On Being Burnt Out

I started this blog as a writing practice, to motivate me to write and to keep track of changes I wanted to make in my life but I would be lying if I said that I don’t sometimes dream of being a successful blogger or instagrammer. After all, it’s possible, the internet is full of success stories, right? Right?

Stevie, Ireland

I look at the older millennials (late 20’s to early 30’s) around me and we’re all in the same boat, more or less. We don’t know quite  how to navigate the world. Being academic minded I did well in high school and knew I was going to go to University as, I thought, all of my friends would. For as long as I could remember I wanted to study film but after my first year in University I discovered I hated film. Several of my friends and peers got married right out of a highschool and I ended up in University alone and very lost and lonely. After two years I dropped out and went travelling instead. Eventually I went back, changed my major to English and graduated much later than I anticipated. In the mean time I worked and travelled, learned another language and danced many nights away.

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I’m not unhappy with my 20’s but I still feel in some ways as if I’ve been duped and I don’t think I’m the only one. Many of my peers are unsettled and trying to find our place in the world. We are underemployed and changing careers isn’t the walk in the park that everyone lead us to believe. The internet would have us believe that we can-and should-make ourselves into a brand, side-hustle our way to wealth, that travelling the world indefinitely is a feasible goal for all of us no matter our income level and that every single moment of lives must be carefully curated so it can go on our social media “stories”. That we can meditate ourselves happy and that we can simply do away with aspects of our lives that we don’t like or that make us unhappy. Most of all, it seems to me, that somehow we are told to live in a way that realistically costs a fortune while shunning the methods that allow us to make an income. Blogs promote  courses and webinars to improve our lives that cost several hundreds of dollars. Travel everywhere no matter the cost, many a Instagram posts preach. Don’t get stuck in a 9-5 job blogs and pins shout. Sell this product at ridiculous mark up to your friends on Facebook or start a GoFundMe for your holidays or concert tickets.  I’m not here to rant about those things (more than I’ve already done) right now as I’ve done that before. Nor do I want to criticise any one of these things individually, I like Instagram, travel and meditation but I think they are working together to create a stressful environment for all of us and showing us something that is unattainable for the large majority of us. I’m not here to offer advice on how to deal with the pressure but if you can’t afford to go somewhere glamorous every weekend, if your Instagram isn’t a perfectly curated tribute to nature or your Scandinavian inspired home, if you don’t constantly throw fabulous parties and if your “side hustle” isn’t working then you aren’t alone. If you’re going into the future and don’t know where your going or how you’re going to get there, you aren’t alone.

5 Tips For Better Food Practices

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One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is how I can be a better citizen of the world and to put my beliefs into actions. One of the main ways I feel I can do that is to be a better consumer. If I am honest I haven’t always thought about where my food comes from and the impact my consumption has on people at home and around the world. As a financially stable person I’ve never had to think about where my next meal was coming from or the way in which my decisions could harm others. I’m not an expert yet but I’ve started thinking about these issues more and doing research. For me the starting point has been not wasting food and consuming less and these are the things that I’ve been doing to meet that goal.

1.) Do Research

I often hear that people don’t have time to research but I honestly feel that we can’t afford not to. It can be something as small as taking 10 minutes a week/month to read an article. But for those of us who are affluent and live in Europe or North America, for example, many of our food practices directly affect those living in less affluent countries and even those who produce our food in our own countries. If we want to be better citizens we have to develop practices that do not harm others and benefit everyone. Reading science based articles about food production and distribution arms us with the knowledge to buy wisely and not be led astray by gimics and health and diet fads which come and go.

2.) Use Pinterest

Besides having recipes and strange DIYs, Pinterest is full of good ideas about how to use leftovers, whether it’s some crusty bread or half of a chicken. There are also handy graphics of what produce is in season, measurement conversions and how to halve recipes.

3.) Check Your Fridge Every Morning

I’ve heard that you should check your bank account every morning but I have also started checking my fridge every morning that way I can see what leftovers have to be used up immediately. I can also see what needs to be added to my shopping list, see what we are and aren’t eating and make a plan to use up leftovers for lunches, dinners or snacks.

4.)Freeze It Right Away

I’ve often put something in the fridge hoping that I’d use it up that week and then not done so. Since there are only 2 of us and we aren’t big eaters I have started putting stuff in the freezer immediately. As soon as I am home from the store I divide up loaves of bread, for example and put half in the freezer.  Homemade pasta sauce, chili, and many other dishes can go in the freezer and if we want to eat it in 2 days it can easily be defrosted but if we don’t eat it for a month we haven’t thrown anything out.

