Can You Guess? The Top Searched For Lonely Planet Destinations In 2019 And My Thoughts On Them.

As the weather gets warmer, it’s natural that we start to think about our travel plans and where to venture to this year for some much needed Vitamin D, time out and new experiences.

When looking for where to go to next, I am a big fan of visual searching, social media inspiration and also trying to seek out a destination that suits my needs. Sometimes you want a city break, other times a more adventurous tropical retreat.

To inspire you with your choices for 2019, here’s what the UK has been looking for when it comes to travel guides and destination advice. The top searches for Lonely Planet this year so far are:

  1. London
  2. Sri Lanka
  3. Croatia
  4. Portugal
  5. Japan
  6. Thailand
  7. New York
  8. Rome
  9. Vietnam
  10. Barcelona
  11. Canada
  12. Iceland

If the above looks like an amazing list to help you decide where to visit next, but you’re still a little stumped on which one or where, here’s my thoughts on the one’s I have visited myself.

Dubrovnik Old Town Croatia

Croatia is incredible, and has so much to offer across all the different cities and landscapes of the country. I have written a longer guide to getting the most out of Dubrovnik here, and also have explored the beautiful and historic northern port of Zadar which I can wholly recommend. Go for culture, pristine national parks, delicious fresh seafood and of course, island hopping.

Portugal is a warm, vibrant and welcoming country. Visit Lisbon for aesthetically pleasing buildings, tiled interiors and a lively and exciting atmosphere. Taste the custard tarts, watch the local dancing late at night, and hop from one bar to another to experience all the best tapas the city can offer.

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Japan is easily the best country I have ever visited, and you can read more in detail on this guide here. Go for the hospitality, the incredible juxtaposition of old meets new with the futuristic cities filled with ancient shrines and culture. It’s a real foodie place so stop and savour all the street food at the many local markets, and don’t leave without taking the bullet train to get out of the main hub of Tokyo and everything this incredible country has to offer.

A true land of natural wonder, Iceland was genuinely the best place I ever visited until Japan knocked it off first place this March. It’s a strong second however. A place where you really feel connected with nature, able to explore volcanic landscapes, natural baths and glaciers in the space of a day. The people are friendly, hilarious and incredibly artistically gifted. Read more in my guide here.

Thailand was our first experience of Asia, and it really did not disappoint. From gorgeous islands, to kayaking out in the Andaman Sea, eating all the mouth-wateringly good local dishes and hiking through the mountains it is a country that can offer you so many experiences you just need to choose what’s right for you. There’s endless shrines, golden bays and jungles to hike through, now you just need to decide how to spend your time there!

Because it was our honeymoon destination, Rome will always hold a special place in my heart. Go for a city of history. Somewhere where you can really stand in the middle of the Coliseum, Roman Forum or the Vatican and feel the immense scale and power of these grand places. The food is always good, the red wine fantastic, and the location means it’s close to many of Italy’s other golden destinations such as Pompeii, Amalfi and Florence. There’s just something about Italy that captures you when you are there. It delivers many recurring simple pleasures that they have honed and got just right over the years. We have gone back to Italy every year, at least once, for the last seven years now, and there’s a reason for this. It’s the country that just keeps on giving.

apartment architecture balcony barcelona

Barcelona is a city which is just always alive and awake. I have visited the city six times and yet still there’s an endless list of things I have yet to do there, restaurants I want to eat at, or bars I wanted to experience. Honestly, you’d never find yourself bored in this warm and vast city. Come for the historical sites, the breath-taking Sagrada Familia and the green parks surrounding the city, but stay for the award-winning food, local cuisines and of course, the sangria and red wine. Don’t miss the regular festivals held there to really immerse yourself in the city.

I can’t comment on Vietnam, Sri Lanka, or Canada. However watch this space for our New York update after September this year.

If you have any top tips you can share on the big apple, or any of the countries above, please comment below and inspire others with your insider advice and helpful comments.

 

 

 

Episode 12 – Alan Moir: The Extraordinary Ordinary Series.

I was really interested to ask this series of questions because Alan is in fact my father, and although you can be incredibly close to someone, you can find yourself learning something new about them and taking inspiration from it.

Alan has had a varied and exciting life. He’s lived and worked in many countries, including going as far flung New Zealand and managing business deals and trips in the USA, Norway and Paris. In his fifty years you can never say his life has been boring, or without change and chance to grow.

He has always been incredibly hard working and passionate about his career and business. From a young age, I remember him always working hard, building up a successful career and putting in many hours at the office to get where he is today. His discipline, motivation and can-do attitude is inspiring, and something I have tried to emulate throughout my life.

Additionally, he’s always someone to encourage you to ‘go for it’ and not worry too much about the decisions you make in the process of it. My dad has had such an interesting life, living in many places, doing a whole range of jobs and it’s made him such a well-rounded person you’d happily take advice from. I am very risk-averse, and so sometimes it’s good to get a nudge from him to just take the plunge and experience life to the fullest.

Alongside his job, he travels often with his wife, exploring many places, cultures and getting a good tan along the way. He’s seen endless countries and always has a good story to tell about them.

Alan is a loving grandfather to my niece and nephew, and seeing his face light up when he gets to cuddle them, Skype them on a Sunday or celebrate a milestone with them is precious. He also has his hands full with his children, and wonderful step-children (there’s seven of us in total!) as well as all our plus ones. So it’s a wonder he’s so good at his job and travelling when he’s got us and his lovely wife to please at the same time!

Thanks Dad for answering these questions, we can all learn a lot from your desire to always be learning, dedication to your career, hard-working always driven attitude and the ability to take risks, make changes and not be afraid of what tomorrow brings.

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So here are his answers to my twelve questions:

What makes you happy?

Seeing my family happy is all that matters to me – I love it when Mrs M smiles, when my kids and step-kids tell me of their days and dreams. I also like to travel, to to experience new cultures, not just to “holiday”. I love seeing how people react and respond in different ways to the same things.  I wish we could all spend more time together but logistics and work gets in the way too often.

What book had the biggest impact on your life?

It has to be my dictionary.  Out of 171,476 words available ( 2018 version ) we only use, on average, 5000 in our daily communications.  I still find myself using it on a daily basis when I encounter a new word.

What quote, or saying, do you live by?

There are 2 and I keep then both by my desk

“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it”

and

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”

How do you remain, or regain, your focus?

Every day my job and life offers me new challenges. if that ever stops then I need to look for a new job. Just because I am old doesn’t mean I have to stop learning and growing. I try very hard to be the shepherd rather than the sheep, I want to lead the way, not follow other people footsteps.

What inspires you?

Life – just look around you ( where ever you are ) nature is showing you some wonderful things. The seasons and how the changes bring about new growth, how animals have adapted to different circumstances. Cannot think of anything more inspiring than that.

What are your top three priorities?

  1. To wake up tomorrow
  2. To learn something new every day
  3. To see Notts County play at Wembley or in the Premier League – we all have to dream

What’s the biggest misconception about you?

Well, rumour has it that I am grumpy

 

What two purchases have you made this year that you really value / had most impact?

