unplugging

Travel was the primary reason I started writing in 2010. I longed to note down my thoughts and impressions, to create a melting pot of photographs and words that, together, would help me go back in time to the places I had been, conjuring their smells, their smiles, their secrets.

Granted, saying that it has been a while since I last wrote is possibly an understatement. But instead of apologising or trying to justify my absence, I am moving forward with a list of reasons that have incentivised me to pack my bags and travel – and hopefully will make you want to do so, too:

To appreciate the moment

Gin tonic at sunset in Tenerife

I sometimes let what ifs take up too much of time – I worry over things that haven’t happened (yet). In fact, this is what usually happens in my head while I’m sitting in that bus staring out the window: when there’s some sort of uncertainty, I see patterns and start to play out all possible “what if” scenarios. If I had to draw a mental map of it, it would probably look something like an ancient tree with a lot of branches.

All this is great. But is it really necessary? Most of the time, it isn’t – but it’s a comfortable and safe habit (planning – a lot) to fall back onto.

Travel, on the other hand, requires you to stop thinking of the what ifs and, instead, be present in the moment. Because of the adventurous and unexpected element in travel, there’s no other place you can be but here and now.

To step out of my comfort zone

Sleeping in chinchorros in La Guajira Colombia

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal.”
-Paulo Coelho

I’ve always been a risk-taker. No, I don’t jump out of planes or walk around Favelas. I have, however, dived with sharks (small ones – I am against cage diving). I have also hiked 450 km across the North of Spain, solo (never having done even a 2-day trek before) and have recently slept open air in a chinchorro in the Colombian desert (see photo above).

Each time I’ve taken a risk, I’ve learned something about myself: I’m way more scared of barracudas than I am of sharks; I can actually walk 38km in one day if I’m having fun along the way; and, chichorros? comfortable, but next time I’ll need to bring sleeping pills.

Travel is a great opportunity to step outside our familiar comfort zone and try something we’ve never tried before. I promise the side effects are worth it: you broaden your horizons, learn how to deal with new and unexpected changes and harness your creativity.

To get my mind off something that has been keeping me up at night

San Sebastian Basque Country

Being on the road actually helps me gain perspective on an existing problem. It helps me see things from a different angle – and most of the time, this ends up leading to a solution.

While doing the Camino de Santiago in 2015, I met a lot of peregrinos that were taking time off precisely for this reason: to step back and gain perspective. After a few days of fresh air and with the sole objective of bringing one foot in front of the other until you reach your destination, problems that seemed impossible loose a bit of weight and often even become less scary.

Don’t get me wrong: Travel doesn’t make your problems go away, nor does it miraculously solve them. But by opening your mind, it enables you to simply see things differently.

To build new and strengthen existing relationships

Zurich with friends

Some of the best and strongest friendships I have were forged on the road – and many continue to be strengthened through travel.

I enjoy traveling with people I love because it’s an opportunity to share life-long memories with them. I still remember the time we spent dancing barefoot in Tulum, roadtripping New Zealand, hiking in Patagonia or kayaking around Stockholm. The greatest memories became even greater when I shared them with my favourite people on Earth.

But that doesn’t mean that you always have to travel with others. I’ve met some really interesting people when traveling by myself: teachers, translators, hippies, entrepreneurs, brokers, ski instructors, writers, photographers and even a priest. And you know what? The one thing I learned about humanity while traveling, is that we are all essentially the same.

To satisfy my endless curiosity

Lake Como Italy

For someone that always aims to learn something new every day, travel is an incredible tool to achieve this. Whether it is a completely new place, language or culture. A new cuisine or local fruit. New customs and traditions. New celebrations. Or maybe it’s a place I do know, a destination I’ve visited before but get to see from a different perspective. Travel expands your mind, heightens your senses and makes you more receptive to your surroundings – helping you to soak up new information much faster (and for longer) than you would do any other way.

Still feeling short on reasons to pack up and go travel? Here’s a list of 100 reasons to travel by The Culturer!

Which are the main reasons you travel?

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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?