5.) Make a shopping list

I’ve started planning my meals ahead of time and writing down the ingredients I’ll need. We’ve saved money and thrown out less food because we aren’t buying food we don’t need or won’t use that week.

This is just the starting point but I hope that doing these things makes the world a better place, even if only in a small way.

 

5 Drugstore Buys I Swear By Right Now

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I love beauty products of all stripes and lately have been more interested in protecting and caring for my skin. Lots of time in airports, wedding planning stress, moving from dry climates to humid climates and late nights have made my skin very dry and sensitive so I have been on the look out for gentle, soothing products. I also love the thrill of finding a great drugstore product. Actually even though there are a few designer brands I love I tend to be more of a drug store girl anyway, what can I say! So without further ado, here are my latest drugstore finds. These are all under $10 and have helped my poor weather beaten skin get back to itself.

1.) Garnier Moisture Bomb Super Hydrating Sheet Mask (about €2/$4)

Sheet masks are all the rage and this is one of the best ones I’ve tried period. I was reluctant to try this range because usually “anti-oxidant” claims in beauty products are bogus as there’s not much proof that they do much and even if they do the amount of active ingredients found in most products are too small to really do anything. That said this is one of my favourite masks at the moment. Even high end masks didn’t leave my skin as moisturized as this one did. If you have dry skin this is a must try.

2.) Barry M Mist and Fix Make Up Setting Spray (about $6)

I’ll be honest with you…I’m not sure that make up setting sprays do all they say they do. BUT this drug store version comes in under $6 (I got mine at ASOS) and my skin has been more hydrated than ever and my make up lasts all day. Plus it claims to protect from pollution and comes in matte and dewy versions.

3.) Co. Bigelow Lip Cream (about $6 at Bath and Body Works) 

I am obsessed with these lip creams, they smell (and taste, strangely enough) amazing and are intensely moisturizing. Right now I’m using the Lemon and Pomegranate version and I can’t get enough.

4.) L’Oreal Fine Flower Gel Cream Wash (about €4/$6)

This delicate face wash removes everything including make up and leaves my skin super soft. Plus I love the  vintage-y packaging and scent.

5.) Dove Chamomile Dry Spray (about $6)

I mean…what can you say about antiperspirant?? This one smells amazing, lasts all day and like Dove’s other products contains moisturizing ingredients so you don’t feel itchy and uncomfortable.

Happy skin care everyone! ❤

It’s Okay To Be Sad

This week’s terror attacks in London were scary and sad. Four people died, leaving behind family members and friends and colleagues who now have a massive hole in their lives. For the rest of us it’s frightening to think that cities like London or Paris, European capitals with large police presences, cities many of us  have visited, could be dangerous. Now I’m not necessarily extolling large police presences or saying that as Western nations we are somehow blameless victims of the current political climate. Furthermore there are people being radicalised on all sides and that’s scary too. But this isn’t a post about that. If you spend a lot of time on social media, as I do, you know the cycle. First shock and outrage and then criticism for not being as outraged about the other injustices in the world and then pleas that we remember that most people are good. In the travel community it goes like this: everytime there’s a terrorist attack, or a backpacker is murdered or dies accidentally or some other tragedy occurs the travel community has barely uttered words of condolences to the family before they start extolling the virtues of backpacking and couchsurfing, of the beauty of whatever country the attack/accident took place in, of the virtues of travel in general and of course the pleas to everyone to “keep travelling”, “conquer your fears”, “don’t let the bad guys win” and blah blah blah and I’m here to say bullshit to all of that. First of all it’s a bit trite and a bit silly to tell people to not “let the terrorists win” by telling them they can still go on their  beach holiday/ 2 week Eurotrip. Secondly while anger, unity, and bravery are all valid and good emotional responses to such events sadness and fear are also valid and good. We can’t dwell in these emotions forever but experiencing them momentarily doesn’t make us weak or bad.  Thirdly it seems useless to me to pretend that there is no danger anywhere in the world  and we should live as if there wasn’t. Of course bad things can and do happen anywhere but, for example, is it  inherently more dangerous to stay with strangers in an Airbnb or with a couchsurfer than a hotel with all the security that that entails? Of course. Does that mean that no one should ever stay in an Airbnb? Of course not. But can we really make a better, safer travel community without addressing actual issues. Lastly there is a kind of travel we do need to do but it isn’t one that necessarily involve a physical travel. Rather we need to seek out people and cultures that are different from ours, to learn about the struggles that, particularly marginalized people, face. We need to find ways to make the world safer and more equal for everyone.