My trip to France with Alison – seeing the sights together and, as it turned out, seeing the Spire on the Notre Dame about a month before it was no more. That made me realise that if you put off your dreams you might just miss out.

Top tips for someone who wants to do what you do?

What a question.  In life, in work, wow so many variables here. All I will say is take every opportunity to do something new. Worry about the how later. Don’t make mistakes, takes risks and learn from them.

What are you most proud of?

Well I will not state the obvious here, see what makes me happy for that.

I try very hard not to listen in judgement.  Often, when people are telling us things we will listen and provide responses based on our own bias. We also come up with an idea and then stop listening, but instead waiting for a gap in the conversation to voice our thoughts.  That is what I mean by listening in judgement.  By doing this, also means that I tend not to take sides.

An unusual habit of yours?

I have thought about this long and hard and I don’t think I have one. Maybe those around me will know otherwise..

What do you do every single day?

Drink coffee – my life’s staple.  I have also found that breathing comes in handy.

His Key Advice:

  • Travel and experience new cultures, don’t just ‘holiday’
  • There are more words than we will ever use, so get your dictionary out and expand your vocabulary today!
  • Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything
  • Learn something new every day

Alan shares his life across Facebook, and sometimes on Instagram. You can follow him if you want to see more of his wisdom and share in his adventures. 

 

 

Episode 11 – Liam O’Connor: The Extraordinary Ordinary Series.

I first met Liam in 2014, and then quickly over the years, our friendship blossomed and I am really lucky and proud to call him one of my best and closest friends. He did this interview for me in late 2018, but being the wonderful reflector and modest person he is, he only shared it with me after visiting us in Switzerland last week, and I am so incredibly grateful he did.

Liam is someone I have wanted to ask these questions to for a long time, because as a person he inspires me on so many levels. Liam has achieved an incredible amount in such a short space of time, and every time I speak to him he is embarking on a new course, job or adventure to discover more about himself, the world and the people in it.

Our stories are also in some elements quite similar, which I think is why on a personal level I really relate to and value all the advice but also the experiences he can offer as a person. As an individual Liam is one of the hardest working, self-motivating and determined people I have ever had the fortune to spend time with.

He has overcome adversity, obstacles and challenges that I would say the majority of us would never even be able to imagine, never mind live through. It could have shaped his character in so many ways, and yet he emerged as a genuine, considerate and caring individual who goes above and beyond for everyone in his circle. The way he and his Fiancee Lydia are as people, the way they help those around them, strive to see the world, and do it with a huge pinch of kindness and good humour along the way, is something I think we can all learn a lot from.

I hope that his goal of working in politics and running for parliament comes true sooner rather than later, as personally I think we could all use someone like Liam to represent us, support us and champion our voices.

If you take anything from Liam’s interview I would strongly recommend it’s about setting yourself goals close to your values, never settling for less than you know you can achieve, and working hard to get there. Luck isn’t real, but perseverance, kindness and true dedication are, and Liam highlights to me what happens when you really focus on those core traits and elements.

Thank you for taking the time to do this Liam, we can all learn a lot from you.

Liam

So here are his answers to my twelve questions:

What makes you happy?

I am at my happiest when I am content, and I am content when I am striving towards something. I need a goal that I am working towards to feel content, thus happiness, in my day to day life.

What book had the biggest impact on your life?

It is hard to pinpoint one book that has had the most influence on me, as so many have. The book that originally made me fall in love with literature was, embarrassingly, Harry Potter. I remember reading it for the first time when I was about eight years old and felt an emotional connection to the characters that had never developed through film or TV.

However, the book that has had the biggest impact upon my life would be Christopher Hitches, Arguably. this book is what originally got me infused with debate, politics and philosophy. There are countless books that have helped develop or changed my knowledge and opinion, however arguably is what originally made me passionate about thinking

What quote, or saying, do you live by?

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Nothing that is worth having will ever come easy, otherwise, everyone would have it.

How do you remain, or regain, your focus?

I surround myself with reminders of who I want to be, and what I am working towards. I read literary works of famous philosophers and historians so I can use their wisdom when I might be struggling or distracted

 

What inspires you?

People inspire me, especially people who have overcome tremendous obstacles in their life to still be well rounded successful people. I love seeing people who have been undervalued by society coming back to prove people wrong.

What are your top three priorities?

My top priority is to live a long healthy life with my beautiful fiancée. If I don’t achieve any other life goal but that, I will still die a very happy man.

Another priority of mine is to run for parliament at some point in my life. I feel a need to try and make this world a little bit better for me being in it, and feel I could enact the biggest change through parliamentary politics.

Finally, my last priority would be to see as much of the world as possible; I want to experience everything every culture has to offer.

What’s the biggest misconception about you?

Undoubtedly it is the belief that I am extremely confident. I have struggled with self-esteem issues throughout my life, and to counter that I have created a persona of someone who is overly confident and can do anything.

 

What two purchases have you made this year that you really value / had most impact?

The purchase that means the most to me is undoubtedly an engagement ring for my fiancée. I proposed in January, I have never been more nervous than when I got down on one knee, I could hardly speak. Thankfully she said yes!

I start my master’s degree this month, in Public Administration and Public Policy. I have had to take a loan out to pay for it, however, I believe in the long run it will be a financially sound investment.

Top tips for someone who wants to do what you do?

Well, as I am yet to start working within the field of my choice, I cannot really advise anyone upon that. If someone decided they want to re-enter full-time education as a mature student, I would recommend they go for it. You can over think decisions if you dedicate too much thought to them, there will always be reasons to not take risks, however, if its truly something you want to do and are passionate about, go for it!

Secondly, you have to be hyper-organised and dedicated. I started college with more than 60 people, all intent on going to university as mature students, only two of us graduated this year. Everyone either gave up or couldn’t do it.

What are you most proud of?

Finishing my degree and being offered a place on a masters course was pretty cool.

2018 has been an amazing year so far: I got engaged, passed my driving test, completed my degree and will have started my masters.

An unusual habit of yours?

I don’t think I really have habits, especially not any unusual ones. There are things I do every day, however, nothing that I think I couldn’t give up with ease. Something I instinctively do, without thinking, is check the news; usually through the BBC website, many times throughout the day. Sometimes ill subconsciously open my phone and go straight to the news, even if I had closed my phone 30 seconds before

What do you do every single day?

I can’t really answer this question, as apart from the utterly mundane, there isn’t anything I can think of that I do every day.

I suppose every day I try and do something that the Me of tomorrow will thank Me for, to do little things every day that will improve me as a person; in any way.

“Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential” Winston Churchill

His Key Advice:

  • Every day try and do something that the You of tomorrow will thank You for.
  • There will always be reasons to not take risks, however, if its truly something you want to do and are passionate about, go for it.
  • See as much of the world as possible.
  • Nothing that is worth having will ever come easy, otherwise, everyone would have it.
  • Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential

Unfortunately for us, Liam doesn’t have any social media (which I think we can all learn a lesson from in this digitally addictive age) so following him online isn’t an option. However watch this space, as I know in a few years you’ll be seeing a lot more of him whether it’s through his published writing or running for parliament!

