aspect of my life!

I moved back to Spain

Hiking in Tenerife, Spain

Have you ever felt the need to simply reset

I had been pushing away this feeling for a while – after all, to me, London was for a long time the land of advancement and opportunities. But it was also a land of expensive flats, long commutes and cold rainy days. So, following my resignation, I gave myself a fresh start altogether.

Now I’m back in the Canary Islands as a resident (first time in over 12 years!). I wake up early, eat healthy and spend a lot of time with my family. I signed up for my local gym, go for regular walks / hikes and explore new beaches. After only 6 weeks, I’m already feeling more rested and energised. It’s like being in a retreat – but instead of being in India, I’m on a tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast.

I read all the books

Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife (Canary Islands)

If there’s one thing I’ve done consistently every single day it has been this: reading. From crime to comedy and from business to psychology research (though mainly psychological thrillers!) – Here’s a list of some of my latest reads:

The girl on the train by Paula Hawkins – ♦♦♦♦♦

I’m a sucker for psychological thrillers but must admit that this one is among the best I’ve read over the past year – I literally couldn’t put it down!

Elizabeth is missing by Emma Healey – ♦♦♦♦♦

What first attracted me to this thriller was the unconventional narrator: an 82-year old woman with dementia. I was immediately hooked with this brilliant mix of mystery and dark comedy – highly recommended.

Snow white must die by Nele Neuhaus – ♦♦♦♦

I admit that, at first, I was put off by the title. However, this book (the #4 in a mystery series) quickly caught my attention due to its suspenseful setting in a small German town that deals with gossip, power and appearances.

The good girl by Mary Kubica – ♦♦♦

Another psychological triller – this one, however, centres around the abduction of a young school teacher. Although it’s not as twisted as others mentioned above, it does contain some brilliant surprises.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – ♦♦♦

I’m not sure what just got into me. I must have bought this book after binge-reading thrillers until I could no longer sleep at night. Granted, I’m not strong on romantic chick-lit – although I admit that this one had its charm.

I’m currently reading Boo by Neil Smith and am loving how the characters and storyline so far (very imaginative!). After Boo, I’m short on books – any good recommendations?

I applied to Business School

Sunset in Tenerife, Spain

If money was no problem, I would be a student for life – not because of the parties and student discounts (ehem), but because there’s so much out there to dive into, that the thought of sticking to only one topic/career path to specialise in and work on for the rest of my life is a wee bit overwhelming.

I had been toying with the idea of business school for about a year now – and after months of thinking, researching, deciding (then not-deciding) and finally committing to apply: I’m done. Unlike many other MBA Applicants out in the blog world, I have only applied to one school: one I believe is a perfect fit. 

There are a million +1 reasons that led me to decide for business school, but probably the main one (together with the whole learning something new part) was the realisation that an MBA would open the door to plenty of amazing opportunities and provide me with a strong network of like-minded innovative and ambitious people from all over the Globe.

Maybe it was a risky move – there’s no guarantee that this will actually materialise, but I’m staying positive. *fingers crossed*

I celebrated my birthday (with lots of wine)

Wine in La Rioja, Spain

Two weeks ago, I flew off to Bilbao to spend my birthday weekend exploring the Basque Country – a place that, despite being so close, was completely foreign to me. It made me realise how much of my own country I still need to explore (and also wonder: why is it that we always tend to favour international travel when we’ve got so much beauty right here?).

Needless to say, the Basque Country was absolutely stunning. We went on wine tastings, visited some of the region’s most notorious vineyards, took a leisure hike to a waterfall, bought lots of wine and cheese (and by now, already ate about half of it!), explored industrial and historical Bilbao and took a day trip to Portugalete and Playa la Arena. The 3.5 days felt far too short and now I’m already planning my next  trip to Northern Spain later this summer!

PS: a post about my long weekend is soon to come, but if you’re curious about this place on Earth I highly recommend you visit Christine in Spain, who avidly blogs about her life in el País Vasco. 