Personally I don’t believe that travel has an intrinsic value, it can be good or bad, moral or amoral or meaningful or meaningless depending on how and why you do it . I intend to keep travelling myself. But let’s allow ourselves to feel sad and even scared by certain events, we owe that to survivors and victims of violence around the world. Let’s travel whether it’s to work or to a new country with the goal of learning something and meeting people that challenge us to be better, to be more loving, to be more understanding.

On Saturday night my boyfriend and I were exhausted and turned on the TV and were too lazy to find something to watch so we ended up watching Evan Almighty. Now this is as weird for me to write as it is for you to read but I found something useful in that film. Morgan Freeman’s God character tells Evan (Steve Carell) that he can change the world by doing small acts of kindness everyday. As simplified as it sounds I do believe we can change the world by being kind. Of course there is a time for more action and I’m not suggesting that violence can be solved by bringing someone coffee or something like that. But radical kindness, trying to see the other side of a story, a quest for truth and compassion, a dedication to doing good in all areas of our lives, fighting for justice and empowering people, I believe these things can change the world.

Spring Equinox and Intentions for Spring

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The first time I really thought about spring as a time of renewal was in my first year English class in University. We were studying Chaucer. The second time was during Fallas when I lived in Valencia. It seems odd to me that those were the first times I really gave it much thought considering I grew up celebrating Easter and come from a country with very distinct seasons where a gentle spring is a much needed reprieve from long, hard winters. Still sometimes it takes another perspective to really make us think. Modern Christian traditions don’t tend to focus on the earth and nature but, city girl that I am, the smells of spring, the longer days and warmer weather, the promise of more time spent out doors make me feel closer to God/the world/the Universe. Fallas is a festival where, besides drinking and dancing the night away, Valencians construct massive structures representing political and cultural figures and norms and after parading them through the streets, set them on fire. The symbolism of irreverence for politics and culture, and spring cleaning and of course just having a lot of fun wasn’t lost on me. This spring I need to be more patient, to enjoy the moment and to find ways to make the world a better place.

The sun is shining here in Ireland but there are dark clouds too and bursts of rain and isn’t that what spring and growth are about? When we grow and learn it isn’t painless, the darkness is there but like any birth or rebirth there is pain but there is joy too.

On that note here are my intentions for spring:

1.) To not throw away any food

2.) To buy what’s in season

3.) To spend time in nature

4.) To meditate more

5.) To continue to learn

6.) To spring clean

7.) To make a habit of taking breaks from social media

8.) To spend money conscientiously

9.) To listen to others, especially to voices that aren’t often heard in mainstream media

10.) To love

Lastly I leave out with your this quote fromfaithandworship.com

May the blessing of light be on you – light without and light within.

What are your spring intentions? How do you want to make the world better this spring, this year?

Five “30 Day Challenges” You Can Start Right Now

I know we’re already almost through February but if you’re like me this is always a hard month. As Jane Austen says in Emma

“May was better for everything than February “

I read a while ago that if you are feeling stuck in life a good way to make your life feel more interesting is to take a 3o day challenge. That is, do something every day for 30 days. It can be as simple as taking a picture or writing everyday or running daily in preparation for your next marathon (that will not be me, but hey,  there’s something for everyone). Personally I’ve been on a quest lately to finish books I’ve started but for whatever reason abandoned (generally because I still hate experimental literature even though I keep thinking I will like it if I just keep trying it, a thing that has sadly not happened). I have also recenetly started the following five challenges.

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1.) Grow some herbs
Small herb plants are available in almost every grocery store so next time you are buying your wine  groceries why not pick one up. Plants are good for your house, good for you and good for the environment. Plus growing something green makes spring seem less far away.

2.)Practice or learn a language
I studied German and Spanish in University and those are some of my fondest memories from that time. I also spent a lot of time reading in those languages and watching films in them.  Some people have criticised the simplicity of the idea that “learning a language equals learning a culture” but I found that immersing myself in a language gave me a different perspective and helped me feel more compassionate. So I’m hoping to make a practice of spending a few minutes s a day reading, watching films or listening to music in another language. Netflix has an okay to good variety of foreign films and watching one, even in a language you don’t know or haven’t studied can be a mind opening experience.