Episode 10 – Wael Jabi: The Extraordinary Ordinary Series.

I first met Wael seven months ago, when we both started our new roles in Vevey at the same time. From the moment I met him I was really inspired by how genuine, open and kind he was as a person. He knew I was new to Switzerland and in the first couple of days, gave me a book to help me understand Swiss life and culture more, to help me settle in. It’s this kind of instant thoughtfulness, consideration and also humour that makes it always a pleasure to spend time talking to Wael.

His passion for wildlife, nature and respecting the environment is infectious. He is a man of words, but also action, which is always positive to see. By leading by example, he is inspiring many others to make important changes which will no doubt have a lasting impact. For example, I have never seen him drinking out of anything but his reusable coffee and water bottles.

Wael loves to travel, and I am always keen to hear where he is visiting next as he’s got some great stories. Plus, you can guarantee wherever he is, he always finds and shares the best foodie spots and things to eat along the way. Something I value very highly and appreciate a lot!

Finally, I have a lot of respect for Wael as although he works incredibly hard, has a daily long commute, and travels often, he manages to make heaps of time for those who matter most to him, his family and close friends. He shows me that if you really do know what your priorities are, you will always make time for them and nothing else will really be a barrier.

He is genuine, smart, and because of his priorities has lived such a full and interesting life. His career has spanned across many countries, companies and fields, so he’s definitely a good one to go to for learning to stretch and develop yourself. I think we can all learn a lot from Wael, and his infectious positive attitude.

As he says, positivity attracts positivity!

Wael

So here are his answers to my twelve questions:

What makes you happy?

This is an interesting one because there are things we know which make us happy, however in reality, it is not always that thing, instead it is the context in which it happens which makes us happy.

My daughter makes me happy, which is incredibly true, but there are certain times when parenting is hard. I love it when my daughter says my name, she says papa, I have found a new level of happiness with something so simple.

In addition to this, interactions with people which are genuine are really important to me and make me truly happy. Increasingly the pressures from our work, society and families and friends have boxed us into ways of interacting so people act and talk in a very non-personal way and often we end up acting like someone else, like the situation dictates. I just instead love it when people are real and genuine at all times.

Of course, good food makes me happy, especially my mum’s authentic cuisine!

Lastly, I am a huge wildlife and nature person, being around wildlife in any form makes me super happy. Just being outside, in nature, has an amazing instant uplifting effect.

What book had the biggest impact on your life?

The Hatchet

It’s an adventure story about Canadian kid who survives a plane crash, and lives in the wilderness. All he had was a hatchet. I read it at a young age and I took a few principles from it, mainly being that the impossible is actually possible, and when everything is against you, there is always hope.

What quote, or saying, do you live by?

So this year we travelled to the Seychelles with my dad for his 60th birthday. In the run up, we were planning his present. We gave him a book with sixty letters from sixty friends and it was filled with photos and so many quotes!

So we printed some of his best saying and quotes, and wore them on t-shirts during the week. He is a man full of quotes and because of that I can’t live by any quote as so many are relevant.

However if I had to pick one, I started a website when I was younger and the title was ‘You have only one life, not 1.5’. This has really stuck with me as it’s about being my true authentic self and making the most of the one live I have, as you don’t get to re do it.

What inspires you?

Every single day, there are people sitting all around me that inspire me in a different way per person.

Broadly, mothers in general are just really inspiring. The father part is hard, don’t get me wrong, but mother is ten time harder in my opinion. They come to work, fly to other countries for business, keep a straight face, and then continue to give 200% at home.

I am also really inspired by people in developing countries who often have so little, and yet can do so much more than someone who has everything. More energy, creativity, passion, happiness.

This leads me to often think, why are we killing ourselves to work for more money if we don’t need it for more happiness?

How do you remain, or regain your focus?

I lose focus all the time, it’s like my biggest problem.

I find it hard to stay consistent and focused, but then I think back to the first manager I had, who has been the best in my career, and he once said to me;

‘People who come to work on time at the same time every day of their lives are known to be the least creative in the world’

This saying has then stuck with me for such a long time. Instead of being frustrated about no routines, I embraced it, fluctuation is okay as long you realise it’s happening and you can get back to the task at hand. Be flexible with yourself, allow yourself to readjust if needed.

For years, I killed myself trying to focus all the time, so I am happy to accept the way I am!

What are your top three priorities?

So this is not in ranking order!

  1. Living the life I want to, to the best of my abilities
  2. Supporting those that I consider my priority group of people to my best abilities
  3. Ensuring that there is a better world in general for future generations. I am hot on wildlife and there are so many species I want to make sure my daughter sees as she gets older. Therefore, it’s a priority for me to consume less, in the right way, and pass on that learning to others around me.

What’s the biggest misconception about you?

For those who have known me for a long time, they see me as an extroverted fun loving guy. Which to an extent I am, but I feel I have a strong introverted side where I am just as happy in my own company, with a good book.

What two purchases have you made this year that you really value / had most impact?

  • I made a major investment to go to Africa and do a walking safari before I started at Nestlé in Zambia by myself. It was the first time I have ever travelled by myself and I found it was such an important and also exciting way to spend money I have worked hard for.
  • I spent 2 dollars for an app called One Second Every Day, and then took a video for my daughter every single day and put it together, it blew my mind how much she changes a little each and every day!

Top tips for someone who wants to do what you do?

For the one person out of eight billion who might want to do what I am doing:

Never assume things are they are or seen from the outside. Always search for the hidden black box in people’s hearts, only when opened will you see the reality.

Come into everything and every situation with an open mind.

Focus on the ‘North Star’. Always think about the big picture, and where you are going with life. It is so easy to get annoyed when you have had a bad day or a specific meeting doesn’t go as planned, but if you instead always look at where you are heading and the bigger picture, sometimes it’s easy to see it really doesn’t matter in the long term so it shouldn’t affect you now.

Oh, and an important one, no one is perfect.

What are you most proud of?

Pride in my family, proud to have been raised by great people that I look up to.

Proud of my friends who I look up to.

I am beyond proud to have an amazing wife who makes me feel so small but in a good way, because she is so great I just can’t compare to her, and this makes me very lucky.

An unusual habit of yours?

Oh man, there’s so many haha!

What do you do every single day?

Have an intention, every single day, to give love.

His Key Advice:

  • Positivity attracts positivity 
  • Respect and nurture our planet and wildlife, and try to get closer to it every day.
  • Be proud of those around you and close to you.
  • Embrace yourself, and enjoy who you are, as no one is perfect!
  • Have an intention, every single day, to give love.
  • Never assume things are they are or seen from the outside. Always search for the hidden black box in people’s hearts, only when opened will you see the reality.
  • Come into everything with an open mind

If you want to follow Wael, he has an amazing Instagram filled with photos of his beautiful commute and nature-filled weekends with lots of envy inducing foods. 

Ten Tips For Frequent Travelling – What I Wish I Knew Years Ago.