So, what have you been up to the last few months?

Ah, jeez. So, I guess it has been a while since I last published a post around here. I didn’t really plan for this to happen and yet I don’t feel guilty. I’ve been sorting out some new and exciting stuff coming up, but I’m not ready yet to put it all out there – so lets just pretend that I never really stepped away from here, yes? 

I promise to share a post about what I’ve been up to while I was away as soon as things have slightly settled! 


I recently came across a brilliant quote from Chris Guillebeau about living abroad:

“Beware of moving overseas! It’s tough, confusing, disorienting… and ultimately, extremely rewarding. When you move back home, if you ever do, you’ll be a different person than you were when you first left.”

Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity

This quote made me look back at all the worries and insecurities I felt before becoming an expat for the first time in 2009, and made me realise that, out of all my decisions, moving abroad has been one of the best ones in my life.

Expat life in Switzerland and the UK has been an adventure in itself and, while I might not call myself an expert, I love giving advice to new London expats and friends moving abroad. Below you’ll find tips I wish I had known before I first left my home country (admittedly, I really didn’t know much back then!).

Invest in experiences over possessions

Lavaux, Switzerland

While it may seem tempting to invest your hard earned expat salary in furnishing your new apartment and making it feel homely, you should look at your time as an expat as an opportunity to not only explore a new country and region, but also a new you. Take this time to accumulate experiences rather than things. Because, well, even a bad experience eventually becomes a good story!

Try anything and everything that sounds interesting to you. Take a road trip to the next town. Start that french cooking class. Learn about the regional wine. Sign up for ice skating, architectural sketching, climbing. Join an improv group or a band. Become a volunteer or a mentor. Whatever it is that you fancy – give it a try.

But don’t just take my word on this: Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. His studies confirm that our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our things!

Learning the language is not easy

Cadaqués, Costa Brava (Spain)

Simply being in a new country will not make you fluent. You won’t just soak up the local language – even if you already knew a few phrases before landing (though – wouldn’t that be nice?).

Learning a new language takes time and dedication so the earlier you start learning and speaking the better! 

“Whether you learn it or not depends on your commitment, not on changing your latitude and longitude.”

– Benny Lewis, Fluent in 3 Months

One of my biggest regrets from my 2 years in Switzerland was not learning enough french to call myself fluent. I moulded myself into a thriving expat community, surrounding myself with others that either spoke English, Spanish or German (or a combination of any of those three).

I kept on postponing my lessons. Whenever I spoke french, I was conscious of my mistakes and cave man style and tried to limit its use to extreme cases only. When I finally began to open up and take the language journey more seriously, it was time for me to move to London.

So here’s my advice: start now – learn before arriving, speak at any opportunity, make mistakes and don’t give up.

Learn to laugh about yourself

Skiing in Lech, Austria

Never did a simple trip to the supermarket become as embarrassing as my very first attempt to ask for a bin bag in Lausanne. After walking around the shop for about 20 minutes, I lost my patience and decided to ask for help. I crafter a story about an item in the kitchen that stores things you no longer want that is later on picked up by a “big car”. At first, I received blank stares. Later on, laughs! Joining the laughs was what kept me going. 

As an expat (or, well, a foreigner), you are an easy target. You’re new, you don’t understand how things work, you have a funny accent, eat strange stuff (morcilla, anyone?) and have weird customs. Heck, even after years of living in the same country, you may still suddenly realise that you’ve actually been pronouncing something wrong for the past 25 years (that’s right – I actually spent 25 years asking for biscuits instead of biskits!).

You’re going to have many embarrassing moments (and usually want to run back home right after). Don’t act defensively – just laugh about it and move on!

PS: I also spent 25 years saying Greenwitch instead of Grehnitch and Edinburg instead of Edinburrá (which got me into a heated argument because – why?) and I still can’t get myself to say kei-oss instead of kaos (chaos). Oh well.