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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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

Weekend in Paris

One of the great perks from working in a travel-intensive industry is, well, travel. Two or three times a year, a team members gets invited to a fam trip – a marketing program designed to acquaint travel agents or event planners with a specific city or region. This November, I had my first fan trip – but instead of exploring a city, we were invited to explore two of the most luxurious hotels in Paris – Plaza Athénée and Le Maurice.

Our fully packed Saturday in Paris included lunch at Le Relais Plaza (at the Plaza Athénée), a behind the scenes tour of the Eiffel Tower, champagne at a private roof top and dinner at Le Dalí (at Le Maurice). Needless to say, we spent most a lot of time swooning over Alain Ducasse‘s food creations.

I only arrived to my room at Le Maurice in the evening. Imagine my surprise when, on the next morning, I stepped outside the balcony and realised I was watching the sun rise over Paris!

Believe me – I never wanted to leave.


 Weekend Scenes

Blood swept lands and seas of red

On the 11th of November, Armistice Day, the last of 888,246 poppies was planted at The Tower of London, transforming the attraction into an incredible art installation that commemorates the start of World War One.

Early november, I grabbed my camera and left home to immerse in British History. Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one with this idea – that Saturday was the busiest one since the beginning of the installation. Even though I’m not usually a crowds person, the experience was absolutely worth it.


Reads

Coffee at Milk, London

I’ve had an ebook filled month – but my favourite read has been by far the psychological thriller by Sibel Hodge, Look Behind You. Anyone who enjoys dark, mysterious thrillers with twists and turns should definitely grab this one for the next flight!

And now onto my favourite online reads this month:

  • Nobody hikes like the Germans. If you ever wondered why, you should schedule in a visit to the Black Forrest. What makes this place so special is, among others, is its timeless presence – perfectly captured by Becki on her fall hiking trip. With landscapes like these, you would hike like no other, too!
  • Torre DeRoche is one of my favourite writers on the web. I might not be living in Australia, be an admired writer or sail across the Pacific (yet?), but a lot of what Torre puts down on words resonates strongly with how I feel. We even share an irrational fear of falling – which we’ve both faced during a tough hike. I love how vividly she writes about confronting this fear while climbing Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia.
  • The first time I came across the word sonder was on Christine’s article. It’s incredible how your life perspective can change with the simple realisation that each person you cross paths with is living their own life, has their own world fitted with personal worries, routines, ambitions, etc. It makes all of your worries loose importance in the grand scheme of things.

 Mantra

 “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

– Thomas A. Edison


November Goals Review

Modern architecture in London

  • Blog more often. What high achieving bar did I set this time… 5 blog posts in November? I certainly fell a bit short (3 in total) – but hey, this one could almost count as two, right? 
  • Take more photos. Mission accomplished. In November, I carried my camera  around London and took it for an amazing trip to Paris (more on that to come!).
  • Run twice a week. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but… I’ve been more like a once-a-week runner. It’s cold. It’s rainy. On a related note, though, I’ve started Bikram (Hot) Yoga. It might have something to do with the fact that the studio is heated to 40ºC and it kind of feels like you’re in Bali instead of London.

December Goals

Weekend in Paris

  • Let go of perfectionism. 80% of the time I’m incredibly excited about going skiing in Austria this month. It was my idea – I wanted winter, snow and a challenge. The other 20%, though, I worry about having forgotten how to turn, falling and making a fool of myself. This month I need to learn to focus on progress, not on perfection (specially when it comes to skiing!).
  • Review my mid- and long-term plan and readjust if necessary. One year later, it’s time to put aside a few days to reflect on where I am, where I want to be and how I will get there. I have lots of plans for 2015!
  • Unplug and immerse in family time. I have a confession to make – whenever I’m away from my desk, I’m usually glued to my blackberry and iPhone. I’ve found that it has been increasingly difficult to unplug from my obligations. I don’t like people who constantly excuse their absence with conference calls and stop listening the second their Blackberry starts to light up. But to a certain level – I’ve slowly become one of them. I’m going to take my Christmas holidays as a chance to forget I have a Blackberry and, instead, focus on family time.

What are you planning this month?


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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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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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