Whether you’re away a lot due to business, embarking on a backpacking adventure or planning a lot of trips in the coming few months, you’ll probably be dedicating a lot of your time organizing and planning your travels.

Immersing yourself in a new culture and discovering new places is a fantastic experience and opportunity but it does not come without preparation, costs and sacrifices. Often this is a sacrifice you are willing to make a few times a year, as the organization needs are truly outweighed by the trip and adventure itself. However if hopping on a plane, train or boat becomes more of a regular occurrence you may find yourself juggling the logistics of the trips whilst also trying to make the most of them and be there in the moment.

This year I have travelled to ten countries in the first three months, some of them for repeat visits, and fitted some road trips and personal travel between this. Previously, I have spent my time between offices, cities and travelled regularly personally as well. Learning to manage the logistics alongside the experiences of travel itself has been something I have been getting better at over the last few years. I hope that some of the things I have discovered along the way can help you with your plans going forward.

airliner window
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Check-in ahead, and use apps to the best advantages

Most airlines, hotel chains and booking platforms now have great apps meant to make your journey easier and help everything run that little bit smoother.

Where possible, benefit from the advanced check-in functionality so you can skip queues and go to the bag-drop only areas, choose your seat and room ahead of the flight or stay to ensure maximum comfort (seatguru.com) is fantastic for helping with this, and check out any opportunities for upgrades or rewards in the app ahead of your trip.

Have written copies of your plans

Although the above is great 90% of the time, there are always opportunities for technology to let us down so I always carry a copy of my flight reservation, any e-visas, check in details and hotel addresses with me. Keep a copy of your hotel in both your language but also the native language of where you are visiting, to make it easier when explaining to taxi drivers or helpdesks on arrival.

In-flight essentials survival kit

A good set of earplugs, noise-cancelling headphones, wet wipes (those seats are full of germs!) and an eye mask are my in-flight essentials. If I am going to add to this with things that make life easier, it has to be a foot-rest or sling for economy long-haul flights, a good book, face mask and creams, iPad filled with good shows and lip balm to fight the plane air-con dry out, as well as some paracetamol, vitamins and a pen (for filling out landing cards).

I have a little bag with all these already stashed in so I can just lift it and pack before any trip.

In addition to this, I have a toiletries bag with duplicates of my main lotions and potions to make for easy packing, such as toothpaste, skin creams and shampoos. In here I also pack bite creams, sun cream, insect repellent and day to day medicines, just in case. This way, I don’t need to unpack and repack when I have just a couple of days between trips or flights.

Respect your body and mind

Travelling often can take its toll if you are not careful. Listen to your body and rest when needed. Keep hydrated with plenty of water, even though in-flight wine seems tempting. Honestly, I can express enough the importance of plenty of water. Top up on fruits, vitamins and eat like a local in your destination.

When switching between time zones I try to eat little and often, and stick to lighter foods where possible.

Exercise in your hotel gym or if safe, go for a run outdoors and take in some of the surroundings as you do so. Keeping your body active is a good way to reset your mind with all the chaos that comes with travelling regularly.

Lastly, when home, or away, try not to overdo things. Take it easy, and don’t cram everything into one day or feel that you need to make the most of a weekend by doing overdue chores or sightseeing. It’s okay when away to see less but enjoy more. It’s okay when at home to ignore the things we think we ‘have’ to do, and instead take a day on the sofa reading books and drinking coffee.

Listen to your body and you’ll feel much better when travelling often.

Sign up for loyalty programmes

This is something I encourage everyone to do, no matter how little or often you travel. The points quickly stack up, and even if you are still in the lower tiers, it allows you extra benefits such as free high-speed Wi-Fi at hotels, or the opportunity to access a lounge at the airport.

Oh, and loyalty members are first in line for any free upgrades, which do happen on occasion. Don’t miss out because you didn’t sign up!

Flying Blue and Hilton Honors are some of the best programmes I have experienced.

Take only the luggage you really need

Okay, so even though your baggage allowance is 30KG, think carefully about what you really need and will be hauling along behind you for a trip.

I have managed to do up to ten days with just hand baggage on trips, and have room to bring back souvenirs. It’s tempting to pack everything, but in reality it slows you down and can be tiring.

Aisle Seats

Although window seats provide the best view, if you are travelling solo or in a two, middle and aisle is the way forward. Trust me, I have often been stuck at a window with two sleeping strangers between me and the restroom and it’s not fun!

Fly early in the day

Want to avoid delays? Sometimes you can do everything and they still happen but by choosing to travel early in the day, you often mitigate the problems that come throughout the day resulting in more delays as you get closer to the evening.

Have a backup card

It’s never fun being in another country and realising that you’ve lost your bank card, for some reason it won’t work, or you have damaged it.

Recently in Argentina, no machine would accept my local debit cards but thankfully I had a new back up Revolut card which saved the day.

Get up early to make the most of the day and avoid crowds

Not only will you avoid the crowds at most of the major sights and attractions, but if you are there for business, you also build in some time to explore before the working day.

I love visiting places between 7-9am when most people are still asleep and the day is just starting.

Oh, and on a final note, try and not plan every moment of every day. Leave a little time to get lost on purpose in the place you’re visiting. You never know what you might discover.

What’s your advice for travelling often?

Exploring Japan: A Capsule Guide To This Historic Country

A country which fuses modern and ancient traditions seamlessly, Japan is a melting pot of culture, tech, art and history. Everything you want to say about Japan can be summarised as a perfect juxtaposition. Chaotic but ordered, futuristic and yet so deeply rooted in tradition, high-rises circling around historic gardens and shrines. This place on paper doesn’t work, but in reality it’s a place which offers you a wealth of different experiences in such a short space of time, and it’s enthralling.

We explored a taste of what Japan has to offer over a ten-day period, but to really immerse yourself in this fantastic country and get a taste of all it has to offer, you need at least two to three weeks, if not more. However I know this isn’t feasible for most people, so I have captured below what we did in our ten days, the must-sees, the top tips and every in-between to help you make the most of your eastern adventure.

First and foremost, wherever you go, the food will never disappoint. You have a choice of seemingness endless award winning and Michelin-starred eateries, upscale restaurants or the more traditional family run establishments who have been honing their craft for hundreds of years. The latter restaurants often specialise in one or two dishes, and have spent years honing the recipes to produce the best taste. Be prepared to eat little and often to really experience all the local delicacies during your visit.

No article about Japan would be complete if it didn’t mention the warmth of the Japanese people. Never have I experienced such a consistently high level of service, friendliness and willingness to talk and share stories. Everywhere could learn a lot from this culture.

If you are after more ‘top-tips’ and less of an itinerary, then scroll to the end of this guide!

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First and Foremost – Tokyo

Tokyo is a huge city where no two neighbourhood are quite the same. From futuristic Shinjuku and Shibawya to the quieter and shrine filled Asakusa and Ueno, Tokyo really does have it all.

We spent our first three days in the Asakusa area, as we found basing ourselves here allowed us to explore some of the top places we wanted to see. The Senso-ji temple is one of the most visited in Japan and it’s not surprising, it’s vast and surrounded by a maze of streets, market stalls and restaurants. I would recommended visiting this place at night or early morning on a weekday. Weekends can be really busy and it takes away some of the magic of the place.