Surround yourself with positive people

Torres del Paine, Chile

You’ll find negative people anywhere – at home and abroad. You’ll have people back home telling you that you’re wasting your talent and potential abroad. That you’ll never be able to have the same career progression in a foreign country. In your new adopted home, you might encounter locals and expats that are tired of life and insist in telling you about all the things that are wrong.

You can’t avoid running into them, but trust me, when you’re still adapting to a new country, you don’t need all this negativity in your life. Instead, surround yourself with positive people who are flexible, open and up for any adventure.

These people will be your strongest pillars and the main reason you’ll make it through the toughest expat days – the homesick days (see more on this below).

Feeling homesick is normal

Masca, Tenerife (Spain)

 Maybe it’s the morning fog, the crowds, the commute and the constant stress. Maybe it’s because I can’t seem to get out of eating al desko (because that’s really a word). Maybe I miss the warmth, humidity and weekend siestas. Maybe it’s because I miss my small family. Or maybe it’s because of Facebook. Because I realise I have missed friends’ weddings, birthdays and baby showers and wonder: did they miss me? I don’t know what causes it – it could really be anything. All I know is that, even after nearly 13 years away from home, I still get homesick.

Homesickness is, indeed, quite widely spread among expats. From my personal expat experience I would suggest that, in order to get through homesickness, you understand the emotion, accept it as part of the expat experience and don’t let it sink you. After all, feeling homesick simply means you miss something or someone that you love!

What advice would you give a new expat? Or, otherwise, what are your worries as a new / future expat? 

Looking out to my left, I felt equally excited and terrified – I was sitting on a  chair lift up to Kriegerhorn (2173m), Austria, watching the pros slide down a steep mountain. So graceful, so confident – so fearless.

Skiing in Lech, Austria

Weeks before, I had spent a day browsing through winter sports apparel in London – convincing myself that, to ski well, I required the perfect equipment. I watched videos, trying hard to remember what I had to do with my weight in order to make a turn. I wanted to hit the pistes skiing with confidence, like I’ve never done before.

Back on that chair lift, though, I began to have my doubts.

Hmmm… Visibility isn’t that good, I need to go extra slow. But wait, this is getting a bit too steep for me. Oh, look how fast they go! I can’t control my speed that well. Heck, I can’t even turn that well! What am I doing? What was I thinking?! Can you please take me back down again?

I have a secret: I’m afraid of falling (ok, so it’s not that much of a secret anymore…). The truth is, whenever I am faced with a steep slope or a narrow uneven path (whether I’m on skis or just on my own feet), I have the feeling that I may loose my balance. I recognise the pattern: my heart beat accelerates, my breathing quickens and overall I feel tense. In the worst cases, though – I am literally paralysed. It might only be a few seconds or it might be 10 minutes. All I know is that to me it feels like a lifetime.

Hiking Guajara, Tenerife (Spain)

I should limit my activities to snorkelling and sunbathing (both of which I love, too). But I can’t. I love the outdoors – particularly mountains. And volcanoes. Oh, and challenging hikes around mountains and volcanoes!

While it hasn’t always been easy, I constantly aim to challenge my irrational fear of loosing balance and falling. The thought of all the breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences that await at the top of those mountains give me enough courage to break through my limiting thoughts and reach higher. 

Skiing in Lech, Austria

So, back on the chair lift in Austria, I could have let my thoughts send me back down the same way I went up. But instead, I gracefully got off the chair lift with a heart that felt like it was going to jump out of my chest and fall down the mountains all by itself any second.

I moved slow – so slow that sometimes it felt I was actually skiing up the mountain, not down. But I kept on moving – and each time new scary thoughts came into my mind, I tried my best to imagine a mental door and let them go.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that all went great on this trip.

I did fall (not as often as I expected) and it was embarrassing (specially that one time I lost both skis!). I twisted my wrist trying to get up again after falling into deep powder snow (which, otherwise, is more fun that Christmas itself!). And I froze of fear. Once. It wasn’t pretty.