3.)Pick a person to keep in your thoughts
I originally saw this on a religious website and so its focus was on prayer but I think this can be adapted any which way. The idea is to pick a person, especially someone we may find difficult to get along with, forgive or be jealous of and keep them in our thoughts, try to see things from there perspective and try to cultivate compassion for them. I have selected two people in my life and am focusing on being kinder to them and wishing the best for them.

4.)Start a creative project
When we are creating we are our best selves but sometimes when we talk about creativity we imagine that it means writing a masterpiece or creating some meaningful modern art. I disagree. Creating can mean working on a project for the house, working on a business plan, doing a paint by number, writing five minutes a day, knitting a scarf, playing with those instagram filters or trying a new make up look. Make time, even a few minutes a day to do something creative that you love.I am personally still working on my pom pom pillow which was way more work than anticipated. That “DIYs you can do in a weekend” article was full of lies!

5.)Learn more about an issue
If you’re like me you are weary of the world these days. Everything seems  impossibly bad and there are many things to be worried about. Of course it is possible to and indeed vital that we care about all of them and all the time but sometimes it is useful to focus on one issue and learn as much about it as possible.Learning gives us focus and helps us better fight  prejudice. Now more than ever we need to take time, even if it’s 15 minutes or half an hour a day to learn, fight and stand up for what’s right and in doing so make it an every day practice. I have been listening to the Colour Code Podcast which deals with racism in Canada and have found it very useful in understanding Canadian issues and giving me tools to address it in my own life.

Well February is over in 5 days so we’ve made it through this month, hopefully we can go into spring with renewed energy and strength to make the world better and live our best lives.

 

 

10 Things I Always Pack

Are you going somewhere warm this winter? I’m not, sadly. I’ve never been much of a snow bird, although we all know I enjoy the sun. Anyway, when I travel I generally pack everything I own. I love my clothes and that’s no joke. I also have my “look”. However I know that it is generally not looked upon favorably to bring everything you own so these are my ten picks for that effortless style that always seems to be evading me.

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1.) Maxi skirt
I love my maxi skirt because with sneaky leggings underneath it’s quite warm but without it’s cool enough even for hot Spain. With a floaty top and accessories I’ve worn it on nights out and with a simple top and sunglasses it’s good for sightseeing. Basically I’d wear it anywhere.

2.) Black flats
I love high heels. I have a lot and they cost more than I reasonably should have spent on them given how much I wear them. However in most European cities heels for a night out area no-no. European fashion generally means trying to look like you don’t really care and are too busy living your life to care about fashion. Of course you do care

3.) Extra moisturizer
Someone once said to me that it doesn’t matter if you spend five minutes on a plane or seven hours you feel like you need a shower afterwards. Truer words were never spoken. Likewise if you have dry skin (even if you don’t, to be honest) the recycled air and the general stress of travelling means dehydrated skin. I load up my bag with moisturizers and soothing lip cremes.

4.) A big scarf
An unexpected cold night? Want to look  chic and French? Need an extra blanket? Something to sit on at the beach?  A scarf is so versatile, you can wear it on the plane so it doesn’t take up any room and it is good for any country.

5.)Small candle
A small candle can make any hostel, hotel room or new apartment feel like home. Enough said.

6.)Simple dress
Like the scarf a simple dress is a multitasking wonder. Over a bikini for the beach.  Add accessories and it’s good for that bar crawl or night out. Add gladiator sandals or flats and it’s good for a city day. If you go out for a “coffee” and end up in  a nightclub at 5am the next morning (a thing that has certainly never happened to me) you will still look chic.

7.)Perfume samples
I love perfume samples and always try to get them from anywhere, the department store, Sephora, you name it. I like variety (in perfumes, that is) so I can bring a lot of scents  with me and they can go in the carry on.

8.)Basic black t-shirt
I guess versatility is the name of the game here. I like a black shirt because it can, like basically everything else I’ve listed, can go anywhere. Maybe not the beach but certainly anywhere elsed.

9.)A book
You never know when the day will come when it’s too cold to leave your hostel/hotel or you want some much needed down time. And when you’re done you can find a bar or hostel that has a book swap and discover something new to read. Definitely don’t bring more than one though because your suitcase will be heavy enough with all your outfits. Unless you have mastered this capsule wardrobe business in which case pack all the books you want.

10.)Something floaty
My look is a bit boho but I really recommend a floaty cardigan or long vest. You can wear them with almost anything and they can spruce up a plain outfit. Also good for when you want to pretend you are a wealthy recluse/1920’s former starlet/Game of Thrones character.