After visiting here, take a short walk to Sometaro restaurant. A traditional eatery, specialising in the Japanese Okonomiyaki (a delicious omelette based dish with fillings of your choice. Here you take off your shoes at the entrance, sit on the floor at your square table with a hot place, and cook yourself an incredible omelette with the fillings of your choice. The atmosphere, friendliness of the staff and freshness of the food is the perfect recipe for a good evening well spent.

Other key places to explore in this area? The Ueno Park is a beautiful and large public park filled with endless shrines, statues and a beautiful pond and boathouse. Start at the Ueno station entrance, walk under the cherry blossoms if you are lucky enough to be there in season, and then explore all the garden has to offer before reaching the fantastic Tokyo National Museum.

When you’ve finished taking in all the museum has to offer, wander back towards Ueno and lose yourself in the market, street stalls and restaurants in the streets directly in front of it.

Lastly, this area is a great gateway to get to the Imperial Palace and Gardens, as well as the famed Tsukiji Market. This is a tightly packed series of small streets with vendors selling incredible local foods, snacks and crafts. Fill yourself on a series of small dishes from the stalls, or grab a seat in one of the bustling sushi or sashimi cafes in the middle of the market and enjoy some of the freshest fish you’ll ever taste.

One key learning for our first few days? Have an itinerary but plan in time to just wander. Japan has way more to offer than the big ‘must-see’ hot spots. Don’t miss the true nature of the city by taking the subway to each shrine and back.

Oh, and get lunch at one of the incredible Katsu Curry houses in the Kudanshita station area. We went for one under the railway bridge, in a tiny cafe which seated just ten people. We both chose a Katsu curry from the ticket machine outside, and gave our order slip to the hostess on entry, and then minutes later was served one of the most incredible curries I have ever eaten in my life. These cafes with ticket machines outside served some of the best food I had during my time in Japan. Try them or miss out!\

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Historic Kyoto

For logistical purposes, we left Tokyo and travelled south to Kyoto for the middle leg of our trip with a plan to come back and explore more of Tokyo and be nearer the airport at the end of the ten days.

We took the bullet train to Kyoto and it was an experience in itself. Clean, on-time, with roomy seats and so many different landscapes to see on route, including the incredible Mount Fiji itself, the three hour journey flies by.

Arriving in Kyoto you quickly get the sense that this city is a cultural and spiritual hub of Japan. There’s over 2000 different shrines, temples and statues hidden amongst the modern city centre. Explore traditional Japanese wooden houses in the Gion district, taste local delicacies in the sprawling markets and enjoy traditional tea ceremonies or stay in a local Ryokan to truly immerse yourself in the historic culture of Japan.

We stayed in a beautiful Ryokan, with traditional Japanese floor level futons, Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura Urushitei 

just moments from the streets of Gion and the incredible river-side restaurants and bars. However there are so many options you may find yourself spoilt for choice when booking.

When here, there are many things you will want to see, do and explore but initially I would recommend just heading into the city centre, and walking from one side of the Nishiki market hall to the other, crossing the bridge into Gion, and taking in the sights, smells and atmosphere of this spiritual hub of Japan. You will pass so many shrines and temples on foot without a plan, the religious and historical air of the city will quickly embrace you.

Our top highlights of places to see in Kyoto included the Enryaku-ji temple, set on the mountains outside of the city with sprawling views and temples as far as the eye can see. Make sure you set aside time to hike up here though, it’s more of a day excursion than a quick visit place.

Kiyomizu-dera buddhist temple is much easier to access. Although less tranquil, it is perched on a  hill and provides incredible views, especially at sunset. Gion district is an area not to be missed, and we found an incredible bar hidden away in the streets here that looks like a house from the outside. It seats only six people, and here you can sample local Sake or beers alongside a tapas platter of three local dishes made by the lady who owns the bar. They’re delicious, especially the spiced cabbage.

After exploring the inner city, take a day to head out of Kyoto centre and visit the Kinkaku-ji

Golden Temple, and the Ryōan-ji rock gardens. Wander around during a morning when it’s emptier to enjoy the peaceful and tranquil vibes this place has to offer. Then hop on a local bus to Arashiyama. Home of the famous Bamboo grove, mountain hikes and Ōkōchi Sansō gardens, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to wander around the shrines, forest and also the mountains behind the city.

Kyoto has so much to offer and for you to see, it’s hard to prioritise and make choices if you have time constraints, however we found that from the above, mixed with seeing many nearby shrines, eating at local restaurants and staying in a traditional Ryoken, really allowed us to get a sense of what this incredible city had to offer and make the most of our four days here.

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Back to Futuristic Japan

For the final leg of our ten day trip, we took the bullet train back to Japan but this time based ourselves in the futuristic and high-rise district of Shingawa. From here, we were well placed to explore for our final three days and get a taste of the modernity of Japan and all it has to offer.

Our highlights included immersing ourselves in the nightlife of the bustling Shinjuku district, filled with skyscrapers, entertainment and endless LED lights flashing 24/7. Here, we tried VR gaming experiences, taking in the sights from the top floor of our hotel, and trying some of the more modern and upscale eateries Japan is famed for.

Later on, we walked to the notorious Golden Gai area, a series of streets home to many tiny bars, often seating no more than ten people, in old style wooden and metal houses hidden behind the skyscrapers of Shinjuku. Spend the night exploring two or three of these historic institutions and their local cocktails, though be aware, not all accept tourists and some require a cover charge to protect themselves from people who indulge in just one drink and then move on. This was one of my favourite experiences of the trip, made better by taking the time to speak to the people in the tiny bars and discover more about their background and experiences of Japan.

Of course, we had one more day of walking around the historic gardens and shrines of the region, and sampling even more of the local dishes and market foods!

Finally, we rounded up our trip with a visit to the famous Tokyo Flea Market, held on Saturdays in the city, and came away with some vintage porcelain and fabrics at a really good price. It’s pretty big so if you are after a bargain or a more traditional souvenir, leave yourself a good morning to make the most of your time here.