But you know what? I got over it. 

Skiing in Lech, Austria

Note: see the goofy girl in blue over there? That’s me getting over it.

What I learned from this trip is that skiing might be a lot about technique – but a lot of it is trust, too. Trust in your equipment, your skills and your balance – but over everything else: trust in yourself – specially when the scary gets particularly tough.

Getting gutsy for me is precisely that – trusting myself when it gets challenging. Pushing myself to the limit, getting uncomfortable and constantly confront my fear of falling. It’s  beyond bravery. It’s daring to go ahead in spite of the doubtful part of my conscience. It’s doing something that scares me.


Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. This post is my entry for Jessica Lawlor’s Get Gutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details and download a free copy of the inspiring Get Gutsy ebook.


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Last year I quit making New Year’s resolutions. They were far too easy for me to break! Instead, I chose 3 words that frame what I wanted my year to be.

My 3 words of 2014: Grow. Simplicity. Radiant.

Picking 3 words instead of coming up with a wish list of (mostly unrealistic) resolutions may seem like an easy task at first, but trust me – framing an entire year in just 3 words is a tough job!

After reviewing my the past twelve months and carefully contemplating what I would like 2015 to look like, I chose the following 3 words to lead me through the year:

Rise. Dare. Unplug. 

Rise

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

I have never been an early riser, but after devouring Laura Vanderkam’s What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast early May last year, I was ready to give it a go. Surprisingly, waking up early became one of my favourite things during the summer months! I loved the quiet mornings – when the world hadn’t yet properly began to pick up its usual hectic pace. I used this extra time to go for a run in the park, study for the GMAT or even write a few paragraphs for my next post.

The thing is, as the days became shorter, I began to hit the all too tempting snooze button for longer. I certainly admire those that can get up at 5:00 AM (or even earlier!) for pleasure all year round.

So here’s to the word rise. To get up with commitment and energy. To not hit snooze more than twice. To become comfortable getting up while its dark outside. To squeeze in a morning work out or two each week. To continue to make a full and healthy breakfast before leaving for work. To arrive earlier to the office. To appreciate the quiet in London.

Dare

Skiing in Lech, Austria

Do you know that little feeling you get, when you’re pondering whether to go ahead with a big decision? Like when you’re standing on an edge and could either turn around and run back to safer ground or just jump into deep water? While I feel like 2014 has been fairly stable (which was good – for a change!), this year, I want to dare to jump deep into new challenges.

Here’s the thing – I really love challenges that involve risk and adventure (you know, like moving to Barcelona on temporary contract and a month notice). I kind of miss the great stories and life lessons that come with these challenges – and quite honestly, I also enjoy proving myself I can win a challenging dare!

So I call 2015 the year I learn to let go of limiting thoughts and take more action. Learn to appreciate progress and let go of the idea of perfection. Take more risks, and be willing to fail (fast) and get up again. After all – nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Unplug

Tarifa, Spain

I’m busy, you’re busy… hey, we are all busy people. We love having lots of things on our plate, right? And we constantly strive to become more productive. Do more and do it better! Ok, sure – but then, I don´t know about you, but I don’t feel happy running around at a frenetic pace, trying to juggle too much. Yet still I found myself in this situation more than once in 2014.

As much as I enjoy the thrill of my job, I’ve also learned to appreciate disconnecting from the constant buzzing. Over my last holidays, I even allowed my BlackBerry to run out of battery and didn’t charge it for 2 entire days (naughty, I know). In 2015, I intend to unplug more often by muting my phones before I go to sleep (if not on a live project) and not allowing laptops in bed after 10 PM.

That’s not all, though – I also aim to unplug from the feeling of constantly having to work on feeding my professional credentials and, instead, add a hobby that feeds my soul (does that sound cheesy?). I want to give myself some space for creativity – to do something just because I enjoy it (like, writing and taking photos for this blog!) and not feel guilty about having fun!

What are your 3 words of 2015?


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