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Japan Top Tips

  • Japan is a huge country in terms of both area but also cultural and historical experiences and sights. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to immerse yourself in all that the country has to offer, both old and new. We chose to only visit Tokyo and Kyoto in our time as we realised we didn’t have enough time for more. Plus, it gives us an excuse to go back and do the Mount Fiji area and Osaka at a later day!
  • A lot of the signs, information cards and train guides are now in English, so don’t be worried about this or the language barrier, it’s not really a problem any more. However it’s good to learn a few key phrases in Japanese as it’s really appreciated there if you can at least order a drink, and say please and thank you in the local language.
  • Best seasons to visit for weather is end of March to early May, and then during the autumn. If you chose the March option as we did, you may also see the Cherry Blossoms in bloom.
  • Don’t just flock from shrine to temple to market, leave yourself time to walk to these places, take the back roads, and see more of the country than just the tourist filled hot spots. Japan has an awful lot of offer and it’s often not in the main places that you truly get to experience it.
  • The transport network is fantastic. Get yourself a Passmo card (you can buy it from the large underground stations from machines where you will also top it up) to use on the subways to get around for low-cost during your stay. If you plan to travel regularly by trains, then the seven-day pass is a steal. However be warned, you have to buy it before your trip and have it sent to your home address, so give yourself plenty of time to buy one (we didn’t realise this and lucked out!) https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/
  • Tipping isn’t expected or customary. We usually would just round up our bill and leave this.
  • On that note, take cash with you. For a very modern place, most traditional shops, markets and restaurants take cash only.
  • Be polite and respectful. Remember the temples you are visiting are still functioning religious sites, and so consider this before taking photos in religious places or of statues where it’s deemed disrespectful.
  • Wear socks or take a pair with you if wearing sandals. You will regularly need to take off your shoes or change shoes from outdoors to indoors, especially in shrines or traditional restaurants. If you are going barefoot under sandals, pack a pair of socks to make it easier.
  • Don’t eat and walk, it’s considered rude. So when you get your street-food from the markets, stop and properly savour the tastes before walking on again.
  • Get organised. The city can be expensive to explore if not planned properly. Buy your train tickets in advance, use a passmo card for the subway, and eat like a local where possible.

 

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We never ate a bad meal in Japan, and the food was all incredible and reasonably priced. For our highlights (and this was hard to whittle down):

  1. Sometaro – Asakusa – A place where you make traditional Okonomiyaki on your own hot plate
  2. Crown Ace Ueno – Katsu Curry Cafe
  3. Tsukiji Market – for incredible fresh food right from the vendors, and the freshest Sashimi and sushi at the market restaurants I have ever tasted
  4. Muraji Ramen in Kyoto – In the Gion district, this tiny restaurant seats only 15 people and you are at a shared table. The Ramen here was the best I ate during my time, and I would wholly recommend you go for the three dish special which includes Ramen, fried chicken or local Japanese fried rice, and the Matcha Ice-Cream for dessert. We got one light ramen, and then the dark ramen as this meal deal and it was plenty of food for two!
  5. Botejyu Kyoto – Okonomiyaki, but this time served to you by a chef rather than cooking yourself. Both the traditional dish and also the fried noodles are delicious. Arrive early or reserve a table however, or you may be disappointed as there’s always a long wait after 7pm.
  6. L’Escamoteur – This fantastic bar has a hidden door to the bathroom, brilliant cocktails and great staff. Word of warning though, you will pay more for two drinks then you did for dinner at the local restaurants in the city, but it’s worth it.

I hope you get to experience Japan. The country is the best place we’ve ever visited. The warmth of the people, the incredible food and the endless sights, nature and experiences made it the most memorable trip we’ve ever taken. 

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Five Things No One Tells You About Moving Abroad (And Why You Should Do It)

Packing up your belongings, booking a one-way ticket, and travelling across the world to find your new home is something that many of us dream of. There’s a reason why Eat Pray Love was such a success, many of us have that secret itch to try somewhere new. To discover and immerse ourselves in a new culture, climate or language even if just for a little while.

It’s not for everyone, many of us are happy staying where we currently call home, and that’s inspiring as you’ve found where you are most content and don’t feel the urge to shake that up. However some people feel that need to explore. To settle somewhere different, to start afresh or to have a change of scenery and routine.

Thinking about moving to a new country is one thing, but then actually going and doing it, well that’s where the fun starts. If you are thinking of moving, looking for the catalyst to begin your new journey abroad or want to know what it’s really like from people who have done it before, then look no further than this article.

I have spoken to a series of ten friends, colleagues and family members who have lived in at least two places overseas, and have kindly shared their experiences of living somewhere entirely different with me.

The best parts of living somewhere new

I asked ten people what they thought was the best thing about living abroad, and the top answer time and time again was, you guessed it, food.

The chance to try new cuisines, local dishes and learn new ways to cook food was a really big draw when choosing where to move to and settle down.

New cultures, habits and the chance to learn a new language were close contenders, as was the chance to ‘explore new experiences and opportunities that are now on your doorstep’. It seems that when moving we are looking for something unique, that we haven’t come across before. Less of the same old and more of the new and undiscovered.

For me, food certainly is up there, alongside the chance to immerse yourself in local traditions, history and culture. When you visit a place, even for an extended period of time, you don’t truly get to know the day to day way of living, eating and adventuring. Moving there lets you soak in the culture over a period of time, and take away from it the parts that really resonate with you.

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Photo by Martin Péchy on Pexels.com

What can be frustrating or difficult?

When moving, it’s certainly filled with so many highs and new experiences, but it would be misleading to pretend there’s not a fair share of lows you have to go through as with any other journey.

Again, this question resulted in quite a unanimous answer across the group. First and foremost, when moving abroad the most frustrating part of settling in is getting to grips with the new languages. For many people, classes and lessons in person are seen as an essential when you move to a new country. If you don’t make this effort, it can make day to day living much more difficult, especially if you have a problem like one of the respondents such as water coming through your ceiling on a bank holiday. Plus, as a lot of people said making friends was a big challenge for them, language classes are a perfect way to do this.

Second most common was missing family and friends from home. Even if the distance isn’t too far, people said that they didn’t really realise how much they’d miss home and the people that made it special until they had left. Modern technology makes it a little easier now but it’s important to make sure you make time to go back now and then and connect in person, or even better, treat your friends to a free-accommodation holiday with all the local tips and tours included in your new country! On a personal note, having a steady stream of loved ones come out to see us over the last five months has been so important and we are forever grateful to our friends who have made the journey to come see us. You’ve helped us settle a lot easier.

Lastly, a big one is learning to adapt and getting to grips with the local quirks, habits and culture to make sure you feel like you really do fit in. Examples include later dinner timings, local noise laws, paperwork preparation and driving etiquette to name a few. The more you can research, observe and practice local habits, the easier you’ll settle.

Adapt to your new home, don’t try to make it adapt to you.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Where is the best place you’ve lived?

Obviously this is a subjective list, but I wanted to ask it to give you a flavour of why certain places really resonate with people.

  • San Francisco – The city and ease of being able to travel around California
  • Harrogate – Because of how beautiful Yorkshire is each and every day!
  • Spain – For the food, weather and later chilled lifestyle
  • Switzerland – For the incredible outdoors, the environmentally friendly nature, the pet friendly culture and the views. It’s such a healthy, happy country. Plus, it’s super central, making it so easy to explore other countries.
  • Greece – For the people, the history, the food and the culture. It’s warm, both in personality and in climate.
  • Germany – Language, very green and great vegetarian food, as well as being really environmentally friendly.
  • Germany – But more for the circumstance and being in early twenties without kids
  • Belgium – For the easy access to travelling in Europe
  • Switzerland – For the nature, quality of life, food and outdoor activities
  • Vietnam – Because it was so different to what I was used to, so always interesting
  • Spain – Because it has all the excitement of living somewhere foreign but with the ease of access to home comforts. Plus it’s a beautiful, hot country.
  • New Zealand – So much space, I loved all of it. Such a varied selection of scenery and places to visit. The Southern Alps to the Beaches, the Glaciers to Milford Sounds. North Island to South Island. Cultures within cultures
  • Norway – I loved the country and the no nonsense approach to life of the people.
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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

How has living somewhere abroad changed you?

A big theme for everyone I asked was that living somewhere overseas had a big impact on their confidence. A lot of them developed a stronger understanding of what they were capable of, and also became more social in situations with new people or experiences.

Also, things became less of a need for many people. As they moved, they became very conscious of what things they kept and prized, and what they would often leave behind or find a pain to move. Living with less became more of a reality, in the search of more experiences and adventures.

As you choose to travel to create a new home, it becomes unsurprising that many of our respondents said that living abroad only fuelled their passion to travel personally more as well.

Finally, many of our respondents said moving abroad changed their health outlook and activeness, for the better.

For me personally, moving abroad made me be more adaptive and open to the unknown. As a chronic planner, I like to know what’s going on and can be a little bit of a control freak when it comes to organization. Knowledge and plans soothe me, but you can’t rely on this when moving abroad. Things will go wrong, you will hit local roadblocks, and there’s going to be hurdles to overcome that you didn’t expect. It taught me to make a plan, but then be flexible when it comes to putting it into practice.

And lastly, what one piece of advice would the insiders give to those who were considering living overseas?

  • Any move is what you make of it
  • There’s never a right time. People do it alone, with kids, with pets. If you keep waiting for the right moment, you’ll never do it.
  • Learn the basics of the language and keep at it when moving
  • Research before living somewhere, and do this in detail, even if you have vacationed there or have family there who love it, it doesn’t mean it will suit you
  • Immerse yourself in the culture and don’t expect it to feel like a holiday
  • Get involve, get immersed and enjoy every moment of the experience as you don’t know how long you’ll be there
  • Just make sure you understand what you are hoping to get out of it, a new country won’t fix longer term lingering problems.
  • Understand local laws and customs

But the main advice from everyone? Just do it. You can plan, organize and dream about it, but the reality is, until you are there, you won’t know what to expect so go for it.

Thanks to everyone who helped me pull this together, your insights have been so valuable. I hope if anyone reading this is thinking of moving abroad, it inspires you to go for it. Even if it’s just for a little while, it’s a great opportunity.

FAQ – Travel Edition

If I had to estimate how many questions I regularly get based on my writing, I would average it out somewhere between more than I get letters through the post for any topic, but less than I get texts from my budget app telling me I have spent too much on eating out that month again.

But in all seriousness, I do get some really great regular questions around travelling from all you wanderlust lovers out there. To make things a little simpler, I thought I would collate a small sample of the most frequently asked travel queries and my answers here.

What are your three favourite countries?

Without a doubt Italy, Iceland and Switzerland. Italy for the food, the architecture and history. Iceland for nature, dramatic landscapes and people. Switzerland for the mountains, the lakes and the outdoor activities on offer, as well as really good food.

We did our first holiday, technically our honeymoon from the UK together to Rome, and every year since we’ve visited Italy at least once. So far we’ve seen Amalfi, Capri, Naples, Sardinia, Venice, Milan, Lake Como, Bergamo, Aosta and Rome. This year we are going to explore Tuscany.

What’s your favourite weekend getaway?

When I lived in the UK, I actually loved to explore local as I think often when we think of travel, we think it has to involve crossing borders. For me, a perfect weekend included an old castle, stately home, rustic B&B or even a tent somewhere in the UK’s dales, moors or lakes.

Scottish highlands is my favourite, but wasn’t the easiest to get to.

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Who do you travel with?

90% of the time, I travel with my wonderful husband. However we love a group adventure and so we regularly do trips with our siblings, parents or friends.

Around once / twice a month I will travel alone for work.

How do you afford to travel so often?

Live minimally, buy little, and only what you really need. Often a return flight can cost the same as a new pair of shoes you really don’t need. If travel is your end-game, you need to prioritize this over a new Xbox game or upgrading a car when yours works perfectly.

It’s not for everyone, but it’s important to us, so we make these choices.

Our home, transport and clothes are not the best, but they do the job, which leaves more money to see the world.

Oh, and I work hard to make it a reality too.

How do you travel and work? What is your job?

Prioritization, it’s the most important factor. A recent study by CIO showed that if you take all your allocated leave in a year you’re up to 26% more productive than people who don’t.

Time off is important, and it’s important to spend that time off valuably. We organize leave so it works best for us, for travelling and adventuring. One day off makes a long weekend, which equals a three day break.

Don’t look back and regret it, plan your time wisely, and put those plans into action.

Long haul flying advice?

Go with a good airline, keep hydrated, book your seats in advance to get the best options and know you’ll be comfortable (rows of just two seats for a couple are worth the extra money).

Take entertainment, a good sleep-aid is never a bad idea, and invest in a travel cushion, comfy layered clothes and a foot rest or inflatable pillow.

Oh, and antiseptic wipes, planes are FULL of germs and a good seat and tray wipe-down is never a bad idea.

Lastly, match your in-flight sleep to your new destination timezone, helps with the jet lag.

How far in advance do you book a trip?

If it’s somewhere I want to go that year, I use flight alerts and book it when the cost is lowest. Many travel apps can also help you with previous years’ data to predict when flights will be at their lowest cost. Hopper is a really good app for this.

For weekend breaks, often I book around three months in advance. I always book a hotel as soon as I book a flight, and then cancel it closer to the time if I see a better deal.

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Where should I go next?

Wherever makes you happy. Look for a place that meets your travel needs and wish-lists, don’t try and seek out the hit new destination or follow the crowds, chances are it may not suit you personally and you may be disappointed. Find something you love to do, and find the best place to do it!

Any downsides to travelling?

I get pretty bad anxiety so before any trip I usually find myself nervous and wanting to cancel, rather than the excitement you should get. For this, my husband is a trooper who makes sure we get on the plane.

Language can be a barrier in tricky situations, so downloading the Google Translate app is a real must.

If you do it too much, you can find yourself weary, so make sure you have a good balance between coming and going.

If it goes wrong, it goes wrong. Cancelled flights, bad weather or lost luggage can ruin a trip. Which is why it’s always good to be prepared, have a plan B, and get good insurance!

The environmental cost is not great at all, which is why we always try and pay the optional offset contributions that airlines now offer, and reduce our impact in other ways day to day, such as not eating meat at home or recently deciding to no longer own a car.

Any other questions? I’d love to hear and answer them so pop them in the comments below!

Why You Need To Live In The Now

Life is exciting when you have things to look forward to. For many of us, it’s what gets us through a hard week, a long journey or the tenth conference call on a Tuesday. As a chronic planner, it’s also really easy to live your life according to your well-organized schedules, trips and daily routines.

But it’s really easy to glaze over the valuable here and now, if we are forever counting down to the next adventure, social event or milestone. One quote which really resonates with me when thinking about this is,

‘Remember when you wanted what you currently have’

I think this is just as relevant for experiences and memories, as it is for things, status and milestones in life.

Too often we are looking ahead for the next big memory we want to create that we gloss over the daily little moments which we have built for ourselves, that make up the majority of our day to day lives.

Looking forward is something we all do, even though we know it’s probably more beneficial to be living in the moment, living for now. Yet we also pair this with the dangerous habit of forgoing what is currently happening to focus on, reminisce, and think back to times which have passed. We live for a time that once was, rather than a time we can shape in this very moment.

It’s not all adventures, escapes, successes and social opportunities. Life is as much about the day to day as it is the once in a lifetime, and when we accept that, I personally think everything becomes a lot more fulfilling.

If you are always counting down, thinking of what is next, you live in a state of flux. It may lead to anxiety that you are not doing enough with your days. It could leave you with a nervous fear of missing out as you convince yourself it will all be worth what you’re counting down towards in the long-run. At the end of the day, you could miss many memories and opportunities if you don’t enjoy the small stuff, the bits in between, the happy fillers.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There’s no harm in reliving great memories with friends, or looking forward to what may come next. That motivates us, inspires us and teaches us. However it shouldn’t come at the expense of not enjoying your moment right now.

I have endometriosis, and the reality of that is sometimes things I have been so excited for, escapes and travels I have planned, or big work trips I have looked forward to, get cancelled with little to no notice, and it sucks. You never know what can happen, so don’t place all your excitement on one future event or one past memory.

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If like me you are wanting to have a count-down detox, or stop day-dreaming about what has passed, here are a few tips to get you on track:

Reflect every day

Write a few sentences a day to capture how you are feeling, what you’ve done that day, the small things we often gloss over. A song you heard and loved, food you ate and enjoyed, a random act of kindess. By being more conscious about the little things, we build better habits for living in the moment.

I use a line a day five year diary and I love it.

Catch yourself

If you find yourself thinking more about what has passed, or talking regularly about what is to come, try and naturally get yourself back into the here and now. Change the way you converse about the day to day.

Ask yourself, what am I doing right now? What can I hear? What can I see? Why am I doing what I am doing today?

It’s a quick way to bring you right back into the moment, and to relish in those thoughts.

Find a balance between living and planning

Quite often, when I have been organizing something big and exciting such as our wedding, big travel plans or house moves, I tend to put all my energy into this one event, even months ahead of it.

I decline plans to dedicate time to the ‘future event’, I sit and plan all evening (I love a notebook!) and I am probably horrendous to talk to as I seem to have a one-track conversation.

A couple of years ago I found that by doing this, I would miss out on little moments running up to the event, and actually, once it had passed I either got stuck reminiscing, or felt a gap where I needed to fill it with another big event.

Now, no matter what we are looking forward to and have planned, I also try to make sure we live in the here and now at the same time. I often ask myself, if I don’t do this because of what’s planned, will that opportunity still be there for me in the future? Is it something I might miss out on? If the answers yes, then grab your chance and live in the now. Don’t risk a future of looking back and wishing ‘what if’.

One thing isn’t going to be the defining event that makes your life memorable. It’s everything together that makes it a journey you want to be part of.

Love the little things

Go for dinner in the week with friends, enjoy walks with no destination in mind, and spend an afternoon reading just because you want to.

When we let ourselves really indulge in what we enjoy, rather than what we think we should be doing, we live more in the moment, and we feel better about it.

Put down the social media

Lastly, if you really are feeling like you are stuck in yesterday, or wishing away the weeks, social media might not be helping.

Stop scrolling back through your memories, or looking for inspiration on where to go, what to consume or what to do next.

Instead, put the phone away, and focus on what you could be doing right now, or post more of the tiny day to day joys instead of the big moment pictures.

Listen to your body

Often when we are really not living in the moment we don’t listen to what our body is telling us we need. Tired? Sleep more. Craving something sweet? Indulge.

 

 

Five Books To Kick Start Your 2019

Here’s a selection of my favourite reads from 2019 so far. There’s quite a strong non-fiction theme which I think reflects my current mindset and as-is thought process. Perhaps it’s time to transition into some more fiction and story-telling for Spring. Any good recommendations? Share them below.

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21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari

I have enjoyed both of Harari’s previous editions in this series, Sapiens and Homo Deus, so it’s unsurprising that this was an early first read for me in 2019.

As we move more into the future, the world is becoming more uncertain. Just look at current affairs and news reporting to see that as a whole, we don’t seem to be coping too well with this change in status-quo. If like me, you’re struggling to understand this new polarization and feeling of constant flux that is in the air, this is a really good read to help put it into perspective.

It asks really important questions, and invites you to consider values and culture in an ever-changing world.

This book was not only a source of great insight, but also of comfort.

4/5

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Hello World. How To Be Human In The Age Of The Machine- Hannah Fry

Data is the new oil, and with this, a lot more of our behaviour, personal details, likes, dislikes and needs are being processed every second in the big online world.

As a global data manager, I work regularly on the commercial or operational side of data, when it’s more important to be focused strongly on the human side. Data is impacting us all already, and it’s important for us to know where this will lead in the next two, five or fifty years.

Hannah is a professor in this area, and bring the world of data science, AI and automation to all of us in an accessible and easy to read format.

It’s a fantastic book, and well worth a read, even if it just gets you to reconsider doing one of those online DNA tests or hereditary mapping exercises.

4/5

The New Silk Roads – Peter Frankopan

No image of this one as I lent it to my boss!

This book had me hooked from the first chapter, so much so that my husband was amazed that it made me stay up regularly past my 10pm bedtime (love a good night’s sleep!) to keep reading more of it each night.

Living in the West, it’s very easy to be oblivious to what is currently happening in the East and Africa. Especially with headlines focused mainly on Brexit and Trump’s Wall right now.

It’s entertaining, carefully researched and fascinating. It’s got enough detail to please people looking for hard facts, but then enough light-hearted storytelling to entertain and bring people looking for a lighter introduction to new history on the journey.

Well worth a read.

4.5/5

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In Your Defence – Sarah Langford

Sarah describes, with honesty and great detail, many cases which she has individually worked on during her career as a Barrister in England.

There’s plenty to shock, and several to tug at the heart strings, but what is most surprising is how many of us are unaware of exactly how the law operates in the country we live in, and how just one incident can change your life for good.

She adds in her own insight to each story, whilst also making sure you have enough of both sides of the case to make your own choice about how you feel about the situation at hand.

For me, the way many cases develop, how people plead, and the rules around sentencing made for new learning and understanding.

3/5

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Ghost – James Swallow

The only fiction book on this list, and unfortunately, for me this one wasn’t nearly as good as the other books I have read so far in 2019. I read James’ Nomad, released in 2017, and really enjoyed it, so was keen to pick up this sequel and read it on a long journey I recently took.

Unfortunately it didn’t live up to expectations. The book felt frenzied and the action hard to follow. I was really sad and kept going as I wanted it to be great but I think my expectations left me feeling disappointed.

It’s a good premise, I just think the drama and characters let it down a little.

2/5